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Rockclimbing as a Contemplative Practice

“The closer you come to knowing that you alone create the world of your experience, the more vital it becomes for you to discover just who is doing the creating.” -Eric Micha'el Leventhal

I started climbing because it's intense fun. We had my daughter’s twelfth birthday party at the Cleveland Rock Gym. They had to coax me down off the walls in order to light the candles and do the birthday singing. A year or so later, I climbed outside for the first time. I felt like I became another species that weekend, as I slithered up the curves and crevices of the rock amongst the ferns, moss and the clear running streams at Kaymoor in the New River Gorge. Then I got seduced by the sweetness of chasing grades; climbing harder and harder routes, watching my body get leaner and stronger. After plateauing and going through a divorce, my relationship to climbing changed yet again. Now my favorite thing is to climb with partners who appreciate the introspective aspects of climbing. Climbing is all about how we talk to ourselves, the inner atmosphere that we cultivate in our hearts and minds. It's easy to do the habitual thing, of beating ourselves up, and noticing what we are NOT doing well. After all, failure and falling are an integral part of sport climbing. If you're not falling, you haven't really found your edge. I’ve also learned to appreciate hearing the voice of my shadow when climbing; she shows up in the most inopportune moments sometimes, voicing all kinds of doubts and bizarrely scary imaginings. She has given me a unique opportunity to practice self compassion and self inquiry. Why does she show up when she does? What satisfies her? And what happens when we climb for the love of the thing, for the joy of the moment? How does fear fit into this picture? How can we use fear as a spice in the soup of life, rather than the broth?

Delving into these questions has proved to be a powerful self-discovery tool for me and I look forward to sharing this practice with others in the future.  I bought a cabin in the Red River Gorge in August of 2018, and I plan to use this home base as a springboard for supporting others in the contemplative journey.