Suspended mid wall, a bead of sweat rolled into my eye. Right foot planted on a little nub. Left foot planted on a more substantial lip. Reaching upward for the next projection would not only get me closer to the top, but would also put me in reach of that bell that signals to everyone below, "I did it!"
This was my first climb. It was exhilarating! Richard Lonski had invited me on several occasions to go give it a try and I finally took him up on the invitation. Why did I wait so long?! He was a very patient teacher as he demonstrated how to put on the gear and how to tie a "magic eight knot." I giggled nervously as I accidentally made a "non-magic nine knot," instead. Being nervous was a good thing because that "magic eight knot" is what keeps you from falling to your demise! You must get it right!
I learned how important my belayer was (the person who keeps you secure during your climb by manning the belay device) and was so thankful to put my trust into Richard! I learned that beta information (helpful hints from your belayer who can see things from a different perspective than you) was important for a newb and that communication with your belayer is imperative. Richard needed to know when I was ready to "climb on," when I needed "slack," when I needed "tension," and when it was time to be, "on you."
As a life long learner, as soon as my feet hit the ground after my first route, I immediately began to reflect on the experience. I was so proud that I made it all the way to top without falling. There were some tough stretches and I had to make my body get into positions that it really wasn't familiar with. Oh, and I was really thirsty! As I rehydrated myself, I watched Richard climb. That was a fast 10 seconds. Seriously, the man is like a real life version of Spider Man! He didn't even need numbs to balance on…he just shimmied up the wall! I paid careful attention to how he navigated the wall and tucked the information into a new mental file on rock climbing.
Off to my next challenge. It was named "Udderly Ridiculous." And yeah - it was. I got three fourths up the wall and got stuck…for a minute or two. And here is where I learned my valuable lesson on the sweet spot, even though I didn't know it in that moment. Richard told me to let go and just rest for a minute. I thought I could just hang on for a few, so I held on tightly with my arms and they began to spasm. I finally listened to Richard and purposely let go as I relied on him to keep me hanging there like a circus aerialist. At Richard's instruction, I shook my arms out to get the blood flowing again. He reminded me for about the fifth time that it was all about my legs. "Think about where your legs are going first." I was then able to latch back on and successfully do a rock climbing two-step to the top as that coaching finally set in.
"On-you!" I cried. Richard manipulated the ropes to bring me back down to mother earth and I was already reflecting on why I got stuck, how I would do it differently, and the importance of my legs and feet in the climb. As I carefully observed Richard negotiating his next climb, it dawned on me! As I considered the moves that went smoothly for me as compared to the ones that didn't, I was aware that there were two ways that I approached each climbing movement. The "easy" way (ha!) and the "hard" way. When I moved almost effortlessly, it was because my legs were working in tandem with my core. My arms only offered an "assist." I explained this to Richard and described it as finding a "sweet spot" for climbing. When I got nervous, I relied too heavily on my arms to do the work and that only paved the way for a fail (or a fall).
Armed with this recent cerebration, I was ready to hit the next climb. Even though it was more challenging than my previous two climbs, I completed it swiftly, with more confidence and less achy arms! It was a clean climb!
Under the careful, patient and explicit instruction of Richard, I experienced three successful climbs! The other climbers cheered me on and reinforced my efforts. It was evident that they have created a trusting and encouraging community with one another. They were family and were eager to welcome newbs into the fold.
After a sweaty hug and expressing my deep gratitude to Richard for allowing me this experience, I headed to my car in a state of healthy exhaustion. As I turned the key in the ignition, I began replaying the whole experience in my mind and I ascertained that climbing was both meditative and a metaphor for life. First of all, I definitely hit a mediative state while climbing. There is a point when you find that "sweet spot" and everything just moves in a natural flow. During those moments, I was completely present and my mind was totally clear. Yeah, those were freaking awesome moments! :)
All I ever really needed to know about life was summed up in a climbing lesson...
How often do I fight the natural flow in my life as I did when I was trying to hang on for dear life with my arms instead of using my legs and my core during climb number two? I turn things into a struggle instead of trusting my great teacher (The Universe in my life, but Richard, for my climb). I had to PURPOSEFULLY let go. That really smacks right into what feels like the correct thing to do. Climbing caused me to consider what habits and things I am holding onto in my life that are not serving me well. I need to purposefully let them go.
What "beta" information is helpful to me? I got stuck on the "Udderly Ridiculous" climb because I could not see where to move next. My vision was limited while hanging vertically on the wall. I needed Richard to share some "beta" with me, in order to become unstuck. Sometimes we get stuck in our lives…we can't see where the next step is because we are so limited in our view. These are times we need to consider "beta" information from other people who have a different perspective so that we can become "unstuck."
There is a "sweet spot" in life. Have I found it? What am I doing that makes life more complicated than it needs to be? "Sweet spots" are not necessarily easy, they are just easier than the "hard way." What happens when I allow things in my life to work together in flow as my legs and core did for the climb?
What happens when I find my balance, even on the tiniest little nubs as I did on my last climb of the night? When I find a balance between my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self, I feel confident and experience the "aches" of life differently along the way. What happens when I trust my friends and loved ones when I find myself in a pickle or I need help? During the climb, I called out "On You!" and Richard was there to help me down or to give me a break. He assisted me with the burden for a bit. I really needed him for a successful climb, just as I need my friends and family in this thing called life. Interdependence is what that is called. And what happens when I build trust among a group of friends that I can depend on to literally save my life? I create community. What a beautiful thing!
I am already planning for my next climbing experience. Who wants to come along?!