Sports—in particular, climbing—deeply satisfy me. I dedicate between 10 and 12 hours a week to sports, with my own body or by training and coaching others. During my life so far, I invested more time in deliberate movement than in studying.

Active sport lovers might relate to such a deep, satisfactory feeling, and I think I already knew this—at least unconsciously—for a long time. “The Zen of Climbing” helped me understand it more consciously. Most importantly, the book helped me understand that I often fail at doing sports in the way I would prefer to.

“The Zen of Climbing” is a vividly written book that explains in a crystal-clear way how body and mind operate together. It should not be seen as a self-help book. “Everyone, it seems, is one the improvement train”. Sanzaro argues: “as if technical mastery … is a stand-in for self-mastery”, optimisation should not be the reward. Instead, you should focus on yourself and pay full attention, dedication, and effort to the process. Do not try to “mimic a master”. On the contrary, become one yourself.

The book is about climbing pure sang. Climbing is an individual and complex sport: true mastery of yourself leads to mastery in climbing. “Climbing”, Sanzaro portrays, should be approached and seen as “moving Zen”. He lays bare how most people fail to approach and act in climbing. One of the key reasons for failure is the “you that wants”. “The desire to win and the ability to perform your best are almost always mutually incompatible”. He argues that, at least occasionally, everyone is self-sabotaging when doing sports. I want to get that route; I need to show him/her that I can do it; I believe that I can do it: “systems of valuation” and “attachments” that block the true practice of the sport. They are, in Sanzaro’s words, distractions. True self-mastery stems for a part from “the art of erasing”. “It is natural to be future-oriented and let attachment take hold”. Instead, you should try subtracting such attachments and valuation to enhance the process. As the famous climber Daniel Woods described to Sanzaro in an interview: “I was too focused on the send rather than being present … Suddenly, I just flipped my head and be like … every day now is just a session, we are going to start and just see how far we can get … It’s hard. It’s challenging, but you have fun, you know. And when I started getting into that mentality, all that pressure kind of vanished, and I just, I was climbing better on it”. Woods learned to erase.

So far, I only hinted at some of the aspects—the ones that I found most important for myself—that Sanzaro writes about. While only 200 pages long, the book is packed with knowledge. If you are an active sportsperson and want to understand the relationship between your body and your mind, I would highly recommend reading it.