I struggled up the hill under the weight of my load.
No. Let me start again.
I staggered to the base of the cliff with my day pack and a climbing harness. There had been way too much merriment the night before. And way too little sleep. My efforts to head off my climbing partner before the 7:00 a.m. pick-up had failed. And now I had to pay the price.
I stood there looking up at the route that had thwarted my attempts for weeks. I had studied it. I had thought about it. I had worked my upper body strength. I had rehearsed the moves. I had tried putting it together dozens of times. To no avail.
The sweat poured off me. Perhaps it was the humidity of the early August morning. But more than likely, it was the tequila still leaking from my pores.
What I hoped would be my first 5.11 was thin and delicate and balancey. It had failed to yield to brute strength. Finesse would be necessary. And skill.
“On belay,” my partner called. (“Don’t shout,” I thought.)
My head spun – and my stomach lurched – as I looked down to check my knot. Yes, the tequila. Not the heat.
I stepped off the deck.
And then… I was on the top. Every move – perfect.
Clear Mind. No thought. Just flow.
How easy it is to get caught up in our thinking.
Ann and I were at Jack Canfield’s Success Principals Workshop in Boston this past weekend. Jack showed us a film of two groups of people passing a basketball to one another. Before he began the clip, he instructed us to focus intensely on just one of the teams and count the number of times the ball was passed. After the clip, he asked us, “How many of you saw the gorilla?”
Huh? A gorilla?
Only a few had seen it. I wasn’t one one of them.
Jack showed the clip again. And there, as clear as day, a person dressed in a gorilla suit walked in amongst the basketball players, turned toward the camera, beat its chest, and walked off screen.
How is it possible to miss a gorilla in the middle of a basketball scrimmage?
The curse of too narrow a focus, of too much thought.
Canfield also told the story of Cliff Young, a 61-year-old potato farmer who not only won the Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon, but also beat the previous record for the 543.7 mile course run by nearly two days!
Cliff arrived at the start line with overalls and gumboots. He had never run a race before. The race officials wanted to deny him entry to the race fearing that he would collapse and die. Bad for publicity.
Cliff argued that he really did have experience. He told the officials and the press that he had previously run for two to three days straight rounding up sheep.
The race officials eventually relented. At a loping pace, Cliff ran continually for 5 days, 15 hours, beating all five of his competitors.
How? He ran while his competitors were sleeping. He didn’t know he was supposed to sleep!
The beauty of not knowing.
There is an old Buddhist classic entitled Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. Beginner’s mind, according to Suzuki, springs from “the innocence of first inquiry.” “It is the open mind, the attitude that includes both doubt and possibility, the ability to see things always as fresh and new.”
It is the mind free just to be awake. It is the mind that is clear and curious. It is the mind unburdened by opinion and judgment and preconception.
Of course, knowing is important. Without knowing, we wouldn’t find our way to the grocery store. But knowing too much – and thinking that we know – and thinking about thinking that we know(!) – rob us of the opportunity to truly see. We miss things. Like the gorilla.
In the state of not knowing, we have the capacity to break barriers. And charge to the finish line.
Zen mind. Beginner’s mind. Don’t know mind.
Can we dare to be dumb?