Focusing On Sochi

“Please forgive. Too many mind.”

Too many mind?

“Mind sword, mind people watch, mind enemy.” Too many mind? “Too many mind. No mind. No mind.”

This little dialogue is from the movie “The Last Samurai,” where Tom Cruise is learning to be a swordsman while being held captive in an ancient samurai village. It’s a pretty good standard Tommy movie, but this part, where he and another discuss “too many minds,” resonates with me deeply. You see, Tommy kept having his arse handed to him by one of the top samurai swordsmen. Beat down after beat down, Tommy couldn’t understand what his problem was. Finally, another local took him aside and explained: “Too many minds.”

When you’re pursuing a goal or dream, if your mind is distracted by a million other things—or even one other thing, chances are, your efforts are going to seem more taxing than rewarding. It’s kind of like texting and driving. You look down to check your phone or send a text, while what you should be doing is focusing on the task at hand: DRIVING! When you get distracted, even for a moment, you can be thrown off track.

All year, I’ve been working really hard at my training for this upcoming winter season. I have goals—big goals. For months, I’ve dedicated tons of time, session after session, training for hours a day, day after day. At first, I was trying to juggle way too many things—work, family, training, actual climbing, travel, van life, etc.—and it felt like I was getting pulled in every which direction. Not good. Too many minds. Some things had to…maybe not go, but be toned down a bunch.

I’m not talking about family. The moment I start sacrificing my family, it’s time to shut ‘er down and regroup because things are out of check. But I needed to focus in on my goals, the task at hand, and give all my attention to that one thing, in the moment. I don’t have the ability to just let go of my family, or my job, or climbing for that matter. But instead, I can have “no mind” in the moment.

When I train, I get my house organized inside first. Most days I train in the backyard after the kids are in bed. One less mind. When I head out into the backyard to train, the moment I leave the back door, I shut off every other mind and focus on why I’m out there. At the base of the arch, I wrote a little note, “Let go of fear.” One less mind.

The goal is a state of flow: That moment when there’s only one thing on your mind and the focus is directly on what matters in that particular moment. It’s like nothing else exists. Just you, and what’s in front of you. No minds.

Last year, in several competitions, my mind was full of too much stuff: fear, family, competitive anxiety, lack of confidence. I’d be thinking, “Crap, are my tools sharpened enough? Maybe I should warm up again. Why is he wearing that? What if I fall? What are people going to think if I don’t win? Oh sh%t, I’m pumped. Oh CRAP!!” Too many minds.

I wasn’t able to perform at my best because I was too worried about too many other things. “Mind sword, mind people watch, mind enemy, too many minds.” You don’t have to erase everything else in order to have “no minds.” But when it comes to the moment when you need to perform, you need to be able to clear your mind. For me, it meant letting go of fear. To remember this on a daily basis, I tattooed “Let go of Fear” on my forearm. Every day, every minute of that day, I see my arm, and by reading the message, I’m reminded of what to do. Let it go and you’ll find yourself at “the chains.”

Life is busy. People are busy. I’m busy. Damn, so busy. But that’s OK. In fact, likely, I’m always going to be busy because it’s just my M.O. So I train not just physically, but also mentally, to turn off the mental to-do list so when the time comes, there’s no mind. This year is going to be different. I have a new style, a secret weapon, and a mental state that’s stronger than ever: no mind.

In June, I started training for this coming winters’ competitive stage. Now, it’s winter and my confidence level is up, goals of being stronger, faster, smarter…check. Competitions start with the Korean Nationals. Then World Cups start, leading off with South Korea, and then into Europe. Then representing Canada on the biggest stage of competitive sports, the Olympic ice climbing as a cultural event. It will be two months of mayhem and excitement. Prepare, ready yourself, execute, be the (my) best. No mind.

The time has come.