Posts Tagged ‘possibilities’

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.

A Color a Day

wharf in Bar Harbor, MaineIn her poem, Colors passing through us, Marge Piercy writes,

“Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk.”

Wouldn’t it be a treat to be the recipient of that daily gift—or even better, to be the giver? How, in all the spectrum of possibilities, would you select just the right color of the day for your friend?

In fact, how did you select the color you gave yourself today when you got dressed this morning?

Did you think about what message you might be sending—to yourself and to the world? Did you consider briefly the psychology or the temperature of the color you chose? (lots of fun stuff on that site)

If you’re like me, probably not. On most days I’m content to settle for default options, saving the more conscious color decisions for special occasions only.

As I think about it now, maybe every day would be a special occasion if I channeled a little more Marc Chagall who said, “Color is everything, color is vibration like music; everything is vibration.”

What color frequency are you vibrating on today? How would you change it if you could?

To Err is Human. Celebrate It!

photo by Mike SchubertIf you’re human you make mistakes sometimes, and you probably hate to admit it. But what if instead of cringing and trying to hide it, you got curious about the upside of being wrong?

In their book, The Art of Possibility, Rosamund and Ben Zander remind us that mistakes are indispensible to learning. “Giving an A” is one of the 12 daily practices they offer for shifting your mindset from limitations to possibilities. They first hit upon the practice as a technique for disarming the performance anxiety of Ben’s music conservatory students.

Worried about how they’d measure up, the students avoided taking risks in their interpretation class. When they were told from the outset that they’d receive an A, and they were asked to use their imaginations to time travel into the future and describe the effort with which they’d earned it, the prospect of making mistakes fell into the larger context of playing better, and became a lot less scary.

Ben writes, “It is only when we make mistakes in performance that we can really begin to notice what needs attention. In fact, I actively train my students that when they make a mistake, they are to lift their arms in the air, smile, and say, ‘How fascinating!’”

Now comes further illumination as to why being wrong should be more a cause for celebration than shame.

In a Boston Globe article introducing her new book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, Kathryn Schulz calls for a new way of thinking about wrongness, one that recognizes that our fallibility is part and parcel of our brilliance. She explores how inductive reasoning, the process by which our brains add new knowledge and understanding at an impressive rate, is also responsible for our tendency to err.

And she makes the case that when viewed from the perspective of larger systems, an accepting stance toward inevitable personal error leads to process improvement. In some high stakes industries, like aviation and healthcare, reporting individual mistakes is encouraged, or even required, in the interest of preventing greater damage over the long term.

Of course, some systems take a much more punitive approach to error, and reinforce our instinct to keep our bloopers under wraps. But if we wanted to take a stand for being wrong, we might quote biologist Lewis Thomas who observed, “The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.”

The next time you goof up—or even completely implode—what will you do to celebrate the successes that are bound to follow?