Amidst the go-go-go and the self-assumed pressure of perceived expectations and obligations, it is easy to forget the core questions of Who and Why. In the pursuit of “progress,” I’ve spent much of the past year inside, checking the boxes for certification and working to make tangible headway in my practice, often based on what the experts say and on what other folks are doing. And while I’m grateful for what I’ve received and created, I am reminded how delicate the balance is, between making time for my business and my learning, and making time for the passions and pursuit that don’t initially seem to contribute tangibly to those pursuits.
When starting down this path a year ago and I had to make some conscious concessions regarding how I allocate my time, rock climbing was one of the activities I decided to shelf for a while. I’ve missed it at times, but felt content with my trade-offs. Of all the outdoor pursuits I enjoy, I find rock climbing’s skill set to be the most perishable–the technical skills, fitness, and trust in gear and feet all quickly fading without maintenance–making the coming back to climbing at times a daunting and humbling endeavor.
This weekend, in Linville Gorge with perfect crisp fall conditions, I tied back into the sharp end of the rope for the first time in nearly a year. Lead climbing, or climbing on the sharp end, as it is sometimes called, consists of climbing above the pieces of protection with the rope trailing off below you. While a system of protection gets created as you ascend, you may have to fall a bit before it catches you, and depending on the terrain, falling might be a patently bad idea.
Making my first few moves off the ground, experiencing an old familiar fear as I reestablish trust in myself, my feet, and the 3mm of high-tech rubber helping me smear my way up ancient slab, I remember, that this is part of what I came for. Acknowledging the fear, I exhale slowly and commit myself to the familiar-forgotten rhythm of moving hands and feet up the rock, sinking into the awareness of each divot, each crystal, each magically sculpted edge. Clipping my first piece of protection and moving upward, gratefully aware of each feature’s beauty and innate possibility for my upward progress.
At a good stance, with generous feet and a well-placed finger crack, I pause to scope out my next moves, a warm breeze blowing up from the Piedmont and across my skin. Looking down I see a black feather miraculously sticking out of a small down-cut crack, glimmering in the sunlight and soft wind. I realize this is what I came for.
I had fallen into the notion that learning and growth, that progress and building my practice happen at home, that I had to sacrifice parts of me, one to the other, as if they are distinct and separate. Yet at the core, what I am striving for is a purpose and a practice that is a holistic expressive of who I am, not just the assemblage of components of What I Do.
But standing on those edges, admiring the light playing off the quartz crystals and the rainbow of colors emanating from the prismatic Crow’s feather vibrating in the breeze, I realized:
This is not what I do, this is who I am:
I am the wind and the feather.
I am witness to time-sculpted edges and perfect hand jams.
I am stepping into and thru my fears,
This is what my passion requires.
I am moving upward, carrying my fear when necessary,
By the opportunity to dance
In the miraculous beauty and possibility that unfolds,
Move by move.
And when I embrace Who I Am, in it’s vastness, the What I Do can’t help but to take care of itself.
This reminder, that is what I came for.
Originally published at thegoodflow.com, my original blog & website.