This week I am on a trip to Colorado to spend time in a program called “Magic of Skiing.” I’ve been to the program about 15 times over the last 18 years.
Now, let’s be honest, those of you who know me can’t imagine me being quiet for a couple of hours in the morning – especially awakening in a house full of friends. And what is a 60-plus-year-old grandmother doing sliding down a snow-covered hill on two boards strapped to her feet? This article is not really about skiing. It’s about the experience of remembering the value of letting go, returning to center and having joy.
Last Saturday night, about 50 people from all over the world got together – some of us had never met and many were long-time friends. At the first gathering we introduced ourselves, shared our expectations of the week, met with our instructors, and readied ourselves for a week of skiing and learning.
The leader, Tom Crum, and his Aikido partner, both dressed in a Hakama (which some folks back home might call two men in long skirts) demonstrated the martial art of Aikido. The art is all about receiving what is coming at you and moving with it instead of against the energy. It’s not exactly turning the other cheek, but it is certainly not about attacking head-on or fleeing the scene.
The concept was not lost on the group. In life things are coming at us from all sides, throwing us off balance. Sometimes we flee, sometimes we freeze, and sometimes we fight. This week we are learning to stay centered and in balance in spite of whatever might come our way.
There are many things I’ve learned this week, but three resonate with me that I want to share them with you.
During our first session, Tom talked about our roommate. Not the kind you have in college, but the voice in your head that often berates you, questions you, or discourages you. I’ve always called it the little person who stands on my shoulder and shouts negative things in my ear. Tom challenged us to not let that voice dictate who we are and how we feel about ourselves. My roommate has judged me, criticized me, and discouraged me from trying new things. This week, I’ve learned to acknowledge, as well as ignore the roommate and move forward.
Another key principle of the week is returning to center. Center is the experience of bringing full awareness to what is going on in the moment. I’m sure most of you are like me and have gone through the day on automatic pilot. At the end of the day, it’s hard to recall what you did. Your mind was simply not present or aware. Centering is being fully conscious of the moment – living in the present, not the past or future.
The third thing I’m learning this week is to remember to make minor adjustments in response to the constant changes in life’s terrain. I’ve been practicing that concept on the snow. For example, when the snow under my skies is soft and powdery, I float along in a relaxed and joyful state. When I suddenly come to a steep icy slope, I’m quickly thrown off balance, remember to center, and utilize another skill. When there are moguls (bumps) in the run, I use skills. The goal of learning this week is to add to the tool box of skills so that I can make minor adjustments to ski with less effort and more joy. I like that a lot. As the terrain changes, so must my approach. This is like life too isn’t it? I’ve often applied the same approach to differing situations and it just doesn’t work.
OK, you may be thinking, what is Shirley talking about? And if you are, that is OK. But I’m betting that many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’m looking forward to returning to Carroll County and fully embracing what lies ahead with consciousness and joy. Right now, I’ve gotta get to our morning routine so I can start talking again!
Garrett, a Carroll County resident and author, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian.