May 12, 2006

Encountering the Edge
Of all the challenges I've faced throughout my life, rock climbing has been the most fearful, daring, exciting, and gratifying in the way of personal growth. About seven years ago, I started rock climbing in honor of my husband's birthday, and I've been rock climbing ever since. Rock climbing sparked a desire in me to challenge myself in a different way. Now, I use rock climbing as a catalyst to help me face and embrace my fears. Rock climbing truly has taken me to the edge when it comes to confronting my fears, and has helped me move beyond them.

There is more to rock climbing than strength. It's about balance, confidence, agility, mental focus, technical ability, and strength. It's also about facing your fears of falling, heights, failure, pain, embarrassment and possibly dying. Your beliefs, focus, emotions, confidence, preparation, and problem-solving abilities build the foundation for success or failure. The mind plays a powerful role in achieving any success. Your thoughts can instantly sabotage your physical and technical abilities while climbing and in everyday life.

What challenges or fears do you face in your life?

We inherited the hardwiring to sense fear and freeze or flee or fight for survival. Fear, whether real or unreal, is lurking in our lives, in everything we do. At some point or another, we all have had fears of – the unknown, dying, inadequacy, heights, failure, not being able to handle the demands of the world, being in pain, public speaking, not having enough, and most of all – fear of other human beings that are different than us. We all have our favorite fears that seem to pop up again and again, until we fully experience them.

What frightens and discomforts you?

There are numerous ways to take our minds off fear and avoid it. Some people fidget, doodle on a note pad, play with their fingers, take tranquilizers, go to a bar, watch TV, do yoga, read a magazine, and avoid being bored at all costs – all ways that distract ourselves from facing our fears. In contrast, when we acknowledge and reconcile ourselves with fear, we move beyond it.

What stops you from discovering an unknown part of yourself?

Going beyond fear begins when we examine our fear: our anxiety, nervousness, worry, concern, and restlessness. We often reach the edge without any true danger or discomfort, and deny, flee or avoid our uncomfortable feelings or fearful situations. Fear signals us to stop, be alert, and refocus to the present. Deepak Chopra says, "If you want to fully experience life, you must close the circle". Experiencing fear closes the circle.

You too, can fully experience life, and close the circle. To encounter the edge, a place deep inside that knows you are on the verge of something entirely new – a true change. In the fear state, the body is tense, tight, the heart races, palms are sweaty, and you experience panic (subtle or severe). In the beyond fear state, you body is relaxed, you feel in the flow, content and joyful. The sharp edges of fear become somehow softer and more familiar as you face your fears. You are able to approach the edge with openness and courage.

Here's a simple four-step process to help you move beyond fear:

  1. Acknowledge your fears – by simply recognizing and acknowledging a fear helps diminish its power over you. In this step, be more sensitive to the happenings in your life, what triggers fear, and what you are resisting.
  2. Go to the outside edge – a safe place to observe the fear emotion. Do this by closing your eyes, scanning your body to locate where the fear resides at that moment. In your mind, go the outside edge of the place you just located, and track the sensation until it is no longer present or no longer changes.
  3. Ask the appropriate question to yourself, to the fearWhat must I do? The answer to this question may not be a physical action, it may be a mental action of taking a look at the situation. If a state of confusion arises, and the answer is, I don't know? Ask yourself, What is my intention around this issue? By asking these questions, and listening to the wisdom inside of you, you will be able to face your fear. This will help you to clarify the source of the fear and ultimately discharge it.
  4. Thank the fear emotion – for getting your attention and helping you. Finally, you let the fear emotion know that you get it, that you received the body's signals and message, and give it permission to go away.
Let's say you're afraid to get up in front of a group to speak. You notice your palms get sweaty, your stomach gets queasy, and your heart is pounding. In the four-step process, first acknowledge that you're afraid, and be aware of what you are resisting. There might be resistance to speaking in front of groups because you feel you're not prepared or that you don't want to fail.

Just acknowledge those feelings. Now, close your eyes while you scan your body to locate the place where the feeling resides. A good place to start might be the queasy stomach. With your eyes closed, go to the outside edge of that feeling and observe. Notice if the sensation in your stomach changes or is no longer present. The queasiness will probably subside or even disappear.

In the third step, you ask the feeling, What must I do? Notice the response that comes to you. It might say to you, Take deep breathes, or it might say, You'll be fine, you've done this before, you can do it. Finally, let the wisdom or insight you just received know that you get it, thank it for helping you, and give it permission to go away. You may have to repeat this process.

Please be aware that you might experience some physical discharge of the energy and emotion from you body. You might feel your stomach settle down, muscles relax or a feeling of release. Encountering our fears is an on-going process – our fears are always changing. The role of fear is to get your attention, and to help you reach a more balanced state – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

Rock climbing challenges every part of my being. I have the opportunity to encounter my ever-changing fears, experience them and grow. The fears I face while rock climbing mirror what's going on in my life. The fear of being alone without my father comes up for me while climbing.

For instance, I notice I'm afraid – but of what? I'm frozen at that point in the climb and am unable to move. I close my eyes, do a quick scan, and ask, What must I do? Immediately, the answer is to take a few deep breathes, and assess the situation. I might say to myself, I'm okay to go on (to make the next move) or I might say to myself, I am safe. At this point, the fear subsides, I am more relaxed, and I make the decision to continue the climb or not. Regardless of the outcome, climbing is about challenging yourself and having fun.

Rock climbing has opened up a whole new world to me. The energy and freedom I feel while rock climbing inspires me to explore the many possibilities of life. I climb because I love the outdoor experience and the feel of the rock. It has pushed me to accomplish more – to bring to the surface unresolved issues, and move forward in new directions. Facing my fears while climbing gives me a chance to stop, and listen to my inner wisdom. Just as in rock climbing, life is about taking one step or move at a time, to encounter your fears and move beyond them – to close the circle.

To encountering your fears,
Belen Carmichael, NLC
Life Coach

To date, I've climbed in Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, the Netherlands and France. I've climbed on limestone, granite, sandstone and basalt. Since 1999, I've completed 654 pitches outside and in the gym with 32,560 estimated total feet climbed. The most difficult sport climb I've ever done was "Brown Cloud Arête" rated 5.10b, Golden, CO. The most difficult trad climb was "Lancaster Levels Luxor" rated 5.9+, Red Rocks, Las Vegas, NV. I've been the most scared while climbing and rappelling in the dark. The highest climb I've ever done was 650 feet called "Cat in the Hat", at Red Rocks, Las Vegas, NV. It was pretty scary too, with the wind whipping around me as I climbed to reach the top. The most fun I've had climbing was a four-pitch climb called "Calypso" at Eldorado Canyon, CO the day after I got married. I was so excited to be starting a new adventure in life with my husband – my climbing partner.

Read more about my honeymoon/rock climbing adventure to France at:
Rock Climbing Honeymoon

Read more about rock climbing at:
Mountain Project
Super Topo

  • Training for Climbing - A Definitive Guide to Improving Your Climbing Performance
    by Eric J. Hörst
  • Emotional Genius - discovering the deepest language of the soul by Karla McLaren
  • Shambhala The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chögyam Trungpa
  • Claim Your Basic Rights - Create a Practical Partnership with Your Soul
    by Daniel E. Cohen, M.D. and Jennifer L. Palmquist
  • The Book of Secrets - Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life by Deepak Chopra
  • On the Edge - From Discomfort to Discover and Courage in a Fear-Based Culture
    from the Science of Mind Magazine, January 2005

Copyright 2006, INNERGY Coaching, LLC - Belen Carmichael
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