By Stephany Tlalka and Judson Brewer
Curiosity can help support equanimity. When we’re resisting something, we’re contracting. And that contraction creates a sense of self. “This is my view,” creates a sense of self. Curiosity has the opposite quality—an opening up, expansiveness.
When we’re approaching someone who holds an entrenched view, we put up a curiosity which naturally leads us away from initiating one of those “I hate you, you’re stupid” wars (those “you’re stupid” “no, you’re stupid” debates people can get into when tempers flare). So we dive in and we’re suddenly curious: What is it about you’re conditioning? We don’t want to say it that way, but really that’s what it is. What is it about your conditioning that leads you to have that view? Isn’t that interesting? Why are you so…and then suddenly we totally want to understand where they’re coming from. And usually this is some sense of inadequacy, trauma, feeling insufficient.
There are now neuro-correlates of contraction versus expansion. When we’ve done these real time neurofeedback studies on meditators, it’s that contracted quality of experience that activates the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)—a core region of the default mode network in the brain involved in memory and emotion. And it’s the “letting go”/expansion aspect de-activates the PCC.