In the last two lessons we investigated improving our climbing by applying a concept from William JJ Gordon’s book Synectics. We looked at making something that’s familiar, strange, to spark our creativity. First, we made the familiar strange by playing with the words “push” and “pull,” reversing what we did with our legs and arms. Second, we made the familiar strange by altering the law of gravity; imagining climbing in a weightless state. Weightlessness created new problems we needed to attend to. We needed to make sure we maintained balance and firm contact with the rock so we didn’t float away. Playing with words and altering the law of gravity helped us experiment with new ways of climbing that challenged our status quo and allowed us to improve. 

A third way of making the familiar strange is through analogy. Gordon suggests we identify the problem and the analogy we want to use. 

  • Problem: We waste energy and attention because we don’t separate stopping and moving; we mix them together. 
  • Analogy: Stop like a mountain or move like water. 

We spark our creativity by oscillating between using the analogy to think differently and aspects of the problem itself.

Climbing efficiently requires cycling between recovering energy or applying energy. Using our attention effectively requires cycling between committing our attention to resting or committing our attention to moving. We use the analogy to imagine how stopping like a mountain or flowing like water informs us of our usage of energy and attention during climbing. 

First, we imagine what mountains do: they don’t move; they are completely still. The problem in climbing is that we tend not to be still at stances and therefore never fully rest. The creative solution, then, is to stop completely, don’t move, and be still.

Next, we imagine the mountain analogy again to consider effective use our attention. Gravity pulls mountains down. The problem with effective resting is we don’t commit our attention fully to resting. The mind gets anxious wondering if we should begin moving; we begin over-gripping, rising up on our toes, and pulling ourselves up off of stances. The creative solution, then, is to commit our attention to the body’s somatic activities that allow it to rest. We breathe deeply and continuously; we relax our muscles, particularly loosening our grip and lowering our heels; we maintain proper posture so gravity can pull us down onto our legs so they can support our weight. 

Now, we image what water does: it flows; it moves fluidly. The problem in climbing is we tend to make individual moves, one at a time. The creative solution, then, is to climb is such a way that creates fluidity. We can climb continuously so we’re not making individual moves. Rather, we connect moves into fluid movement.

Next, we imagine the water analogy again to consider effective use our attention. Gravity pulls water down, causing it to flow around obstacles as it finds its way along the path of least resistance. The problem with moving is we don’t commit our attention fully to it. The mind gets anxious, begins fighting against gravity, causing us to lose our flow and stop. Climbing, though, goes against gravity. How can we learn from water, which flows with gravity’s pull? We commit our attention to the body’s somatic activities that allow it to flow upward, along the path of least resistance. We breathe continuously to process the stressful climbing; we move continuously to maintain momentum; we relax and maintain proper posture to align with gravity’s pull so we’re blending with it, instead of fighting against it. 

The mountain analogy helps us imagine what it’s like to be fully present for being stopped. There’s no anxiousness in the mountain; it’s simply still and at rest. We should emulate the mountain when we stop to rest. We’re still and commit our attention to the body’s somatic activities for resting. The water analogy helps us imagine what it’s like to be fully present for moving. There’s no anxiousness in the water; it simply flows. We should emulate water when we move. We move continuously, committing our attention to the body’s somatic activities for moving. 

We tend to stay with what’s familiar for us, which stifles learning and creativity. We step outside what’s familiar by making it strange. Doing this challenges our status quo and allows us to be creative, learn, and improve.

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