Improving Concentration – Part 4


Photo: Nicros athlete Daniel Woods cranking hard at the UBC at Earth Treks. Hörst photo.

Keep Your Thoughts in the Moment
Keeping your thoughts in the moment, detached from judgments and thoughts of outcome, is an immensely powerful Zen-master-like mental state. It’s important to recognize that your body can only be in the present, so the invaluable mind–body synchronization that gives birth to peak performance is only possible when your mind is also in the present moment! Thinking about anything in the past or future makes mind–body integration impossible and peak performance elusive.

Engaging in meditation, or using the Singular Focus Climbing Drill (below), before you climb is an excellent way to quiet the mind and get in the moment. When you quiet your mind and eliminate distractions, your attention will naturally focus on the most important matter of the moment. On the rock, this single-pointed focus will shift effortlessly from hand- to foothold, or to gear placements and risk management, as needed. In being in the moment, the potential outcome of the climb, as well as people around you, wield no power to distract—you will climb onward as if you are the only person in the world.

Pinpointing Your Focus Before a Climb
Use this exercise to quiet your mind and narrow your focus just prior to beginning a climb. After completing your preclimb ritual and being put on belay, assume an extended posture (shoulders back and chest out), close your eyes, and place the fingertips of your dominant hand against the rock face. Your fingertips should be touching the wall lightly (not gripping a hold), and your hand and arm should be completely relaxed. Now take three deep belly breaths, inhaling through your nose to a count of five and exhaling through your mouth to a count of five to ten seconds. Let a wave of relaxation wash across your body, and then narrow your focus to the tips of your fingers touching the rock. Concentrate singly on the sensation of your fingertips on the rock—you should begin to feel the thermal energy moving from your fingers to the rock (on occasions when the rock is hotter than your body, you will feel thermal energy conducting to your fingertips). Maintain a relaxed, singular focus on the energy exchange between your fingertips and the rock for anywhere from thirty seconds to a minute or two. If your focus ever wanders, simply redirect it to your fingertips. Soon your mind will become completely still, as all of your focus is pinpointed on the tips of your fingers. Upon reaching this state, open your eyes and begin climbing.

View the prior articles with more focus-building techniques: Focus #1 | Focus #2 | Focus #3.

Copyright 2010 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.