Posts Tagged ‘climbing’

[music: Orange Crush – REM]

The climber was stuck. Anne R. was belaying from a sitting position down below, the climber wasn’t going anywhere, she looked over at me and said “Dans les endroits difficiles, il faut aller vite.” (In difficult places, you have to move fast)

Anne R. was coaching a climber up the side of a cliff. Beginning climbers tend to cling to the wall, gripping the rock face tightly, pulling themselves up with their arms instead of trusting their legs to push them up to a higher handhold. They tire quickly and their forearms turn to jelly.

In difficult passages, you must be relaxed, aware and trust your knowledge, plan ahead, but do not overthink the rock face; don’t waste your energy, rest only when the wall lets you.

“Dans les endroits difficiles, il faut aller vite.” Her comment resonated with me and I commented that it was a good life lesson as well.

I believe that when faced with difficult decisions, deep down, most people know what they should do. The hesitation and confusion they face is part of the process of uncovering their inner truths. We are all changing and change in our lives is often what we fear the most. Resisting and challenging ourselves is how we learn.

I took a short break from indoor climbing and when I returned, I found that I was much more fluid and relaxed in my movements. I need to get back into shape (!), but that is simply a question of effort, my brain has assimilated the knowledge I developed through experience and what I could not believe possible a two months ago is now more natural. I don’t think in difficult passages, I trust myself and move forward.

Take a break to rest and let your brain do it’s work, but when you decide to affront change and climb the wall, you must move quickly in difficult passages.

Sometimes we fall, and that’s why we all need a wise belayer like Anne R.



Ever have the impression of spending a whole day working and wonder what you have got done?

There has been a lot of talk of digital distraction (link to an excellent article on Gwarlingo): one can easily be distracted by a little red number on email, a jumping icon, a Skype notification, ping, bing or buzz. Digital stimuli are distractions, but they can also be addicting.

For me digital distraction feels a lot like my reaction to visual stimuli, I have trouble concentrating, I feel tense, I can’t think clearly, but it differs in one crucial way: I run away from visual stimuli, I have been conditioned to react to digital cues.

For example, I can barely last 20 minutes inside an IKEA store before my brain shuts down and I start to feel like I am drowning. The same is true for department stores or those gigantic metal boxes on the side of the highway that are stuffed with shit nobody really needs. I want to run away.  On the other hand, I can’t go 20 minutes without checking my email, it’s the first thing I do after my airplane lands, or I wake up, I even check right after Yoga… a stressful email could ruin my whole evening.

And although, I have learnt that there are times when ‘airplane mode’ can also be used on the ground, these times are still to few and far between. I still have every means of communication open when I am writing or working (right now: Skype, SMS, email, telephone – all possible distractions).

I have two ways to cope with these distractions:

Unclutter: remove the distractions. For me this would be rid my environment of physical tchotchkes and close the digital more frequently. Dealing with the digital requires more of the self-discipline associated with going Cold Turkey.  Uncluttering sets the stage for productive work.

Connect: When you walk, just walk. Let the walk, walk. Focus on the task at hand, pay attention to what you are doing, be aware of the present moment. Connecting allows one to make maximum use of our capabilities.

Climbing allows me to do both. There is no sense in surfing on your iPhone as you are climbing a granite wall, neither can one allow oneself to be distracted by tomorrow’s ‘to do’ list. But outside of tasks that rely upon adrenaline to focus the mind, it seems as if concentration is becoming more elusive.

One of the questions we should be asking ourselves is about the importance of the task at hand. While walking may be a good time to ‘retune’ our minds, it may also be a good opportunity for other valuable activities, like thinking “Only those thoughts that come by walking have any value.” Nietzsche.

On the other hand, if the task is important, perhaps, the metaphor of climbing may be appropriate. We want to reach the summit, we don’t want the wall to win. The same goes for all activities: “If you don’t find a way to create a wall between it and the world, the world will always win.” Jonathan Safran Foer.

Any thoughts?