There's this iPhone game I really like called Alto's Adventure.

In the game, you're a snowboarder in a remote mountain village, and you level by endlessly snowboarding, doing more and more complex tricks, jumping impossible canyons, and just endlessly going.

The controls are dead bang simple.  There's really only one.  You press on the screen at the right time, to jump, and the more you hold down your finger, the more you roll backwards to flip as you jump.

I bought the game when it first came out.  I rapidly got through the first 20 levels.

Then I spent about a year, stuck trying to get the last achievement to get past that level, landing two triple-backflips.

Once you've been playing the game for even a few minutes, you'll think, "TWO TRIPLE BACK FLIPS?! That's RIDICULOUSLY IMPOSSIBLE.  What else do they want me to do? Divide by zero?"

But it is, in fact, possible.  I did it a few days ago.

Since then, I've bumped up several levels, until I got stuck again on something else.

"Survive through rain and snow in one run."

"Survive through rain and snow in one run."

Doing a long enough run to move through snow and rain doesn't sound like a very hard goal.  But I kept flubbing it.  I'd travel through some rain, and then get all excited, and tense.  "Oh boy, I just gotta move through snow, and then I'm good."

Every single time I'd think this, I'd crash within the next minute or so, without fail.

Then I remembered what it was that got me past my triple-backflip problem.  I intentionally stopped caring about it.  I mean, it's not that I didn't want to progress.  Of course, I did.

But that was just my goal of the moment.  And once I owned it, and put it aside, I could just play, and be fully present for it.  I could enjoy the beautiful music, the lush views, and the really liberating sense of speed and travel that made me fall in love with the game in the first place.

That was when it struck me, that the entire game is a mindfulness exercise.

I started the game up, and told myself to enjoy it, and not focus on the outcome.

I beat the level.

Today, I used my day off to work on a side software project of mine.  I had Alto's Adventure on my mind all day.  I solved three maddening technical issues one after another, using the same sort of intentional disconnect I had used earlier in the game.  

I figured out for example, that when you use Datatables with Bootstrap that the order in which the CSS and JS files load on the page can have an effect on how the page is rendered.  I figured out a bad css call elsewhere on the page can compromise a call further down the page.  I did a code pull from the repository where I'm keeping the code, and figured out that something my business partner did was goofing me up, and was able to work around it.

When I wasn't worried about what had happened, or what would happen, but instead was focused on what was happening, I became so much more capable, so present.

There's a scene in the movie Peaceful Warrior that really speaks to this.  Dan, a gymnast and the spiritual student of the mysterious Socrates, meets him on a bridge near his college campus.  Dan's in a big hurry to get to the gym for something important, so he asks Socrates to take care of whatever-it-was that he called him to the bridge for, quickly.

And Socrates pushes him right off the bridge into the water.

After Dan confronts him angrily about what he did, and why, Socrates explains that he cleared his mind.  Then he tells him why that's good.  Here, watch.

I can tell you he's right.

AuthorMako Allen
Categories365 Gratitude