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The practice of curiosity

by | Feb 2, 2020 | Pain Coach

Born curious

We are born curious. Then it is drilled out of us by social conditioning. To find it again and to practice curiosity is wonderful.

‘”I’m curious. Tell me more”, he said.

This is an invitation. An invitation to explain and explore. To be the one who is curious is similar to the notion of one having a beginner’s mind, a Zen way of maintaining fresh eyes.

Picture the eyes of a child who sees something for the first time

The beginner’s mind sees life like a child who is seeing something for the first time. The experience is characterised by emotions such as wonder, awe, surprise, joy, puzzlement, trepidation and more. At the heart can be curiosity, driving the desire to know more, to learn, to look over the hill and see what is there, what is hidden and what could be.

Curiosity is what piques our interest in all things. It draws us in to explore, and we are all born to explore. Consider how a child tries to climb, to touch, to look under and over, to jump and gather as much sensory information from the world as she can. The comforts of modern living have been gradually reducing the opportunities to explore as we attempt to make everything ‘safe’. There is some sense in this of course. But we also need adventure, to be pushed and learn how to handle ourselves and situations independently. No surprise that the number of people taking part in ultra sports is on the increase.

On ultrarunning

“Why do you run?”, is a question often posed. “Why do you do that?”, is a further question asked when I explain that my preference is ultra distances. I am not fast, but I can keep going, has been a stock answer. Then it occurred to me that the main reason is my curiosity.

I am curious to know how far I can go.

I am curious to know what it is like to be moving for hours and hours.

I am curious to see places.

I am curious to see over the other side.

I am curious about the pain cave.

I am curious to know why others run ultras.

I am curious about people’s stories, which are usually interwoven into their running.

So, why do I run? Because I am curious, shall be my answer from now on.

On Pain Coaching

Curiosity ensures I engage with the person suffering persistent pain. I can only be of service by being engaged. I am fascinated by people’s narratives. They provide me with all the rich information that I need to be able to help them understand their pain and move on. I call this Pain Coaching, an approach I have been pioneering for some years.

I sit with people and their suffering. To be curious offers me as an empathetic listener, yet without distress that can emerge. Empathetic distress is a cause of burnout and ill-health commonly seen in carers.

On self and the inner dialogue

This is a big one. Consider for a moment who you talk to the most.

That’s right.


It is rather continuous.

Do you listen and take note? Or can you let it go by?

Being curious is a wonderful and compassionate way of noticing what the inner dialogue contains. It is like there is a voice and listener, yet this must be an illusion as there is only me.

A thought arises accompanied by a bodily feel — there’s no separation between body and mind of course. The division is man-made for convenience, yet our actual experience is unified. The mind is embodied.

Back to the embodied thought, or felt sense, and the way we pay attention. More thoughts tumble out and we can easily become embroiled. There is no choice here. We do not choose the thoughts that arise, appear in our awareness and then pass by; and they always do. Yet there is another way. To be curious.

Wow! That is really interesting, I say to myself having become aware of a thought about something. Here is an invitation to try this and see what you notice.

On judging

We are conditioned to judge others and situations. We must make sense of it all. Yet how much suffering occurs as a consequence of judging others?

Instead, we can practice curiosity.

Now, this is all well and true when we feel calm and are in a rational state. As humans, we also react to situations of threat. However, on practicing curiosity and openness and compassion, people often find that this approach pervades more and more of their life.

Each person doing their bit, moving onward, growing and soon we realise a better life and better society.