I’m not a religious or spiritual person. I don’t believe in the mysticism behind most philosophy or religion but I do believe the mind is like a muscle and it needs to be exercised just like muscles do. We give our mind a workout anytime we learn something new or use our brain power to work through a puzzle or difficult situation but do we exercise our mind to prepare for life’s challenges? We use our mind every time we climb, kayak or in any situation where we have to fight against instinct to accomplish a goal. We use our mind when we let negative thoughts in; whether we work on pushing them out or not. We use our mind when we push through a workout or a long hike or any situation where our body wants to quit and we have to push through anyways. I am not searching for the path to ultimate enlightenment or the pathway to anything really, I am just looking to live a happier more fulfilling life with lots of adventure, good friends, outrageous stories and great memories. I’m training my body to be stronger with cardio and strength circuits, I’ll be training my mind to be stronger with meditation, Tai Chi and a few other things along the way.
I am not an adrenaline junky, if I’m feeling adrenaline it means something has gone wrong and I’m having a bad day. But fear is good, adrenaline is good, these keep us alive in situations where there is something to be afraid of. They also keep us from doing stupid things; well most of the time. The trick is to be able to separate rational fear and irrational fear and to not let the fear control you regardless. So, what’s rational and what’s irrational? Being super runout on lead with a potential ground fall could be rational fear but what if you’re looking at falling less than 20ft with plenty of rope out and it’s overhanging. How about dropping in on a class III rapid that looks super intimidating but the reality is the worst you’re looking at is a swim if you take the wrong line and miss your roll. The freak out can come in any of these situations if you don’t know how to control it.
I try to make my choices on activities based on the difficulty but also the level of danger. I work to mitigate away as much of the danger as I can so that all I have to deal with is irrational fear. That doesn’t mean I don’t run into rational fear from time to time, but I do try to avoid it. Honestly driving to the crag is the most dangerous thing I do. I could lose control of the vehicle or any number of things can go wrong and the same is true on any climbing or kayaking trip. The goal is to be able to control the fear and keep my mind in the right space regardless of the fear being rational or irrational. When the shit hits the fan, I want to be in control of my fight or flight reflex and keep it together. When the fear is rational I want to have the clarity to figure my way out and when it’s irrational I want to be able to push through it without hesitation.
I try to be a happy, easy-going person but I do have a “quick to anger” button that I’d like to have more control over. It comes on strong whenever I’m hangry but it comes on other times too. Over the last few years I’ve also been in more of a negative head space, not all the time but more often than I’d like. I’ve had it rough and been kicked in the teeth a few times over that time but that’s life. If not for the hard times how could you learn to appreciate the good times. I want to move past it though and start looking forward to a better future. That and I want to be in a better mental space next time life kicks me in the teeth.
My Dig Deep:
In my 20s one of my greatest attributes as an outdoor athlete was my ability to dig deep and push through any situation to accomplish a goal. I still have a little bit of this but as I get older I can feel it slipping a little. As I’ve been doing circuits I’m looking for excuses to skip something or to stop early. A while back on a 15-mile hike I couldn’t get out of a negative head space that made me question why I was doing it, it made the last 5 miles hell for no good reason. I’ve talked myself out of circuiting because I can do it tomorrow. I’m procrastinating doing my circuit tonight by typing this right now. I need to listen to my body when it’s telling me to stop but I need to ignore my mind when it’s being a pansy. It’s a fine line. I attribute a 10-year reoccurring knee injury to my dig deep of the past and I attribute the last few years of sedentary life to not enough dig deep. Hopefully I can find a healthy balance.
The goal of my meditations will be to work on strengthening my mental muscle. I will start with just morning meditation for the first couple of weeks but as it becomes a habit I will also start meditating just before bed. Both sessions will be roughly 10 min but the time will be based on how much I feel I need to work through at the time. I’m indifferent to what posture should be used while meditating. Some believe you should sit up straight with your legs crossed etc, but I think the key is to be comfortable. I will start off just lying in bed in a comfortable position but may change as time goes on.
Morning meditation will take place as I’m still laying in bed in the morning; after I’m fully awake. I will focus on getting my mind in the mental space for whatever I plan on doing that day. If I’m going climbing or kayaking I’ll focus on positive experiences I’ve had in the past. If I’m going to work on a project route that I’ve been working for a while I’ll focus on the movement and the muscles I’ll have to fire to make the moves. Not too much though, this is about getting in the right head space for the day not working on the proj. If I’m planning on writing blog posts or otherwise updating the website I’ll focus on getting in the best mental space for that. I won’t focus any energy on anything negative, or work on any fear mitigation, just focus on getting in the best, most positive mental space I can for the tasks of the day. My hope is that by practicing this everyday I will have the control to shift my head to a better space quicker, for instance getting to a place where a quick 30 sec mediation before getting on lead or dropping into a rapid will be all I need to be in the right head space.
Evening mediation will be done as I lay down to go to bed and will be about reflecting on the day. Not to dwell on the things I wish I’d done better but to reflect on them and contemplate how I would handle the same situation better if it came up again, and then releasing it. To learn the lessons I can learn from my days experiences and move on. This could be a situation where I dealt with fear, or an interaction I had with someone I wish had gone different. It could also be focusing on negative thoughts I had through the day and working on ways of releasing them as they come up. Life is about getting the test first and the lesson after, this meditation will be about learning those lessons so I don’t repeat them over and over.
Well this is the tentative plan, I figure this section, like most others, will morph as time goes on. I’ve never purposefully put energy into this type of training in the past so I don’t expect to have all the answers on how to do it as I’m getting started. I will continue to read and study up on the subject though this subject gets tough for me with cutting through all the bullshit but I’ll try to stay vigilant (see there I go being negative). I expect it to be challenging at first but hope that in time I’ll strengthen my ability to control my mental space.
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