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 Adversity Training Manifesto 
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Joined: Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:25 am
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Post Adversity Training Manifesto
I've been thinking about this for awhile in regard to recreational tree climbing. Years back I would hear tree climbing instructors talking about how rec tree climbing was going to really break out and become a big thing. It is a big thing, for a relatively small number of people. There are many reasons why it hasn't "busted out". The reason that interests me the most is the difficulty aspect of rec tree climbing. Not so much the technical difficulty, it's the entire experience. From getting to a tree, setting ropes, working through a climb, contending with weather, the setting sun, minor scrapes and bruises, and on and on. Rope and harness tree climbing usually involves one small (and sometimes big) difficulty after another. So why would anyone want to do it? Certainly there are many rewards but the ratios of "difficult moments" vs. the glorious sitting up high looking through the treetop moments are a bit out of balance using conventional analysis.

So what's the appeal? I think part of it is what I'm beginning to call "adversity training". To understand this more I'm trying to form a definition of adversity training for the tree climbing activity. In the recreational tree climbing context adversity training is engaging in a series of actions that creates small or large problems that need to be solved, usually under mild duress, sometimes in fairly extreme situations. What's good about this? Something is good about it, there's a hard-core group of rec climbers who love nothing more than to haul a bunch of gear on their back deep into the woods to find really interesting, beautiful and challenging trees to climb. They suffer a lot. But they're not masochists, at least I'm pretty sure they're not. They seem the opposite, they're physically tough, strong-minded, observant, considerate of nature, innovative, excellent problem solvers, and mentally sharp to name a few of the positives.

It's a chicken or egg question, did the climbing activity help form these positive human characteristics or were people with these characteristics drawn to tree climbing? Probably a little of both but for my experience mostly woods rec climbing for close to 12 years I've seen notable changes. My fear processing has changed dramatically, I would describe myself as being anxiety prone for most of my life. That is pretty much gone. Likewise a tendency for ongoing low-level depression, nothing major but a light background malaise can get to be a drag on life ;-) I think I now have what I'd call "appropriate anxiety" but ongoing anxiety is not a healthy or productive way of living. As for the background depression, I think that's very much a part of being human but it doesn't need to be in deployment all the time and it certainly isn't for me now. That's just a quick look at how this activity has affected my internal life. Physically the changes are dramatic, despite some serious back and other health issues earlier in my life I feel reasonably strong and nimble as I head into the sixty-first year of my life. In many ways I'm more physically capable than I was in my thirties and forties.

This leads back to adversity training. A friend of mine who is a certified swamp yankee grew up with an old junkyard and a swamp for his back yard. He had no lack of adversity physically, mentally, or emotionally. He always thought the idea of "excercising" was ridiculous. There's always a ditch to be dug, wood to split, heavy junk to drag around, running from the cops etc, whatever. We don't all get to have a healthy kind of chronic adversity to deal with. Yep, even running from the cops as a teenager could be a healthy form of adversity ;-) Chronic stress and anxiety without a physical component is super destructive spiritually, physically, emotionally. Whoops, that describes the lives of most of us. There are many ways to try and solve this but I believe that climbing trees recreationally provides an excellent adversity experience in a healthy context. We don't know all the details of why being immersed in woods and nature in a physical, spiritual and mentally present way is so good for us but it is clear to me that it is. Comments?
-AJ


Sun Jan 29, 2017 4:06 pm
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Post Re: Adversity Training Manifesto
Hi AJ,

Interesting read - thanks for posting. I've been climbing for about the same amount of time as you and have experienced many of the same positive effects - mentally and physically. For me, recreational tree climbing is meditative along with testing my critical thinking and problem solving skills. Mostly I climb alone, so the only chitter chatter going on is internal (well sometimes out loud when I really need to tackle something difficult). I get completely 'in the zone' so to speak. When I reach a resting point, I'm in a different zone - focused in on what I'm seeing and feeling, both the tactile and the internal stuff. In the top of a tree you experience nature like no other place. I am always so grateful to have that moment or moments up there - grateful to have the ability and the time to do it. I think time has a lot to do with why more people are not rec climbers, and why so many of us are older (I'm 57). You never know what you are going to encounter. Even if you have great trees in your backyard, a climb you think may take you an hour or an hour and a half can end up going three. You just never know :-)

I like your idea of adversity training. I think that fits. I know that climbing has helped improve my problem solving abilities, and perhaps more importantly, the faith in myself that I will be able to solve problems. It's up to me out there - no one is going to come along and do it for me. After a climb I always feel satisfied with what I learned. I always learn something. After a climb I always feel invigorated - even if I'm exhausted from the physical activity. After a climb I always feel calmer and more grounded (well yea). As for the physical part of it, I, like you, am stronger and healthier now than I was years ago. I can't attribute that completely to tree climbing, but it has had a big influence. A lot of the practices I follow for my health are in part because I want to be able to climb for a very long time. I like to feel strong and capable and climbing gets me both of these.

-Leslie


Sun Feb 26, 2017 8:16 am
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Post Re: Adversity Training Manifesto
Great comments, thx Leslie.
-AJ


Sun Feb 26, 2017 5:23 pm
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Post Re: Adversity Training Manifesto
This topic seems to be an invitation to respond, with some thoughtfulness, to the query, "Why do you climb?" that seems to be forever hanging in the air. What follows is simply a mental ramble brought on by a brief warming spell here in Western New York.

I had to put the cross country skis away for a while so I had some free time to pull out my ropes and saddle. Nothing too complicated, a DRT climb with a couple of pitches up a red oak leaning out over a newly-thawed creek. Still, an hour and a half outing slides into a three hour hike-in, line-setting, climbing, pitching, pitching, settling into the tree's motion as the wind picked up, one more pitch, then still silence with only the creek below flowing on, descending, re-pitching, descending back to the forest floor, lunch, nap, hike-out. Simple enough, but still, a constant leaning in to the problems and challenges offered up. I had brought along only helmut, saddle, rope, one cambium saver, two carabiners, and one throw bag with line so you might say I had brought along some self-imposed adversity - see what I could do with what I had.

Turns out that the physical and mental posers weren't what the climb was all about for me this day. They only opened me up to put me more in touch with all that was around me. Two quotes I've held onto for many decades came to mind:

"To Touch and Feel is to Experience. Many people live out their entire lives without ever really Touching or being Touched by anything. These people live within a world of mind and imagination that may move them sometimes to joy, tears, happiness or sorrow. But these people never really Touch. They do not live and become one with life." - Hyemeyohsts Storm from Seven Arrows.

"What a joy it is to feel the soft, springy earth under my feet once more, to follow grassy roads that lead to fenny brooks where I can bathe my fingers in a cataract of rippling notes, or to clamber over a stone wall into green fields that tumble and roll and climb in riotous gladness." - Helen Keller from The Story of My Life

I guess that this connects with AJ's Adversity Training Manifesto in that for me relating to the world, especially when one is challenged on whatever level, comes down to a choice of either leaning into the challenge or leaning away. The more I can consciously choose to lean in, the more I uncover new worlds.

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Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:35 pm
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Post Re: Adversity Training Manifesto
Well said, Dave! I think we are onto something here!

Andrew, you may have started some good thinking here!

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Mon Feb 27, 2017 7:16 pm
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Post Re: Adversity Training Manifesto
Yeah! Great insight and quotes Dave. To be sure it's not all about the adversity, it's easy to make things difficult ;-) In tree climbing you're going to run into difficulty no matter what. But sitting back in the canopy and enjoying the view, smells etc. is a big prize. I've had some of the best conversations ever sitting up in trees with friends, many ways to enjoy the climb.
-AJ


Tue Feb 28, 2017 12:37 pm
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Post Re: Adversity Training Manifesto
Climbing for me is also meditative. It forces concentration and makes the world seem smaller and simpler due to the concentration. It also has a chemical/drug effect that is brought on by the danger aspect that is often missing from modern life. The need for danger and excitement is underrated and often unfulfilled in large portions of the population.

Another huge reason I climb trees is that they are accessible. My area of the country doesn't have cliffs, bluffs, or mountains to climb or waves to surf. I climb them because they are there and I'm here too (a twist on the famous George Mallory quote). I'm confident I'd surf if I lived in Hawaii or would ice climb if I lived in Alaska.

Does recreational climbing make me a better person? No way. Is it a exciting pastime that fills a little void left by a modern life? Yes, but that desire could also be fulfilled by windsurfing, hang gliding, kayaking etc, and is not unique to tree climbing. I would recommend not overthinking it, just concentrate on enjoying it.


Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:47 am
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Post Re: Adversity Training Manifesto
What me overthink it? Never! Yeah, I wrote that up because it's something I've thought about on and off since I first started climbing. As I mentioned, early on I knew climb instructors who thought it was going to really take off as a popular activity. It's grown, slowly. Which is fine, I have no stake in recreational tree climbing as a fast growing activity. So I decided to take a longer look at what about tree climbing is good for me and why. So I need to overthink things once in a while to find some answers. Ok, back to overthinking gear modifications!
-AJ


Sun Apr 09, 2017 7:18 pm
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