Can We Ski Mindfully?

Snow in March often comes with mixed reviews. Those who know me, know I love the snow; but I did hear a number of moans and groans about last Monday’s storm, particularly that we might forever be stuck in winter.

We have a skiing family — well, two skiers and two boarders. My son and I (the boarders) have to sit at the top of each run after getting off the chairlift to strap our boot back to the board. He and I often give each other a little boost of confidence before we head down.  A look, a pause to breathe, or a high-five with a hearty “we’ve got this.” This reminded me of a story my friend Lars recently shared about teaching ski school. 

He told me about his experience teaching a group of young students every weekend last year.  All season long they asked for one particularly challenging run. His response was always the same —  if they worked hard all season together, and then at the end, they would see how everyone was feeling about it. Sure enough, the last day of the season came, and they all decided they were up for the challenge. 

Lars went on to describe the entire run to me and the range of emotions at each stage — from the excitement on the chairlift, to the anticipatory silence at the top of the 8 foot drop into the run, to the thrill of speeding through the trees, to the pause halfway down to look back up and see what they’ve done, to the cheers and high-fives at the bottom, to the pride of sharing their accomplishment with their parents and caregivers. Lars was there to experience it with them and was gracefully intentional about how he facilitated this experience for those young skiers. 

My son and I don’t (yet!) go for the expert runs, but we do take moments like those at the top of a run to get present and to become aware of our bodies, our surroundings, and the state of our minds. I once heard someone say, “It’s not the mountains we conquer, it’s ourselves.”  Isn’t that a bit like mindfulness? 

When we pause to look at the challenge in front of us we can show up in many different ways. Lars had clearly been practicing the necessary skills with his students so that when they were at the top of a steep ski run, they could all stay present to everything that came with that experience. And it sounds like those students did conquer themselves as well as the mountain. 

Though, if they hadn’t been practicing all season, it might not have been so successful.  The same thing goes for mindfulness. If we haven’t been practicing the pause every day, then it may be more difficult to pause in challenging situations or to try a longer sitting practice. 

Go ahead and try it right now… really… this blog will still be here… close your eyes and take 3 long, slow, deep breaths. Good? So, that’s all it takes to start to build a practice into each day. Practicing the pause, checking on how we are showing up, and maybe not feeling quite so stuck as we learn to conquer ourselves.   

We had more snow this morning, and there may be more before winter is officially over.  With that being said, just like being at the top of the mountain, if we do see any more of those white flakes falling from the sky, take a few deep breaths and simply experience what may be the last snow of the season. Those crocuses are just about to poke through so we can welcome those early signs of Spring, knowing that we conquered winter!