Chuan He (River)

Words By: Emily Martin

Photos By: Wang Zhen

Climbing is what makes this Beijing University professor truly happy. The anticipation of an ascent up a mountain energizes Chuan. When the adrenaline is pumping and he’s working hard he feels focused with a goal in sight.

But he also likes the security that the descent promises. The prospect of home beckoning ever closer. A guarantee of sanctuary that fosters relief. Home is where he feels most comfortable. In the backwoods. Deep in nature.

Being outdoors with only a handful of people is where Chuan can find Outer Peace. Breathing in nature’s fresh air cures any problems or upset. Delivers a welcome reassurance that all will be ok.

As a big wall climber, Chuan has learnt to manage stress on a daily basis. He’s developed a method of releasing and working out pressure built up during a climb through active movement. He’s learnt to succeed by diverting his attention, honing in with laser focus on the act of climbing. So, when he encounters arduous or difficult terrain, he doesn’t overthink it. Instead, he concentrates on doing his best, using his skills and overcoming the challenge.

A lesson for all of us in overcoming the perils of overthinking. To conquer it, we must channel the energy into our true goal. Push back and fill our minds with positivity. Unleash the shackles by reminding ourselves that we are strong, capable, worthy.

Deviating from prescribed social norms, such as being late or leaving a promise unfulfilled, makes Chuan feel most anxious. He is an individual that values security. For Chuan, the key to perfect happiness is a stable income and a supportive network of friends and family that understand and welcome you as you are. These factors deliver a freedom. Empower him to do what he wants.

But he also welcomes risk. For the prospect it promises. For with risk comes reward if one is willing to take the chance.

Unfortunately, Chuan has felt first-hand the consequences of risk. When he was descending Potala Peak, in China’s Shuangqiao Valley, with a crushed, fractured and immobile ankle. Having to descend from the 400-meter-high palisade, while there was a 200-meter glacier below and a 1,000-meter mountain slope was the most difficult thing he’s ever done. It also taught him that nothing is guaranteed. To have a deep care and appreciation for his health.

Now, for Chuan, life’s highest luxury is to have a lot of free time. Something we should all view as a gift. Not a given. The ticking clock is an ever-present symbol of life. One not to be ignored. But life shouldn’t be lived in its shadow either.

A balance must be struck between appreciating the possibilities that time gives us, while not enabling this awareness to consume and distract us from living in the present. Too often we are caught up with future goals and aspirations. We blindingly believe that happiness materialises when we achieve this particular age or milestone. But permitting ourselves to live life fully at every stage, during the good times and the bad, is the real achievement.

So, let’s live in the present. Acknowledge and appreciate the progress, successes and awe that already surrounds our daily lives. Embrace Outer Peace.