I use Clean Language Questions1 with clients to invite them to think about what they’d like to have happen. Sometimes, I invite them to draw what it would be like when they have that and then ask them Clean Language Questions about the drawing. A book2 I’m reading invited me to use this process on myself so I decided to use it to think about climbing at my best.
I found the process to be a mind-opening tool that allowed me to think more deeply about climbing at my best. I’ve documented the process below. It’s easy enough to do on your own with paper and pen, or with a friend to ask you the questions, or you could contact me to arrange a coaching session. The questions are in bold type and my answers are below them. Here we go…
What would you like to have happen or to know more about?
Something to do with climbing at my best. What the conditions are for climbing at my best.
Make a drawing of the conditions for climbing at your best.
Describe your drawing aloud.
[I wrote as I spoke]. I’m looking at the [climbing] wall. I’m thinking objectively about the next move and I’m imagining myself successfully completing it. There are moves after this one but I’m focused on what I need to do to complete this move, so I’m aware of what comes next but I’m really present with the current situation. I’m feeling relaxed and I’m wondering what position my body could take to meet this situation. I’m not consciously aware of other people or sounds other than my breathing, which is deep and slow. I’m enjoying the movement of my body.
And is there anything else about ‘looking at the wall’?
I’m looking at it to gather information that I can use to decide on my action.
And what kind of ‘action’ is that ‘action’?
It’s thoughtful, determined, possibility-based.
And is there anything else about ‘imagining myself successfully completing the next move’?
Yes. Sometimes I know for sure I can make a move and I don’t need to imagine it, I just do it, but if I’m not sure then I can imagine what it will be like and then try that. There is an element that it might not work, in which case I’ve gained information so I can adapt and try something slightly different.
And what kind of ‘just do it’ is that ‘just do it’?
It’s feeling-based, no thinking. I’m feeling the holds, reaching, pushing, breathing; when it gets strenuous or more difficult I hear my out breaths more because they’re louder. I’m in flow. I’m enjoying my body movements.
And is there anything else about ‘I’m focused on what I need to do to complete this move’?
Yes. I’m not worried about the past or the future. I’m not planning ahead. I’m curious about the move, my ability, what I can do to move efficiently; I’m not overly scared but fear is there – I’m just more focused on what I can do instead of what might go wrong. The question, “what could I do here?” repeats if it’s a move I find tricky and helps me get my body into positions where I can try things out.
And what kind of ‘fear’ is that ‘fear’?
It’s fear of something that hasn’t happened. It’s fantasy. It’s fear of a ‘bad’ future. It’s fear that I’m going to do something stupid and end up hurt, but, even if that were the case, I’d learn from it. And it wouldn’t be stupid, it would be too frightened, or disassociated. If I got to that point it would be better to stop rather than push myself without being fully present. So I guess the fear has basis in reality because I’ve pushed myself to injury before whilst disassociated but if I’m really present, can feel my body, and I’m curious about what I can do then I’m not disassociating.
And is there anything else about ‘I’m aware of what comes next’?
Yes. It’s like macro focus. What comes next is there, in the background, but blurry.
And what kind of ‘blurry’ is that ‘blurry’?
It’s soft-focus – it’s going to come into focus after this move, or not if I don’t make the move. I’m wondering what it would be like if I change the lens and make the next 2 or 3 moves be in focus, like a sequence of moves. That might help me get past stuck points actually [I added some holds to my drawing at this point].
And is there anything else about ‘I’m really present with the current situation’?
Yes. I’m present to the immediate future as part of it.
And what kind of ‘present’ is that ‘present’?
Focused, possibility mindset, can hear my out breath, enjoying my body movement, noticing feel of the hand and foot holds, noticing the tensing of my muscles in preparation for movement, noticing opportunities to rest, aware of the next moves and shapes my body will make. Feels like a dance.
And is there anything else about ‘I’m feeling relaxed’?
Relaxed in a ‘ready’ way, not a ‘laying in a hammock’ way.
And what kind of ‘ready’ is that ‘ready’?
I have the energy and desire to move.
And is there anything else about ‘I’m wondering what position my body could take to meet this situation’?
I might begin by assuming something and realise that doesn’t work so I try something else. Or I might begin by looking at the holds and, based on the type of hold and direction, I’ll try positioning my body so that I’m in balance as much as possible and then move.
And what kind of ‘balance’ is that ‘balance’?
It’s moving bits of me so that my centre of gravity isn’t overcome by gravity.
And is there anything else about ‘I’m not consciously aware of other people or sounds other than my breathing’?
Yes. This is when I’ve made at least one move off the ground. And more often, when I’m higher up and it feels like just me and the route and what I need to do. I come out of this if my belayer shouts to me or if I shout to them.
And what kind of ‘just me and the route’ is that ‘just me and the route’?
I feel supported by my belayer and I can get on with it.
And is there anything else about ‘breathing, which is deep and slow’?
It’s a conscious choice to focus on my breathing and slow it and deepen it if it becomes shallow and fast because I know it has a calming effect and helps my mind have possibility thoughts.
And what kind of ‘calming effect’ is that ‘calming effect’?
It stops my heart fluttering.
And is there anything else about ‘I’m enjoying the movement of my body’?
I’m aware of the pressure on my toes as I press and push myself up or the pointing of my toes as I flag, or the feel of the stretch as I hang off my skeleton and I love these feelings.
And what kind of ‘love these feelings’ is that ‘love these feelings’?
It’s my body and it’s doing these (sometimes) graceful moves and it feels a little like ballet when the moves flow together and I feel all tremble-y after.
You might have noticed a pattern: after describing the drawing, the question “and is there anything else about” is used on a string of words in the first sentence of the drawing description. The next question, “and what kind of —- is that —-?” is used on a word or string of words in the answer to the first question. Then the first question is asked again about the next string of words in the drawing description, followed by the “and what kind of” question again. This pattern repeats until the final string of words in the drawing description has been dealt with in this way. In her book, Gina Campbell suggests keeping your drawing in a place where you’ll see it daily for at least a week.
I invite you to try this process and feel free to let me know how it works for you.
1Here’s my blog post about Clean Language Questions; it gives background information on them.
2Hope in a Corner of My Heart: A Healing Journey Through the Dream-Logical World of Inner Metaphors, Campbell, G., 2018, Balboa Press, Kindle.