January 3, 2014

How to Be an Open-Hearted Warrior: Scaling the First Peak.

As I approach this climb, I am timid.

I am unsure about my path.

I see the notches. I climb, feeling that hesitation in my chest. I breathe deeper, reach further, but I do not follow one of the paths tagged with neon pink or green duct tape.

I reach for the “rocks” I can hold on to without slipping because it’s about finding my own path, and I am scared at times. I don’t want to fall.

Even if I am attached to an auto belay line, I won’t allow myself to let go, embrace the pleasure of a safe free fall.

Yes, this first “peak” is at an indoor rock climbing facility, so it’s a comfortable place to start on a winter day.

A safe place for someone like me.

Admittedly, I don’t trust anyone to belay me, so I attached the auto belay’s carabiner onto my harness.

To trust another in holding me up—predicting my foot steps or stopping my fall—means that I must let go of control in order to scale the “peak.” I know that I’ll hold up on my end of the bargain when I stand on the ground; I’ll anticipate another’s movement as they climb along the wall. But will they? Can I allow them?

As for me, I’ve been through the trial-and-error of being on the other side of a rope that was too loose; I’ve fallen too many times, so I hesitate and attach to the auto belay line.

Looking back at the years, I am better for those tumbles. The few scars give me the look of a warrior, yet I want to be a different type of warrior this year.

I will be open-hearted, yet I need to let go as the first step, so that’s why I write about how to become an open-hearted warrior—so I may live what I write.

And it begins with the path.

Like I said, I don’t follow anyone, I find my own way, which comes through the experiencing.

As I scale my first “peak” indoors, I imagine my ultimate goal of rock climbing a mountain in northern California in the coming autumn.

I think about taking a weekend trip to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite (a place that I’ve never been even though I grew up two hours north of there). The scars from the fire will be healing, the spring’s green grass now golden and the crowds will be thinning as the oaks begin to turn that crimson glow.

I visualize that autumn afternoon when I’ve climbed up the granite, pausing for a break, so I gaze at the world below and around me, and then use my old rusty hand lens to check out the feldspar crystals before continuing my climb.

That’s a goal. That’s the future. As for now, what I really need is just to be on my path that is unmarked.

As Chogyam Trungpa wrote in Crazy Wisdom, “Developing basic sanity is a process of working on ourselves in which the path itself rather than the attainment of a goal becomes the working basis. The path itself is what constantly inspires us, rather than the style of the carrot and the donkey, promises about certain achievements that lie ahead of us.”

As we scale the first peak toward becoming an open-hearted warrior, I encourage you to recognize goals. Make friends with the idea of a goal, honor the expectations, but let them go, so you can live your path—-the joys and the difficulties.

For most of us, the path is filled with the ordinary acts of care: helping our neighbor carry groceries up the stairs, playing with our dogs in the park, biking our children to school, washing dishes, chopping wood, digging a garden and giving our children (especially my older son) the tools to find strength in their bodies (in my case via indoor rock climbing).

As I step into a new bend in my path—scaling these indoor “peaks,” learning to trust others who may belay me and laughing with my sons as they find pleasure of rock climbing, especially the bliss of free falling with the auto belay—I actualize the first steps on my path to becoming an open-hearted warrior: letting go.

And I did. Yesterday, I finally let go into the free fall while attached to the auto belay.

Inspired by my younger son’s enthusiastic grin as he swirled from the heights of the angled climbing wall, I decided to give it a go.

Attached to the auto belay, I climbed up the angled wall as the techno-groove music filled the air of the indoor gym. I scaled to the top.

I didn’t hesitate.

I released my grip, and glided below to the soft padded ground. In that moment of free fall, all my thoughts, goals and even the path disappeared into being the path.

Feeling the bliss, I became hooked. I will keep climbing, and keep sailing down.

That’s the bliss of the path; that’s the bliss of letting go.

As I flopped on the floor with my heart pounding and a pure smile across my face, I realized that letting go was my first step on the open-hearted warrior path.

Yes, I can do the trust part, I decided while resting on the floor with the auto belay’s carabiner attached to me.

Inevitably in order to trust another, I must trust myself first, and that, I discovered is possible.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo Credit: Ryan Skeers/Pixoto

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