Real stories from people who found their
therapy & mindfulness
In the world around them
Climber, Musician, All-round Legend.
Meditation and mindfulness doesn't have to be you just sitting quietly in a room, emptying your mind and chanting Om. For many people, their deepest and most profound meditative experiences come when they are engaging actively with both the world around them, and the world inside of them.
Rock climber, musician, and legend in general, Angus Taylor, shares his story about how he found peace, purpose, and healing through climbing.
Climbing for me is special, because it puts you in an environment. Instead of getting out of the car and seeing a beautiful place, you get to experience it on an intimate level, interact and immerse yourself in the beautiful place. There is a quote I read once that I really think hits the nail on the head;
"The mystique of rock climbing is climbing; you get to the top of a rock glad it's over but really wishing it would go on forever. The justification of climbing is climbing, like the justification of poetry is writing; you don't conquer anything except things in yourself, there is no possible reason for climbing except the climbing itself; it's a self communication."
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Climbing came into my life in a strong way around about the same time I went through a divorce. At first it served as a distraction from the torment of emotion and change, but over time it became a release, and more. It became something that gave me drive, focus, broke down previous self limitations and opened my world up to self improvement. The biggest way it changed life for me was in how I viewed myself. Always having being my own worst critic, I struggled with the idea of giving myself credit or taking stock in any achievement. Climbing however almost forced me to accept this purely based on the fact that it's an activity measured by a range of difficulty. When I had climbed something of a certain difficulty (although this was really hard at first) I was forced to accept that I had finished the climb, it was (x) hard and no one else had done it. I did it. I had no excuses and no where else to turn recognition towards. Overtime I developed a sense of pride, probably for the first time in my life. Through that pride came a lot more confidence in other areas of life.
Climbing has changed the way I think about life. Completely. I now look out at the world as this extremely exciting place to get out into and experience through climbing. Travel has always been something I've appreciated but climbing has given it an extra dimension. I'm a firm believer that places don't make the experience but people in combination with places does. One of the greatest thing about climbing is that it's the perfect conduit to meet new people.
The last two trips I've been on, I've packed my things and headed off alone, knowing that the places I'm going will be full of climbers and I'll be diving into a dynamic and welcoming community of people. Something I really enjoy about this is that everyone one you meet is there for a common purpose and regardless of background or work they come together and friendships are formed within the first five minutes. Next thing you know, you're getting to experience the world in some really cool ways, with people you've just met and a unique kind of camaraderie is formed.
One other thing I've noticed that has changed is the way I view challenges. Previously, even in the early stages of climbing, I had a preconception of how hard I could climb and generally wouldn't try anything harder than that. What I found was that when I did try the harder stuff I completely surprised my self and was much more capable than previously imagined.
This filtered out into other areas of life, and where I would have usually had a preconceived idea of "that's too hard", or "I'm not sure how to approach this challenge", I now approached it with much more openness and willingness to solve or work through. This small thing has opened many more doors and seen me through things I never would have imagined I would be able to do.
I find climbing to be a form of active meditation. Or maybe what some people refer to as flow state. I've always had a very active mind, so meditation was something I was never able to do very well. Basically climbing isn't a constant meditation, but one that has broken moments of flow... between resting on route and then climbing through difficult sections. Moments of flow versus moments of full awareness.
One thing meditation really did help with, was focusing on my breathing while climbing, which I think is key to entering that state of flow. Breathing is so often forgotten about and I truly believe through being aware of your breathing, you can far better control your inner dialogue and your emotional responses. Climbing is almost a forced meditation, you're placing your body in a space where second by second it just has to react. This happens through the more difficult sections of climbing and brings you closer to existing in the present. I'm no expert, but the things I've been able to do with my body when I'm present or in flow is always surprising. The most important thing though is that after I come out of this active meditation I feel an overwhelming sense of contentedness and ease. The body relaxes and I feel recharged and de-stressed. I think if you can or do meditate, these things are all what you would experience, and can be extremely valuable in life. I like to find meditation in activity, whether it's music, slacklining, climbing or even writing... I love the feeling of my body and mind intertwining and not operating separately. Letting go and seeing what I'm capable of when there's no hurdles.
Mindfulness is very important in climbing. I have a habit of over thinking a sequence of moves to the point where I actually forget what needs to happen next instead of trusting myself. Any time I've climbed something I deem hard it's been when I've dropped away all notion of expectation and just allowed my body to react to the situation. As mentioned above, the greatest moments are after you've exited these moments of meditation or flow, and so I make an effort to find this in my climbing, if for no other reason than to feel good. It certainly helps with climbing at my limit, but at the core it's important to me because of the release and sense of expression that comes from it.
Meditation is something I've managed to find in unconventional ways, but if there's one thing that runs through it all and something I think has helped a lot in my life it is mindfulness. It's a broad word but for me this incorporates a few things. Appreciation, awareness, and reflection. Appreciation of life is something I feel is integral to my happiness. The idea that despite situational change, the ability to appreciate life is the most powerful. The knowledge that the certainty of death is a common bond between us all I use a powerful tool to live instead of fear. The taste of food, running water, sun on your skin and air in your lungs can make everything else melt away. it makes every meal taste sweet, every friend more precious, and stretches time so that every day seems not to expire. Awareness is something I try to bring into day to day life as well, and honestly this is something I would like to be a lot better at. Just being aware of the body spatially, how emotions are effecting me, and how I'm reacting to my environment. This is hard sometimes because it feels quite cerebral to think about these things, and I think the trick is not to over think. Use the body to feel as much as the mind is thinking. Even though it's cliche, balance makes sense in just about every situation. Awareness is really my gate to appreciation, which is followed by happiness. By the way, this is completely personal, it's my experience with meditation and how it's makes sense for me in my life. It may be different for you!
Lastly, reflection. To look at yourself honestly. I've found that reflection is hugely positive for growth. To bring this one back to climbing, the one variable that doesn't change is the rock. It's stays the same no matter how frustrated you become or how hard you try or how many times you fail. The realisation is that the only changing variable in the situation is the self; the attitude held towards the situation and the fatigue of the body and mind. In this, there is a forced reflection back on the self; a mirror, and an acceptance that it is on no one else but you. The way you feel is a product of how you perform. Through this reflection comes what I think is really important. Acceptance. Acceptance of who you are and what you hope to achieve. Accepting that failure is part of the process and, in fact, what makes you grow. That you are you, and the way you are reacting is inherently a part of you, which is great because it gives you something to work with...something to improve!
This to me is all mindfulness definitely a part of my meditation, whether it's through climbing or in general.