Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rock Climbing as a Transformative Practice

In the world of spirituality and psychology I often see references to people’s “daily practice.” Spiritual leaders and therapists will ask you “do you have a daily practice?” Usually they are referring to meditation, yoga, martial arts or the like. The general thinking goes that in order to grow spiritually, or personally, you need some sort of structured practice that provides the medium to experience a state of presence that will ultimately lead to higher consciousness. So why can’t rock climbing be considered a daily practice?

Rock climbing is similar to yoga or martial arts in that all three have surface level athletic components (techniques, training, etc.). One could practice yoga or martial arts (or rock climbing) for the workout alone and never fully get into the philosophical side of the practice. The difference is that yoga and most martial arts already have a religious or philosophical discipline built into the practice that a practitioner can explore if they want to. Rock climbing has similar philosophical components but no official structure or discipline in which to acknowledge or nurture these internal experiences.

But really, what does rock climbing have to teach us that could be considered transformative? Outdoor education programs have known for years that utilizing rock climbing experiences with their students often results in profound transformations – and these are usually just one time experiences. What could open up as possible outcomes if rock climbing were used deliberately on a more long term basis?

I have considered many of my experiences with rock climbing to be transformative over the years. From climbing I have developed a greater self knowledge, a greater sense of awareness of space and self, increased self-esteem, an ongoing feeling of accomplishment, community and a strong connection to the outdoors. For me, these developments have contributed to growth in other areas of my life. They have transferred into my work as a therapist, into my personal relationships, and how I carry myself in general (balance, self-awareness, and confidence in my physical abilities).

What would a structured spiritual discipline look like in rock climbing? I don’t know the answer to this question. I can think of plenty of scenarios that seem more like a joke or parody of this question then a serious thoughtful answer. Maybe rock climbing isn’t ready for something like this? It might have a hard time shaking its adrenaline junky image. Or maybe rock climbers are not ready for something like this? Or maybe it’s just me. Since nothing like this exists yet (as I know it) then it’s hard for me to imagine what it would look like.

What has been your experience? Could you (or do you already) utilize the transformative lessons that rock climbing has taught you and apply it to the rest of your life?

1 comment:

  1. Hello there!

    Great to see someone else writing about spirituality and climbing for a change. I for one cannot thank climbing enough for it's transformative effect on my life. For one it raised awareness. Awareness for yourself and for the natural elements you are engaging with. It starts subtle of course and can easily be overpowered by one ego for it will feel pride in achievements and throw tantrums in failure. however, after a friend lent me 'rock warriors way' i found it was all about perception.
    once you view the exercise as learning and connectivity one can harness the kundalini inside and once you try to harness that inner power, transformation will occur, if you preserve an open mind, strong heart and remain humble.

    i know this post is old but how has your path been? i am still on this rollercoaster and would love to share with you. my blog is http://theloveaffairwithgravity.blogspot.co.uk/ and is due for an update.

    namaste

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