In the last lesson we looked at the importance of having unbending intent for accomplishing big goals. At first glance, it can seem that having unbending intent diminishes our learning, such as having an unbending way of thinking that limits us. If unbending intent does this, then it’s not a concept that’s part of The Warrior’s Way. Unbending intent needs to complement the learning process.
Intention occurs after thinking and before doing; after preparation and before action. Intention is part of transitioning between them; it’s part of the decision-making process. We decide to take action on a plan we’ve prepared; we decide to do with the body what we’ve thought about with the mind. We shift from preparation to action, from mind to body, from thinking to doing. The transition process needs to break apart these two very different ways of using our attention. We decide to break away from preparation, mind and thinking, and shift to action, body, and doing.
The last part of the transitioning process is to set an intention on what we’ll focus our attention on, during action. We need to decide how we choose to focus our attention. This is what intention is: attention focused in the direction of a choice or decision. Warriors choose to focus their attention on processes that will occur during action. That’s a process intention, not an intent for accomplishing a goal or end result. That process intention is what’s unbending. This is how warriors persist.
Now, does such an intention diminish or prevent learning? The learning process, by definition, requires modifying our current knowledge rather than validating it. We need to stay receptive to whatever information presents itself so we can learn. We also don’t know what we need to learn when looking into the future from our current perspective.
Take, for example, working a route toward a redpoint ascent. We need to learn the route by working out the sequences and other details. Doing this requires modifying our current knowledge. We go into the process of working a route with an initial conception of how the body sequences will be, but through working it, we modify that initial conception. “Modifying” is the key word here. We aren’t validating our initial conception.
We also engage this process knowing that we can’t know what we need to learn from our current perspective. That’s like knowing what we need to learn to do calculus before actually studying it. We can’t know what we need to learn before we learn it. Therefore, the climb teaches us what we need to learn.
We may hit a plateau and not be able to redpoint a route. We can’t know what we need to learn to break through that plateau from our current perspective. We need to continue to engage and notice what the climb is revealing to us. Is the climb revealing that we need to change a sequence, improve breathing, have better eye contact, or detach ourselves from succeeding? The climb reveals what’s distracting our attention from the moment. We simply need to place our attention in the moment so we’re more aware of what’s distracting it.
When working a route, our intention is to apply the process of how to move the body through various sequences until we find the best one. Once we’ve done that we apply processes of breathing and relaxing to refine how we use our energy. We also refine any mental distractions of attention the mind creates about succeeding. Unbending intent, in this case, means we are unbending in our intent to move our bodies, breathe and relax, the very processes we need to focus our attention on, when engaged in action. In short, we’re unbending in our intent to keep our attention on processes that occur when we’re in action so it’s focused in the moment.
A process unbending intent takes one bit of information and expands it into various possibilities. The one bit of information is “working a route.” Our intent is to work the route so we learn all that’s necessary to redpoint it. We’re unbending in our intent to focus on processes: working sequences, refining breathing, relaxation, or other mental distractions. In other words, we change ourselves: our body sequence, our breathing, our relaxation, any mental distractions. Doing this modifies us, so we can learn, and therefore complements the learning process. We take the one bit of information—working a route—and we are then unbending in seeking possibilities to learn.
Practice Tip: The Climb Will Teach You
You’ve probably experienced a route that thwarts you from succeeding. Something is lacking that you still need to learn. What is it? You don’t know because you haven’t learned it yet. So, don’t focus on thinking you know. Rather, focus on what the climb has to teach you.
Engage the climb by focusing your attention in the moment, especially that moment when you fall. What contributes to the fall? Is it an incorrect sequence causing you to use too much energy? Is it poor breathing, being tense, or focusing on success? Keep your attention out of the mind and in the body. Keep your attention out of thinking and focused on the somatic actions of the body such as moving, breathing, and relaxing. The climb will reveal what is lacking in how you apply those processes.