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Don’t Hesitate


by Micah Soelberg

May 05, 2002

You have probably met that guy. You know, that one guy that can be found at just about any crag talking about mind power, flowing, relaxation, and who knows what else. Individuals like this may seem strange and “out there”, but what they say can strike a familiar cord.

If you have been climbing long enough, you may have had an experience that was somewhat out of the norm. You go from hold to hold executing every move perfectly without the slightest thought in your mind. The crux that spit you off time and time again seemed somewhat easy and that tricky sequence came with ease. Or that scarcely protected ice route that struck fear into the depths of your stomach all the sudden feels about as frightening as a top rope. I have observed these experiences in many people as well as in myself. But what exactly is it? How does this state of mind differ from the one when you fall off the easy warm up climbs and manage to mess up the simplest sequences that you had wired?

One of the major differences in these two states of mind is the problem of hesitation or also known as not letting yourself flow. For example, your going for that dyno but you can’t seem to let go of the holds that you’re on. You pull yourself up and are about to throw for the next hold but you can’t, you’re stuck. You are overcome with anxiety. So you waste your energy hanging out until you finally work up the guts to throw. But even when you do, you still somewhat hesitate and barley move upwards totally missing the hold. The problem is your mind has been blocked. You are blocked by your own thought. You see, when you think too much about an act, it is usually too late.

So you realize this but then you ask, “How do I just go for it and stop thinking about it?” Well it’s not necessary to stop thinking all together, that’s impossible. But you must find a way to be somewhat spontaneous. You must find a way so when you have to throw for a hold, you just throw. No analyzing the move, no stopping to think about it, no doubts, you just act. So you have got to find a way to give up yourself completely and to just allow yourself to flow.

It’s like you have to put your mind on an autopilot. You actually do this all the time but probably don’t realize it. Like when you are driving in your car on that long drive home. You are busy daydreaming then all of the sudden you are home and you can’t recall any of it. You didn’t think about the stop signs, other cars, or speed limits. But somehow you got home unscathed. You see we don’t need to consciously think out and analyze every event. Once we have done something enough and have learned how to do it, we can allow ourselves to do it automatically. It’s like the story found in Alan Watts’ book The Way of Zen:

The centipede was happy, quite,
Until a toad in fun
Said, “Prey, which leg goes after which?”
This worked his mind to such a pitch,
He lay distracted in a ditch,
Considering how to run.

To put it simply, if you analyze every second of every day what your going to do, you will find yourself stuck and unable to budge an inch.

So we need to get our minds to act without thinking about it. But again we do this perfectly fine when our conscious thought doesn’t get in the way. Like if I asked you to explain how you move your arm or your leg. You wouldn’t be able to tell me how you do it, because you, the conscious you, doesn’t do it. It just happens unconsciously. And I find this is a very good way to climb. Just to let things happen as if you weren’t in control. But of course you have to act spontaneously within limits. You must think out and solve those tricky sequences first, but after you do solve them, put your conscious thoughts on hold so as not to get in your way.

But we come upon the problem on how to do this. We ask, “What method of thinking will make me spontaneous? What can I do to bring this about?” Well that’s just it. There is no method, you can’t do anything. You see its like trying to relax. In trying, you are making an effort, and relaxing, if you are really relaxing, is effortless. No amount of will or effort can bring you to total relaxation. You just simply relax and let it happen. It’s the same way with being spontaneous. If you are trying to be spontaneous or trying be natural, then you are very unnatural. So again you are blocked.

So then of course most people will say, “OK, I am not going to try, and then it will come!” But you see you are still trying not to try. You are making an effort not to try, so therefore you are trying. So you seem to be stuck in a circle going round and round. Its seems as if you can’t do something and you can’t do nothing. But you see, that’s it. When you really realize that you can’t do anything about it, and that no amount of effort will work, you have stepped out of that awful circle. When you really understand that and not just understand it verbally, then you are done with the run around. You are done with the positive thinking and all other methods. You are absolutely done with all the silly games you have been playing in your head for the longest time. So remember that you can nothing about this problem. But that’s the good news, you can’t do anything, and you don’t have to. Because this is your natural state and you don’t have to try or make the slightest effort to be natural. But if you’re still stuck on those same holds looking at that dyno, then just take the advice form all the Nike ads and, “Just Do It!”

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Live To Climb