Sunday, November 1, 2009

Be Curious, Not Furious

I attended a new yoga class today--the class was new for me, yoga is not. Actually I attended it several years back and have recently returned to the Y where it is held for free three days a week. Anyway, the young woman who teaches it relayed a mantra early on that she'd borrowed from another teacher whose name I did not catch. The mantra is, "Be Curious, Not Furious."

For the class it applied to some of the more difficult moves she was planning to impose upon us. But, of course, it has a wider range of implications. I can start with what makes me furious, the least of which is having trouble with a yoga move. What does make me more furious is my dog not obeying my requests, as if I don't exist or she has temporarily lost her hearing. What also makes me furious is someone who steals a parking place in a crowded downtown location after I've been patiently waiting for the previous driver to exit it. And, being furious about the incessant rain that has plagued us lately here in Michigan.

Now for 'being curious.' Why does my dog not obey my requests? If I might refer for a moment to a book I recently read, ANIMALS MAKE US HUMAN, by Temple Grandin with Catherine Johnson, the premise is that dogs don't listen to us usually because they don't understand our request and not because they are being stubborn. We need to think like a dog and to frame our expectations within what comes natural for them. The ultimate joy for a dog, Grandin says, is to satisfy their basic emotion of Seeking. The other three dominant emotions for dogs are Rage, Fear and Panic so clearly Seeking is their favorite. It leads to such behaviours as sniffing at the bases of trees, running like banshees in the woods, exploring the orifices of other dogs and chasing after a Frisbee. So when training our dog if we can turn our expectations into a Seeking activity they will delightfully latch on to it. So why doesn't my dog come when I call her? Because I haven't made a game out of it. Or, because (this is my most common resort) I'm not holding out a bowl of food (another bonus of the Seeking emotion).

If my request were to escalate to the level of inciting Rage, Fear or Panic in my dog I may get a positive response simply as her way of eliminating the stress. But, who knows what response I might get the next time--maybe she'd run away and what good would that do?

As for the parking lot event--I have to admit I was furious. How much more positive would it have been for me to be curious about what drove that soul to be so wicked as to steal my space? I might even have been empathetic determining that perhaps they had some kind of emergency or were late for a critical appointment or were about to lose their job because they were late for work.

And finally, the weather. What would being curious instead of furious accomplish? Perhaps it would lead to introspection on my own mindset. Why do I waste my energy on something I cannot control?

Back to Grandin's book--I'll review it in a later post and I highly recommend it!


JR's Thumbprints said...

Maybe I'll use that phrase in my classroom: "Be Curious, Not Furious." Then again, my students might think I've finally lost it. BTW, good luck with your manuscript and finding the right agent.

Jacqueline Carney said...

Thanks JR. Would these be your students in prison? Just wondering because I've been tutoring young boys at an orphanage in Detroit. Kind of the other end of the prison spectrum--where the hope is they never see your end.