Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wellness Diva #3: Mariko (The Rock Climber)

Introducing our third Wellness Diva: Miss Mariko Harman

I met Mariko when we were awkward 14-year-old's at Holy Names Academy in Seattle. While we had a couple classes together during high school, it was only until after college that we became great friends. A couple years ago, I was working out at 24 Hour Fitness on the stair climber when I felt a huge SLAP on my ass. I turned around to catch the perpetrator, and it was Mariko - who I hadn't seen in about six years! We chatted for a while and realized our conversation needed to continue outside of the gym. Soon we started hanging out each month and became close friends. Sounds a bit romantic, doesn't it? I'll admit, Mariko IS really hot.


Mariko is one of my most favorite friends. What I always come back to when I think about Mariko and my appreciation for our friendship, is that every time we hang out, I walk away feeling energized, refreshed, happy, and appreciated. Mariko is incredibly honest, energetic, fun, caring, and sincere. She is BEAUTIFUL - both inside and out. Everything we do - whether it's going for a walk, meeting for happy hour, or sitting on a couch for a talk with a glass of wine - is fun. We treat each other with respect, kindness, and there's always positive energy when we're together. I can share anything with Mariko without feeling judged - knowing that she will still tell me what she thinks. In fact, I think I am more honest with Mariko than any other friend I have. Mariko contributes to my wellness, as a friend, more than she'll ever know. So thank you, Mariko - you are such a blessing in my life...and please, move back to Seattle. Thank you.


As I got to know Mariko better, I quickly found out about one of her greatest passions in life - rock climbing. Mariko rock climbs all the time, and I have always been so impressed and fascinated by her dedication to the sport. In fact, one of her essays for graduate school applications (that I was honored to read!) was about rock climbing and the impact the sport has on her life! I knew that Mariko would be the perfect fit for one of my Wellness Divas.

Amazing woman + amazing day for climbing!


1. When did you first start rock climbing? Where do you go now? How often to you practice, on average?

I first started climbing in the beginning of 2009. Now, I go to Mission Cliffs in San Francisco and am planning a Yosemite trip to take advantage of the outdoors in Northern California. For the past two years I've practiced three times a week, but now that I've moved and with my workload, it's just once a week. Ouch! Not an ideal situation, but there's give and take with this one and I'll take what I can get.

2. What are your favorite things about rock climbing?

Aww man. There are so many things I love about climbing. I love that I get to learn so much about my friends/partners and am put in situations with them where we both have to trust each other...with our lives essentially. The bond you develop with your partner is so unique. There was one particularly scary climb in Mazama, WA. It was super sketchy and I'm massively afraid of heights (hence why I climb..ha). I kept looking out at the view during the climb, but would then have stomach turning anxiety when I realized how high I was. Several times I wanted to come down, and my partner knew it, but she kept encouraging me, telling me I could do it and that she "had me". I finished the climb and it was super rad. As soon as my feet hit the deck I immediately hugged my partner, because she was "up there" with me too. Just one example.

I love that climbing is very strategic - before we get on the rock we map out potential obstacles in the climb and how we can move forward through them. It's also a sport where safety is taken very seriously and constantly practiced.

I love that when I climb I feel free. I'm free of whatever work project I'm on, I'm free of any stress from a relationship, I'm free from anything that normally may consume my thoughts. When one climbs, you have to focus so much and get into your "zen". This requires a mandatory emptiness and calmness within you. You really can't think about anything else but what you're doing that very moment. It is a great practice of presence and observation of the moment.

3. How do you feel rock climbing contributes to your overall wellness (physical, emotional, mental, etc.)?

Climbing is equally physical and mental. Physically, it requires me to keep my body proportionate (just makes it easier) and haul my own body weight. Mentally, it requires me to observe my fears and not let them debilitate me. Letting fear consume you can actually put you in a potentially dangerous situation. That's why it's important to embrace and observe your fears - learn to work through them and move forward. Accept your fears as a part of the process and learn perseverance and equanimity.

4. What recommendations do you have for people who might be interested in trying out rock climbing (ie - how to get started)?

If anyone wants to get started climbing, I highly recommend going to their local climbing gym and take a beginners class. To my knowledge, all gyms require newcomers to take the beginners class to learn basic safety. Take the safety seriously. Once safety is down you're all set for your first climb. Most important - have fun!

Thank you for sharing, Mariko! You are an inspiration to many, and I love you! :)


  1. Great post! As a fellow climber, I love Mariko's descriptions of climbing--she summed up my feelings perfectly. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Wow... I never knew Mariko was a climber! Loved the post! I completely agree that Mariko is amazing! It was such a treat to reconnect on the HNA Alumni Board!