Life Lessons

There is more in climbing than just climbing. Your approach to the challenges on rock face, and your interaction with fellow climbers, provide you opportunities to learn more about yourself and how you can do better... in climbing and in other aspects of your life.


Zen Climb instructors facilitate your learning of life lessons through climbing. The following are some of the life lessons our clients have learned through their climbing experience with us.

"The climbing course has brought inspiration for more adventures ahead. It also reinforced that I will always continue to learn from others." -- Jim Faulkner, Barrie, Ontario

"The need to challenged myself to learn and grow." -- Jerome Ryan, Toronto, Ontario

"Perception of subjective safety lies with the beholder.. objective safety is universal." -- Jess Simons, Toronto, Ontario

"That sometimes life requires you to go inch by inch instead of taking big jumps. Take a pause, realize where you are at that moment in time and continue on with a renewed outlook and energy. Climbing has showed me that there can be several different approaches to the same situation/obstacle. When you´re out there on the rock, it´s just you and the rock and without a doubt the greatest victory is overcoming yourself." -- James Parkinson, Spain

"No matter how many times we've repeated something, implementing all the safety measures is key!" -- Hubert Razack, Toronto, Ontario

"Don't leave anything to chance. More redundancy the better." -- V.P., Toronto, Ontario

"Life is all about facing your fears, enjoying the great outdoors, sharing in your experiences and accomplishments and working together as a team. Rock climbing accomplished all of these and more for many of the girls. They left feeling a great sense of accomplishment." -- Allison Agostino, 281st Rangers, Girl Guides, Georgetown, Ontario

"Just a reminder of "perspective" and "perspective taking". From my stance as a belayer, the route is apparent, but as the climber from my perspective it isn't always that clear or perhaps just different. A good reminder in any kind of interpersonal interaction." -- Jennifer Shin, Toronto, Ontario

"My young son is quite introverted and has a lot of fears. To see him volunteer to go first, and to keep climbing the most difficult cliffs and want to go back for more - I can't express how my heart exploded with pride and happiness. We faced the fears we didn't even know we had. A wonderful day on so many levels." -- Natasha Teoli, Toronto, Ontario

"Don't leave anything to chance. More redundancy the better." -- V.P., Toronto, Ontario

"My students learned some of the most valuable life lessons on the rock face at Rattlesnake with Zen Climb. They learned to listen to their own bodies and speak their truths. They learned to communicate with each other. They learned how to ask for help when they need it. They learned to support each other. They learned to be brave and persistent. They learned how to build resiliency. They learned that they are valuable members of a team. They learned how to co-exist with nature, and play respectfully on the earth's surface. They learned that the best way to learn is by having fun!" -- Allison Sebastian, Special Education, Rock-Climbng Coach, Markham District High School, Markham, Ontario

"I was humbled by the vastness of the climbing world and the years of experience it takes to be an expert in it." -- Omar Elmenawi, Mississauga, Ontario

"That I can overcome my fear of heights and mind over matter." -- Ema Dantas, Glen Williams, Ontario

"I learned that I was incorrectly tying a key knot and had to correct it. I also learned that securing a friction knot to your belay loop instead of leg loop may keep it secure in the event of an accidental inversion. I also learned that I LOVE outdoor climbing and can't wait to get out and do more." -- Sean Sullivan, Oshawa, Ontario

"The importance of double and triple checking, redundancy, and trusting your climbing partners to do the same. We also learned the difference between hawks and turkey vultures while we were out. :)" -- Julia Pilliar, Toronto, Ontario

"You can climb for 20 years without making mistakes, but one mistake can change your whole life." -- Peili Dai, Scarborough, Ontario

"After attending the Gym to Crag course with Xiaoping, I am confident in my anchor setting abilities. I am excited to start top rope climbing in a natural setting now that I know I can keep myself and my peers safe using the instruction that I received from Zen Climb." -- Russell Perkins, St. Catherines, Ontario

"Safety is the #1 priority in this sport!" -- Christine Valancius, Toronto, Ontario

"To be safe and to feel safe are very different things. For example: hikers feel safe looking over the same cliff that we tether ourselves to, while I feel like I am about to die even in my harness." -- Ken MacGillivray, Mississauga, Ontario

"I have learned that climbing requires patience, concentration and respect for your climbing partners." -- Bryn Salai, Burlington, Ontario

"I thought at the age of 52, I had experienced most life lessons.
By midday I think we all felt so comfortable that we forgot the danger of the sport. Xiaoping stopped us to remind us of what we were doing. I thought it was very interesting how Xiaoping approached that. Basically, if you are too confident in what you are doing, stop and reassess, because you may be missing something" -- Craig Saxby, Mississauga, Ontario

"Double check, top to bottom, and remain calm even as you get frustrated, cursing can refocus energy. The main lesson was take the time before to prep and learn and the day will be awesome!" -- Joe Vanasco, Babylon, New York, USA

"Courage is the result of facing your fears." -- Colin MacLeod, Waterdown, Ontario

"The difference between objective and subjective risk applies to many more situations than just rock climbing!" -- Cannon Schmitt, Toronto, Ontario

"I learned that if I push myself and keep trying, I can do more than I expected." -- Rebekah Chevalier, Brampton, Ontario

"Learning the importance of communication between the climber and the belayer, and the importance of redundancy to ensure greater safety." -- Michelle Gluck, Mississauga, Ontario

"Redundancy is key!" -- Stephane Young, Waterloo, Ontario

"I learned to trust my gear and be diligent in setting it up. As a returning student , I enjoyed seeing and talking with Xiaoping again. I am fully confident and took to task the lessons I learned to keep my family safe." -- Nick Vukojevic, Hamilton, Ontario

"Preparation is crucial to learning (I spent a lot of time practicing knots before getting to the course and it really helped) and practice makes all the difference." -- Gordon Casey, Curacao, Netherlands

“Getting out and being physical is a great bonding experience. The personal challenge was invigorating and the whole experience left us all on a high (pun intended). :)" -- Tamara Haberman, Toronto, Ontario

"Do not get discouraged by the problems that you face directly in front of your nose. Take your time, feel around and a solution will present itself!" -- Michael Melnick, Toronto, Ontario

"Redundancy is your friend!" -- Christopher Bradbury, Toronto, Ontario

"I learned that to climb outdoors you really need to concentrate and focus on what you're doing and that climbing is like the rest of your life. You can really accomplish great things if you work hard and don't give up."  -- Bryn Salai, Burlington, Ontario

"I fell off the roof of my garage a couple years ago so I was a bit hesitant to do this. I'm glad I went through with it though because now I think I can climb my roof again......... with safety ropes of course." -- Kiem Nguyen, Ontario

"Sometimes the benefits don't outweigh the risks. There is risk inherent in every situation and in climbing you must always be aware and manage risk appropriately." -- Colin Byrne, Toronto, Ontario

"Patience and recognizing you always have OPTIONS." -- Pam Pitcher, Oakville, Ontario

"When stuck on a certain challenge. keep persisting until you overcome or fail the obstacle, if you fail get up and try it again." -- Grant Ferneyhough, Etobicoke, Ontario

"Trusting another is a scary experience when you are sitting on the edge waiting to weight the rope of a top belay and then be lowered. But it is a great feeling once you get part way down and know it is safe." -- Patricia Robinson, Collingwood, Ontario

"To surround myself as much as possible with kind positive paople - the kind of people that were instructing this course. And most likely the kind of people that I will meet outdoor climbing. That there are some truly supportive and caring people out there. As with indoor climbing - keep working together to overcome what you may perceive as limitations - keep reaching!!!" -- Beth Pearsell, Hamilton, Ontario

”There is no part of climbing that is "just" preparation for the real business. Similarly with life?“ -- Michael Clarke, Toronto, Ontario

"By being secure, you can focus on climbing rather than falling." -- Michael Zulyniak, Milton, Ontario

"Trust yourself; know your equipment; trust your belayer. Without trust, the risk you take as a climber (or anywhere else) is much more terrifying.

Fear is totally safe. It is ok to be afraid; it is a healthy awareness of the risk one is taking, and is an excellent warning system for when the envelope is being pushed. Panic is a signal that the envelope is being pushed too far. Listen to fear, acknowledge it, return to trust and make your next choice accordingly. Obey panic - you can't make complex choices when in the grip of panic.

And lastly, it's always about surrender. When climbing, and when going about one's day, in the moment there will be limited options for what you can do and one must surrender to the circumstances and make the best with what one has. Too much pushing, too much effort is the path of controlling everything and it is most often futile if one wants to be joyful. So, surrender! The climb will remain fun, pleasurable and inspiring when one surrenders to... Trust and fear. :-)" -- Jen Fleming, Burlington, Ontario

"Practicing at identifying risk in outdoors activities and mitigating it. Better skill in that area could be applicable to other activities." -- Gary Rennie, Tecumseh, Ontario

"I did things that I did not think I could do. I felt surprisingly comfortable finding myself approaching and overcoming those challenges. It will allow me to approach new challenges of any kind with more calm and confidence. Also, this was a great activity to share with other people - family, friends. You place your life in each others hands, you support and encourage each other through fears and celebrate every success together." -- Angela Rocchi, Burlington, Ontario

"My approach has always been to ignore my fear and push past it; however, I learned that fear can sometimes be so overwhelming that strong-arming it isn't possible and the wiser approach is to instead feel your fear, embrace it and learn from it - when you're willing to remain engaged and approach from a different direction, stepping back isn't running away. Thank you Xiaoping! :)" -- Carmelina Maione, Toronto, Ontario

"That safety is paramount and that you have to fully trust your partner when you climb and you must learn to challenge yourself in order to achieve your goals." -- Michael Hofstatter, Mississauga, Ontario

"Thank you for allowing our family to join your course. As you know, some of the memorable moments happen at the base of the climb and some happen on the rock face. Our day ended with a discussion of the value of perseverance in action and graciousness in interaction. Thank you Xiaoping :)" -- Robert Penning, King City, Ontario

"Did my hardest route ever today!  I was really proud of that route I climbed.  It was also a total life lesson for me when I was up there, and I wasn't sure if I could do it, but Xiaoping gave me a bit of encouragement and it gave me the confidence to keep going! A little encouragement goes a long way! I want to use this in my life to provide encouragement to my friends on their journeys through life too!" -- Jeanette Goulet, Toronto, Ontario

"Keep pushing you're limits, then once you've reached them.... go further!" -- Gareth Buckley, Britol, England

"Trust was a key life lesson that was prominent during the day. Not only are you trusting the person belaying you, but you're finding the trust within yourself to take one step at a time and go further than you normally would. Another life lesson was with regard to making smaller, smooth, movements in an effort to move further up the rock. Just like life, it's not always the huge steps forward that help us achieve what life has in store. Slowing down and taking smaller steps sometimes gets us much further ahead, and allows us to see routes we normally would have passed by." -- Nick Valeriote, Guelph, Ontario

"I learned how great mankind is in passing the informations, collected through decades and even centuries of doing an activity such as climbing, faster to the next generation. Just imagine there were no Zen or Zen-like trainer and any newbie interested in rock exploration had to discover the techniques from scratch!" -- Mohsen Shahini, Toronto, Ontario

"It takes less time to slow down and do things right the first time than to rush and have to do them over again." -- Allen Mercer, Cheektowaga, New York, USA

"The hardest thing to learn throughout the day was to trust in my climbing partners and my equipment. That there are times when you just have to lean back over an edge and know that it's going to be OK because the people around you will keep you safe. True in climbing, and in life!" -- Sarah D., Ontario

"I learned how and when to overcome my fears and when it was best to not overcome them." -- Rahul Sapra, Oakville, Ontario

"I found it difficult to reconcile myself to the fact that I did not climb to the best of my ability. I got stuck in a few areas and had moments of panic. When I eventually reached the top of the cliff I felt very disappointed in myself. When I arrived home, Xiaoping called me and helped me to put my experience into perspective. I see now that I am my own worst critic and all the pressure and competition to excel, came solely from me. These unrealistic expectations stunt the scope for improvement. I appreciate that Xiaoping took the time to cheer me up and convert the experience into a life lesson." -- Isabel Gerety, Toronto, Ontario

"Get outside more... Oh, and... 'slowly, smoothly, faster."" -- Enda McDonagh, Toronto, Ontario

"I have learned that it is always good to challenge yourself. To try things that are beyond your comfort so that you can test yourself and see how far you can reach." -- Paul Perlas, Brampton, Ontario

"Well I think that the best lesson is, even though something looks stable and appears that it will be strong enough to support your weight, you should always put a little pressure on it just to be sure. Sometimes you'll be surprised, the rocks you think will support you don't and the ones you think couldn't do!" -- Catherine Hayhoe, Toronto, Ontario

"Life is pretty frackin' great :)" -- Shane Dzioba, Toronto, Ontario

"Go slow. Have fun - whatever that means to you." -- Leigh Hayden, Toronto, Ontario

"There is nothing that you can not do even if you only experience it one time. Try everything that is offered, make life a continuing adventure." -- Shelly McLean, London, Ontario

"Slow, smooth, fast.  Fear disables, but respect empowers." -- Michael Clarke, Toronto, Ontario

"Mental focus and confidence are as important as physical ability and climbing technique." -- Kim Jean, Toronto, Ontario

"Found it odd that i trusted others to keep me safe, and when it came time for me to take my safety into my own hands i did not put that same trust in myself." -- George Narray, Toronto, Ontario

"Continually pushing ourselves and our bodies." -- Kerri Ramstead, Barrie, Ontario

"Rock climbing has interested me for a long time, but never thought I would actually be doing it. Goes to show you can do anything if you just make it happen!" -- Lydia Lopes, Toronto, Ontario

"Perseverence!" -- Teresa O'Leary Marascio, Everett, Ontario