While reading Dr. Gabor Mate’s book, When the Body Says No, I was introduced to the idea of “compassionate curiousity.”
The premise is as follows: when a judgment comes up about yourself, a situation, or another person, acknowledge the thought, then instead be compassionately curious about that judgment. Essentially, it is an exercise that invites you to swap judgment for curiousity. As Walt Whitman once said, “Be curious, not judgmental.”
When I read about the idea in Mate’s book, I was amazed at how simple the idea was and how seldom it is put in to practice. How often do we make a mistake and think, “How could I be so careless?” How many times have we been angry with other drivers on the road? What if instead of beating ourselves up for a mishap, we asked ourselves why what happened, happened? I’d bet we’d discover that there are many reasons for why a mistake was made that have nothing to do with our value as individuals. Maybe we are taking on too many things, have not been getting enough sleep, or we are experiencing high levels of stress and not getting the support we need. All those reasons could contribute to a forgotten birthday or a missed appointment. I think if we were compassionately curious about other drivers on the road, we might discover that the person constantly breaking on the highway has recently been in an accident, or the person with their turn signal on for blocks is lost and confused.
This week, I invite you to practice using compassionate curiousity just once. When you are tempted to be hard on yourself or someone else, acknowledge the judgment, then be curious! Try talking to a loved one about your findings or write them down in a journal.
Have you practiced compassionate curiousity before? How did it feel? We’d love to hear from you!
Words by Cassandra Van Dyck