Stillness and Curiosity

These powerful abilities turn hardship into exploration
By Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit ZenHabits.net
October 25, 2021 Updated: October 25, 2021

Much of our lives is lived on autopilot.

We jump from one task to another, one message to another, one meeting to another, one browser tab to another. We react in habitual ways to other people, to situations. And we justify this as the way it should be.

Nothing wrong with that—but what would it be like to explore other possibilities?

What would it be like to pause and find stillness in a moment when we would normally be on autopilot?

Here’s what I’ve been exploring: Every obstacle that we normally think of as a problem to be fixed—every “flaw” in ourselves or others that we judge as something to be fixed—what if we can pause and get curious instead of trying to fix it?

For example, someone is acting in a way that feels rude or wrong—perhaps my autopilot response is to judge them, complain about them internally or externally, and either try to fix the problem or avoid the person. But I’ve been exploring getting still, and bringing curiosity to my reaction—what does it feel like, why do I get triggered in this way? Then curiosity toward the other person—how might what they’re doing make sense to them?

If I’ve been procrastinating on something, my autopilot response might be to judge myself and feel inadequate, or maybe to avoid even thinking about it. What if I get still and bring curiosity to how it feels to procrastinate on this, and what fear might be leading to the procrastination? Could I bring curiosity to why this task is even important to me?

If I’m complaining about something or feeling burdened by something, my autopilot response is to just get through it, feeling put upon and a bit powerless. Could I get still and bring curiosity to my feeling of complaint, burden, powerlessness? Could there be anything to explore in what I really want in this situation, and why I’m avoiding speaking up for that?

In this way, every difficulty becomes a place to explore with curiosity, and there is growth and learning and delight to be found in everything.

This process, for me, starts with stillness. And then deepens with curiosity.

What might it be like for you?

Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit ZenHabits.net