During summer break, I had the good fortune of taking my family rock-wall climbing. Actually, it’s better to say that my wife Sara planned the logistics (including discounted Groupons—love her) for all of us to go.
I happened to be along for the ride, and it was an absolute blast!
Not only did our entire family have fun together with very little bickering (not an easy task), but all of us got an incredible workout for at least two hours. We went to the Phoenix Rock Gym on our way to the airport (my son, Kyle, was flying to California to see a friend). His flight was later in the evening, and it would be the first time traveling without us, so we drove him up and saw him off. Having some time to kill, we decided to turn the day into what would hope to be an exciting family outing.
We had never been rock climbing and thought, "Why not give it a try?"
As my family walked into the massive facility, 30-foot rock walls towered above us with over 50 ropes to grab onto. It was mid-afternoon on a Wednesday, and yet the place was packed. None of us had much experience, but after a short video and hands-on orientation with staff (they were great by the way), we were ready to go.
Sara and I, along with a couple of friends and the kids, were soon renting shoes, using carabiners and belay devices to tie-in, making our figure-of-eight knots and climbing into our great adventure. Kyle was a spider! He made it look easy, even the hard walls. Kyle did so well so fast, that after about an hour, he was done.
My little ones—Ava (5) and Jude (7)—had the best time of all; they were bundles of energy climbing wall after wall. Jude was an animal. He just wouldn’t give up—constantly looking for the right foothold or place to put his hands. Ava was also cute as a button. She never got to the top of the wall, but kept trying—climbing up, huffing and puffing her way to a point of stopping (always the same height) and then asking to come down. “But I’m not done!” she would exclaim as she was ready to start again.
I took a stab at a couple of walls. Come to find out, rock climbing isn’t easy! They say it takes strength, control and finesse to climb a wall of rock. I believe it. The muscles I used to pull myself up that sheer rock face took all the strength and control I could muster. There were muscles I hadn’t used in a while getting a serious workout—what a blessing!
But climbing also takes finesse as you find yourself constantly in a state of assessment—where to place your hands and feet so that your muscles can do the right job. All of this is done as your endurance and aerobic capacity are put to the ultimate test.
And yet, rock climbing is more than that.
One of America’s best sport climbers, Lynn Hill, says it this way:
"For me, climbing is a form of exploration that inspires me to confront my own inner nature within nature. It’s a means of experiencing a state of consciousness where there are no distractions or expectations. This intuitive state of being is what allows me to experience moments of true freedom and harmony."
We teach rock climbing at Miraval as one of our Outdoor Adventure experiences in mindfulness training.
It is indeed that.
The state to which Lynn is referring is what I talk to guests about in my Finding the Zone seminar. This state of being is "the zone"— what some experts call “flow” or “entering the field.” It is that space of total focus and singular intention, where there is immediate feedback to our actions, a balance between challenge and skill, action and awareness flowing into one. And if we are presently mindful, time begins to distort. It may even slip away. Self-consciousness disappears, there is no fear of failure, and there is no reason for doing the activity except to feel the experience it provides.
Within this space, we become one with a field of existence that is unified, whole, and one. It is pure joy. It is what we are all looking for—where we all want to be.
Any way we can find to get there is something worthy of our pursuit.
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