Eating well, exercising, connecting with others, having a restful sleep, spending time outdoors are well researched and highly recommended pillars of health, each feeding into and supporting our overall state of health and wellbeing. As equally as important, but perhaps less attended to, is the practice of being curious and open-minded.
When we consider the mind-body connection, the act of upholding a curious mind and being flexible in our viewpoints and perspectives is seen to significantly contribute to the condition of our physical health, and as such, our overall wellbeing. The connection I’m making is that our mind, in this case our choice of mindset, does not present itself in isolation to our physical body and the body’s subsequent responses. For example, feelings of disagreement, dissatisfaction or anger with something or someone can often cause us to react defensively and be very possessive over our own position. This can result in a spike in stress levels, affecting our bodily reactions as much as it does our state of mind. Alternatively, if we remain curious and open-minded to such conflicting experiences, we are better able to be measured and rational in our responses and are less likely to give rise to these probable stress triggers, leaving both our mind and body at ease/rest. Much easier said than done, however, through conscious and dedicated practice it’s possible to experience a shift in our automatic responses.
What I’ve further noticed in learning to explore and adopt this mindset, is a greater sense of awareness and understanding of the ‘opposition’. That is, if we’re talking about individuals or groups of people who oppose our own viewpoints, rather than creating a toxic, judgemental and stressful experience, we are able to depress the likelihood of division and draw ourselves away from that unpleasant but often very predictable, energy-draining, ‘us against them’ scenario. We can learn to be more resourceful with our energy across different situations and can actively choose to strengthen our bridges with other individuals rather than create rifts between us.
My own practice of being curious and open-minded does not mean that I understand and agree with everything and everyone that is presented to me, it only means that I am better able to accept my own misunderstandings and differences with others, and vice versa. Through choosing to accept and explore contrasting viewpoints, I can be closer to finding self-contentment in the situations I engage with.
The level of control we have on what takes place around us may always be changing, but in such times of uncertainty, pleasant or unpleasant, I like to think that we can always find stability within ourselves. Like any other ‘pillar of health’ to be curious and open-minded is something that involves dedicated practice, awareness of habits and conscious choices.
Re-connecting to or learning how to nurture a curious and open mind can transform our world view from that of an unpleasant one to a pleasant and even enjoyable one. It’s a subtle but freeing transformation. We can become more interested and more engaged in views and life beyond our own. With this comes personal growth, kindness, tolerance and acceptance. The more I practice, the more conscious I have become of my responses and as such I continue to recognise and feel deeply the benefits of both a curious and open-mind.
I believe that we all hold the capacity to expand our mind and our intellect of what it means to be ‘healthy’ - in body and mind - and essentially what it means to be human. There are always opportunities to learn, and our lives can be full of ‘why’s?’ – this need not stop at childhood. By practising and accepting the act of being curious and open-minded, I hope we can collectively work toward experiencing this empowering, conscious transformation.