A Bias for Mystery & Deep Curiosity

The day can blaze past in a flurry of to-do’s. We can chase indiscriminately after knowledge and tips and advice so we can shore up our emotions against so much uncertainty.

And yet another part of the day also rides the mystery train. How do we get on board?

Lost creator J.J. Abrams tells the story of how decades ago his grandfather would take him to Lou Tannen’s magic store in New York City. One day there he bought a Tannen’s Mystery Box, a huge cardboard box emblazoned with a big question mark. $50 of magic for $15. To Abrams, the box represents his grandfather, a man of endless curiosity.

But the mystery box, Abrams says, also “represents infinite possibility. It represents hope. It represents potential. And what I love about this box, and what I realize I sort of do in whatever it is that I do, is I find myself drawn to infinite possibility, that sense of potential. And I realize that mystery is the catalyst for imagination.”

The twentieth century’s most celebrated person of knowledge agrees: “The most beautiful thing we can experience,” the frizzy-haired Einstein writes, “is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science.”

How do we open that “catalyst for imagination”? How do we nurture that mystery box so it stays open?

Those are questions I lived in among a startlingly talented, authentic group of creatives last week at the 7th Annual Tracking Wonder Retreat in Taos, New Mexico.

Therapists, coaches, consultants, a geologist-writer, novelists, memoirists, yoga practitioners, a D.H. Lawrence scholar, a fabric artist, enterprisers, photographers, a poet, visual artists all gathered to open and nurture their mystery box.

We tracked especially these three mysteries together:

* That we can shift our mind’s states to plunge its depths

* That our respective creative process proffers endless mysteries

* That our art can shift, provoke, evoke, and engage our tribes’ and audiences’ minds & hearts

During the retreat I asked each of them to write down what mystery they were living in, what question they were living in, what’s stoking their curiosity. Those prompts are puzzling queries. They require you to see what remains invisible, to articulate what remains inexpressible.

But that’s what the most gratified, thriving scientists, enterprisers, and artists I know do – they make space for the mysterious and track what seems just beyond grasp.

A few of their responses follow. I hope their curiosity opens your own mystery box today.

“I find myself knowing less these days instead of knowing more and that includes me. Truly I am living in the mystery of me. Perhaps if I can understand me, I can better live in the world. And I’m wondering, what does my creative life look like? What new form can creativity in my life take?” – Kate Miller, Faculty at The Academy of Coaching & NLP, international coach & consultant

“I’m curious about embodying my writing process – how I do it, how I don’t, how yoga is helping.” – Carol McIntyre, life coach & creativity coach, carolmcintyre.com

“I’m living in the mystery of writing’s role and power in the 21st century. And I’m wondering what are my foundational questions as a writer and what I continue to explore in language. I’m living in the question of how to find empathy for and writing realistically and compassionately into a character with opposing viewpoints/worldviews.” – Laraine Herring, author of The Writing Warrior and Writing Begins with the Breath, laraineherring.com

“I’m curious about playing the role of a writer in my own movie.” – Amber Polo, author of Relaxing the Writer and Flying Free, amberpolo.com

“Who am I? Where do I come from? Having no roots, where are my roots to be found?” – Judi Jones, fabric artist

“How do I connect with and heal my inner child and help him overcome his fears?” – Jerry Blakely, sailor and seeker

“I’m living in the mystery of attraction and traction. Why do some things unfold and draw me into further exploration? Why do I do some things such as come to Taos and to Jeffrey’s retreat? I don’t believe this is an accident. So I am curious about the hidden forces that seem to direct me, help me, assist me in opening doors, meeting people, and finding inspiration.” –Stephanie Borges, D.H. Lawrence scholar, writer, dancer

“How can I better understand what it’s like to not know what I know?” – Antoinette Armocida, story-teller and debt collector, New Jersey

“I’m living in the mystery of what and where is home and place. I’m curious about the nature of disruption, how creative packs facilitate our creative process, and what does the tension between knowing and knowing feel like and how I mesh these polar opposites to create a cohesive life.” – Heidi Johnson, founder of Inkwell Coaching & Yoga As Muse Facilitator

“How many of these fellow wonder trackers have I known in previous lifetimes?” – Lindsey Weilbacher, writer

“I am curious about what is deep in the heart of the seed of the pearl in the pregnant belly of the Great Mother/Void, and I am living in the question of how to find out. And I’m wondering if my finding out will change the very heart of the void I am wanting to discover.” – Lilith Ren, artist and writer

Creatives and enterprisers who thrive have notebooks full of answered if not unanswerable questions. They have a bias for mystery and deep curiosity.

When you live in deep questions, each day becomes a quest. Each day opens to possibility. You step onto the mystery train and trust that where it will take you by dusk is precisely where you need to be.

Try it: Pause. Drop into a place of deep curiosity and ask yourself, “What mystery are you living in today?”

How do you open your mystery box? What mystery are you living in today? What stokes your deep curiosity today?

See you in the woods,



Share This Article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Once again an excellent and provoking article! When I step onto my mat I love taking the eye of the student, or the eye of curiosity! It changes and magnifies how remarkable the body is and how special my practice can be. Thanks for reminding me <3

    1. Courtney~Thanks for your kind words. “The eye of curiosity” – I like that. Student mind is a wise perspective for teachers to assume. Cheers.