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A curious life

I used to write a blog a few years ago, when I was working as a writer, coach and therapist, teaching meditation and self-inquiry - before I turned my focus to painting in 2020. The blog was called A Curious Life and I wrote about how cultivating curiosity enhances our wellbeing and nurtures creativity.

Last week, during the closing Zoom call of Sally-Anne Ashley’s wonderful course Creative Shift, someone shared she’d felt inspired to let her curiosity lead the way, and I felt a familiar “nudge” (as Sally-Anne calls it) - that insistent feeling or insight that keeps giving you a poke until you listen. I’ve been feeling for some time that I want to connect some dots and integrate ideas and interests from my past into my work now. That it’s time to write again, to reconnect to some of the work that enabled me to step into a life as an artist after years exploring what nurtures creativity and supporting others to connect to theirs. And that curiosity is at the centre of this - connects it all.

I’m a wonderer by nature. This curious exploration is really at the core of who I am and what inspires me and has lead my way into many different fields and unlocked my creative flow, and brought me so much joy. I hope that sharing some of what I’ve discovered and continue to discover will inspire you.

So here goes, my first blog post here on my leoniegordonart website. This blog will be about art, creativity, my daily wonderings and the practises and tools I’ve come across as well as some of the practises and people that inspire me - it’s my way of sharing the joy and what I wonder at in this curious world in all its forms. I suspect it will also be about nature and taking care of the world as these are so important to me too. So I hope you find something in all of that that sparks your curiosity and brings you some joy.

What’s so important about curiosity?

Human beings are curious by nature.  The desire to explore, find out, wonder, understand is an essential human trait. And it is the basis of discovery – scientific, technological, creative, personal. That willingness to be in the questioning liminal space, in the openness of wondering, has led to innovation & advancement and the power of curiosity is increasingly understood as a gateway to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

When did you last do something out of pure curiosity and where did it lead you?

This instinct came naturally to us as children, when we had curiosity coursing through our bodies, excitedly exploring new experiences. Asking a 100 questions... Wanting to know Why?! Curiosity ruled our senses. Enthusiasm ignited our actions. We thrived on the process of discovery.  As we get older, however, while the thirst for knowledge doesn’t necessarily wane, we can stop being so openly inquisitive and rather favour order, certainty, security, and a certain way of making sense of the world. Ironically, it is only once we become adults that our brains are developed enough to process new discoveries and turn them into concrete ideas and strategies.

As you slow way down and cut into the sense that something must urgently be fixed, shifted, or even ‘healed’ – and as you become more curious about your immediate experience than in your interpretations of it – a doorway appears. Just underneath the very vivid and colorful storyline is an eruption of energy, overflowing with information and resources for the way ahead..... Matt Licata

Allowing ourselves to 'not know' but to be open to finding out, enables us to lean into uncertainty with a positive attitude - relaxing and opening our minds to new ideas, skills, and ways of solving problems. We use our powers of observation more fully and without expectation. We feel more engaged, open to possibilities & making connections, and experiencing moments of insight and meaning. It also unlocks the mind’s control over our natural creative expression - allowing our intuition to come into play - I’ll be blogging more about how that can relate to your art practise so if you are interested watch this space.

So how can we cultivate curiosity?

It is like building any other new skill or habit - it takes practice. However, in the case of curiosity, if we want to connect to the joy and fulfilment, it cannot be forced. Author Elizabeth Gilbert, who writes about creativity in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear says that following our curiosity instead of our passion is the real key to an interesting and creative life....

“If you want to live a curiosity-driven life, you must commit to being vigilant about looking for what’s piquing your curiosity.”

Gilbert advises following what is interesting to you, even if that interest is faint at first. 

However, in order to be able to begin to notice and value what that interest is we need to learn to pay close attention to what we are thinking, feeling, noticing... observe, explore, ask questions, and be open to venturing into the unknown.

A particularly lovely way of practising this is to take a 'medicine walk.' There are many variations of how to do this, drawn originally from Native American Indian culture, but in its simplest form, I like to think of it as “intentionally getting lost.” The goal of the walk is to be without a goal... to let curiosity lead the way.

Take yourself on a walk.... Explore the landscape wherever you are - look around you, what do you see? Interesting trees? An unfamiliar street? A signpost you hadn't noticed before? A different path to take? Focus on the present moment - each moment. Take a moment to reflect on something you come across, stay with it or follow another whim. Notice the smells, sights, noises, lose yourself in the stream of the present moment. And be curious... What captures your attention, where does your glance linger, what or who catches your eye? Be open to noticing what piques your curiosity and follow that for as long as you can allow yourself to be in this space of exploring.

You can also ask yourself for answers - look for patterns, signs and connections as, in opening up to this present exploratory space within yourself, you are able to view/feel things from a different angle & see things which you might otherwise miss or not understand as important... if you are so inclined, pick up things that catch your eye - a feather, a stone, a colourful piece of string, and take then with you. They can make up an entry in your journal, inspire a painting, form a collection. Whatever inspires you.

And then repeat often! This can be a real walk or one in your imagination... The beautiful thing about wondering is that you never know where it's going to lead.

Thanks for reading! I’m excited to share more with you soon. And of course I’d love to hear from you - I’m curious to know what this sparked in you.

Until the next time, Leonie x


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