I returned home on Saturday from a week's long skiing holiday in Bansko, Bulgaria. Going skiing is turning into a yearly tradition. Matthew and I went last year with Thomas (Matthew's brother) and our two good friends Becky and Ali. We had such a good time that we decided to do it again.
None of us are very experienced skiers so we usually pick a place where we can a great deal and lots of blue runs. Last year it was Austria and this year our bargain hunting brought us to Bulgaria.
This year I decided to go to ski school and actually learn how to ski. I had been skiing in the past, although it was only a once a year affair at Afton Alps. Last year I didn't take any lessons and although I managed to get down the slopes it wasn't pretty. After taking the lessons this year I honestly don't know how I did it last year. I learned proper techniques and how to parallel ski and I can proudly say that I got the hang of it and didn't have any major spills.
I've discovered that I really like skiing. I like how you need to be fully present in what you're doing and how you can use your body to control what you're doing on the skis. I like how some runs are just nice and easy and you can just ski down them in a zen like state and how others are more of a challenge.
One day on the trip while I was sitting at the bottom of one of the red slopes that I had been struggling to get down. It was a steep one, but one that was at the right challenge level for me.
We first went down it with our instructor and once we got the hang of it we were skiing down it no problem. As I sat enjoying a lovely glass of hot wine with apples it occurred to me that skiing was a great metaphor for life. Which I thought I'd share.
I had thought about going down the slope the day before, because while it looked steep and scary it didn't look too steep and scary. As a group we talked about trying it, but decided that we would wait until the next day when we weren't so tired and our instructor could lead us down.
The next day we went to the top and went down chunk by chunk. Our instructor was confident that we would make it, that it wouldn't be too hard if we just took it slow at first. Even as we went down the steep parts he encouraged us to continue the stand up, open, close and squat sequences and insisted on short turns instead of traversing. We all made it down and with the feeling of accomplishment we all went right back up to the top to practice.
With skiing there's a beginning and an end. You start at the top and you finish at the bottom and depending on a number of different factors how you get down that mountain will be different. You can start off a bit unsteady and unsure until you find your balance and rhythm, you can go down in a snowplow, you can zip right down, you can even slide down on your bum. The fact is that you will have to get to the bottom.
The first time I went down alone I pushed off the top and went into my first turn. I was a bit unsteady so the turn was a bit fast and uncontrolled, but I was on my way. I skied to the point that the instructor had shown us and took a moment to plot out my course.
I pushed off and stood up into the turn and I was going down. There were parts of the mountain where I was zipping along. Turning and making it down in a very beautiful way. I could feel the rhythm. I would look to where I wanted to go next instead of where I was immediately going and I was in the total state of flow.
There were times on the mountain where I felt nervous and unsteady, because of a steep part. I would then have to slow down and consider each movement to stay in control. There were also times where I could gain speed and delight in the feeling of the wind whipping past me.
There were times when skiers would zip by me at top speed and I would feel envious of their skill and experience. There were also times when it got busy on the mountain and I had to be mindful of other people around me.
And I will admit that there were times that I fell down. Sometimes I had no choice but to get up by myself, but other times someone would come and help me. I just got back up, refocused and continued on. There were times when I was able to help someone else get up from a fall.
So to me making it down the mountain is a lot like life.
There are going to be times when you don't know what you're doing, so you find a teacher.
Like in life there will be times where you are in the grove and things are going your way and there will be times where things are unsteady and you need to slow down, consider things and make a plan.
There are times when there will be people there to help you through and times when you need to help yourself.
Always help others when you can.
There are times when you feel like you're behind and other people are doing better than you.
In life you also need to be mindful and respectful of other people. Those other people who share the mountain are all at different points in their journey.
Like life you're continually getting better, gaining skills, and having fun. If you practice you will get better.
As for the part about the beginning and an end, I tend not to look at it as life and death, but more like different stages or experiences.
Sometimes you just have to go for it. Believe in yourself and just start going!