I recently became aware of free solo climbing during the Academy Awards ceremony as a movie on this kind of activity received an Oscar as the best documentary. Free solo is a type of climbing that does not involve ropes and equipment. The climber only has climbing shoes, chalk for their hands, and the willingness to climb with no safeguard. The awarded documentary movie, “Free Solo”, is about Alex Honnold, a professional climber in his 30s that climbed “El Capitan” a 3,000-feet rock in Yosemite and is considered the ultimate challenge for a free solo climbing. Beyond his epic achievement of free climbing”El Capitan”, the way Alex Honnold lives his life and the process of reaching that achievement were the facts that captured my attention. Almost all of his life, he lived like a Monk. He used his van as a home which allowed him to move freely around the country to fulfill his passion for climbing and he often lived on less than 1,000 a month dedicating his life to what was most meaningful to him (climbing). One of his salient comments that amazed me the most was his comment about death. He mentioned how visualizing death as a possibility at any moment while free solo climbing made him more aware of the value of life, about the value of the present moment and provided further clarity of what is most significant to him. When he was asked about fear, he mentioned that he had none and how the long and careful preparation gave him a state of meditative calmness during such epic climbs.
How free solo climbing and death contemplation has to do with getting older:
Recent research indicated that older adults tend to recognize that they have fewer remaining years on earth and that situation created conditions for them to non-judgmentally focus more on the here and now (mindfulness). Interestingly, while aging is often associated with just a variety of ills, from aches and pains, research shows that older adults tend to experience more positive emotions than younger counterparts.
As morbid as it may sound, the contemplation of death may be a very positive tool to appreciate the here and the now in a new dimension.
Mindfulness may increase with age but a critical ingredient is likely essential: we need to pay enough attention to life in the present moment. It is plausible that humans that pay attention to the” here and now” grow in mindfulness as they get older. The cultivation of mindfulness may be a purposeful response for promoting and maintaining overall well-being at any age. It may also equip individuals to face life’s challenges and particularly during the aging process.
For more mindfulness, unionize with life in the present moment which is the yoga way. Devote to what is most meaningful to you (paying attention to what we do and live requires less effort when the action we do has a meaning to us). Find your “thing” that gives you purpose and makes you one with the here and the now.
Pay attention and do not waste the only life you can do something about right now.
I wish you well