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I’ve been reading, studying, and teaching self awareness for years, yet it’s been this year that the process of developing awareness hit me at a more personal level. I’ve understood that we expand our comfort zones by getting into uncomfortable situations to learn and improve awareness. I haven’t fully appreciated how uncomfortable that process really is. Here’s why.

I noticed that I have a tendency to rush when I’m engaged in stressful climbing. My mind is causing me to rush through stress, seeking comfort in the future, when the climb is finished. That tendency has actually caused me to accomplish some challenging first ascents. But, as I learn the subtleties of developing awareness, I realize rushing is really not how to climb effectively or enjoy the climbing process. I’m climbing with a constant mental anxiety and emphasis of rushing through the stress—essentially to get the stressful climbing over-with.

How I use attention in stressful climbing indicates how I use attention in life. Here are some examples:

  • Developing the Warrior’s Way business: Building a business that is profitable takes time. I’ve noticed that I work a lot and postpone personal climbing in an effort to make the business more profitable.  I’m rushing through the stress of slow business growth to some comfortable profitable business end when I can relax. Then I can do my personal climbing.
  • Relationships: I’ve noticed that my long business “to do” list causes me to rush conversations I have with others. For example, my daughter came into my office recently to talk about a problem she had in school. Part of my attention was on what she was saying and part on the work I was doing. I rushed the conversation by offering a solution before I finished listening to her.
  • Simple tasks: I was setting up ropes on routes last month at Smith Rock, in Oregon, preparing for a clinic. I knew I didn’t have enough time to finish the setup before the students showed up. I noticed that I began rushing while collecting the gear, which caused me to fumble and drop pieces.

Whether growing a business, having a conversation, or doing simple tasks, I’ll be most effective if I have attention in the moment. I need to accept that a comfortable future, where I can finally relax, is illusive. There will always be cycles of stress and comfort. With this realization I can slow down my anxious, rushing mind, and relax into the stress.

It’s personally uncomfortable to become aware that, even though I teach the importance of valuing stress, I have this tendency to rush through it. However, feeling that way is just another symptom of my mind’s rushing tendency. My mind thinks I should be at some final comfortable end where I don’t rush. Thinking I shouldn’t be rushing diminishes my own process of continually developing awareness. I need to relax into my rushing tendency, notice it, make adjustments, learn, and enjoy the whole process.

So, what about you? You can tend to read something, like this article, thinking, “I don’t do that.” Your mind dismisses the flaw the author describes due to its own comfort seeking tendency. Remember, the first step in developing awareness is admitting that you aren’t aware. With this admission, you stay open to what you read, and examine your life to make subtle adjustments. You relax into the uncomfortable realization, knowing you’ll never fully arrive at a complete, comfortable aware state.

I now seek out my rushing tendencies. And that’s the whole point: I’ll continue to seek out and catch myself rushing for the rest of my life. That’s the uncomfortable process of developing awareness that we need to relax into. I caught myself last week. I gave a presentation for the National Park Service in the Obed Area of Tennessee. I could have rushed back home afterwards to do more work, but I decided to stay an extra day to do some personal climbing. It was super fun.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Thank you for this series… It reminds me that expanding awareness is a process that must be continually practiced and cultivated. When we get distracted, we must come back to the practice.

    “Peace is only available in the present moment. If you want to be at peace, you must be at piece right NOW.”… Thich Nhat Hahn

  2. Thank you, Argno, for this very timely reminder.

    I especially like how you draw a connection to developing the Warrior’s Way business, because I often draw on your lessons at work when trying to help an organization innovate. The uncertainty involved in innovating makes us uncomfortable, so we try to get out of it as soon as possible, jumping to conclusions, rather than pausing and asking questions – the former not as helpful for innovating as the latter.

    I wonder if you have tips to share for working with others who are going through the discomfort zone of developing awareness. Of course, we can only change ourselves. But how can we be better partners to those who are rushing, in order to avoid the discomfort of self awareness?

    Thanks!

  3. Awesome Arno,
    I really appreciate these lessons. I rush everything to avoid discomfort climbing, writing, living, connecting….. It is like I have totally missed the whole point of it, enjoying the experience. My friend Dave and I talk about how we live our lives clinging to pleasing moments or escaping from uncomfortable moments. That make sense, it is how our species has managed to do so well from an ecological perspective. However that does not seem to lead us to a having a peaceful life experience. I appreciate rock climbing for pushing me to open to the discomfort of life and I appreciate you for helping me face my fears.
    Thanks
    Howard

  4. Making myself aware of the times I feel stressed inevitably lead me to ascertain a better grasp of it. When I let myself get carried away with the disconcerting feeling it follies each sequence that would have aided me to my goal. I must work harder to maintain pushing of the boundaries, but also being cognizant of the risks and my abilities. Climbing with you helped by bringing a fresh eye to what I was experiencing. For that I am made more aware, and will be able to better “enjoy my journey.” Thank you for your help.

  5. Nice, Arno!

    Thanks!

    Scott Mc

  6. Awesome article Arno… I was just thinking about that last week, while doing laundry… I said to myself, why do I rush all the time, even doing laundry… Will slow down & focus in the moment…

    Love, steve

  7. Where to start? Your insight touches on so many aspects of our behavior and approach to whatever we do. Maybe because I began early as a musician I always had a different life view of what you label the “zone of developing awareness”. I knew I was not going to become a concert musician overnight.

    As a young learning carpenter I had to train myself to completely listen to the instructions my foreman or team leader was giving me. I always considered myself a smart guy and often I could “jump ahead” of my boss’s train of thought. I had many less intelligent bosses. 😉
    However that was not a path to achievement or success. I had to learn to slow it to the communicator’s pace. Absorb not only the instructions but the body language. That meant I had to stop the planning (I can multitask and think many moves ahead) and bring myself into the present moment.

    Years later, as an accomplished woodworker, I came to realize that for less complicated tasks I could easily “improvise on the fly”, somewhat like musicians can improvise together, to really accomplish a “master” vision, I had to move into the present; I had to accept there would be an element of failure and embrace it.; whether that was complete failure or maybe just that the project did not progress on my conceived time-line.

    Bringing it back to climbing…in my short (6 year) career as a professional guide there were times at the beginning of a class (with top ropes) where I was not completely set up. You know, I found that most of the time my students were engaged in watching me work and solo around. Course I had to project complete confidence. I’d talk to them and I believe they learned by watching my movement and actions. It also helped to take me off any ‘pedestal” they may have placed me on by preconception.

    There are a lot more examples I could give, but just talking about yesterday.

    There is a 75 ft. compact blue limestone project I’ve been looking at for a year or so and yesterday my partners showed up tired. It was a perfect day to rap bolt in some of the placements. I started by hanging the cord while they lead another climb and then suggested we limit ourselves to just getting through the first section – about 30% of the route. They agreed. This climb is steep (though not vertical in this section) and though maybe 5.9 as an on-sight lead quite technical; side pulls, thin shallow lieback edges, a gaston, edging and smearing with counter pressures, a couple toes jams, two mono’s, a deadpoint at the end of the traverse.

    A month ago one of my partners had marked some tentative placement spots (doesn’t rain much in Las Vegas) and I climbed up slowly and statically, checking the marks and talking to my partners of the day. I mentioned I was not going to climb the route per usual to tag the anchors but rather climb it to examine all the possibilities. Several times I fell off or lowered off to retry the moves in various ways. We made a couple minor adjustments. Then I asked the shortest person to climb it and verify if the spots were clip-able for her; all on stances too.

    Then my other partner who is not as strong or experienced; I asked her to try it. All this effort seemed to bring us into the moment – into the process. That the scope of the project was limited, I believe allowed everyone to put concentrated effort into it…somewhat like a boulder problem but on top rope.

    After everyone had tried it, I talked about my conception for this section of the climb. First bolt a little high to let you know this was maybe a serious line. Then second bolt and third bolt closely spaced (yet not covering a crucial hold) to keep you off the deck on a lead fall. Then subsequent bolts at clip-able stances and close spaced on the traverse to keep you from a big swing.

    Then I strapped on the drill and kit and again climbed it weighing about 15 lbs. More. Not much discussion at this point and cause the rock is so impeccably sound no re-locations except I found a good edge higher up I missed in previous ascents. Having completed 7 placements I invited my partners to “mock lead” it while I belayed. They authentically accepted. So we did that. For them it built confidence and I got to see the rope laid out well on the line. Everyone left that day saying wow! What a good day!

    Course I could have bolted this route in a completely different manner. It was already marked so I could have ascended the rope, drilled the holes and called it “good”; or even rapped down drilling and installing as I descended. Goal met but in what way and with what result….?

  8. second to last paragraph should be “enthusiastically” not authentically. Blame it on rushing and spell checker.

  9. It is so interesting how every time I decide to open your article and actually take the time to read it, is one of the few times I don’t rush. But there are so many times I do rush, and the quality of my experience as well as my work deteriorates.

  10. Arno takes guts let in out
    Thanks and enjoy the enlightment.l appreciate the warriors classes and the joy it has brought baclk to my climbimg .
    Ron

  11. I found this lesson to be a reminder: truth can be uncomfortable.

    I am aware that my mind seeks comfort, ease; is lazy and therefore rushes when unhappy. When I rush my ability/capacity to calculate/comprehend/be aware of the whole diminishes and ignorance/frustration/anger arises and causes more unhappiness (I become non-fertile soil so-to-spak, no seeds of growth, life, positivity will germinate, blossom and grow within me due to my closed off-ness.)

    I hope more people drop time frames (clingings, expectations, etc), I see more celebration on this planet if more would just be unconcerned with the concept of time (no need to rebel against it, no need to cling to it either)
    No coincidences: not too long ago I accecpted that my truth/my true voice/life/balance/experience is too important to me to rush. I no longer cling to societys accecpted/unconscious time frames. i have no time frames anymore. Don’t rush me, its pointless.

    Sometimes I’ve found accecptance alone to be enough to stop rushing (became aware/accecpted my hurry), sometimes accecptance alone isn’t enough and long meditations are needed to “get to the bottom of it”.

    Every moment is different and therefore I LIVE to find balance (my center changes with the moments) and comfort in uncomfort, in every new moment that arises.

    As always: Thanks Arno for spreading the seeds of awareness. I would love to see more and more and more people “tuning” into you.

  12. Thank you for your offering Arno. The sense of rushing can alert us to the loss of connection, as we hurry we are neither comfortable where we were and are missing where we are, all the while daydreaming where we might be going and what we just left. We often miss even the awareness that we are rushing, connecting to our rushing is a worthy daily practice. It is enough to be just where we are.
    To know your past life look at your present condition, to know your future life look at your present actions (paraphrasing Padmasambhava and the Buddha).
    Travel well, Greg.

  13. so timely, as per usual Arno.
    I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and I have to stop to rest for 5 days due to an overuse injury of the tendons. It happened to me backpacking and it happened to me climbing. I noticed that every time I have an injury I tend to rush to go back on the game and don’t rehabilitate accordingly. I should have taken 2 days off a week ago and now I have to take 5 days off. This is great because it forced me to be in the present moment and take care of my body, even if I would be behind the schedule by a week. All the wonderful people around me are helping me complete this hike and because of them I can be on schedule and take care of myself. Is the magic of allowing the opening for an opportunity.

  14. That was awesome! I can really relate. For the past year I have been banging my head building multiple businesses and have shutout my personal life. Literally to a point where I now have trouble even talking to my friends and family. I have had this assumption that it is a sacrifice I have to make now, “it will all be better soon”. I have kept myself out of the moment which is were the success occurs anyway! Every struggle is necessary. Until you realize it isn’t and learn from it. This post found me at the perfect moment and I really appreciate it. I love the climbing analogy of life. Just thought id reassure you that you are having a positive impact on peoples lives. Thank you 🙂

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