A Story About Skiing, Habitual Response, Centering, and Developing Ease

A couple of weeks ago, I went skiing at Crested Butte for a couple of days. Crested Butte has a well-deserved reputation for having some very steep runs. I have the technique to ski these runs--I get down them safely. But I can't do it without substantial struggle. I tend to get overwhelmed by fear and cut all my momentum after every turn, so I never find rhythm or flow. Too much of the time, it's basically what we call "survival skiing." It gets frustrating, because I have the physical abilities to ski the run, but clearly something I do with my energy gets in the way.

Well, I'm pretty deeply devoted to this TTW stuff, so instead of just grinding through the frustration, or else giving up on skiing the steeps at all, I tried to figure out what was happening and what to do about it. So again and again and again I breathed deeply from center, connected my energy to ground, breathed my stress back into the Earth, and tried to witness what exactly was happening in my body and with my energy to make me struggle so consistently.

After enough attempts to step out of my patterns of stress and return to centered consciousness, I had a moment of insight. I discovered that when I find myself in that patterned fear response, it results from having cast my energy all the way to the bottom of the slope, essentially leaving my body to fend for itself. "I'll meet you down here," my energy calls back up to me. Well, it's hard to be more out-of-center than letting your energy get 50 or 100 yards away from you. And the result is that I struggle and struggle and struggle to ski the run.

I wish I could say that I fixed the problem with that awareness, but it doesn't work that way. What I could do, however, is come back to center. I could bring my energy back to me, and then I could be present with the fear in a different way: I could just let it be, just feel it, instead of running from it. I found that rather than sending my energy down to the bottom of the slope and leaving my body to fend for itself, I could expand my energy outward from center to create a space of awareness able to contain my body, my fear, and my next couple of turns. For a few moments, I could release the old pattern like a balloon and watch it float away.

This sensation is what we mean by a state of ease. The things that get in the way go away, even if only for a moment, and I can just be in the present moment and allow it to flow, as is its true nature.

Of course, soon enough I'll again fall out of center and return to my habitual unconscious state, and the easy experience of my old pattern will arise again. And that's completely okay. This is a practice, not a destination.

So I keep practicing.

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