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The Master Prefers What Occurs

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THE MASTER PREFERS WHAT OCCURS
 
If you have been reading any of my posts throughout this worldwide adventure, you have probably noticed we have had some of the highest of highs but also some really low lows.
 
Whenever you make a huge life change, you have to be willing to accept that so much of what you thought to be true is going to be challenged.
 
Many of us go through our days and consequently our life going through the motions.
 
It is almost like driving your car to work or driving home from work.
 
In the beginning, you notice every turn, every stop light, every beautiful home and every ugly home. You notice exactly what the road feels like and every pothole or bump. You pay attention to which lanes move faster and the ones that have a tendency to get backed up.
 
In short, you are fully awake and fully present.
 
Then something happens.
 
You get into a routine. You stop noticing things and you just start going through the motions.
 
This happens to all areas of our life if we are not careful.
 
When our job becomes routine, we start to go through the motions.
 
When our relationships become routine, we start to go through the motions.
 
When we are just going through the motions, life becomes ordinary. There is much less effort involved.
 
We live in the middle when the highs are just above the midline and the lows are just below the midline. We never experience the true highs or lows that life has to offer.
 
Sometimes I wish I could live in the midline. It seems a lot easier and sometimes easier looks good to me.
 
The problem is there is something about my DNA that doesn’t allow me to do “easy.”
 
Sometimes that leads me to the peak of a mountain, literally, experiencing some of the most amazing views and feeling like I am on top of the world.
 
Other times it leads me down in the dumps pondering my identity and my very existence.
 
This has been my MO since I have been a kid.
 
Looking back though, I can see the lesson in every challenge and every victory. I can see the beauty in the amazing moments and the lessons I learned from the really crappy ones. When I do this, I am in full gratitude.
 
The biggest challenge is feeling that sense of gratitude in the moment of facing great adversity. It’s a lot easier to experience it in hindsight.
 
It has been said that ‘the master prefers what occurs.’
 
This goes for everything – the good and the bad.
 
- Matt Westheimer
Red River Gorge, Kentucky

It was a rough morning…

Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Red River Gorge, Kentucky

It was a rough morning climbing.

I woke up really excited to climb and we hiked down to a well know crag in Meir Valley at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky to set up shop for the morning.

It was beautiful. You had to walk through an archway of a huge boulder which took us to our private oasis of climbing perched high on top of a hillside.

I started with a couple of easier climbs which turned out to be a blast. Both of them followed a great line to the top and were perfect warm-ups.

I then decided to attempt a couple of the tougher climbs.

The first one I tried was well within my range but I hit a sticking point which really frustrated me. I started blaming the rock (Crazy, I know). I then started blaming the people who put the bolts in that I needed to attach my rope to.

After much blaming, I finally had to come to the conclusion I just didn’t have it. I finally begrudgingly finished the route after a lot of struggle but I had some assistance so it didn’t feel like much of a victory.

I then decided to redeem myself on a slightly harder route on the same wall. I made it to the first bolt but could not figure out how to get to the second bolt so I had to bail and get lowered down without completing the route. It was the first route I have tried in the last couple of months that I couldn’t finish and gave up on.

That is either a testament to my willpower and tenacity in choosing to not give up or the fact that I am just not challenging myself enough. I’ll leave the judgment up to you.

Anyway, I was looking forward to getting out of that area and meeting friends of ours at a very sought after area of Meir Valley called Bruise Brothers.

It is a beautiful wall with some amazing lines.

I started on some easier routes and then decided to step up to some harder stuff. After the struggles I had on the previous wall earlier in the day I was resolved to just stick to the easier stuff but I saw a route I just couldn’t say no to.

It started out with some technical moves and then moved to an overhang with some big moves and had a great finish. I got up with no problem and started to build my confidence again.

The next one I wanted to do looked amazing but was at the peak of my ability. I’ll be honest I was scared to get on the wall. It was a huge climb with only a little crack to use about 40 feet off the ground.

Fortunately, another couple of climbers decided to do it before us. It was probably a bit of a false sense of confidence because he was a much better climber than I was and made it look way too easier.

Either way, I decided to give it a go.

Surprisingly, I made it without too much effort.

I was re-energized and wanted to test my limits for the last climb.

We shifted over to a really interesting climb.

The first part starts off as a fairly easy climb straight up the wall. At least it should have been easy but ended up feeling much harder than it should have been.

The next part is a giant overhanging roof about 30 feet off the ground that you have to climb horizontal to the ground below you and then over the top for the finish.

I resolved that I was going to have to take a couple of falls but there was no way I was going to give up on this.

What’s funny is a friend of mine completed the route just before me and still had his friend’s gear up there. His friend shouted at him to take his gear back down and put the rope directly through the anchors just in case I didn’t finish it.

Reflexively I shouted, “Leave it up there. I’m finishing it and I’ll bring it back down.” It was my little version of the “burning the boats” story where retreat and failure were not an option. I was going to finish this no matter what.

As I reached the top of the first part of the climb, I leaned back and peered over my head.

Doubts started to set in. It looked a lot harder up close than it did from the ground.

But there was no giving up. Remember, I told him to leave his gear at the top. I had to finish this climb now.

I decided to take it one bolt at a time; total presence.

There were 3 bolts and a finishing anchor.

I grabbed onto the first part of the roof, leaned back, and brought my feet a bit higher. A quick draw was within reach so I reached down, grabbed the rope, and clipped it in the carabiner.

One down, three to go.

I reached up to the next part of the roof, heel hooked the other part of the roof, and saw the next quick draw was within reach. I slowed my breath, relaxed my body, reached down, grabbed the rope, and slowly and methodically placed it in the next carabiner.

Two down and two to go.

The next one was a huge reach. I searched for a moment, found a decent hold, grabbed it, got my legs up and clipped in. I looked up and found the anchor just a short easy climb away.

I was so focused and so present that I was surprised the finish was right in front of me.

A wave of emotion and a tremendous sense of accomplishment came over me as I clipped into the final anchor.

It is easy to live life in the middle where there is no true sense of accomplishment but also no real risk of failure. It is easy to play it safe.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it is worth it to burn the boats and destroy the bridges so failure is not an option and there is a point of no return.

That is really when we are tested. That is where the sweetest juice of life can be found.

– Matt Westheimer

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Building Character and Relationships

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Currently, I am sitting outside in the bone-chilling cold. Well, it’s 11C (51F), but as a Floridian who has lived in Singapore for the past 6 years, I can barely feel my fingers as I type on my keyboard.

We are in Kentucky right now at the Red River Gorge for 5 days of rock climbing.

It has been such a change of scenery after being in NYC and Milwaukee for the past week and a half.

NYC was amazing to get to catch up with some incredible people I get to call friends and colleagues. We got to explore the city, eat great food, and share in an endless supply of laughs.

Then we moved on to Milwaukee which was really special because I got to see my step-sister get married. She is one of the most amazing people I have ever met and there was nothing that made me happier than to see her truly happy.

Truth be told, it was the first wedding I have ever cried at and I have been to dozens and dozens of weddings. Actually, there are two things that bring tears to my eyes: my step-sister getting married and the ending of an Undercover Boss episode. I know, I know. Don’t judge me.

In Milwaukee, we stayed at a very interesting Airbnb. It was a giant house that was built in 1895, and originally was a neighborhood for the rich and famous. The entire third floor was used as a ballroom for entertaining.

Unfortunately, the neighborhood changed over the years and most of the houses are really run down but there is still a lot of charm in the house we stayed in. Our hosts were wonderful. They picked us up from the airport and even drove us around a few times throughout our stay.

Not much has been done to the house in the last 100 years. The floors look original and creak every step you take. The foundation is slanted so the doors shut on their own. There are multiple pianos, Christmas decorations up in April, and the house appears to be a shrine to countless visits to garage sales.

It definitely built more character than staying at a generic chain hotel.

Now, staying in the Red River Gorge is a major change of scenery yet we continue to meet wonderful people.

Yesterday, we were purchasing some more rock climbing gear and found a couple of guys at the shop whose car broke down. They drove all the way down from Canada and they had no way of getting to the climbing areas. We offered for them to spend the day climbing with us and we had a fantastic time. We will be exploring more of what the Gorge has to offer today with them.

I was really skeptical about climbing in the USA because the climbing we did in SE Asia was so spectacular, but it has only been 2 days and I am blown away. The quality and quantity of the climbing here is incredible.

As this journey continues, I find more and more that fulfillment in life comes from connecting with and contributing to people.

Sure, doing things for yourself is fun for the moment, but lasting fulfillment comes from contributing to other people’s lives. It comes from connecting with other people. It comes from learning from other people’s lives and backgrounds that are different from your own. It comes from looking for ways to make someone else’s life better.

We don’t grow when we stay in our own little bubble.

We grow when we step outside of our comfort zone and connect with old friends as well as make new ones.

Give that old friend a call. Join the club or organization you have been putting off. Volunteer at a homeless shelter and look for ways to add value to the people around you.

I promise you. If you find enough ways to add value to other people’s lives, other people will find ways to add value to your life.

– Matt Westheimer

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No Regrets

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It has been 77 days since I parted ways with my chiropractic practice to pursue a dream of traveling around the world.

Currently, I am sitting in a giant metal tube 40,000 feet in the air on my way to NYC. I can’t believe I have been traveling for 2.5 months so far. Some days feel much longer than others, but overall the experience has flown by.

We have experienced some pretty amazing things so far and encountered some really frustrating challenges.

The highlight of the trip has definitely been rock climbing. We developed a passion for climbing that exceeded my expectations, but I am certainly leaning into the feeling and looking for ways to explore the world with a rope and a harness.

We have met extraordinary people from all over the world. We have stayed at five star hotels and no star shacks. We have had some expensive food and $1 street food. We have met some of the nicest people on the planet and encountered some of the rudest and most frustrating.

We’ve had things stolen and lost but more than made up for it with the generosity of people and experiences along the way.

Being away for so long and living out of a suitcase really puts things in perspective and makes me grateful for some of the simple things in life like a good home cooked steak and a decent pillow.

Man, I never appreciated a decent pillow until now.

I realize that we only get one life to live and living in fear is no way to live it. Life passes you by way too quickly.

I have been meeting many travelers along this journey that are in their early to mid 20s and just working and traveling around the world. They are living day to day and traveling until their money runs out. Then they go back to work until they have enough money to travel again.

There is such a freedom in that. To get on the road with nothing to lose and experience the rawness of what the world has to offer.

There are times when I question my decision to travel. Of course, it would have been more prudent to continue working, but being prudent isn’t always memorable. Being prudent doesn’t always create exceptional experiences. Being prudent doesn’t always build lifelong relationships.

Sometimes it’s important to throw prudence out the window, take big risks, and follow your passion.

One of my favorites quotes that exemplifies this idea is “You’ll regret more the things you did not do than the ones you decided to do.”

Stop always being so prudent, go against the grain, and do something you’ve always wanted to do.

My philosophy more and more is evolving into the idea that there are only 2 types of experiences: extraordinary ones that feel amazing and ones that are crap but make for great stories.

Go out and make both.

– Matt Westheimer

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Injured and Abroad in Vietnam

Injured and Abroad in Vietnam

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Hidden Valley, Cat Ba, Vietnam

Ever since I can remember, there are two qualities that stand out a lot when I think of myself.

Ever since I can remember, there are two qualities that stand out a lot when I think of myself.

These two qualities are not ones I am especially proud – anxiousness and perfectionism.

Ever since I started traveling about 10 weeks ago, I never realized how distracted I was from just being present in my “old” life.

Sure, I would meditate for 10-20 minutes in the morning but what about the other 1,430 minutes in the day?

Much of it was filled with work and other obligations and activities. Feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, fears, and doubts could fairly easily be drowned out by the noise of daily life.

It is different when you are traveling long-term.

There are many times of boredom and nothingness. Questions begin to arise about whether it is ok to just relax and do nothing or am I just “wasting” my time?

Being still in the moment and just “being” is a challenge for someone who has had such a strong experience with anxiousness and perfectionism. Some moments I look out into the corner of the world that I happened to be experiencing at the moment and possess a deep sense of gratitude. Other times I am filled with stress and anxiety and questions of doubt.

What I am realizing more and more is there is no perfect reality out there. There is no scenario in life that is going to make all of your problems go away. Every scenario and permutation of life has upsides and downsides.

Unfortunately for me, whether it is nature or nurture or a combination of the two, I tend to obsess about the downside or challenges associated with things. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach.

This usually isn’t so bad if it is something within my control.

Where I really run into trouble is when I am dealing with something outside of my control.

Many times I obsess and obsess until it drives me crazy.

For example, I have an old hip injury that has been acting up on me recently. I hurt it about 5 years ago and from time to time it still flares up pretty bad. I have literally tried just about everything I know to get this thing resolved but nothing seems to completely resolve it.

What is funny is that I help so many people resolve their health issues, but the hardest patient I have ever had is myself.

This issue acted up on me again right before our last big rock climbing trip to SE Asia. My mind started racing like it usually does. What if this thing keeps me from climbing? What if this never really goes away? How am I going to be able to climb hard and do all of the adventures and sports that I love to do? What is going to happen if this gets worse and I have to give up on so much of what I love?

 Once I am able to see past the immediacy of the emotional trauma that I am feeling and somewhat self-inflicting through the questions I am asking myself, I do what I do best.

Take massive action.

 I take massive action in regards to my physical health by reaching out to practitioners and experts in my life that could help me. I spend hours doing myofascial work, stretching, mobility, and muscle activation work.

I then work on my emotional wellbeing through meditation, writing, and asking myself better questions.

This is the most challenging part for me.

The technique that I find helps me most is this: What if what I fear most happens? What if I am limited in physical sports and adventure for the rest of my life? What would I do and how would I still find happiness and fulfillment?

I love these series of questions because if you can still find fulfillment and purpose even in the worst case scenario, then what you fear most loses its power over you.

Then I can get back to doing the real work. And the real work is taking massive action on everything that is within my control and working on the emotional aspect of accepting, and maybe even embracing, the things that are outside of my control.

I am still learning to let go more and more and lean into discomfort.

What I believe is that happiness should not be the goal. It is too dependent on our emotions in the moment.

And let’s be real. If you are really trying to experience a truly extraordinary life, it takes a lot of struggle. But the key is to struggle through the things that are worth struggling through and are most important to you.

The goal should be fulfillment, growth, and contribution. It should be finding peace and presence and curiosity in the moment. Sometimes those moments feel like crap and other times they feel great.

Either way, lean into it.

- Matt Westheimer

Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

The Joy and Misfortune of Spontaneous Travel

Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

It seems like every time I sit down to write I am doing so from an entirely different vantage point.

Last time was from the living room of a 34th floor apartment in Hanoi.

The time before that I was overlooking Cat Ba Bay from the dining room of our hotel.

This time it is on the rooftop terrace of our Airbnb with beautiful views of Saigon.

When we departed on this adventure, I really had no idea what was in store for me. I had never done anything quite like this before, and historically I have preferred much more stability in my life.

This time was going to be different. Unlike the rest of my life, I had done very little planning for this trip. Truth be told, we are supposed to fly out of Saigon tomorrow and up until just a few minutes ago, we hadn’t even booked a plane ticket. It was really stressful for me in the beginning to have such an uncertain future but I am learning to let go more and more and enjoy the adventure of it all.

Many wonderful things have been able to occur due to this spontaneity such as rock climbing in Vietnam. It was never even on our radar before this trip started, and it only happened because we let go of the need to plan and decided to be open to what came up along the way.

It is the same reason we are here in Saigon right now. We never had any intention to visit Saigon. I had been here before and there were 50 other places on our list that we wanted to see, but along the way an opportunity came up to spend time with an amazing individual so we took it. We said yes immediately, booked our tickets, and we were off.

Living this way is tough sometimes though.

We never really know where we are going to be. We literally live out of a suitcase and it seems like every time we turn around, it is time to pack up and move on.

The things we took for granted like the ability to go to the grocery store, buy some fresh fruit and vegetables, and cook our own food has been more of a luxury than a regular occurrence, but it has opened the door for some pretty interesting experiences.

One of these occurred just last week in Cat Ba.

There are no supermarkets that we could find in Cat Ba, good Western food was almost non-existent, and we had nothing but a mini fridge in our room so we had to resort to eating every meal at restaurants and food stalls.

We asked around where the best Pho Ba was located which is a stock based clear soup with beef, rice noodles, scallions, and sometimes fresh ginger. It is always served with fresh lime and really spicy red chilis on the side. Eat the chilis with caution. They are hot!

If you want to know where the best pho is, just look for the places with the giant vats of broth simmering for hours or sometimes days with beef bones. They are the tastiest and most authentic. Some other places just use instant broth and just taste like one of those cheap cup of noodles you buy at a convenience store.

Anyway, we had been eating at this place probably a half dozen times. This time was the first time I needed to use the bathroom.

After we order the food, I walk to the bathroom and open the door. There next to the toilet I find a giant plastic container of beef bones sitting in putrid water.

I was immediately grossed out thinking that I had been eating here for the last few days, and I am just about to eat a soup made from old beef bones that had been soaked right next to the toilet.

I realized I had been traveling in Asia for a while when my next immediate thought was, “These bones will be boiled in hot water and probably kill all of the bacteria so I am sure I will be fine.”

Next thing I knew I was sitting back in my seat enjoying a delicious bowl of Pho Ba.

If you want to grow you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone.

I know you have probably heard me say this before, but are you doing it? If not, then it is worth repeating.

Book a ticket or drive a few hundred or even a few thousand miles to meet someone that you have always wanted to see. You can’t connect with someone the same way over the phone that you can sitting face to face with them.

Yes, it costs more money. Yes, it takes more time. Yes, it requires booking a hotel and dealing with some of the misfortunes of travel.

But also, it is an emphatic yes that it is worth it.

You will never regret investing in yourself and your relationships.

– Matt Westheimer

Hanoi, Vietnam

Experiencing Fear and Doubt – A Lesson from Hanoi

 

If you ever experience doubt or uncertainty, you are not alone.

I’ve always prided myself on being unwaveringly and unshakeably confident in the eyes of all those around me.

The truth is I am not always confident. I have doubts at times. I have insecurities. I have plenty of things in life I am unsure about.

I used to run away from things I was afraid of. I would run from any feelings of discomfort and insecurity.

I was always really good at attaching myself to things that I was really good at and things that came easy to me, and avoiding things that really challenged me emotionally.

It was great for capitalizing on my strengths but made me weak when dealing with things that scared me or made me emotionally uneasy.

That was one of the reasons I decided to take this trip around the world.

My strengths have always been working, achieving, and being productive.

My weaknesses have been dealing with downtime, times of being idle and not pursuing something tangible or big future goal, and taking time to just be present and live in the moment.

Quitting a great job, selling 90% of my things, not knowing where I will be sleeping a week from now, and dealing with times of idleness and boredom have proved to be as challenging as I expected it to be.

In the past, there was a place I could run to when feeling uneasy – work and achievement. Now there is nowhere to run.

There is only so much site-seeing and activities I can do to distract myself, but inevitably I must face these feelings of discomfort and learn to be at peace with them.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

There are a few ways I do that.

Meditation is the biggest and most powerful habit I have added to my life. I start every morning with anywhere from 10 – 26 minutes of meditation. Sometimes I do silent meditation and other times I do a guided meditation (Hence the 26 minutes). Meditation has been incredible for me.

Writing. Sometimes I sit down and journal about whatever is on my mind or challenging me at the moment. I just write about whatever I am thinking about. I don’t try to sensor it. I just write. These are things that are just for my eyes. Actually, I usually don’t even go back and read them. Just the act of writing is incredibly cathartic.

Other times, I do exactly what you are reading now. I write about something I am working on, challenged by, or realized. It helps solidify an idea, concept, or practice in my own mind, and by putting it out for the world to read, I deeply hope it benefits your life by reading it.

Movement practice. Doing some type of exercise every day does wonders for my sanity. Sometimes it is an intense lung-screaming, muscle-beating workout, and other times it is a stretching and mobility session. The key is to get my body moving. Also, I always do this while listening to a podcast to feed my mind while I am feeding my body.

If you ever feel uncertain, scared, or stressed about life, you are not alone. I experience it as well.

The key is to lean into that discomfort and make it your friend. Don’t try and run away. Don’t try to avoid it. You can’t outrun it no matter how hard you try.

It helps to deal with these feelings by having some powerful rituals like the ones I mentioned. You just learn to be able to sit down and be at peace with those feelings and emotions. When you do, they no longer have power over you.

At least that is the idea. I am still working on that last part.

– Matt Westheimer

Cat Ba, Vietnam

The Struggle is Real

Cat Ba, Vietnam

Cat Ba, Vietnam

We are hanging 120 feet off the ground from an overhanging roof on the side of a mountain protected only by a harness that we clipped into 2 titanium bolts drilled into the roof.

Our legs are dangling underneath us are starting to lose feeling and go numb from the pressure of the harness’s leg straps. As we reach up to change our gear and prepare to repel ourselves down the side of the cliff, the harness digs in deeper into our inner thigh and cuts off more and more feeling. We have no choice. We have to keep going.

Many times throughout our week of rock climbing I found myself vacillating between moments of intense elation and extreme frustration.

Almost Giving Up

After “onsighting” (a term used for going up a route the first time without falling or stopping) a couple of challenging routes, I found myself in a euphoric state of accomplishment. This was coupled with a future route that should have been a cake walk in which I found myself almost giving up on due to the frustration of not being able to get past a certain point.

Truth be told I actually did give up on it. I got lowered back down, but in a moment of persistence and courageousness, I decided to not give up and gave it another go.

This time I made it.

I was really close to giving up, but I am glad I didn’t.

Great Metaphor For Life

I love rock climbing as a metaphor for life.

Things are going to be really hard at times. Things in life are going to be really uncomfortable and sometimes very painful. It’s important to keep going.

Sometimes you are going to want to give up – especially when no one is looking. It is in these moments of deciding whether to give up or not that your character is truly tested.

Don’t give up. Keep moving forward.

A great way to practice this is to put yourselves in situations where giving up is not an option.

I do that by putting myself in a position where I am hanging from a mountain 120 feet off the ground. Your way might be a bit different.

Either way, find your 120-foot cliff.

Sincerely,

Matt Westheimer

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The Joy and Misfortune of Spontaneous Travel

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Freediving in Koh Tao, Thailand

As I plunge deeper and deeper into the water, the pressure builds up, the water gets colder and darker, and my lunges begin to scream for a breath of air.

I am freediving in the Gulf of Thailand on the island of Koh Tao which is a little island off the eastern coast of mainland Thailand.

I have always wanted to take a course in freediving.

As a kid, I grew up snorkeling almost every weekend along the coral reefs of South Florida but I wanted to be professionally trained.

There is something so primal and pure about freediving. It is just you and the water. It brings you back to the old days when you had to hunt for food with nothing but your body and a spear.

I love the purity of it. I love how it involves a strong mental and physical aspect. I love that it forces you to be present and live in the “now.”

Every random thought, unintentional body movement or contraction, mental stress, anxious moment, or inefficient movement, uses oxygen and deprives your brain and body of this essential nutrient.

There is very little room for error. There is a real chance of losing motor control or even blacking out in the water. If you follow your training, it can be very safe, but you don’t want to deviate from the plan.

My Personality is BAD For Optimal Freediving Performance

As a Type A person, my engine is usually running on all cylinders. My mind is always racing. My body is always running. I have a tenancy to live in the future. I tend to sway in the direction of anxiety and the most common word people have used to describe me is intense.

These are not great qualities for an effective freediver.

In freediving you must live in the moment. You must breath to a point of deep relaxation before you dive down and maintain that relaxation throughout the dive. You must not stress or think too much because brain metabolism requires the use of oxygen, and when you are diving down into the depths of the ocean on a single breath, every bit of oxygen counts.

It was such a challenging and rewarding experience to be able to devote 6 consecutive days to pursuing my level 1 and 2 freediving certification. It forced me to confront my fears of deep diving and fighting the strong urge to breath. It forced me to push pass my limits of what I though was possible. It forced me to relax and live in the moment.

The Big Realization 

There was one pivotal moment I remember vividly while I was in the water.

I was really getting stressed out and anxious about diving deeper. I was putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to perform. I could feel my heart racing and my head pounding.

Out of nowhere I heard my mind say silently to myself: “Stop putting so much pressure on yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Enjoy the process.”

At the thought of these words, a smile appeared on my face and I decided to just have fun and enjoy the process.

I realized it’s important to challenge ourselves and do things on a regular basis that scare us. It is the only way we grow. But it is equally important to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves and just enjoy the process.

It is interesting what happened when I relaxed and decided to have fun.

My performance increased. I ended up finishing the course with an 87.5 feet (27m) free dive and a 3:15 breath hold.

This never would have happened if I let my stress, anxiety, and fear get the better of me.

Final Lesson

So what is the final lesson from this experience?

Challenge myself. Do something every day that scares me. Stop putting so much pressure on myself and always remember to have fun.

Sincerely,

Matt Westheimer

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Everyday Heroes in Thailand

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Railay, Thailand

Many times we can find everyday heroes all around us.

I witnessed a hero in action the other day.

We just arrived in Railay, Thailand a few days ago for a week of rock climbing.

The setting is extraordinary. Giant limestone walls overlooking the ocean are views that you’d think you can only find in the movies. It is the type of beauty that only mother nature could create.

The variety of climbing here is incredibly vast. They have everything from beginner routes to expert level. There are short climbs of 6-8 meters all the way to 100m+ multi-pitch routes.

One of our favorite areas to climb is a place called the Diamond Wall. It is a site perched on top of a hill with amazing views and great routes. There is also a hand ground organic coffee place on site which is an added bonus for coffee lovers like us!

It was our second day climbing at the wall when I witnessed something scary and inspiring at the same.

When you climb the walls in Railay, it is not compulsory to hire a guide. It is open and free to the public. As long as you know what you are doing and have your own gear, you are free to climb on your own. Most people, including us, hire a guide to make sure we are safe and help us navigate the walls better.

On this one particular morning, there was a duo there who were on their own.

From the moment I saw the climber on the wall, I knew they were people I needed to stay far away from.

The way climbing works is you have a climber who is attached to a rope, you have another person called the belayer who is attached to the other end of the rope. As the climber ascends the wall, he clips his rope to the wall to protect himself if he falls. If he falls, the belayer is there to hold the rope and keep him safe. At least, that is the idea granted that both parties know what they are doing.

This party did not.

You could tell from the beginning the climber did not know what he was doing. After he got about half way up the wall, it was very apparent that he was in serious danger. I only realized that because I heard one of the local guides frantically trying to tell the belayer he needs to take better care of his climber.

At this point, everyone around was concerned. The climber was stuck on the wall in a dangerous position. The belayer either didn’t seem to care or was ignorant to the fact that something was wrong, and he would not listen to the guide who was trying to help. Not only would he not listen, but he was being rude and condescending to the guide.

Here is the thing. The guide was getting paid to work with another group. He had no allegiance or direct responsibility to put himself in a position to get ridiculed and yelled at.

So why did he do it? Because it was the right thing to do.

Not only that, but he wouldn’t back down.

He took a stand for the climber on the wall no matter what.

He put his feelings and his ego aside because helping another individual was more important than staying comfortable and quiet.

Moments later, he threw on his harness, attached himself to a rope, and literally ran up the wall barefoot to rescue the climber that was in a really tough spot.

This man was certainly a hero.

It was a great reminder that we must stand up for what is right, not just what is easy.

It was a reminder that we must be courageous, even if it means we might be judged or ridiculed.

It was also a great reminder even though we may not think people are looking at us, they are. It is important we always act with integrity and set a good example for other people to follow.

Thank you, Mr. Climbing Instructor for demonstrating such courage out there on the wall.

People were watching, and you inspired all of us.

- Matt Westheimer