Tagged ‘Mind‘

One of Eighty, A Parable

A layman went to visit the Buddha, traveling many miles to seek his advice. As he stood before the Buddha he said, “Bodhisattva, I have many problems in my life”.

The Buddha replied, “I cannot help you with those”.

“Well then”, the man said, “I also have problems with my business”.

“I cannot help you with those either”, said the Buddha.

“What good is this then?” asked the man.

“There are 80 kinds of suffering”, the Bodhisattva replied, “and I cannot help you with any but one”.

“What is the one?”

“How you deal with the other 79”, the Buddha answered.


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Releasing the Grip

Two Climbers Cross the Stuart Glacier


I was sick and tired of eating humble pie.

I was hundreds of feet in the air on a tiny perch of stone, teeth chattering in the freezing shade, and I’d just given up.  The sun was just around the corner, tauntingly warming the NE face of Mt Stuart while slyly dodging our slow but steady upward ascent.  I’d planned on leading the pitch that I was now belaying, as I had belayed or followed all other pitches on the route, but this just wasn’t my climb.

Three weeks earlier I was in Portland, my new home again, and I was pulling out my hair trying to finish the last week of a summer course of physics without giving up on that too.  It was the kind of week when I’m tempted to buy a plane ticket in the wee hours of the morning, out of ill judgement and the bursting need for escape that grows under the pressure of unshirked responsibility.  It was during that week that I’d started to browse Nelson’sSelected Climbs in the Cascades and Fred Beckey’s Cascade Alpine Guide, hunting around for a dream.  The North Ridge of Mt Stuart caught my eye.  Just two hours later, the physics was forgotten and I’d drawn up a plan, complete with maps and hourly breakdown of the approach and climb, to pull off the route during a two-day window between shifts in the ER. One day and an one email to my long-time partner later, the trip was scheduled.

In the weeks preceeding, I climbed at the gym wearing a pack, traversing for hours rather than pulling down hard on boulder problems as I usually do.  I went running, biking, gave up beer, packed and repacked. I thought that I was prepared. I felt lean and mean, and I was excited to go after the biggest climb that I’d yet attempted. I studied the topo, trip reports, maps, and I visualized successful and calm movement over the climb.

And now, sitting at the small belay perch between the first and second crux pitches of the Upper North Ridge of Mt Stuart (IV 5.9, 17 pitches, 1600′) I forgave myself and gave up hope of regaining my dignity for the day.  All day I’d followed Alex along the ridge, simul-climbing rhythmically, sometimes haltingly, but never feeling at ease.  The terrain was easy, even with a pack, and though I’d felt invincible and fit on the approach, I now felt like I needed to crawl out of my skin. The exposure around me should have been thrilling, but I resisted it and grew stressed by the remoteness and commitment of our position.


Alex Catching First Light on the Bivy Perch, North Ridge of Mt Stuart, WA

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The Only Muscle Worth Training

From House of Frieh:

“A very wise man told me recently this:

“Others discuss and even argue about which training method is the ‘best.’ I’ve participated in that conversation. I won’t now though because – the way most people do it – it is only physical training and therefore, for my purposes, one-dimensional and shallow. To me the point is growth, and to be specific: psychological growth. Building strength and endurance is dandy. Hell, it’s an admirable objective and pastime in a society of the mostly indolent and obese. But it’s EASY. The hard part is what comes next. The hard part is using one’s acquired physical capabilities, testing to learn whether those skills are as meaningful or valuable as all the ‘atta boy’ gym patter pretends. And the really tough part is translating physical capability into equivalent mental horsepower and psychological growth. Nice muscles decorating a 4-bit CPU are (like) lipstick on a pig. And in my opinion, if, using whatever means, one develops his own multi-core processor, then the rest, i.e. the decoration or the physical capability will follow as a consequence. Every meaningful physical achievement that has occurred has originated in the mind. And it’s the only muscle worth training.”