Having recently learned about living in discovery, a woman I know related to me a fun story from her past. She tells of growing up in a large family with a working mother who had a limited budget and little time for cooking. Dinnertime meals consisted of about ten standard recipes that her mother fixed in order, without variation, for years. After rotating through all ten, the cycle would repeat again: casseroles, pizzas from a box, and the unforgettable spaghetti with tomato soup sauce, to name a few. With dishes like these for models, this is how my friend learned to cook.
Then she had a family of her own. Wanting to expand beyond the limited selection from her childhood, and also desiring to eat a healthier diet, she began cooking one new recipe a week. Before long, her repertoire was greatly expanded. She was making adjustments to the recipes, trying different ingredients, and combining new flavors. Many years later, she’s now skilled enough and confident enough to create recipes of her own. The real evidence of her courage shines through when she prepares a new and untried recipe for dinner guests and everyone raves.
This is a great illustration of the aspect of self that I call the Explorer. The Explorer responds to our yearnings and allows us to be curious and open to possibility. It supported my friend in trying new things—mushrooms or clams for the sauce, perhaps, or herbs instead of salt—and it can do the same for us when we take on something novel. But, as is the case with the Guardian and the other aspects of self, the Explorer can have both inspired and wonky qualities.
In its inspired state, the Explorer is curious, playful, and full of questions and wonder about the world. Novelty is its friend. Aware that routine can often be supportive and soothing, the inspired Explorer also knows the importance of interrupting fixed patterns and finding fresh ways to view an experience. When freed from assumptions and habitual views, it helps us see new solutions to old problems.
Think of the Explorer as highly aligned with an inner child who may not have been let out to play in a very long time. Centered yet playful, the Explorer can investigate unfamiliar territory with anticipation and fascination. Trying this and experimenting with that are ways to explore the path toward greater meaning in life. Frequent practice in areas that are unfamiliar to us helps us stay flexible and adaptable.
As we age, the Explorer may get less and less exercise, allowing its wonky side to manifest. The more we become good at doing some things in life, the more we may resist being a beginner in other areas. In a wonky state, the Explorer holds rigidly to routine and seeks structure at all costs. Going into territory that is unfamiliar, uncertain, or unpracticed is disconcerting. Anything new can be equated with fear.
As my Explorer expands its world, my knowledge about who I am grows with it.
Barbara A. Bernard
© Barbara A. Bernard