What is Keeping Einstein in the moment? Well the idea here is curiosity, let me explain.....
There is more to mind than The Mind and learning transcends being taught. The idea that learning is not simply an exercise in logic or linguistics has always seemed intuitively appropriate, even if we do choose to elevate these ones above all others. Our capacity to learn did not begin with the invention of schooling. We have always learned. Each of us are programmed to learn from the moment we draw breath.
This is reflected in the idea of somatic learning – soma comes from the Greek defining “whole body”. Somatic learning is a holistic paradigm which explores an experiential learning which stretches beyond the formal academic priorities or sports arenas.
There is no change without action, it is the doing that the neural pathways are laid down. It is in action that our intentions are portrayed – and made sense of - by others.
For example in Equine Facilitated Learning the conversation is more about how you are than who we are, or “what we are”. Taking someone to the space to consider how they are in the moment also takes them into a space of somatic experience. “How one is” in the moment is so much more than words or titles, and so our interactive and influencing abilities in that moment are also much more than a simple reflection of language or position.
Change is hard
To move beyond our familiar academic learnings needs a shift. Such a shift demands motivation and the tools to create an initial awareness. Think of the familiar as a practice or a habit, one to which we have committed many hours. In many cases we will have done the 10,000 to which Malcolm Gladwell writes of in Outliers. And in most cases, unconsciously!
Our habits are not just actions, but beliefs, thoughts and reactions. And we have often been practicing them all our life. We live in learning machines, albeit lazy ones. If it has a programme for a situation that has worked well before then, that will do.
If we are to act or think differently, first we need to create an awareness of the current model. In practice how many of us are aware of our habits – the very idea of them is that they run below our consciousness. So it takes a meaningful degree of will, feedback and motivation.
Zen, meditation and keeping Einstein in the moment
We need to be curious; curiosity provides us with a light to illuminate the darkness beyond the familiar. A safe and non-judgemental way to explore beyond what is comfortable. Albert Einstein had a concept of Holy Curiosity. He defined this as “a state of being which is a virtue in itself, without the burden of description, explanation or doing.”
One other way to see this familiar is the Zen concept of language constraining existence. Our obsession with naming and defining acting as a limiter on experience. Naming in this context is another habit. In meditation, we often seek to move beyond the naming as the act of naming blocks curiosity. By applying the name we have defined the absolute, and so no longer “need” to explore it, that has been fixed in the naming process.
From a practical position how often does this definition hamper change. Whether we have defined and named an object, a process or a job; once it has an agreed and accepted understanding we begin to create resisters to change.
Resistance that reflects the habits that have developed around the definition and created monochrome visions. The sort of frames that tell us “that is how it is” or “it is what we do”. Such statements, constrain absolutely.
And so, we do not even the consider curiosity thereafter; actually, we are more likely to perceive threat. A threat to what we understand to be correct or to what we have learned to do. Defining puts something in a box – and then often seals that box. We rarely consider re-opening that box.
This is the very restriction lamented by Einstein, to cite him more fully:
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”
The curious mind at work
Mindfulness calls on us to remain in the moment – to be fully present. Curiosity supports us in this process – in fact John Kabat-Zinn defined this as maintaining an attitude of “Beginner’s Mind” inviting us to explore every experience like it was our first time.
In this way curiosity can be defined as a noble emotion. If we explore the emotional researches of Jaak Panskepp this equates to SEEKING. The seeking emotion is stimulated by novelty and discovery; it gifts our brains with the reward of dopamine. It tells us we have done a good thing and invites us to do it again.
Curiosity is the toolset which can develop and expand our awareness. We all knew it as children – once upon a time everything was novel and exciting. Every moment and interaction carried the potential to inspire and educate.
So curiosity kept Einstein focussed, it kept him in moment. No bad role model here! It facilitated a different view and it was in that difference where discovery resided. Curiosity is the means by which we learn – a vehicle which can gently carry us beyond our comfort zone. In this way curiosity offers us enlightenment and edification.
Let us each, once again acknowledge, connect with, and nurture the implicit potential in each of us that is fuelled by Einstein's holy curiosity.