Mt Hood“Out of nowhere, the mind comes forth.”
–Buddhist Diamond Sutra

What is the meaning of this sutra? It seems to indicate that the mind exerts and expresses itself without warning. “Mind” is defined by Daniel Siegel in The Developing Mind as: the activity of the brain. One of the main tasks of our brain is to think. That thinking creates the mind.

It can seem that our minds are constantly thinking. We get get lost in thought. Thoughts come and go, emerge continually, and randomly. This I believe is a beginning to understanding this sutra.

Obviously if we cannot control our mental activity we can become victims of it. Thoughts can carry our attention away from our chosen task. Becoming aware of our minds “coming forth” can help us stop giving in to thought distractions.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Kyle Ricketts

    You are on the right track. Everyone is concerned with controlling the mind. This is something that cannot be accomplished. Awareness is the answer. The more aware we are of our thoughts, the less we become hindered by them. This can be a lengthy process. Once the understanding starts to take place, the process becomes easier. The minds job is to think, conceptualize, create images. We can choose what thoughts we attach to, or just discard them. But, even the thought of choosing, is getting involved. Just be aware.


    1. Arno

      Hi Kyle, thanks for your comments. You were one of the first folks to contact me about the Warrior’s Way back in 1998. How are things? Arno

  2. Pat J.

    Trying to control the mind and the automatic thoughts which result from the “activity of the brain”, as Mr Siegel would call it, is like trying to control the thunderstorm rolling in while you are on pitch 10 with ten more to go. The key is learning how to control your cognitive appraisals of these automatic thoughts. The mind will react to the environmental stimuli that are presented to it. This reaction, also know as an automatic thought, depends on a multitude of factors such as: the actual environmental stimuli, our past experiences and the physiological sensations that we are feeling in that moment etc..). It is hopeless to try and control the way our minds react to the environment around us due to the fact that these automatic thoughts will take place, well, for lack of better words, almost automatically. The key to being in control of the mind is learning how to control the appraisals of these automatic thoughts. Teaching ones self to become mindful of all these internal and external stimuli allows for the accurate and realistic appraisal of the self, environment and the automatic thoughts associated. We have the gift of metacognition and thus we are able to differentiate which of the automatic thoughts are realistic and aid in the ascent of our goals and those which keep us on the ground. I say let my mind come forth because I will only listen to that which is realistic and relevant to success. We need to be the scientist not the poet.

    1. Arno

      Hi Patrick, Great comments. They remind me of one main tenant of the ww, and that is don’t focus on what you want to avoid or stop; focus on what you want to expand or do. So focus attention of the current task, not on stopping the limiting thoughts of our minds.

      Another interesting point Siegel points out is that our minds’ job is to create some sort of order out of a chaotic world. In other words, our minds look for and develop patterns to “anticipate” future events. This can be helpful so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. But, if we learn the wrong lessons then our minds will continue to anticipate and act out those wrong lessons. I think the key with this aspect of the mind is to develop “anticipation patterns” that are more process based rather than end result based. Since the world is a jumble of processes continually “processing” then by anticipating what the processes will be like will align us better than anticipating a particular outcome our minds desire.

  3. Kathleen

    I have finally been able to give your e-lessons the attention they deserve and offer a few comments. I have enjoyed the dialogue thus far (the bi-weekly approach is helpful) I look forward to more discussions and hearing the progress of others as well as going back to read and apply the lessons offered before I became a subscriber.
    The referenced lesson suggests the following:
    “Jason’s appearance and what he climbs clashes with what most of us look like and climb. When your mind is faced with such a difference, it tends to judge and compare and create preconceptions.”
    I observe that judging and comparing come from preconceptions we already have based on our upbringing, education, work/home/school environments.
    Jason’s interest in stimulating others to question him and then themselves is the goal of all teachers. Only by our own direct experience can we accept or reject what is right for ourselves. However, that does not mean we must accept his, or anyone’s, “appropriate-ness for him” as anything but that.
    Jason probably has more reasons for his personal presentation and climbing approach than just to stimulate us; which is both healthy and laudable. I have met him several times and seen him many others and I have found that his serenity and focused interest and attention to whatever he is doing are far more compelling reasons to consider how he might inspire us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our presentations and approaches.
    I’d like to hear more on Jason’s process of how “he understood his mind’s tendencies”. Deeper investigation into my mind, the choices I make and why I got the “status quo” I’ve created as the outcome will provide a better springboard to change. Rather than list and attempt all the ways I might modify my behavior, first deeply recognizing what is has helped some of the correct changes arise naturally.
    Your discussion on “thoughts” versus “awareness” identified an approach to help climbers move beyond the limiting mind.
    For those who have not yet experienced a clear moment when they were able to override doubt and ask the investigative questions you offer, the following has worked for me: Feeling doubtful I ask:
    What’s the worst that could happen: accept it and commit to achieving a different outcome
    What am I afraid of: what are the chances of it happening, be okay with being afraid, my actions are not me
    Grin – it’s relaxing and encouraging.
    Once again you have served up a helping of food for thought. A drill that helped me recognize my wandering mind and internal chatter, is to count each move.
    Mentally or quietly count each hand and foot placement even if it is just a body position switch such as a twist or flag. By noticing each movement, I bring myself to the present. When I lose count, I go back to the beginning.
    What’s the highest number I got to? Some days it might be three or four; others more. At the bottom of the route, I count each hold. I anticipate that when I am completely focused on now, I’ll get to a higher number: most holds are used more than once and I have movements that do not include the holds.
    By counting I distract my mind from judgmental “thinking” versus just experiencing what is happening and develop a rhythm.
    Thank you for articles and practice tips as well as more insight into Jason Kehl. I look forward to each installment.

    1. Arno

      Hi Kathleen,
      Your comment: “I’d like to hear more on Jason’s process of how “he understood his mind’s tendencies”. Deeper investigation into my mind, the choices I make and why I got the “status quo” I’ve created as the outcome will provide a better springboard to change.”

      I can’t speak for Jason, but I can address your question from what I experience. As awareness develops I notice more frequently when my mind distracts my attention to seeking comfort to avoid stress instead of dealing with the stress directly. So, I can quickly let go of “comfort” thoughts and redirect attention on task. Our status quo is essentially what we are comfortable with, experiences we’ve had. To create a springboard that takes us out of the status quo we need to make choices to learn not choices for comfort. Certainly we all want comfort, but when we are in a situation that requires learning, like a challenging climb, we need to choose to engage to learn, not to be comfortable. We do this by choosing to focus attention on processes we can do to be as comfortable as possible within the stress: breathing, relaxing, moving, etc.

      Your comment: “What’s the worst that could happen: accept it and commit to achieving a different outcome.” Yes, accepting the worst is important. But, this must be grounded, at least when possible like in yes-fall situations, in actual experiential knowledge. You can’t just accept that falling is a possibility and then be able to commit fully to your choice. You will still resist committing. More on this when we get into the Falling chapter of Espresso Lessons.

      Your comment: “A drill that helped me recognize my wandering mind and internal chatter, is to count each move.” Yes, I list the exact exercise in the Practice Appendix of Espresso Lessons. This is a way of coaching ourselves to keep attention in the moment. Excellent example, thanks.

  4. myron

    “Out of nowhere” is the key for me. It always catches me by surprise. I never see it coming. Like the wind rushing by.
    When I notice it, it’s already gone. Either I’m in its southernly balm, glowing in confidence, or shivering in fear in its
    northern icy grip. I always catch myself after the fact. And that’s only when I dubiously notice. Usually, it’s after I’ve
    come home that I notice the wind blew my hat off.

    Tonight, I’m in the gym and I know there’s a new route on a part of an intimidating wall. Its been set up as a lead, and
    that’s what I’ll do. Just saying the wall is intimidating has started all the usual machinations. I’m grateful for these
    bi-weekly e-mails. Until I saw the ww e-mail and then started reading the blog, I wasn’t aware that I was even thinking about that upcoming climb. At least now, I can be aware of what a mountain a molehill can become.

    1. Arno

      Hi Myron, the time gap between mental activity and recognizing it will shorten. Be patient with yourself. Arno

  5. Kathleen

    Arno – thanks for your thoughtful response. I’m looking forward to reading the book.

  6. Robby

    Counting the moves to stay in the moment sounds like it would work, but isn’t that a sort of distraction itself, like listening to music?
    I’m going to gives this some practice to see if it helps me to stay focused. Such a small thing as keeping count…guess I’ll have to do it!

    1. Arno

      Hi Robby, yes it engages the mind some but use it as a tool to develop synchronizing attention with movement. After practice you can drop the counting. Arno

  7. Roxana

    When I think I’m disconnected from my body. Connection with my body is very important while climbing. It’s the very first time for me when I made the difference between necessary thinking and garbage thinking – that mental noise who appear only to create and maintain my false identity. This is because I keep considering rational mind as something precious but is just a tool, awareness is beyond. It is something I need to learn – reconnect awareness with my body and trust them each time I don’t need to think. Did I understand well? Thank you

    1. Arno

      Hello Roxana, Yes, you understand correctly. Continue to work with this process. Arno

  8. Kyle Ricketts

    Arno, I’m impressed that you remember me after all these years. I’m also impressed that you have stuck to this venture for all this time. I haven’t climbed much the past few years. I do get out on the ice a number of times during the winter. I’ve become a chicken shit on the rock, and bold on the ice. I don’t get that one. I have planned on getting much more involved this upcoming season. These emails are timely. Although I think it is a mistake I am getting them. Don’t you have to be part of the course? Kyle

  9. Arno

    Kyle, Over the years folks have asked to be added to my newsletter list and that has evolved into these lessons blasts. So I guess that’s how you are on the list.
    Be well and attentive this season and into 2010.

  10. manolo

    ante todo un enorme saludo a arno y a todos los escaladores de este planeta.tan solo decir que para centrarme escalando lo mejor que me va a mi es no pensar,lo vi en una pelicula que se titula el ultimo samurai.y sobre todo leer y releer guerreror de la roca.un saludo compañeros

    1. Arno

      Your comment poorly translated: “above all an enormous greeting to arno and to all the climbers of this planet. so alone to say that to center me scaling the best than me goes to my is not to think, I saw him in a pelicula that himself holder the I finalize samurai. and above all to read and to reread guerreror of the rock. a greeting companions.”

      Hola Manolo, Gracias for your comment. Adios, Arno

  11. frank jackson

    thanks for passing on your knowledge…

  12. camilo

    hi arno
    it seems that becoming aware of ones thougths is like meditating. you cannot control your thought but lettin them pass away… what your are saying is that one should “look” toughts pass away instead of trying to control them? personally i find very difiult to “control” my thoughts.

    1. Arno

      Hello Camilo, Thank you for your post. First, you cannot control your thoughts. Second, always come back to the idea that attention is all you can control.
      Example: Let’s say you are meditating. Thoughts come up, seemingly out of nowhere. You don’t try to stop them, change them, etc. Rather, you refocus your attention on observing thoughts, or the breath, or body sensations, or a word (mantra)…whatever you decided to focus your attention on when you began the meditation.
      Thoughts come up all the time, randomly. Now, you can direct attention to the types of thoughts you want to have. Example: You are stopped at a stance while climbing. You focus attention on thinking about specific things that will help you prepare for the next section of climbing (the next protection/stance, the fall consequence, your plan for climbing the next section). You are intentionally focusing attention on thinking only those thoughts that help you prepare.

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