LEARNING. HOW CURIOSITY CHANGES EVERYTHING

What else don’t I know? That’s the question that keeps me curious. And curiosity is a way of flourishing. Albert Einstein explained his fame like this, ‘I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.’ In our Amplify Peace strategy this curiosity is called ‘learn’ and is the second stage of becoming a peace maker (right after ‘listen’). What’s important about this stage is how it is the basis for everything else.

I read a book a few years back called ‘How The Brain Changes Itself’ and it debunked a lot of myths I had believed about myself. I had thought that my brain was static. That whatever things it had learned up until my adulthood was what I had to work with. Actually, I had believed that it was even worse than that because I did a fair amount of drugs as a teenager and figured that my memory ‘issues’ were most likely related to the damage I did to my brain which was now stuck in that condition. When I read that book it introduced the truth that our brains are dynamic not static. Which means that they are in the process of becoming and changing and shifting and learning ALL THE TIME. Your brain never stops making connections and new connections. It is discovering ways of functioning better and healing areas that have been damaged and creating new ways of doing the same thing when the old thing becomes blocked somehow. It’s amazing. And SO hopeful.

I was excited about this idea of a dynamic brain because it shifted my thinking from STATIC thinking –  ‘it’s too late’ and ‘I’m stuck with what I’ve got’ and ‘nothing I can do’ to DYNAMIC thinking – ‘I’m going to challenge my brain’ and ‘wow, what an amazing creation’ and ‘what else don’t I know?’ I went from a ‘too late’ to a ‘what else could we discover’ attitude and that’s the stage that makes way for EVERYTHING else. See how this is important?

When I made that shift in my thinking about how my own brain worked it transferred over to every area of my life. And this is why a curious, learning posture is so key to the flourishing of our lives, relationships, communities and our world. To consider myself a ‘learner’ means I am committed to a life of discovery. There are new ways of thinking and living.

That curious spirit keeps me from atrophy not just physically (although that could also be true if I refused to move –  if you don’t stretch you literally shrink) but in every other area of my life. Instead of judging people about what they are doing or thinking or discovering what if I tried to understand what they are trying to do/believe/experience? How could that posture change our interactions and relationships?

A while back I was the church leader for a group of indigenous Canadians (First Nations People). They had been told by a previous leader that their ‘cultural practices’ were pagan and wrong. This kept many of them from practicing their cultural traditions. One day I overheard one of my co-workers making plans to go to a sweat lodge (a traditional ceremony for cleansing). When she got off the phone she was very embarrassed that I had heard her plans and apologized. I asked her why she was sorry and she explained about the previous leader.  Then she asked me what I thought and if I thought she should go. She was genuinely curious (which is the posture that is so key for discovery).

Since I’m not First Nations and had never been to a Sweat Lodge, I asked her what it was for and why she went and what happened in the ceremony and how she felt and well about 25 other questions. Because I was genuinely CURIOUS. What she told me was that the ceremony connected her to her family/tribe and to God and was a way to take space and time out of her everyday life to intentionally think about what she needed to confess and repent of and that mostly she felt amazing after and closer to God and to her family. So I asked her why on earth it would be wrong for her to connect with God, her community and her own soul? And our mutual curiosity to learn from each other resulted in her rediscovering the freedom of finding God in every place and losing the fear that cuts us off from relationship and putting down the judgement that keeps us closed. And it also resulted in me being invited to lean into another culture and learn the practices that connect other people to each other and the earth and their creator that have been helping me and enlarging my understanding of my own journey in my own practice of following Jesus. We both grew and our understanding, practice and relationship enlarged. We both learned to stretch because we were ‘learning’ from each other. We became larger together. We stretched into more.

What would happen if we relaxed into the stretch of curiosity and leaned into each other as co-learners? What would happen if we left judgement and critique at home when we went out to discover the beauty and opportunities of this incredible world and it’s people? What are we so afraid of? Aren’t you the least little bit curious about what else you don’t know? I’m committed to being a life long ‘learner’. Because that means that I’m in the process of becoming and changing and shifting and learning ALL THE TIME.

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