A little while ago, I wrote a little thing about climbing mountains. And I am happy to report that there are real benefits to climbing in silence. Here is what I have learned from my multiple climbing experiences.
First, climbing isolates me from outside distractions.
It gets me away from everything: my couch, my tv, my computer, and most importantly, my fridge. If I set my phone on airplane mode, I am leaving the world behind. I’m inaccessible. And it’s kind of terrifying. But trust me, you’ll be ok.
Furthermore, climbing gets me away from street noise. You have no idea how distracting sounds, signs, and even buildings can be until you are trying to clear your mind and find that your imagination is stimulated by every word, sound, shape, color, and scent. Climbing in isolation removes excessive stimulation so that you are only left with your thoughts.
Oh. And no music. That isn’t allowed either.
Secondly, climbing silences my own rambling thoughts.
At first, I had to constantly remind myself to “stop thinking” and to “clear my head.” I had to stop thinking about what I needed to do or what I was trying to solve. And if a thought did pop into my mind, I had to stop myself from following the rabbit trails; “Don’t do the wikipedia thing in your head,” I kept telling myself. “If you do, you’ll find yourself running down an elaborate maze of meandering thoughts and 30 minutes later, wonder how you ever came to the subject of unicorns.”
Fortunately, climbing wore my body down. It removed excess energy that normally would have been going towards thought wandering and instead directed it to my muscles so I wouldn’t collapse and die. Fortunately, I was not in great shape, so it didn’t take long before I was heaving and gasping and all my caffeine induced energy was focused on maintaining my breathing and heart rate.
When the pounding of my feet and the rhythm of my labored breathing were the only things I even wanted to focus on, it was time to begin.
Now it was time to pray. And by praying, I mean listening. Listen to my body. Listen to my spirit. Listen to what God is saying. If something out of the ordinary persisted in my mind, now was the time to test it, question it, and ask what it might mean. My tired body wouldn’t let me get too far down the wrong path. I just kept asking and listening. When I found what I was looking for, I knew it. And that’s the key. Don’t quit until you do.
I’ve had some of my most meaningful and powerful times of prayer in the past few months when I could force myself out the door and up a mountain (or a hill, if a mountain wasn’t available). Even after I had the first tremendous experience, I was still surprised at how powerful the subsequent climbs were. I am glad to have pushed myself to go out and try it out. And I look forward to future trips up the mountain to meet with my God.