Cai and I went climbing last Friday. What interests me is that he did not really want to go; I had to work hard to encourage him. This sometimes happens, the thing is that once we find ourselves outside he loves it. Watching him move over the rock on a beautiful, sunny fall day in one of my favorite places in Colorado was pure bliss. The smile that covered his face was one of a person fully engaged in the moment and loving it. Watching my boy enjoying doing things that are special to me in places that are special to me ranks as one of the best feelings I know. Learning the tools to make them happen is therefore important.
The first thing I have to come to terms with as I learn my ways of motivating Cai is that he is often a mirror of my actions. I am known to sabotage my enjoyment because I think something else is more important. How can I expect my son to be any different from the example that he sees? So yet again it seems that teaching starts with empathy and compassion and then requires a healthy dose of making the changes I want to see in my students in myself first. I also fall foul of not allowing myself to see the pleasure that is available in the situation at hand, I almost imprison myself in a preconceived mindset. That day as I watched Cai embrace the rock and sunshine, as he allowed himself to ignore the emotions he predicted he was going to experience I realized it was he who was doing the teaching.
So I now have a big note to self. I am going to make sure that we get outside more often. The more we allow ourselves to find the fun and beauty in a moment, the more we are going to find that same fun and beauty in every situation and this is a lesson I want both of us to live.
That evening following an afternoon of climbing and watching trout swim in the shadows of the creek I had a familiar feeling; one I do not allow myself to feel enough these days. It is a warmth and satisfaction that comes from having an optimal experience; the same concept as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow. It comes from being brave enough to surrender completely to the moment. It is most easily found when doing something one is passionate about and yet it can be found in the most mundane occasions if we allow ourselves to be truly present. The topping on Cai’s and my cake was that we both slept the sleep of warriors, content and spent. Finding our brave may be one of the most beneficial things we can do. How do you find yours?
Yesterday I went climbing with Cai; it was a wonderful time of movement, sunshine and bonding. It was particularly great to watch him work things out; be it figuring how to move over the rock or tie knots and create a simple anchor. I also gained a huge buzz from his desire to lead, especially as he is smart enough to know when it is safe and when he prefers me to give him a rope from above. It was interesting in that he actually was a little scared a couple of times and had to overcome this. As he ages this seems to be a more frequent occurence.
Now something I consider when I am teaching is that I believe it to be only fair that if I expect something of my students, I need to give the same of myself. It is one of the reasons I particularly enjoy teaching in areas that are new to me; it stretches me and keeps me on my toes – something I want the people in my care to experience as well.
Yesterday, for a second I pondered what I was doing to overcome fear that might match Cai’s, then it slapped me in the face like a sledgehammer. As I moved over easy rock 50 feet above him; something I do regularly when instructing I was hit with an overwhelming desire not to fall. My need to protect my son took me to a place emotionally that I never visit with students. Climbing easy ground is something I am so practiced at that it does not give me cause to think and yet yesterday, with the stakes being so big (in my own mind); I had to talk myself through what I was doing.
The great thing about this is that when I asked Cai about the fears he felt and what it felt like after he had accomplished a climb and dealt with these feelings, then I came from a place of empathy. Last night we both slept the sleep of warriors – in fact Kim said she was woken at 5.00 am by Cai giggling in his sleep. Sharing something so vital with Cai helps me to feel alive. What fears do you find worth dealing with? How does it make you feel.
A friend’s Facebook recently sparked off a train of thought. Stu likes to post pictures, his is a happy Facebook, one where he shares images of a smiling family playing outdoors and also his recent climbing exploits. Of late there have been photographs of classic North Wales climbing, the routes I lived and breathed in my teens. Of note to me a climb called First Slip an E1 (climbing parlance describing difficulty) at Tremadog and a series of routes on Dinas Cromlech including Cenotaph Corner E1. It was the first time Stu had climbed the Corner in 17 years and it reminded me of a childhood promise. I was going to lead it on or before my 16th birthday or come back when I was 65. In the end I stood below it a couple of days before my birthday and psyched out; in all fairness it is an austere place. However, just days before I climbed a route on it’s right wall, Cemetery Gates which now receives the same grade and on my birthday I climbed First Slip. Many more routes of that grade were climbed that summer and I kept my word by not coming back to climb the Corner leaving it as a pensioner’s present to himself.
The thing is two years ago I noticed something spooky from that period of my life. I was trying to figure out why I might have spent extended periods of time in the countries and States that I have been fortunate enough to call home; Australia, Nepal, Colorado and Alaska are a strange cocktail after all. It suddenly occurred to me that there had been a series of small posters on my wall at school and I had spent a lot of time looking at them. Each of these pictures had depicted a climb in the countries I have mentioned. Now I do not believe that I have done any of the climbs (although routes close to a few of them now provide memories & stories), I am though blown away that mental images from my teens can so shape my life.
Here is the thing, over the last 5 years I have let my fitness slip and I am not really on track to accomplish my promise. It is time to do something about it and I am now wondering if they give discounts for airfares booked 21 years in advance.