cultivate curiosity-lim2

Skill #3: Cultivate Curiosity

I am lying on the table at my massage therapist’s office. He also happens to be an energy worker. By this I mean he is trained, gifted, and skilled at following the body’s energy patterns and seeing where energy is blocked or out of kilter. At least that’s what I think is happening because I am not formally trained and I don’t really understand all of it. I just know it helps. I believe in it because I know it helps, even though it can’t be described it in a cognitive, analytical way. It is another way that mystery is a large and important part of my life.

On this particular day he is asking me about my recently injured foot. I fill him in, saying it is better, much better, but not well. Not like my other foot. I am still aware of weaknesses and weird sensations, and I know I am still favoring it a bit. He is working on my foot, slowly and carefully moving his way through fascia and tendons. He is deeply attentive, listening it seems, almost in prayer.

“Okay, that’s really tender,” I say, sucking in air with a bit of a wince in my voice.

“Hmmmm. Interesting,” he replies.

“Hmmmm,” a deep humming sound comes out of his throat. A pondering sound. A curious sound.

“I think I’ve been looking at your foot incorrectly. I thought you’ve had a holding pattern because of the injury. Now I think maybe you got injured because of a holding pattern.”

I took a deep breath but didn’t say anything. He moved around to the left side of my body and did something to connect my hip and my foot. I don’t watch but I can feel where he is working, where his hands, which I often think of as the hands of God, are working to heal my body. In just a few minutes I could feel the shift in my foot. So could he.

“Feel that?” he asked.

And I could. A big release of tension. A shifting in the heel of my foot.

We worked like this for several minutes. Five maybe. He asked me to breathe deeply into my foot and hip. He repeated several more times that he thinks this holding pattern might have contributed to my injury.

Which came first? The injury? Or the conditions that made the injury possible?

What a wonderful metaphor for so many things. Which came first? The injury? Or the conditions that made the injury possible? Sometimes we are injured in ways that just seem so clear. An accident. Being blind-sided. Being in toxic relationships or jobs. And we blame those things. We focus on the injury and its after effects. And perhaps this is exactly what happened.

But what if sometimes we just need a change of perspective? What were the conditions that made this injury possible? Were we inattentive to something? Had we metaphorically left something on the stairs and then tripped on them? Were we exhausting ourselves in a way that left us vulnerable? Were we preoccupied and focused on one thing while another thing was being ignored? Did we have a little infection, real or symbolic, that we dismissed as nothing which later turned out to be something? Something which was now quite large and dangerous? What if we need to focus less on the injury and more on the conditions that allowed the injury to happen?

It was refreshing and affirming for me to hear another professional be curious and open, without being protective and judging. “Hmmm….maybe I’ve been looking at this from the wrong perspective.” No judgment. No shame or fear. No defensiveness. Just an openness to continue to search for the healing. To look for the truth. To be in the relationship with my body and me and to allow it to keep transforming. Just a clean curiosity. Hmmmm…..maybe there’s something else here. Maybe I could look at this from another perspective. Maybe I am not always right. Hmmmmm…..maybe if I just use a different lens I will see something I haven’t seen before.

I have been privileged to study with one of the masters and grandfathers of family therapy, Dr. Salvador Minuchin. When I saw him last, he was ninety years old, and still learning. He listens carefully to questions. He is curious and discerning. One of his repeated phrases is, “Certainty is the enemy of change.” When a person or a family is certain of something, he challenges them. When he is certain of something, he accepts a challenge. Cultivating curiosity is mandatory, he says, if you want to keep learning, growing, and changing.

In our closest relationships, it is easy to become stuck, certain that we know the other person and certain that we know ourselves. Certain that we know what they are thinking and certain about our own thoughts. That certainty can be the very thing that stymies conversation and intimacy. “I know this is how you feel. I know this is how you think. This is what I believe and I am not going to be influenced by you.” This kind of certainty can be a death sentence in a relationship. Dr.Lieven Migerode, a couple and family therapist from Belgium, said it this way at a workshop I attended this past weekend. “When you lose your curiosity, love is in danger.”

So I leave you with these questions.

What would it look like and feel like if you made a conscious decision to keep an attitude of curiosity and openness? Could you believe that there might be many ways to look at situations? How would your life be different if you weren’t so sure about your partners, your friends, yourself? Is it possible that a mess you are in could be viewed differently if you employed just a bit of curiosity?

Cultivate Curiosity, because Life is Messy and Life is Marvelous.


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