It is said that we have more than 65,000 thoughts a day, and 95% of them are duplicates from the day before. Like a hit song on repeat, catchy and thrilling at first, that slowly grows hollow and lifeless over time, one might think that this steady stream of consciousness too would eventually become so boring, so maddeningly repetitive, that we would have no other choice but to shut it off. But we don’t.
We repeat our yesterdays and replay them into our tomorrows.. constantly.
We may be in the present for a moment or two, before ideas and worry start invading us. We get lost in these ideas and jump from one to the next like a never-ending maze, with no concrete end, no concrete way out.
No matter how many new places we see or people we meet, somehow we are still stuck with our very own looping, lifelong, theme song. Not aware that these never-ending thoughts, we build a fascinating story in our heads, one consisting primarily of all sorts of corrosive beliefs, the core one being that if you make yourself into the right kind of person—who looks the right way, eats the right thing, and builds the right kind of life—only then will you know the true happiness you long for.
This story is not new. And we just don’t get tired of it!
This endless maze of searching and striving, of thoughts chasing themselves through our heads like a dog chasing its tail, is often so subtle we hardly notice it, except as a faint undercurrent of unease that we agree to live with and sweep under the rug.
From the moment we open our eyes in the morning to the moment we close them at night, our attention attaches itself to all the thoughts in our heads, following blindly wherever they chose to wander, often over well-trodden paths. VERY WELL TRODDEN PATHS. We just know our past, and we keep projecting it into the future. Same old dramas, same old thought patterns, same old reactions.
BUT having lived in those rare moments of being fully present (because we all have) shows us that there in fact is a big difference between being lost in our head (caught inside the endless circular inner narrative), and being fully present.
So what to do? How do we increase awareness and presence so that we may notice and then challenge the misguided beliefs that rule us day-in and day-out?
The first step is curiosity. BECOME CURIOUS OF LIFE, OF YOURSELF, OF OTHERS. Become curious of the tinniest thing that is in front of you, become curious about why things happen the way they do.
It starts with taking in whatever is in front as something truly holy, truly magical, truly new.
It’s about becoming surprised again and really wanting to look and dive deeper into the beautiful, the ugly, the interesting, and the boring. Because the more you watch, the more you start finding interesting everything that surrounds you, the more you become interested in what is before you, the more you engage with life, and the more you engage with life, the happier you become. It’s simple.
CURIOSITY CULTIVATES PRESENCE.
Most of us have left curiosity in our elementary schoolrooms. Have you ever stopped to watch a toddler on the street, who can barely take a step without tripping, she is so endlessly fascinated by the sensory overload of just being alive?
Now I’m not saying do that… Don’t become uncomfortably curious with other people and little specks and marks you see on the street, because you will disturb others.
But BECOME curious from the INSIDE. Light that spark of wanting to see more, to know more, and to observe more. Let it warm you from the inside like a soft lit candle and allow that warmth to move you though life.
Without curiosity, we miss out on being here.
We have become so busy, so over-extended, so self-involved: constantly checking our email, our texts, our Instagram. We need to get back to that feeling of curiosity for life: of stepping outside ourselves and our mental barriers, and becoming open to what our present (i/e people places encounters, situations) have to offer.
By appreciating the now-ness of life with childlike intrigue and adult-like curiosity, we might just free ourselves a little more from the binds of the repetition of our thoughts, which just hold us in frozen anticipation of the distant future.
Out of curiosity, we might just wonder: if we don’t like the song, if we no longer find its tune all that uplifting or its message all that helpful, why not reach up and change the station?