Jason Kehl - Beginner's Mind

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Reclaiming the Beginners Mind
By: Jason Kehl

Nobody wants to face the facts when it comes to an injury, but when I injured my knee last January in Hueco Tanks, Texas, I new I would be taking the entire spring season off. This is hard to take for anyone, let alone an athlete. We make a living with our bodies and in turn our bodies thrive off the activity. Coming to terms with that fact is only half the battle and not only will the body need mending, but the mind too.

It’s interesting how you can be at the peak of your game one-minute and the next be waiting to go into a surgery that you know will take several months to recover from. I had an old ACL injury from back in my competition days that I’ve been dealing with for years. I already had one surgery that failed and I new it was a matter of time before I needed another. Surgery for me was not just a decision to fix the problem, but also to take some time off from climbing. I have been traveling and climbing professionally for 8 years and the most time I’ve ever taken off was maybe 2 weeks. This time I decided I needed to give in to the situation. My body needs rest, so for the next couple months I rested. No climbing, no training, no nothing. They shaved my leg before the surgery. So I figured when the hair had fully grown back, my training could start. This took approximately 3 months. 

Now, not only was I prepared to start all over, I welcomed it. I didn’t see any reason to try and hang on to my old self. I wanted to remember what it was like to have to fight again. The first day back to training, while trying to crank out 10 pull-ups, I quickly was reminded and even surprised to find myself kicking just to pull the last two. Now I knew the only way to get back to where I was before, would be to reclaim my “beginners mind”. There was no way to deny it; I was starting from scratch.

Throughout the months that followed, my progression was gradual but steady. Therefore patience was key, but not often an easy thing to remember. The mind sometimes forgets that the body can’t always follow.

There are a lot of basic skills we utilize every time we climb that eventually get pushed deep into the back of our skulls. It may be as simple as the way we place our foot, or as tricky as a subtle thumb catch. Often times it is to hard to accept these lessons because we think we have progressed passed them. Only when you take the time to step back and forget everything you have learned, will you be able to pick up on the small details that have slipped by you. Being open to the beginners mind maybe easier if your recovering from an injury, but it can be just as useful to even the most seasoned climber.














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