I did a podcast with the human performance company O2X recently. They do training for first responders. O2X focuses on three components of performance they call “Eat, Sweat, Thrive.” These represent a holistic approach covering the important training areas of nutrition, physical exercise, and mental training. I’m one of their thrive specialists.
We talked about my background in climbing and how that prepared me for developing and teaching The Warrior’s Way. Part of our discussion was contrasting how climbing and its community was different in the 1970s compared to today. Back then there were few climbers and climbing was viewed as a kind of nonconformist activity. We were rebels, rebelling against societal values. Today climbing is accepted as a legitimate sport and even one that is useful for transforming our understanding of how we deal with challenges.
We brought up the topic of Alex Honnold’s free solo of El Cap. We can perceive Alex as being fearless, taking inappropriate risks, and just going for it with no regard for the consequences. Thus, we talked about how Alex, like anyone who has mastered an activity, put in a lot of effort to achieve this important goal. He was intimately familiar with risk, fear, and commitment, not recklessly going for it.
We went into motivation, unbending intent, and attention training. These are important components of mental training, especially for first responders. What we’ve focused on in developing The Warrior’s Way is being clear about what terms mean and understanding them in the context of other concepts. This is important because terms and concepts must support each other and not be contradictory. For example, we define “intention” as “attention focused in the direction of a choice.” Specifically, the choice happens before action is taken. Thus, we’re very specific about what we’ll focus attention on, which consists of the processes of breathing, eye focus, and how we move the body through the activity. Our motivation derives from the processes of this intention.
Finally, we investigated what we could do to become one-percent better each day in our mental training. I suggested having a morning routine that included a body awareness drill. Such drills address what I believe is the most important mental training practice: getting attention out of the mind and into the external environment. Focusing on feeling the body move, what we can hear, and see helps us experience attention focused somatically. This is critical for distinguishing between the two main ways that we use attention: in thinking with the mind and in doing with the body. Action requires doing, requires attention focused in the body on the doing itself. Noticing when our attention is distracted away from this intention helps us redirect it. That constant redirecting process makes the intention unbending. Such unbending intent helps us take action for its own sake, so we can be effective and enjoy it.