Curiosity is your inner monkey. Naturally active, energetic, but also self-indulgent and rebellious. We need it for performance, progress and to awaken our inventive spirit. Yet, a ceaseless wandering of your mind – the whys and hows – and the restless output of energy depletes your limited reserves.
Problems with curiosity and science-based cures
The battle of the mind is inflamed by being constantly distracted by something unknown and being self-indulgent has also negative aspects.
- First, your mind cannot be calm in the constantly activated stream of consciousness.
- Second, if you want to be in the moment you must be able to hit pause on your curiosity player.
- Third, craving pleasure frequently and being fixated on sexual curiosity can sneak in troubles from the emotional rollercoaster of physiological harm to broken marriages.
Our hormones rule our mind if we let them on the loose. In Jane Austen’s novel The Pride and Prejudice, not only vanities complicate the protagonists lives. The reason-stripped curiosity of the teenage daughter of Mr. Bennet Lydia, explicit in her emotional socialising, leads to her running off with a man who has no intention of marrying her. The marriage happens only due to the contribution of the wealthy Mr. Darcy, who pays for the wedding. Not everyone’s untamed curiosity is as fortunate to be rescued from trouble, but there are some powerful tools to control it. The research in neuroscience confirms that “the flow of thoughts actually sculpts the brain” and that that “you, too, can use your mind to shape your brain for greater happiness, love, and wisdom“, write Rick Hanson, PhD with Richard Mendius, MD in their scientifically sound book Buddha’s Brain. Mindfulness can rescue us from the whirl of curiosity, and we should employ mindfulness meditation into our lives for sense of wellbeing.
The organic playfulness of curiosity also symbolises youth and intuition
Curiosity is not the search for perfection. Curiosity is genuine and intuitive, while perfection is a mirage, a construct which actually does not exist. What is your favourite piece of art, and what your friends adore? Who is beautiful to your eye, but who your siblings adore? There are certainly differences in the personal images of perfection. Perhaps because of the inherent honesty in human curiosity I have always been attracted to this character trait. I feel it is a waste of time to seek perfection around or in ourselves, instead we should be intuitively curious about the world. Witnessing beauty without judgement makes it last eternally, for once we engage with it we ruin the mirage. The Buddhists rise the awareness that everything changes, beauty inclusive.
We must learn to know who we really are and strive for being better, one step at the time. The energy involved in curiosity injects the youth association with it, yet there are many elderly people whose curiosity drives them until their very late life. Artists like Gauguin, Hemingway or the mother of two leading chefs at one of the best restaurants in the world El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, who forages in the countryside and continues to inspire the work of her sons through her own curiosity.
In the Chinese zodiac, the monkey (curiosity) year also symbolises intuition. Further, the yang energy of the monkey is demonstrated through the person born in that time as being determined, persistent and workaholic. Let’s contemplate. Does curiosity lead to overload? If you are curious are you unstoppable?
Some social breaks to curiosity exist. Our belief in God and other spiritual pursuits are driven by human curiosity, and these extraterrestrial feats keep our curiosity on the leash. Well, at least when our faith is strong enough.
Childish versus adult curiosity
Christmas are the blooming field of curiosity mainly for children whose minds are more open than our adult hybrids of by logic constrained freedom. What present will I get, will I see the golden piglet, what fairytale will be broadcast on the Christmas day,…? Oh, I envy those lively minds! Expressing the zest for existence embodies a happy person. Yet, how many adults do you personally know, who are genuinely that way? I observed such “la dolce vita” attitude in elderly Italian men, and where women have more social recognition, respect and in the older age once they are freed from the emotional burdens of raising children, their curiosity somehow penetrates into the temporarily shut barriers in their minds. Their emotional overload with children matures into wise curiosity informed by life’s unexpected turns.
Once liberated, our adult curiosity has been enriched by the life’s experiences, the relationships that formed us, made us happy or disappointed. Therefore, the adult monkey brain spins wisdom into our curious expression. I wrote last December about how giving rewards us with happiness. Numerous studies confirmed that individuals engaged in charity think that they have a more fulfilling life than when they were mainly focused on the self. Far from being a saint, occasionally, I experience the endorphins rushing in after a selfness action. On my recent trip to Spain, my childish curiosity was fed lavishly – from museum fun, being fed with an incredible local food, enjoying with sheep dotted grassy hilltops to relishing a generous flower bouquet I got from my loving husband. While appreciating all these indulgences of our affluent and stable world, something else made me more happy. The most lips-lifting experience of that trip was the elation of a wheelchair-bound street guitar player after I handed him a €10 banknote. A brief pause in his oeuvre inserted a singsong of “gracias!”. I smiled watching him clinching the valuable paper in his skeleton fingertips. My adult curiosity was wisely sated. As if he won a lottery, once I resumed my riverside stroll, his genuine happiness poured out as I heart him shouting: “mira, whah, wow, yay!” As much as happiness is an inner construct, our interactions with others and nature play important roles in momentarily experiencing the fleeting moments of happiness.
Giving is so much more powerful than receiving. For anniversaries I am always curious about the reactions of the gifted. For months-thread ideas get their reception.
Balance between creativity and achievement
Curiosity can, like a dishevelled, disorganised tramp bounce in the mind’s playing court of eternal possibilities. A bohemian mind acts like a flåneur thrust into the Mistral wind: Without a clearly set direction, the flow of consciousness swirls and spirals into tornadoes of emotions. It creates but does not complete. How can then the eye of the tornado wrestling with your self ever fulfil, and leave some time to be aware of where we are? Having a balanced craving for happiness is key to achieving it, if you are overdriven towards the nirvana of the eternal contentment than you will miss it along the way.
So, is the monkey in you contributing to happiness?
Yes, in part, since curiosity keeps you engaged with the world and the self.
Not, in the realm of expanded yang force that causes imbalance in the holistic understanding of the life energy. The curious monkey needs some yin focus and contentment with what there is, not constantly seeking what there could possibly be. Be curious, but aware that switching it off regularly is good for you.