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Adventures in Curiosity

October 25, 2010 1 comment

lily pads in Menton by Rick Schubert

What do you like best about being a tourist?

For me, it’s the plunge into a state of almost pure curiosity. As a tourist, I don’t have to know anything. In fact, it’s better that I know nothing. I just grab my map and my camera and I set out to discover. My whole frame of mind is to expect the exceptional.

And very often, as a tourist, I do come across exceptional things, such as the enormous lily pads shaped like flan pans that knocked my socks off at the Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh in Menton, France. But just as often, I find myself bedazzled by things that might seem pretty ordinary to those who walk past them every day—an ancient olive tree for instance, a cat curled up on the steps of a church, a cobblestone street.

That’s because when I’m truly curious I look through new eyes and I open myself up to learning about even the most ordinary things.

What would it take to adopt a tourist’s curiosity about my everyday life? Maybe it will require cultivating a Beginner’s Mind, that state of emptiness and readiness that Zen Buddhists strive to maintain through rigorous daily practice. Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen master who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the US, wrote in the prologue to his well-known book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, there are few.”

I’m wondering about the many possibilities I might discover if I took a break from being an expert on my own life and turned to face it with my camera and a map.

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