Let’s build on what we discovered about the law of energy in the last lessons. There are two directions for energy to flow: contraction of energy which moves toward balance, and expansion of energy which moves toward growth. Energy pulsates between these two directions. We need to understand how energy flows through the body and mind during contraction and expansion so we can use it effectively.

As we develop awareness of the body, we notice limitations in the quality of how we use it. We notice shallow breathing, excess tension, rapid eye shifts, and poor posture. Without awareness, energy flows through a misaligned  body as well as it can. From this awareness we can practice using the body with quality. We make the breath deeper and more regular. We improve our eye focus by lengthening the amount of time we maintain eye contact with objects. We relax tension and align the body with gravity by maintaining proper posture. 

Likewise, as we develop awareness of the mind, we notice habitual thinking and limitations in the quality of our thinking process. Without awareness, energy flows through synaptic connections in the brain created by habitual thinking. Our thinking process is limited by tricks the mind has created to remain in its comfort zone. From this awareness we can practice using the mind with quality. We decide when to think and when to simply observe. When we decide to think, we think intentionally. When we notice we’re lost in habitual thinking, we redirect our attention to the body or to intentional thinking. These practice processes improve the quality of how we use the body to take action, and how we use the mind to think and observe. 

The contraction and expansion cycles mirror the stopping and moving cycles on a rock climb. A climb begins on the ground and ends at the top. It provides a metaphor for understanding the cyclical nature of energy.

When we stop, we rest and think. We need to allow energy to move toward a low energy state so we can recover energy. We do this by relaxing into our stance. We loosen our grip, lower our heels, breathe, shake out our arms, etc. This is also a time to think. We use energy to think intentionally. We do this by focusing our attention on gathering relevant information: the end of the risk, the consequence, and our climbing plan. The climbing plan consists of finding the path of least resistance from our current stance to the end of the risk. Finally, we think about the appropriateness of the risk and make a decision. This is intentional thinking, which uses just the amount of energy needed to do effective preparation.

When we move, we act out our plan with the body and let the mind observe without thinking. Since we identified the end of the risk, we take action along the path of least resistance toward that end. We focus our attention on breathing continuously to process stress, moving continuously to create flow, staying as relaxed as possible to align with gravity, and maintaining eye contact on foot- and handholds to keep our attention in the moment. Doing this uses just the amount of energy to take effective action. 

We cycle between contraction and expansion, stopping and moving, as dictated by the climb. Some contraction cycles will be longer than others allowing more time to rest, recover energy, and think intentionally. Some expansion cycles will be longer than others based on where the rest points are and how much energy we have to apply to action. 

What’s important for effective use of energy, and to allow it to flow along the path of least resistance, is to commit to contraction or expansion. If energy is split between the two, it will try to move in both directions: toward a low energy state and high energy state. Since it can’t move in two directions it will be frozen between the two. Energy pulsates effectively between contraction and expansion if committed in one direction or the other. We’re all different in the frequency of this pulsation based on our skill level and the amount of stress in the risk we’re taking. As we gain awareness of our own frequency, we can commit it as needed, blending with the situation effectively. We pulsate between expanding to learn and grow, and contracting to rest and consolidate our learning. 

Practice Tip: Body and Mind Awareness

Develop awareness of the quality of your body and mind by doing these practices:

Body: Energy will flow through the body effectively if you breathe regularly and deeply, relax, have proper posture, and don’t let your eyes shift quickly from object to object. Rapid eye shifting indicates an agitated mind. Maintain eye contact on objects a little longer than usual. 

Mind: Energy flows through the mind effectively if you either think intentionally or simply observe. Focus your attention in the senses of the body when observing. When you notice you’re lost in habitual thinking, redirect your attention to intentional thinking or observing.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. matteo

    precious, clear, detailed… thanks! Now let’s work on it!

    1. Helen

      Hi Matteo
      How are you working on it? My best wishes for success!

  2. Helen

    Yes, really clear and motivating. Thanks from me, too! So, in fact, pretty simple… But it’s hard to be aware of one’s own body signals or thinking processes in busy everyday life. Any suggestions of how to do that?

    1. Arno

      Hi Helen, Matteo may have other suggestions. Here are mine. Come back to the simplicity of the 5 processes you learned in Chavornay: resting, thinking, decision-making, moving, falling. That’s the simplest way to apply energy effectively in climbing. In a busy life, use the Petty Tyrant bracelet as a constant reminder to bring attention back to EB/OM (expanded body/observant mind). From EB/OM you then decide which process you need to commit attention to. Do you need to think or take action? What is the task? Then focus exclusively on it. The 1-2-3 drill also helps.
      Thoughts? Arno

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