In the early 1980’ies, I attended summer school in Dallas, Texas. My uncle lived there and while going to school I also practiced martial arts. It was around this time that I was first introduced to the writings of the Japanese Zen Master and swordsman Takuan Sōhō.
The writings still mean a lot to me and sum up the concept of being in a state of flow. I try to achieve a state of flow whenever I’m climbing a mountain, practicing martial arts, in a creative brainstorm or in business negotiations.
Nature, and especially the mountains, is a place I love. For many years I have walked, trekked, climbed, run and skied. The last few years I have begun to fine-tune my wave surfing skills – with moderate success. So whether it is a forest, mountain or sea, nature always has an awe-inspiring effect on me. You cannot force yourself on nature – you simply have to go with the Tao of nature, thus becoming one with the wave, the forest and the mountain.
This has a democratizing effect on people. Hunter S. Thompson wrote: "…at the top of the mountain we are all snow leopards".
The mountain merely allows you to visit its sides and possibly the top. The mountains are a place where you forget yourself in order to remember what is important.
In 2000, I was about to climb mount Aconcagua, which is almost 7.000 meters and thus the tallest mountain on the American continent. Aconcagua is located between Chile and Argentina. It is a climb which takes a little more than 3 weeks, despite the fact that you feel like the peak is right in front of you the last few weeks.
At that time, it was incredibly useful for me to be mindful and present. Being present right where I walked, climbed and was, instead of focusing my attention on the peak. Had I focused on the peek, I would have missed the wild and the entire experience. Furthermore, I might not have reached the top, had I been focusing on it the entire time – I would have felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere and I would have become desperate.
In 1959 after the Tibetans rebelled against the Chinese occupation, an old lama was forced to flee through the mountains. When asked how he had made it, he replied: “One step at a time”.
I believe that walking is one of the greatest catalysts for creativity there is. Artists and philosophers throughout time have used walking to develop ideas or as a method of inspiration.
The Danish philosopher and flâneur Søren Kierkegaard used walking through the city as a means of inspiration. Kierkegaard felt that the noise and the people of the city were an essential distraction and enabled his inspiration.