25 September 2011

Develop Curiosity

There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable.
A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet.

Pema Chodron
Tibetan Buddhist nun and teacher

A new friend, Christine, visited yesterday and shared a bit about her life journey. She came the day after I received this quote of Pema Chodron. And in a synchronicity, she seemed to me to be a good example of Chodron's ideal of one who has developed her curiosity, not knowing if the results will be bitter or sweet. Christine's been an artist, entrepreneur, furniture maker and wine sales person. She's lived in many places in the US, lost spouses, been seriously ill herself, worries about her sons in the states, relocated alone to the remote village of her ancestors in our region of Abruzzo and experiences all the culture shock that you can imagine that entails. But her attitude is upbeat, positive, and filled with the energy that comes from genuine curiosity. She travels all over Italy drinking it all in. She's fun and interesting to be with.

Chodron praises curiosity, exhorts us to develop it. Then sets up a stark juxtaposition- avoid pain and get comfortable vs taking an interesting, adventurous and joyful approach to life whether it brings us the bitter or the sweet. We just went through the laborious process of renewing our permesso di soggiorno (permission to stay) for another two years and smacked up against the bureaucracy that characterizes Italy. A taste of the bitter. But after five months and two attempts following submission of all documents needed to actually get them, we got them. By ourselves. In Italian. Without the letter we were supposed to have received in the mail setting up our appointment. A sweet outcome.

Our move here 2 1/2 years ago came from a desire to explore Italy and Europe. To experience a different culture, language, environment and history. It has brought in its wake the self-doubt, the uncomfortable, even painful experiences Chodron describes but also the joy that comes from doing something interesting and adventurous that expands curiosity in the process. Chodron uses a strange word in her juxtaposition- kind. Maybe that's her true wisdom, it's kind to ourselves and to others to develop our curiosity. It grows us and enables us to taste the world of another. Sweet.


  1. ah, I made it!
    My computer spyware has finally opened up your blog again to my perusal!
    I've been wondering how my husband would react to moving to Italy. He'd like the adventure, but he would not be too open to learning a new language.

    You ought to chronicle the process, so people who might be interested, like me, might get a clear idea of all the elements involved.
    Thanks so much for your continued support, Mary.

  2. Rosaria, A lot of my early posts chronicled the process but it's a good suggestion for what's current. I'm taking more for granted but it's new to others. Overall- way more pro's than con's to the move. Without discounting the huge adjustments, it's been a grand, life changing adventure. Maybe your husband would be willing to try it for a specific number of months. There's lots of ex-pats around, even in our little corner of Italy to help with the transition. For the support- prego.

  3. I find that kindness brings its own reward, and I do love that quote by Pema. You are an inspiration with your willingness to brave the bureaucracy in order to continue to live in Italy. I am impressed! And I love your take on life...

  4. DJan, Yes, the importance of kindness. The bureaucracy gets balanced by other good things, I remind myself.

  5. wonderful post. what's that saying... no pain, no gain?=)

    and what a lovely photo of you and your friend!

  6. Kelli, Thanks. I noticed that we share a favorite book- Anne of Green Gables. I'd love to go to Prince Edward Island one day, where she and my grandmother were from.

  7. I guess a lot of what we encounter of the bitter variety comes as a surprise, when we set out to do something as wonderful as you've done, to live in Italy. If you'd known everything when you set out, would you still have done it? The hope is that the sweet will balance the bitter. But what if it doesn't? We just can't know ahead of time, so I am going to take Chodron's quote to heart and work on understanding the kindness part. I'm intrigued.

    Congratulations on your renewed documents, what an accomplishment.

    The photo of you and Christine is truly wonderful. You are beautiful women, whose appearance is strikingly different in hair color and style, and in other ways. Yet the colors of the patterned fabric of your clothing is the same (at least they both seem to be pink and black), and the whole spirit of the photo is one of welcome, embrace, connection.

  8. this quote definitely rings true for me right now and the shift in focus we are taking with the kids. kids are so in touch with their curiosity and finding ways to keep that connection feels vitally important! i love you tons!

  9. I'm so glad you got your permissions - and I LOVE that word - soggiorno (In English, sojourn,from the Middle English, sojorn) It says so much - but a sad word, nonetheless, for all sojourns, by their nature, are temporary, no matter how blissful.

  10. I'd love to have peace of mind 24/7/365, but I think the only way to do that is to remain open and curious and exploratory. Plus be of service to others.

  11. Ruth, Knowing what I know now I still would make this move. For sure. I don't know for how long that will be true but that part is not my business. Being here is. All the reasons elude me but I've already had my world view shifted in good and important ways. Sometimes by a kick in the pants and sometimes by a slap upside my head but sometimes by a new friend, a heart stopping vista, A work of art, a sweet gesture by a neighbor, an experience of our essential oneness.
    We laughed when we saw our outfits- you're right, the colors were the same coral and brown! She has the Italian look of her ancestors and I the red hair/ freckles of mine (well, it used to be red!). But the connection was undeniable and welcomed.

  12. Kelly, I thought of them as I wrote this. I'm eager to find what they are curious about and how I might help feed that. I love you and them deeply.

    Lou, I'm getting to explore this world of words and meaning by learning another language. I'm finding this rich but challenging. Yes, sojourns end and then we move on in our life journey.

    Linda, I like your combination- curious exploration and providing service. It's our challenge to balance them. From what I'm reading, you're doing a great job in that regard.

  13. How wonderful to find a kindred spirit as you follow your curiosity and explore. And it's also wonderful that you can follow your curiosity to such a beautiful place.

    One of the marvels of blogging for me is the "access" to the new and wonderful places, ideas, sights, and friends it offers, if one only looks. I've made blogging friends, also kindred spirits, around the world, many of whom are restricted physically by a disease or handicap. Some, I suspect, seldom leave their homes. But they follow their curiosity everywhere, and share the experiences with the rest of us, through their blogs.

    And that, too, is truly wonderful.

  14. Patti, I, too, feel grateful for more kindred spirits across the world, including you. But, great point about the boundaries of curiosity being stretched through blogging.
    p.s. I still want to meet you!

  15. Christine sounds like a wonderful new friend...I predict a long lasting one for you two.
    So happy you rec'd your documents, congrats. I look forward to much more from Italy!

  16. Just. Wonderful. Such an important message in here every single day. You attract these people, and that inspires me.

  17. Lauren, One of the great things about blogging is the inspiration we provide one another. I love that.


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