Climbing as Present Moment Awareness
"I’m an avid rock climber. I’m a day trip away from Red River Gorge in KY, some of the best climbing in the country. The silence I seek there isn’t a physical silence, although there is plenty of that there as well. I seek mental silence. When you’re climbing, your mind is focused entirely on the body. All the screaming anxieties and mental jabbering that goes on in my head is all washed away as I find myself 100% in that exact moment as I try to navigate my way safely up a vertical rock face. I always leave physically exhausted but mentally reinvigorated."
As an infrequent climber, but lover of it nevertheless, I can attest to the benefits of focusing on ascending a staggering rock face. Your other thoughts and concerns just drift away. They aren't even relevant in the moment because you're doing a puzzle that involves all of you. You focus on the grip your hand makes, or your footing to hoist yourself up another few inches, the encouragement from your climbing partner(s), the sun warming your skin, and how small you are compared with this vast world. It's thrilling. For me, there's nothing quite like it.
The total immersion in an activity isn't unique to climbing. You may find this to be true in other activities you do. Perhaps it's playing music, running, basketball, or painting. There are endless possibilities, but the important thing is- they bring you joy and sense of accomplishment in doing it. A natural biproduct is that you get to turn off the constant mind chatter and just be and do.
Find an activity that does this for you, and if you haven't identified one then work on finding one, because the benefits are really impressive. We'll talk more about generalizing this to everyday tasks in another post.
Until then, I hope you full-heartedly embark on an activity that is meaningful and fulfilling to you.
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Heather Astill, MSW, LSCSW, LCSW-C