Monastic Strategies: The Power of Curiosity

Monastic Strategies: The Power of Curiosity March 29, 2022

Monastic Strategies: The Power of Curiosity

The Power of Curiosity

Many of the things we do are motivated by curiosity. We get interested in something and set off to find out more about it.

The people who inspire me are curious. They want to find out how far or fast we can go and what is going to happen next. There is something about my own curiosity which gets me to do things I might not think I want to do.

Why is curiosity powerful? What makes us wonder and then try to figure out how something works?

We begin to see dim, foggy outlines of an idea or a goal and start to wonder. Curiosity draws us to investigate. What motivates us to want to understand?

It is not particularly motivating for me to do the same thing every day in the same way. Routine tends not to hold my interest particularly well. In fact, routine often makes me curious. Can we find more effective, more efficient, better ways to do this? What if we tried this or that?

The people who inspire me to wonder ask more questions than they give answers.

It does not take my imagination long to start asking its own questions. What if we tried doing it this way? Why did they ever think that was a good way to do it? How can we make this less confusing?

What about the bigger, deeper questions?

Curiosity teaches us it is what we learn after we know the answers which is important. The more we learn, the more we discover there is to learn and explore.

People are curious and share their curiosity with us, bringing out the best in us.

Our curiosity grows from our sense of wonder, prompting us to ask questions and listen to responses.

Monastic Curiosity

Monks are some of the most curious people I know. They wonder and ask questions and listen.

Sometimes monks are curious about things which make the rest of us wonder. Their curiosity draws them into a way of life spent questioning and reflecting.

Some people view monks as having found their answers. They believe monastic life is about being certain and sharing that certainty with other people. People often take their questions to monks and expect them to supply the answers.

The monks I know are explorers. Their wonder about some of the basic questions of life inspires them to keep looking and asking. Monks are generally not satisfied with accepted answers or conventional wisdom. Monastic curiosity draws them forward to discover truth for themselves.

The monks who inspire me do not find easy answers particularly comforting. They tend to find simple solutions to be places to start asking, not accepting them as end results.

Monks spend time each day questioning and reflecting. Their prayers and contemplation are not ways to calm their fears, but to spark their wonder.

Curious monks have contributed to significant scientific and technological developments. They take time to pay attention and reflect on what makes them curious.

It may seem ironic when monastic life opens people up to deeper curiosity. We may think curiosity draws us out into the world to try new things. How can the set daily and weekly schedules of monastic life encourage curiosity?

The most inspiringly curious monks I know do not allow the limits of time or space to get in their way.

Wonderful Curiosity 

Curiosity takes us places we would not otherwise be able to visit. The power of wonder can turn ordinary and routine tasks into adventures. How can we inspire the spark of monastic curiosity in other people?

My curiosity grows when I pay attention. I notice something which makes me wonder and I become curious. The leaders who inspire curiosity in me give me opportunities to pursue my sense of wonder.

It may be something out of the ordinary, or something I see every day. There is a connection between what I notice and my sense of wonder. I may be curious about how or why or when.

Some people bring out the best in others around them, including curiosity. They recognize what we are doing is more than working toward a specified result. Our shared experience shapes the way we approach the future.

Wonder carries us into what we will do next just as we carry it. Some of our curiosity is focused on specific tasks and some is more about general exploration.

We inspire wonder in other people by sharing our own with them. It is contagious, spreading and growing from person to person.

Where Will Curiosity Take Us Next?

Satisfying our curiosity is a challenge. We always seem to have something more to discover and explore. The spark of wonder lights our path forward.

There does not appear to be any limits to the power of curiosity.

When we get curious we go beyond the limits we thought we had. There always seems to be another step to take and how far we will go becomes difficult to predict.

Our wonder will lead us past boundaries we thought were impenetrable. We will bend or even break rules we believed would keep us safe and secure. There is something about being curious which melts through our expectations and assumptions.

What do we wonder about today? How will we find time to explore what has made us curious as long as we can remember?

We wonder and ask questions and listen. The leaders who inspire us with their curiosity give us opportunities to discover and explore. We are curious about the world and people around us, about ourselves, and about spiritual life.

Curiosity often inspires us to move further out into the world. It draws us toward exploring our true selves. We may pursue what makes us curious in a classroom or an office or a monastery.

I wonder where curiosity will take us next.

Who is inspiring our curiosity today?

What will bring out the monastic curiosity in us this week?

[Image by Monika Kostera (urbanlegend)]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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