Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Hiranya of the Some Kind of Wonder-full…Blog.
It’s almost six months now since I first started climbing. And looking back, it has been one of the most life changing hobbies I have ever experienced. Though if you replace “hobby” with “obsession,” that would aptly describe what climbing means to me.
Why did I start?
As a kid, I spent hours in the garden on the climbing frame. I loved to do the monkey bars, and stand up tall like a tight rope walker. Sometimes, with my head in the cherry blossom, I felt like I was in a different world as if my head were in the clouds. Trees were always nice too. But I always struggled with that first step up – and still do, as recent attempts prove!
My physical pursuits are always sparked by a spiritual possibility. Some of my dearest friends are surfers and paragliders. Whenever I talk to them or watch extreme sports about such activities, I sense the spirituality inherent in such pursuits. Once I asked my friend about enlightenment. He told me that there are times during surfing when he would lose all sense of self and merge with the moment. That was for him his experience of enlightenment. From my observation of other committed surfers, it seems like being in that moment causes one to experience the Divine.
I wished so much to experience this feeling for myself. Sadly, I’m not a strong swimmer; neither can I afford to fly. But fate intervened and I met a girl who liked to climb. That meeting changed my life. She encouraged me to pick up the sport. She said that it didn’t matter if you were small, or lacking in strength and stamina: it would build up. (Well, not the height bit!) So I went along to try it out. Initially, I felt like running away. I felt like I was the weakest link because I couldn’t even tie the knot. Thankfully I stayed and persevered. After five hours climbing up walls, I was totally wired and addicted.
This is a love song, a love song to climbing. I love climbing because:
As I learn more about the human body and develop greater sensory awareness – that being “in your body” not just your mind – from the Alexander Technique, I feel a great sense of awe. I praise God for making me so wonderfully. Climbing is a sport that makes optimum use of the human body. Your arms, legs, fingers, toes, your very core; they all play a part in climbing. I particularly enjoy bouldering where you climb large boulders without a rope. I love how you have to contort your body into different poses and shapes. I love experiencing what each pose and shape feels like.
Climbing is a kind of dance. No one dances the same; they all do it differently. Similarly, no one climbs the same route in exactly the same way either. A person’s inner child is often suppressed and hidden away. But when you watch a person climb, you can see their true self shining through every move they make. And I love to watch that; to see REAL people. Some people climb as fast as they can, it’s all about reaching the top. I can’t say that’s my style. To me, the process is more important than the goal in climbing. I enjoy every move, slowly deliberating on how I might like to make the next step. I make it a point to savour each and every moment. Climbing can be beautiful and artistic. I aspire to be more than just a “good” climber. I hope to be a beautiful one; full of grace and poise.
Climbing requires thinking, planning, and creative problem solving. But it suits me just fine because I thrive on using my mind. I have spent many days and nights thinking about how to make that next move in a climb. I reflect on the possibilities and how I must use my body to reach my goals. With this blueprint in mind, I test it out through trial and error until I get it right. I love figuring things out for myself. Although I like to watch other climbers for their approach, we all have different challenges. Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. For example, I may not be able to reach as far as some people, but I am incredibly flexible. In the end, I love climbing for the intellectual process involved and knowing that I solved my own problems.
Climbing makes me happy. Whenever I have a really bad day, I try to ignore my emotional turmoil and study in the library. But as the stress and tension builds, I usually end up crying instead. Thankfully, I can go climbing. And suddenly, I am not thinking anymore. I am not emoting or worrying about anything. All that is on my mind is the wall that I am trying to climb. Nothing else matters. After an hour of complete focus, I usually feel reinvigorated. I always feel happy after climbing. This could be due to the endorphins that climbing causes my body to release. Climbing helps me to see what is magical and true once more. It helps me to look up at life’s possibilities instead of focusing on the ground and the fear of falling. In the end, climbing never fails to lift my moods.
My spiritual quest thus far has taken me in many directions. It has been an incredible journey of discovery. But an important anchor of that quest is meditation. The first time I learned to meditate, I sat cross legged. Through meditation, I learned to still my mind and body. At its core, meditation unites your mind with your body bringing harmony to your movements. When your mind and body are in harmony you move with precision and confidence. There is no wasted effort. But the moment you lose this harmony, your fears and doubts cause you to hesitate and give up. Through meditation, I can achieve more that I ever thought possible.
And climbing has become a meditative experience for me as well. Like the Alexander Technique and Ashtanga Yoga, I find that climbing is meditative and absorbing. When mind and body are one, the spirit emerges. This spirit is not just our individual spark, but the Universal Consciousness that resides in us all. When I completely “am”, with no masks, I unite with something larger than myself. It is non-duality. Humanity and divinity merge. There is no beginning or end. No split between heaven and earth.
I love climbing because it is natural and it beings me closer to nature whenever I climb outdoors. In dearest Llanberis, Wales, the splendour of the mountains heal my soul. That and a very dear man who sold me a sheepskin rug, laying them all out on the floor and helping me decide which one was “perfect”. That was very special too. The trip turned my world back the right side up, and I rediscovered my joie de vivre (something I too often take for granted). Climbing helps me to be at one with nature, surrounded by love and reminded that I am not alone. It serves as my rock and anchor which sees me through the craziness of life. For that, I am grateful.
Climbing teaches me to be independent. It helps me to trust myself and my abilities. When you are halfway up a rock, the only person you can rely on is yourself. My confidence always receives a massive boost whenever I make a climb, because I know I did it with my own strength and effort. There is a sense of self-reliance, autonomy and independence in climbing which I find attractive. For me it is frustrating that my own dreams (the vocation of motherhood) are not something I can just “go after” like a career goal. While I may not have the control I would like to have over my dreams, climbing is a different matter. In climbing, I alone am responsible for my success or failure. This realization makes me feel strong and safe from harm because I control my own fate.
The diversity of the climbing community is vast; they come from all walks of life. Some live out of their cars without a “proper job.” Others are weekenders who worry that a lack of pension will prevent them from “living the dream.” The only thing that unites us is our love for climbing. To us climbing allows us to experience the Divine. Climbing broadens my horizons and increases my understanding of the universe. I have met great people through climbing, people I would never have met otherwise. My climbing partner, in particular, is a wonderful friend. She is a woman of courage and strength whom I admire no end. If climbing had given me nothing but this friendship, it would’ve been more than enough.
Ultimately, what I love about climbing is this:
It makes me happy and gives me pure joy. It is an expansion of consciousness without recourse to short cuts.
Hiranya writes at the Some Kind of Wonder-full…Blog which serves as an ode to living life in a state of contemplative wonder. Her thoughts, ideas, inspirations and creations serve to remind us to look for that silver lining and beauty in the midst of adversity and the everyday lives we lead.