Bursts of Clarity.

A home for my few clear thoughts

Rockies Vacation Part 1 23 July – 25 July

Left Squamish on Saturday. Always a big event. In 2 years I’ve been out of this valley less than 20 times. Passed through Maple ridge to collect vehicle camper and join Kyle’s nephew 1st birthday. Itching to escape. Seeing climbing words and craving mountains at all junctures.

Drove through to revvy. Parked at Begbie Bluffs. Damn it is nice to have portable living quarters! Climbed in the sun on overhanging jugs. Jumped on 10c — 11b problems. Pumpy! Last climb was a difficult arete. Revvy is challenging in its hidden holds.

We delayed Sir Donald to the following morning due to tiredness and a need for relaxation.

Met up with an old friend over burritos to talk life and treeplanting. The guy looks like a different human. Hard miles on difficult terrain does that to a man.

Lost in conversation, a wind storm was descending on Revelstoke. Gusts of surely 100kmph+ were interrupting street performances, knocking over locked bikes and causing non-climbers to seek refuge inside the Taco Club.

Outside we sat with smiles on our face. Fascination with the natural forces is a hallmark of the alpine climber. Sheer power of gravity, weather and human emotion. We face this trinity at all times on the mountain faces and ridges.

As the storm passed, the light emerged from behind the front. Perfectly oriented to illuminate not only one of the most vibrant rainbows I’ve seen — but a pair. Groups of strangers gathered in awe, to capture photos, to exchange smiles; and for those young enough, echo a call of ‘DOUBLE RAINBOW’ across the car park (YouTube it!)

These moments of community appreciation of natural aesthetics rises above all that divides us in our normal lives. Reminds everybody of our essence and universal beauty.

Drove to Sir Donald parking. Woke at 3:30am to push for the summit. Left keys in bumper to give each other a way out in the event of an incident.

Hiking past bear signs and with the knowledge of a recent death off the West Bypass descent route. These facts sit in my stomach as my mind asks “what makes you different?”

Thoughts quickly forgotten as the mountain loomed over the valley almost instantly. 2300m of vertical gain lay ahead of us this Sunday.  Breaking through the trees, a waterfall dominates the view. Finger like streams pouring over the glacial smooth slabs. Evidence of a time once colder and a reminder of the cycle of water to ice and to gas. Happening today, happening until the end of my life and until the end of all life as we know it. How many sets of eyes have had this view?

We zig zagged through Forrest, crossed the always difficult scree and eventually arrived at the Uto-Sir Donald Col. The low point of our climb.

Immediately I was overcome with an apprehension not recently felt. Compared with the immense massiveness of the mountain, our NW Ridge ascent path seemed precariously thin, even at the easy 5.4 grading.

Alpine climbing is much more difficult for the grade given additional considerations. Loose rock, weather, exposure and route finding are risks not usually felt when at sea level or climbing bomber Squamish Granite.

This called for a 15 minute nap in a comfortable sheltered bivy site — A zone comparatively protected from wind and weather. On waking I felt reinvigorated by the prospect of this challenge. This is why I’m here and my fear is only a reminder of that.

Wearing approach shoes and with a rope and gear handy we began to climb. The beta warning those who needed a rope for the first few pitches to reconsider.

Moving quickly unroped we found a rhythm. The rock was mostly solid and the climbing brilliantly sustained. Quickly you become aware of the empty air around you.

The climbers prize. Exposure. At this easy level of difficulty it engages the self completely. Every move is in flow, the path unfolding ahead like a story you wrote to yourself. Steep semi technical moves linked with sections of fine scrambling. The guidebook describes the line as ‘impeccable.’ Two thumbs up!!!

Typical alpine weather is our only company here. Overnight rain causing teams to retreat two days in a row it seems. Who dares wins as we find no sections wet. Fortunate given the nature of this rock. Easy to see the ease with which one might lose their footing and take a ride for life.

Clouds whip up the ridge as one side heats in the glory of sun. The mind creates visions of thermals rising alongside the ridge. An expressway of lift for the birds and human air enthusiasts. With an eye on Paragliding for the future, this would be a theme for the trip. A reminder of invisible energy. Sharing these weather phenomena with residents of the sky.

Approaching the summit ridge it seemed to go forever. Higher and higher false summit towers rose above us.  Alpine wind whipping clouds across Sir Donald’s 3300m peak.

I was experiencing a strangity of alpine climbing for me. Often I wonder who else? During the push I lose myself on the Earth. I’m not even a pin on Google Maps.  I forget which peak we are on. My experience is simplified to the steps I take and all rock melts into one. Moments of presence, of clarity faced with a simple ascent. Hand over hand foot above foot. Carefully choosing the most solid looking rock for 3 points of security.

Standing on the summit we were elated. Though filling the climbers log we were shocked into the reality of descent. The most recent record was that of the climber left deceased not long before we were there. RIP.

A reminder to be careful but also to acknowledge the fragility of our existence. To enjoy it to the fullest. Find that which makes us feel most alive, not only doing it but being it.

For me this is in adventure, in shared struggle with friends, accesssing the present moment. Seeking internal alignment of myself with what is important.

Climbing is but one vehicle for this experience and ultimately growth.

3 hours later we had safely  completed the summit tower bypass and 12 rappels down the mountain. Huge thanks to the guy who put the stations in!  Now the ever annoying scree, a few river crossings and 2 hours of hiking was all that remained in today’s adventure.

We arrived at the truck to find Parks had taken our keys. A cryptic note scribbled with a signature indicated our keys were at the now closed reception.

We quickly realized we were faced with a spot of additional adventure after 15 hours of climbing. A cold sleep near the car while our sleeping gear was within arms reach but secured in the car.

 

With some head scratching and a spot of anger we found a solution. We  contacted the Parks Canada non emergency dispatch and a representative quickly arrived. The worry was our keys were obvious and at risk of being taken  by someone more unsavoury — the kind lady seemed most surprised that we were up and down in a day.

Quick pasta meal and we were off to our next Camp site. Destination 2? Canmore and the exquisite Rocky mountains. Starting with Ha Ling!

 

Divided Attention and the Art of Leaving Facebook.

Hi, I’m Aylex and I’m addicted to Facebook. Phew, feels good to let that out.

Why is Facebook addictive. What does it serve to me (to us even!?)

It hits that little trigger in the mind that gives us much, and so short lived joy. Specifically – it releases dopamine. That oh so beautiful neurotransmitter (read: Brain food) that is associated with all the good things in life. Well, by good I mean pleasurable.

Good is a subjective term and pleasure is a feeling. Lots of the greatest pleasures in life are not so beneficial.

From a digital perspective, Facebook gives the recognition of my existence from those around me at a distance.

A few likes here, constant notifications… irrelevant to the virtues of life.

That trigger. It is the secret sauce for the company’s success.

We are all subject to that desire.

It isn’t all bad though. Facebook has delivered significant benefit to my life in these past many years. Job contacts, houses, continued contact with the beautiful people I’ve met around the world. Friends and romantic interests.

People that inspire and excite me through the knowledge they are making it happen. The late night messages of encouragement. The reminders of our own mortality…

It can create connection. Instantly and at a distance. A crazy concept only 20 years ago.

Not to mention the fact I stay in touch with my family without sending mail on the HMS Discovery. Its final location unknown, potentially at the bottom of the sea. This is a gratuitous benefit of technological development none of us would want to relinquish.

To see my sister’s two young children grow has been of immeasurable joy to me. To hear the laughter of my family at their and my own stupidity. You can’t put value on this.

Facebook as a construct though: The struggle of life condensed into a poorly thought and heavily edited brain fart plastered onto a “wall.” The result of divisive attention and confirmation bias tailor made for YOU.

Fundamentally, it is not such a negative tool — when used responsibly. Restraint, that is the crux, the most difficult part of using the tool. Isn’t that the case with all of life? Do I eat one marshmellow, or do I wait for two?

Does the second ever get delivered  (I would most certainly eat the first immediately!)

My family in Australia was worried at my sudden absence from the book of Face. As were a few friends.  They were under the impression I had merely deleted them versus decided to eradicate my digital self.

We feel a connection by seeing what is happening in your life.” – Dad

Given my choice of activities I totally understand. I climb mountains, I push myself and sometimes I am exposed to risk that is traditionally unacceptable. Despite that perspective of the outsider, I’m nothing more than a punter exploring this world of mountain adventure.

Green as can be!

It is all matter of exploration though.

In exploration is where the value lies. In the mountains and in ourselves.

Physical strength, mental extension, trust and love for your friends and loved ones. It’s found in the friends, in the landscape and in the exposure to “what is real” that places you in situations you must deal with. In the mountains, it is decision making in which the right one is imperative.

I understand how it might be challenging for my family not to have the visual connection. The extensive and  brilliant photography by my passionate and talented friends.

Does this truly capture life?

Is this enough reason to leave it activated?

Time will tell.

Eventually I’d like to reconnect with Facebook. For the reasons above. Though, I feel it will be useful for me not to have it.

I think I developed a dependency on that interaction at a young age. Born from my very first interactions with MSN Messenger. Ding, ding, ding.

“Human, you are validated, worthy of love and relevant.”

A substitution for my poor emotional communication skills in my youth. To delay and express the depths of thought that rattle through my consciousness.

Constant ego feedback and quelling of insecurities through text. Tailoring my image to cater to others expectations of me.

To me it seems this is a large part of my discontent with the world. Potentially the discontent in society.

A contributor to anxiety. Concern for the future.

If I’m so dependent on what is outside, how do I find the value of what is within?

By losing my focus on the important things I feed the anxiety.

The anxiety itself causes a loss of focus in turn. A bit of a vicious cycle.

What is important?

Virtues and intrinsic good explored through self examination and discipline.

Anxiety has long had an effect on my life.

Through meditation and actively observing my own patterns I’ve found some mental strength. I’m not so lost in a world of harsh emotion and sometimes self loathing. I step outside the human condition as defined by the great Western thinkers of our time.

This is a condition specific to Western Culture. In my humble opinion.

I lived such a long time in the darkness. Driven by fear and dominated by ego. Interacting with the shadows of Plato’s cave. I’ve since been experiencing periods of relative peace. However fleeting they may be. My shackles have been released and now I must reconcile my own experience with the light, and reality outside the cave (Ref: Check out Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.”)

These realizations of my own weakness, viewed through the lens of an intense soul has been super hard internally. A forceful shift of the analytical machine of the mind. Away from the logical constructs of Science, of Business; now towards my own emotions, and my ego. Causing me to feel exposed and vulnerable — though it is from these positions we grow.

This change was not made in isolation. 4 months ago I ditched the smart phone for the flip. Distancing myself from the usual ritualistic phone checking that had become impulsive. I noticed a difference.

A few days ago, I also joined a yoga studio, and I bought an AM/FM alarm clock to minimize my interactions with devices. Preferring to leave the devices outside the room and to give my mind some time to rest.

My experience dabbling in yoga itself has yielded significant benefit. Consistently made me feel stronger and more aware of my body. As with many activities that inherently yield gain, I’ve struggled to commit to the expenditure and time.

The hope in all this is that I am again forced towards more meaningful interaction with myself and others. More than the surface engagement that is typical of social media.

A secondary hope is that my family feels a modicum of peace around my decision (I wrote this for you.)

An ancillary benefit — chances are, if I had Facebook, this article would never exist in any form — I’d likely be too distracted by cats and the darkness of our world.

Here is to your own consolidated attention, and to our joint success in the world. Whomever you are.

Peace and Love.

Entrepreneurship and the Joys of a Good Team.

A huge component of our lives on Earth is our time with each other. In a professional or personal capacity there is the potential for both a rewarding experience that builds us, or a painful one which tears us down. Either way, we learn something. No two people will work together the same as another – it’s possible the same two people, on a separate occassion may never again, purely due to circumstance. Though risky at all times, it is neccessary. For the power of the group is always greater than the individual.

This was the message of our lecturer who recently delivered the most interesting course I’ve ever studied. That course was on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Now, it’s easy to immediately picture the entrepreneur who started a large company and now rolls in millions; Richard Branson, Steve Jobbs, the big boys on the block. It is common imagery assocaited with the word, though an image my lecturer beckoned us to look past. I invite you to do the same.

Entrepreneurship, as defined and emphasised by our tutor is a management paradigm. It revolves around an individual, resources and their team. A project whereby great, or small goals (not always financial) are achieved regardless of the control of resources the individual has. It is this ability that makes an entrepreneur; the ability to visualise, plan, then fail early and fail often (As the entrepreneurial aphorism goes.)

Resourcefulness is imperative. Know what you need, how to get it, and how to make it happen. To consider finance the only important resource in this model is to see the wheat as the only ingredient in the bread. An entrepreneur needs more. New businesses need to find infrastructure, services, suppliers – all to be used efficiently and effectively.  But the yeast in the proverbial bread is his/her team. The team makes the project grow.

It is as a result of the importance of the team that I think the format we studied in was created. We all worked as a team from the beginning to end. Not in the traditional education model – where generally, groups work exclusively on a final assignment where roles are rushedly assigned to people who barely know each other and focus only on the final mark in their third eye. We collaborated from the beginning. We were assigned groups, sat together and answered questions together. Each of us from different backgrounds building objects, designing beautiful clubs, getting products to customers and counting the beans. It was as if we were all tackling this problem, this problem of entrepreneurship, all together. Not unlike the real world – it was a blast.

To hear the different perspectives gained in various fields and to learn from then all; To struggle with the complex ideas, form opinions and then become excited by the potential of the world inspired us all. We came to see the world as bound only by our imaginations and ability to “make it happen” – rather than as victims of a giant cookie cutter called society. We see the potential of our highly connected and technologically driven world. In the perfect world, all education would do this for us but that’s a whole other article.

In a time where the problems facing our society are only growing, it’s good to remember the power of a team. To see and experience first hand what is possible. This was a classroom environment but the lessons can be applied anywhere. And the potential pool of teammates got a whole lot bigger in the past decade!  Social entrepreneurs worldwide are tackling such problems regardless of (but not independent of) profit. Communities are binding together and working as single units, moving towards a common goal. So next time you recognise a problem in your immediate sphere, don’t just think about it. Get a team.

Stream of Consciousness

It’s sometimes confusing to try and put together a few thoughts into a group that makes sense. Those times when it’s easy, smooth and natural come in bursts. Today, I’ll start to write more and hopefully make these bursts of clarity more regular.

There will be no real theme, only what is circulating through my head during that day. Or, possibly a more stubborn thought of the week; or most commonly, thought of the second. My attention span is notoriously short. Maybe this will help? Now.. where did I leave that hat?

Peace and love.