Walking on the estuary the other day I bumped into someone I know a little. We stopped to chat. He was curious about the sea birds. On the waters edge, they hung out in one big gang but he’d noticed, on a nearby part of the coast they separated into distinct groups.
I appreciated his noticing and curiosity and it got me wondering, what happens to our curious selves?
When we are young and learning about the world, we see something flying in the sky and it is an object of curiosity. We notice and wonder at its shape, colours, wings, flight patterns and our mind is wide open. Then someone tells us, it’s a bird. The information gets processed and stored away.
The next time we look up and see something similar in the sky, we don’t see what is in front of us with an open mind and fresh eyes. Instead we recall what our memory tells us is ‘a bird.’
Believing we ‘know’ what a bird is, we look away, hardly seeing the object at all. Freshness and curiosity superceded by our intellectual knowing. Humans seem to have a desire to name, label, classify and organise into systems everything we come across.
Even before science turned this into an intellectual pursuit, an older tradition existed, that of story telling. Stories have been used since the earliest times to teach and to share wisdom.
But some stories we make up about ourselves, others and the world, may no longer serve us and get in the way of a different, more joyful experience.
Earlier this year after attending a Buddhist Kick Off meeting locally, I was invited to get curious about family. Listen to most people long enough on the subject of family and there will be tender spots. Places of hurt, regret, conflict, loss or simply things they want to bury and forget.
It is easy for these to get set in stone as the stories of our family.
I found myself wondering what it would feel like to see the idea of family with fresh eyes. If there is sadness or anger because of loss or rifts in our immediate family, what about looking wider?
Consider, what if family extended to:-
- all your blood relatives (alive and dead, talking or not)
- your cat or dog
- your parents’ new partners (both of them)
- your in-laws (living or dead)
- your ex and their extended family (on speaking terms or not)
- your partner’s children and their partners
- your child and his or her partner
- your children’s friends
- your neighbour’s cat or dog
- your best friends
- people in your social network
- the people in your building
- the people in your street
- your work colleagues
- your customers or clients
- people on your train or bus
- people who provide food, services, education, healthcare and trash collection in your area
- people who attend an event together
- people in your village or town
- people in your county
- people in your state or region
- all the other humans on the planet, who, just like you, are seeking love and understanding, doing the best they can
And really, what stops family going as wide as you wish? Only thought calcified into belief.
A new thought can bring a new idea of family and with it new opportunities for nourishing connections any time, any where.
If we get open and curious and glimpse the possibility of opening our hearts to all who cross our paths, we may, unexpectedly, find more compassion, peace, love and understanding around the sad and sore places in our old story of family too. Extending goodwill to everyone we meet as the festive season approaches, can only create more love and understanding.
Shall we give it a go?