The Mindful Climber
- Conscious or aware of something.
- Aware of something important.
- The third person tense of the English language word "to be," frequently used as a copula.
I discovered the state of mindfulness while climbing for the first time. It was at my local rock gym, The Edge, in Jacksonville, Florida.
I discovered this state because I was afraid. Terrified really. Half way up the auto belay-wall, I was seized by fear. I couldn't go any further. My heart was beating wildly and I was out of breath, none of which seemed associated with tackling that first 5.6.
Looking down was bad and looking up much worse.
What made it interesting was the children’s birthday party going on at the gym that day.
30 nine and ten year olds running around, flying up walls like it's nothing, their weight barely enough to belay down the wall they conquered, and here I am, petrified.
A bit of encouragement from my friends below and I started to look up again, but not to the top, just the next move. Just the next orange handhold.
And that is where it happened. I discovered I could focus on that hold.
The top of the wall may be overwhelming, but the next move I could see.
I could focus. Take a breathe and everything started to calm down.
No more kids getting their birthday on or fear of heights or friends yelling below.
Just now and the next move. So move.
And the next move. Then the next and I'm at the top with the new wild delight of letting go and rappelling down.
What I learned that day wasn't only how climbing’s physicality was exactly what I was looking for. It wasn't completely the found hope of something more difficult and a new way to live.
Nor the fear of heights and pushing myself through them and onward.
It was the beginnings of being mindful.
Being mindful was shutting out everything in the world but now. All fears and hopes. Everything.
Shutting everything out and breathing. Breathing to slow the heart, to focus the eye and body, and make time exactly what it is: Now.
Just this hold and the move ahead.
That is all.
What I discovered was the greatest feeling I had yet experienced. It was facing fear twenty ways at once, quieting it all and moving forward. It wasn't regardless of fear. It wasn't something in lieu of it. It WAS the fear before the moving through it. It was control of the mind and body in the moment.
I never understood how strong I am until that moment.
How strong we all are. How far we all can go.
It has permeated outward into every aspect of life. Now instead of counting push-ups I breathe, blank mind, and push up. The act is what has importance, not how many I do but the doing.
Instead of counting the hours left at work I stock celery. That's all. These hours at work I spend to live and celery is what is important here.
Instead of being worried about where I'll end up I pack and drive. Move and trust myself to deal with it when I get there.
When it's bad I'll live it and when it's good I'll live it too.
I learned all we are is where we are. That is all. It's Nothing and Everything.
So Train to do what you want. Train the body. Train the mind.
It's the best way I've learned to move forward with certainty. It is the root of confidence. Internal encouragement, understanding of place, perception of direction, all associated with working hard to be prepared to be the person you want to be.
Benefits of mindfulness include day to day contentment. You know where you are is where you should be.
The inverse of that is being tired but working more because you know the reason to work. There is strength in purpose of movement. It eases being in the middle of large projects because you understand how this day is a bit. All bits, all days, carry great importance but they have to be stacked carefully if you want to fit them together.
Which leads to another result of mindfulness: An understanding that life is time. If life is time, purpose is to live, and reason is moving forward through time. There is always some greater you worth reaching, discovering and learning about, so move.
The ability to go for it becomes much more a part of your life repertoire. Calculated and focused makes dealing with the unknown more controlled and understood. This enables a deeper belief in one self, a greater understanding of one’s true abilities, and a starting point to becoming a more refined individual.
Dealing with fear, anxiety, worry, uneasiness, all associated with calming the mind and body, is where our real power resides. Moving into that uncomfortable, that unknown, the not yet, is where we discover what we really are.
So, Rest when it's time to rest. Work when it's time to work.
Plan adventures. Live healthy. Be bright.
And Be mindful of life.