Saturday, June 24, 2017

How rock climbing teaches us to meditate

How does one meditate without sitting still? This is the myth of today's mainstream idea of meditation - MUST SIT STILL. Although yes, sitting still and quiet is a wonderful way to find the breath, it is not the only way. A few days ago I accompanied a few rock climbers to a hidden gem in our own backyard. A patch of rock that has seen and experienced many personalities, many intoxications, many chalky hands over the years - we even saw some graffiti dated back to 1948! As I chose to be a spectator that day, I drew my hammock a few yards away and began to observe. Here is what I learned about meditation and rock climbing.

The trek was a firm designated pathway that showed signs of wildlife, years of footpoints, bugs, and plants - an beautiful opportunity for mindfulness. Being mindful is simply shifting our focus to the present sense of sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. In this case I was mindful of my environment, the warmth of the sun, the hobo's den deep in the woods, the windy path we followed to get to our destination, the smell of summer and the sounds of creatures. When we arrived to our location, rock formations unfolded in the beautiful rays of sunlight. The rocks glistened with graffiti artwork, broken glass and the remains of many fires from late night gatherings. (Can I point out that at this moment in my journey, all my worries from the day, and life had disappeared).

The cargo for the day's' activities were crash pads carried like backpacks; black with outlines of sweat, dirt and chalk - they had seen many falls. A cleaning brush that would wipe away broken glass, twigs, rocks and other earthly elements not kosher for the backside. I also noticed a can of WD-40 and a lighter. This would come in handy later! Bags of chalk that climbers use to pave the way with traction and fashion. One was plain Jane, black and white, nothing fancy, but the other, a panda vomiting rainbows. I assume this is the feeling one attains upon climbing his route. These chalk bags are tied to the waist of each climber and is the glue - an unconscious dip as the eyes peruse the next path of transition. The shoes - oh those fancy shoes! Tight, uncomfortable, painful, and necessary. Mind over matter.

Upon the first climb, one will lace up, chalk up, brush away the unwanted debris from the earth, then throw down the crash pad. The mind has been cleared, it has been offered the treasure of the breath, the present moment. It is now engaged in timeless joy, the top of the rock, the visual queue of the path of most resistance is the way. The inversions, the grabs, the holds, positive and negative just like the way life shows up for us. In any given moment we can be faced with what we don't have control over - just like the way the rock forms. The meditation practice has begun, and we may not even be aware of it. The climb begins on mother earth, back to dirt, root to roots - the grounding. A climber hangs on with an invisible thread, and as each new transition unfolds it mimics the challenges of life. Just like when we want something to change we often are let down - the climber goes for the next hold and he wasn't close enough, or his foot slips, a spider jumps out and he screams and falls to the mat. The meditation is that times will be tough, climbs will be challenging, and we keep breathing - we stick with it. Because to get better is to practice and to practice is to just do it.

The day was full of laughter, consciousness, breathing, letting go, focus, concentration and presence - the main elements of mindfulness AND meditation. Whether sitting still on a cushion or following a route to to the top of a climb, one can participate in the presence of the moment. To just be. So go forth and climb - make it your meditation of the day.

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