Updated: Jan 25, 2021
Impossible is nothing. If someone scared of heights, speed, and frictionless surfaces can learn to ski, anyone can. It wasn't easy. But I didn't make it easier either. Only when I took a conscious decision to let go, was I able to let courage in.
(Please read the previous two posts to get the background)
Let me apologise for the long delay in getting this post out. Even though most of you were not sitting at the edge of your seats desperately waiting for this post, I still apologise.
So sliding back to skiing…
On Monday, following my third Ski Saturday, after Rajiv and kids went off to tackle the outside world, I got down to tackling my inside world. Here, my armchair needs a special mention. This is my most favourite place to sit in the entire home and this is where I relax, recharge and sometimes get little sparks of enlightenment, especially after a few sips of C2H5OH.
I sat down with my tea (that’s my morning drink, not the other one) and began pondering about my stints, or should I say ‘stunts’ at the Ski slopes. If my family and friends were to associate one word with me, majority of them would associate me with energy or passion. Well, I didn’t actually conduct a survey or anything like that. This is just hearsay… as in, they say and I hear. However, on the slopes I was completely devoid of this energy and passion that is an inherent part of my being. My fear of height, slopes and speed, in all their glorious permutations and combinations, sucked out all this energy and passion out of me, leaving me high and dry, or rather, high and wet.
After this awareness, which was hardly a rocket science, I began exploring ways to get on top of it, at least conceptually to begin with. Here comes the great “Guru Google”. Sometimes I wonder that if today God wanted to understand the inexplicable behaviour of His own two-legged creation on earth, He would most definitely try out google, just to reconfirm His theory of where He went wrong…. phew, I got all my “H”s right!
After going through a gamut of exhausting literature, I finally came across this fantastic book called “Inner Skiing” by Tim Gallwey and Robert Kriegel ( https://www.amazon.com/Inner-Skiing-W-Timothy-Gallwey/dp/0679778276). This book changed me overnight and I am not kidding. I do not say this about too many non-fiction books (simply because I haven’t read too many of them), but what would have probably taken me at least two ski seasons to get over my fear, this book did in just a week, and that too right in the cozy comfort of my home, without lifting a finger (except to turn pages on kindle).“Inner Skiing” gently untangled my thinking, caught in the web of fear, slowly, one knot at a time.
This book was not only full of meaningful explanations, examples and reasons of why someone like me was not able to make any progress in skiing, but it also had tips, tricks and tools to help me overcome them. For someone like me who is driven by logical analysis, this worked wonders. I would definitely and highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn skiing, or any other sport for that matter.
According to Inner Skiing, the reason that we don’t perform well is not that we don’t have the ability, but because we somehow interfere with it. I have tried to highlight at the end of the post the basic concept that formed the core of this book, by picking up relevant texts from the book to make it clearer.
CAUTION: Due to the seriousness of the text, some of you may suffer unbearable jaw ache due to non-stop yawning or intensive pain in the neck due to constantly falling asleep in sitting posture. Nonetheless, I would still recommend you to have some painkiller ready and give it a go.
So, basically what Inner Skiing says is that there are two ‘Selfs’ within us. Self 1 is the ego mind that wants to be in control all the time. It is the mind that is never quiet and is doing all the talking, judging, worrying and self-doubting. Self 1 thinks it knows the best and continuously instructs, criticises and doubts our capabilities. On the slopes, Self 1 is the inner voice that keeps yelling:
“Bend your knees, stupid!
“That was a lousy turn. You didn’t edge enough.”
“You’ll never learn”
“You are too uncoordinated for this sport”
“This slope is too steep for you”
Self 2, on the other hand, is our physical body with all its inherent potential that is actually doing all the work. It is the basic intelligence that includes the central nervous system, the brain and other parts of our sensory apparatus we don’t even know about. Self 2 learns by discovery…by actually ‘doing’ rather than by ‘thinking of doing’. It lets experience be the guide. It senses and observes, constantly picking up information and making appropriate adjustments in its actions and direction.
A baby, when he first attempts to walk, falls. But when he falls, his body absorbs all the details of the fall. Without any pre-conceived judgements or notions, his Self 2 automatically adjusts the next step he takes, making it longer or shorter, straightening the position of the head to correct for imbalance. As his body continues to receive more detailed information with each succeeding step, it is able to refine the new movement. Only because his Self 1 is quiet, is his Self 2 able to feel all these subtle sensations, and only then does any learning take place.
So in a nutshell, the only way to learn is to quieten Self 1, to be present, have complete confidence in Self 2 and let Self 2 do its job.
So my friends, that’s what I did the next Saturday. I became more present. Instead of thinking that I might fall before actually falling, I quietened my Self 1 and just skied. I fell when I fell, not before that, and definitely not in my mind. And as I became more present and mindful, I gave my Self 2 the chance that it deserved, to absorb the experiences of my movements and falls. Automatically, without my knowledge, my body began correcting and adjusting itself to this new way of motion. And for the first time, I truly began to enjoy skiing with all its ups and downs. So much so that some of my group mates began noticing the significant leap of improvement in my skiing and in my attitude.
What happened to the fear of the slopes? It got reduced, but it was still very much there…it just took another form. Instead of looking at the slopes with fear, I began looking at it as a challenge. And thus I crossed that thin line to join on the other side, the rest of my fellow learners, who looked at skiing as an activity filled with fun, excitement and accomplishment.
Cherry on the icing on the cake… I won the gold medal in the final race in the beginner’s group.