I started skiing when I was four, so by the time I became an adult, I liked nothing more than to stand at the top of a vertical chute, point my skis downhill and leap into the sublime. Over the years, I’ve come to see that every skill I use to ski Double Black Diamond runs applies to mastering life. Here are the top tips:
Look Where You Want to Go
Make First Tracks
Commit When you stand at the lip of a vertical slope, it’s terrifying to point your slippery skis straight down and push off. The action is counter-intuitive. The mind wants to lean back, to get away from the experience, but instead you have to take a breath, bend your knees and dive in.
“You have to go through mind to get to soul,” says Spiritual Master Sri Gary Olsen. That means that you have to negotiate your material self or world in order to know your true spiritual self. When faced with a tough situation such as lack of money, joblessness or loss of a loved one, the tendency is to want to avoid, run away or be a “premature Buddha,” and rise above it, pretending all is fine. But the very lessons we are meant to learn are buried within our experiences. When I call on the Divine and commit to life, I can glide over bumps and carve around obstacles, while I appreciate the lessons I am here to learn.
Look Where You Want to Go One of my favorite treasures is skiing “the trees.” A primo tree run has not only moguls but also lots of obstacles, which add challenge. It seems like common sense that you always look where you want to go, but when you’re skiing moguls in a field of trees, the mind is saying, “Tree! Tree! Tree!” This can be deadly.
It’s the same when negotiating a Black Diamond life slope. The mind says, I’m broke, I have to keep my attention on my bank balance. Or it says, my loved one is dying, I have to be sad and focus on death. If the attention stays on poverty or death, that will grow into an eventual tree wreck. But if instead you look between the trees, you may suddenly find yourself doing a job you’d never imagined, with money coming from it, or you may see the beauty in your loved-one passing and actually enjoy it.
The most powerful place to focus your attention is on the Divine.
Make First Tracks The majority of skiers don’t know how great the conditions can be along the fringes. They stay in the middle of groomed runs, where the snow is thinnest and the most ice accumulates. Similarly, when skiing moguls, most skiers stay in the trenches between the bumps, where the snow is thin and icy. A master skier knows that the edge of a run and the tree territory between runs usually contain soft, sometimes untracked, snow. Similarly, a seasoned bumps skier sets her edges on top of the mogul and slides around the fringe of the trench, where fluffy snow accumulates.
It’s the same with a life run. If I stay in the mind’s grooves about how to negotiate an experience, I will ski the poorest conditions. But if I’m willing to suspend my attention and ask for Divine guidance, I’m suddenly skiing First Tracks. The late Steve Jobs offered a great example of this creative power. “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become,” he said. We are each the creators of our destiny, blazing a trail in pristine snow.
There’s a skiers’ code that says, “There are no friends on powder days.” Anyone who has stood at the top of a steep glade blanketed with feet of trackless powder knows one of the material plane’s most sublime experiences. You point your skis down and float through the pillowy softness, shifting only slightly to turn. You develop a rhythm—glide, glide, glide—like floating on a cloud.
This is what it feels like to carve turns with the Divine in the higher worlds.
When a skier savors this, she can’t stop if a friend falls, and so the code goes. Serious skiers know that they have to continue, because to stop means death to their own sublime experience.
Skiing the spiritual mountain is like this too. Certainly you give—always—because you have so much love flowing through you. But there are times when you can’t look back. Friends and loved ones may not be able to join you, and you have to let them go and keep skiing your course. Love them, yes, care for them, certainly, leave them, sometimes, but ski your own slope relentlessly in order to meet your most sublime self.
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