I recently read an article on Huffington Post about how meditation can make you a more compassionate person. My favorite part about the article was that it gave heed to the fact that you can enter a meditative state even when you aren’t intentionally meditating. It was exciting to see that scientific inquiry is backing up something that I’ve always known in my gut–that meditation doesn’t have to occur on a buckwheat cushion, in silence, whilst a singing bowl warbles. In fact, meditation for me, and I believe for many others, occurs through movement. And anyone who knows me, before they even read another word, knows that rock climbing is where it’s at for me.
I’ve had an on again and off again love affair with rock climbing for about 7 years now. It started out as a simple conversation with a friend who I had agreed to go dumpster diving with. He needed carpet for his van, which he was living out of after leaving his job at Microsoft. He casually asked me to go bouldering with him after I inquired why he had decided to live out of his van (at the time, I had no idea what a dirtbag was). I had tried rock climbing when I was younger and because of my intense fear of heights it had never really clicked with me. But I had grown since my college days, and after spending a day backpacking on a small slice of trail on the PCT in Oregon, I had gotten over it. Sure, I replied. Let’s do it.
What started out as a casual agreement to spend QT with a good friend, soon turned into a small obssession. And I found myself, struggling but also loving the small payoffs that you see happen as your body and mind transform while you’re on rock. Your muscles tighten. You become oddly aware of every breath you take, what your hands and feet feel when you come into contact with a sliver of rock, and how you find ways to overcome the I-effing-suck-at-this mental game. And as your hands, arms, legs, and feet swing akimbo midair in positions only ballerinas dare on a flat stage, when you come down off the wall, something happens in your body and mind. Something that helps you plant your feet even more wholeheartedly on solid ground. You can’t help but feel more grateful and more compassionate because it helps you be more aware of your place in life. And you feel renewed.
This renewal that I experience, every time that I get on rock has helped me work through some of the toughest experiences in my life. Grief from my friend passing away in a mountain climbing accident, feelings of failure from my divorce, and the time when I herniated a disc in my lower back, dealt with the excruciating pain, and then worked through recovering from that injury after surgery. Whatever bumps, bruises, and suffering I experience in my life, rock climbing is there to help me remember that it’s the small things that you do that propel you forward and help you move on. It also reminds me that you must put in the time and effort to overcome adversity and make it happen. And in that way, rock climbing has become a form of daily meditation that helps push me to grow in every part of my life.
So if you’re doing what you love and you can relate, keep it up. Because this is what teaches you patience, kindness, empathy, and love. And the more you do it, the more patience, kindness, empathy, and love you will put into the world. And that’s what this world gravely needs.
So climb on. I will.