I feel like every time I tell people I’m a rock climber, they sort of cringe and start telling me the whole spectrum of reasons why climbing is unsafe and probably a bad idea. I get a similar reaction when I say I snowboard, and when I bring up that I’m interested in doing more white water, most people kind of shut down.
The moms beg me to wear a helmet and wrist guards (I do). The dads cannot even handle me wanting to do so many physically crazy activities, and the friends think I have an adrenaline problem (maybe). But rock is addicting, climbing is addicting, snow is addicting, carving is addicting, and feeling the power of a big swell under a kayak is addicting!
The thrill of being high off the ground, moving fast on the snow, digging deep into rushing water, the fantastic feeling of endorphins that come from all the physical work, and the mental puzzle of climbing a route, a snowboard trick, or a nice line on a river–it’s a rush but it’s also completely blissful. When most people think of these activities they only see the extreme sport side with too much danger and adrenaline but they don’t see the blissful side, and they don’t understand why these can be really peaceful activities for a lot of people.
For me, these sports are total zen and I love every moment I’m on a wall, on the mountain, or on a river. The best part is no matter what happened that day, I can focus all my attention to my movement–go up and breathe the mountain air, try to pull some tricks, feel the way my muscles are working. These sports allow me to completely shift my focus and put my mind in a different, less stressful place.
Not to mention, the route or run I will take and what technique I will use give me goals to work on and things I can accomplish which gives me a sense of self-confidence and success.
These are mental sports just as much as physical ones. When in a state of meditation, you are not in a state of nothingness like common misconceptions suggest, but rather in a state of intense focus on every breath and bodily function in action. Physical activity can be the same. It is meditation, but meditation in motion rather than stillness.
I don’t recommend you attack a climbing wall or a mountain or a river right out the gate. If you are the type of person who needs an active way to de-stress and shift where your mind is, these sports just might be for you. They are dangerous–I’m not saying they aren’t, so if you do try them, do so safely and with someone who knows what they are doing. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and figure out what you’re willing to do and not do.
For me, these sports are zen. I hope if you are involved in any of them or want to be, you get started and find some zen in them too! The zen of moving your body!