Quiet Time on a Wall of Rock
Yesterday Red Cheetah Yoga had it’s second official company outing at X-Treme Rock Climbing here in Miami, FL. As the owner of a yoga company that is known for not having a studio, I feel it’s really important for my entire company to get together once in awhile and do something fun; we rarely get to see one another! Sometimes, fun can include physical challenges and learning new things!
One of my employees, Zack Henry, works at the aforementioned rock climbing venue located in Kendall, and arranged for us all to learn to balay each other on ropes as we climbed up and down man-made rock walls.
The facility is impressive. A good two or three stories tall, the man-made walls take up the space within the warehouse VERY well. I was also completely humbled by the challenge it was to “boulder”, or climb with no ropes, and then humbled again when it came time to learn the knot techniques and to be the safety anchor for the person climbing, also known as “balaying”.
The physical exertion required for this surprised me. It was definitely not something I expected at all of this sport. I felt I was using muscles I never knew I had in places I didn’t know existed. Not only did I need to be strong, but I needed to be flexible and strong! There were times when the only foothold I had was near my head, and I had to somehow perform a single-legged squat angled out into space with my thigh in my chest. I failed miraculously almost every time.
Besides the physical work that can be so addictive with this sport is what you experience once you are up high.
I could literally feel the neurons in my brain firing like crazy from ecstatic anticipation as I ascended the rock face. Every grip I made with my hands and every successful foothold I got powered me to go forward more. Oftentimes I was stuck in a single location for awhile trying to figure out where to go next. For a while I was listening to the shouts of my friends, employees, and boyfriend down below me on what my next move should be, but as I got the hang of it, I realized I no longer needed their supports bellowing up to me. Once I was near the top, I was able to tune out the noise from below me and move freely into my own decisions. Just like in my yoga practice, I tuned in to the sound of my breath. I accepted the burn that was creeping into my forearms, upper arms, shoulders, core, back, and hands, and let my head clear.
It was from that space of clarity and acceptance of where I was, over twenty feet in the air, that I was able to find the hand and foot holds I needed in order to move forward and up the wall with not-always-relative-ease.
I got why rock climbers get a high off of this sport. It’s fucking quiet and peaceful way up there; it’s easy to tune out the noise from the world below, and to create the climb that you need to create that’s unique to you on the way up.
It challenged me mentally because I recognized right away that if there wasn’t an immediate answer as to how to go up, I had to slow down my thoughts and assess what was truly in front of me. Getting into my head and panicking over what my next move would be I knew would be the fastest way to make me let go of the wall and go right back down to the ground.
Separating myself from everyone with over twenty feet of rope between us was the best escape ever: I was forced to rely on my breath and intuition for my next successful pull up the wall. My attention completely on the action I was doing at the moment, the only voice I heard was my inner one, the one that knew I would successfully make it up the first wall. Whenever I let my friends into my head on the way up a particularly difficult part of the wall, I failed the climb because I was letting others do the focusing for me; I was the only one who could focus in order to make the climb a success.
Quiet time is a big thing for me. Daily, I must create it for myself in some way because I go crazy without it. Since Al and I had a garage sale yesterday morning, I had skipped my usual morning routine of meditation and journaling in the quiet space of my backyard to support him in the sale. Being way up high on X-Treme Rock Climbing’s wall provided me with what I had missed earlier that morning: an opportunity to get out of my head and into my body, to land possibility in physical reality. Yesterday it was in the form of doing my first successful rock climb and learning to balay a climber.
Just like in the yoga sutras that I am currently writing about in my other blog posts, the six sutras I have written about thus far applied to the work I was experiencing against this wall.
- Atha: readiness and commitment. I was ready and committed to learn rock climbing! At first, we, as a group, decided we would stick to only the small rock because it didn’t require equipment or a 45 minute instruction. However, after ten minutes or so of climbing on the small rock we decided we were ready for the next, bigger step, and committed to harnesses, ropes, and thirty-foot ascents. We were so glad we did! There was so much more possibility for achievement and discovery by letting ourselves be taught something new and taking on the challenge of going up vertical cliff faces.
- Citta: heart-mind field of consciousness. This truly was an effort when heart and mind had to be in unity. I love using my imagination for things, so even though I knew I had the option of coming off the wall and being fine (the harness and ropes support you, you hang like a swing), I took it upon myself to challenge myself to stay on the wall no matter what: I imagined that I actually didn’t have the harness attached to me, and that if I let go, I would plummet to earth. This make-believe worked really well for me, even though there were plenty of times I literally let myself go and gave up! Heart and mind working together and turning my focus inward really took a lot of commitment and concentration, and resulted in a lot of self-empowerment when I made difficult climbs that I thought I would have to give up!
- Purusa: inner light of awareness. This is what I experienced when I was up on the wall, thirty feet up. When I tuned into my breath, gave up my thoughts, and realized the only thing with me up there on that wall was space, challenge, and possibility, I accessed this by allowing myself to become still from the inside out. Only from that space could I possibly know what step or move to make next. To me this felt like the ultimate yoga experience, a vertical experience rather than a horizontal one. By becoming still and clear I was able to observe what was possible when I had so few options so high up.
- Drsya: ever-changing mother nature. Clearly this one is a great fit because this gym mimics mother nature. I kept thinking to myself when I was searching out the handholds marked with pink and yellow tape (the easiest handholds), what in the hell would this be like in actual nature, on an actual cliff, where there are no indicators about the difficulty level of the grip that’s in front of you? Sometimes the ONLY grip! And, being exposed to the elements, no matter how many hundreds of times an experienced climber can climb one route, it has to constantly change due to erosion from winds and rain. This was mirrored perfectly by the gym itself because as we were there, the employees were doing routine work on the routes on the walls: they had taken down hundreds of the removable hand and footholds and were washing them of their dirt and grime, only to put them back up in whole new routes. New routes to challenge the consistent climbers, new routes to make all the climbers even better at their craft. Change is life’s greatest constant, and X-Treme Rock Climbing made sure that this aspect of the sutras was honored through new routes placed along the walls on a routine basis. Watching the employees take them down and put them back up was really impressive and a major task. It also made me want to come back and climb more because that meant there would always be a challenge waiting.
- Viveka: Keen discernment. This was HUGELY evident in yesterday’s climbing experience. I love the quote Nicolai Bachman, the author of The Path of the Yoga Sutras, used, because it is so appropriate, by Dr. Suess, “Sometimes the questions are complicated, but the answers are simple.” This is exactly what it felt like sometimes when I would think, “Where do I go next?!” So often it only required I attempt grabbing a handhold and I would have my answer: either yes or no. Either it would work and I could move forward with that one, or it wouldn’t and I would have to go in a totally different direction in order to go up. I didn’t have a lot of time to sit around and question things while my muscles were burning and my hands were starting to sweat.
- Abhyasa: diligent, focused practice. For me, this showed up more when I was doing the balaying. A consistent pattern when balaying for a climbing partner is essential: if you mess up the pattern it actually puts the climber in danger of falling and getting hurt. While I was practicing with an instructor present, my really great instructor, Chloe, kept making corrections for me. I kept messing the pattern up a letting go of the rope completely with my right hand: a big no-no in rock-climbing world. Since the pattern of pull up, pull down, left hand to right hand, right hand slides up, left hand moves up, was all totally new to me, I kept making mistakes while my partner, my employee Ashley, was way up high on the wall. I realized there was a lot riding on me to do well, particularly her safety, I could not let my attention drift for a moment because it could have really nasty results. Being diligent and focused in the practice of balaying was extremely important for the safety of the person I was helping to climb and really important for the climber to trust that I was doing my job properly so she could focus on only making her way up the wall, totally supported. Learning to balay yesterday also taught me that, like anything, consistent practice over time truly hones skills, and like with anything, I will only get better with drawn out consistent practice over weeks, months, and years.
All of these first six sutras are accessed through the space of quiet time for self. If it wasn’t for my practice of centering myself daily in my backyard through meditation, I definitely would not have been as successful at balaying for my partner or climbing all the way up on more difficult ascents. The discipline of getting quiet, spending intentional time alone to go within, is one of the most important daily rituals there is.
It is only from a space of stillness and quiet where we can really tap into our potential and experience what it is we can truly and purposefully create with our lives. The only place action is born from is from absolute, knowing, conscious stillness.