Doug Robinson has struggled to balance a life of climbing, guiding, ski mountaineering, and raising two sweet kids. Along the way he kept writing about the alpine life and what it might all mean, helped start Outside Magazine, founded the American Mountain Guides Association, designed equipment, led the clean climbing revolution, took Fortune 500 honchos out climbing, and kept on following John Muir’s advice, to “walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer.”
The Alchemy of Action
I stumbled into visionary experience as a young lad, afoot in the High Sierra. Of course “stumbled” is kind of a loaded term for climbers. Our footfall gets ever more precise as mountainsides steepen. And the focus of being ah-so-careful up there becomes a prime quality of the practice – yes, it reaches beyond “sport,” thank you – of climbing. It’s pretty easy to stay focused, actually, when you’re clinging to the side of a cliff. So I often refer to climbing as physical meditation. That honing of attention is yet another avenue nudging us into visionary experience.
Tracking the visionary states that flow out of high-octane action practices – climb, run, ski, surf, etc — we notice how they sharpen our senses, suffuse our emotions and add acuity to thought. Me for some more of that, please. But how in the world does it work? In 1969, steeped in Yosemite rock climbing, I took my first stab at an explanation in an essay, The Climber as Visionary. That struck a nerve. I dug deeper, studying biochemistry in between guiding trips. Now, my curiosity about the delicate transformations deep in the brain that lie behind our bright, visionary eyes has crystallized into a book, The Alchemy of Action.
I look forward to sharing this lifelong quest with you, comparing notes, and pondering how it all works.