…a short piece of writing by Dean Potter, ex-Flow king climber/base jumper:
***Cold air from the valley drifts upwards. It’s predawn and I’ve been moving on the north Nose of El Cap through the night, focused on the rock in front of me in the faint light of my headlamp. Suddenly, I think of how tired and exposed I am, alone, ropeless, far past any point of retreat. A surge of panic courses through me. I try to think of the summit but that thought, too, is dangerous.
An image floats into my mind. I’m following my father in the early through a pasture in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. He strides towards Moosebrook, his favorite fishing spot. I’m not even half his height, and the frosty grass brushes all the way up to my waist.
We reach the river. My Dad skips from rock to rock, downstream to the first hole, and looks back for me. The water is freezing, and the rocks are covered in slime. I’m afraid to follow. I burrow painfully through the thickets of pricker bushes, swamp, and blackflies as my father calls for me. The bugs chase me back to the river’s edge. and I timidly wade in and try to catch up. Tense and anxious, I lose my footing, and fall into the river. I gasp for breath in the icy water, but manage to scramble onto a rock where I bawl until my father comes back. “I don’t like fishing. I want to go home”.
My father shakes his head at me, and his eyes sparkle. “Dean, put everything else aside. There’s nothing to be afraid of, except a little cold water. Just focus on the next step you are taking. I feel so happy running down the river, the sun reflecting off the water, my body naturally going where it’s supposed to. I almost don’t think at all. I just respond to what’s in front of me.”
He stops talking and heads downstream again. We slowly pick our way across the rocks, catching rainbows and brook trout. The day passes quickly and my confidence rises. Soon, I’m playing and racing down the rapids with eyes wide and senses alert, not knowing I’ve just received my first lesson in Zen.
The air drifts over my body. I grasp the immediate. I reach for the next hold.****
This story struck a chord in me. I vividly remember being about 6 or 7 years old, visiting my Grandma in upstate NY. There was a gully with a stream rushing through it, complete with rocks at all angles, slippery moss, and icy water. I used to love hiking in that stream as a kid. It was beautiful, serene. Fairly quickly, I learned the art of sprinting from rock to rock, without any distractions. As you pushed off with your right foot, your body already knew where your left foot was going to land, and the precise angle you should land on to prevent slipping, while sending you in the direction of the next “pre-selected” rock. And it was all so effortless. It exhilarated and calmed me at the same time. I guess my addiction to the state of “Flow” started here. In one way or another, I’ve been pursuing this state ever since.
In the moment, harmony, complete concentration without effort, zoned in. When you experience this deeply, there is joy, a smile on your face for days. You have tapped into a great state of consciousness that is not always easy to do.
OK, enough rambling… Go back and read the article again. Instead of reading about climbing and rock-hopping, read it as a metaphor for life. Life as it should be, not the whirlwind of stress it often becomes. Life can be a rock hop if you allow it.