I’ve just returned from a family ski holiday where we had everything from deep snow, icy patches, cobbles, slush and champagne pistes, as well as alternating between flat light, white-out conditions, and sparkling sunshine. “Skiing is all about variables” our erstwhile instructor at Whistler used to tell us – and when you think about it that in itself is just like life.
It’s great to get out onto the hill and tackle the variety of gradient, snow quality and visibility. It’s exhilerating to glide over the snow, feeling the wind on your face and the subtle leg movements that allow you to make snake patterns in your wake. No matter what the conditions the best policy is always to attack the slope, put the weight of your head and shoulders towards the front of the skis and make turns by applying pressure to the carved area on the inside of the ski tip. And it’s always easier to ski faster.
It’s counter-intuitive. When you’re hurtling headlong down the side of a mountain it feels utterly wrong to be leaning further forward; yet without doing so control is difficult, if not impossible. Your skis begin to run away from you as the body wants to hug the slope, and there’s always the risk of leaning too far back, in an attempt to resist gravity and the terrain. You start to gather too much speed; you fail to complete the turns; you become exhausted and terrified.
Resistence is futile, so the saying goes. Better then to have a basic technique that will serve in all varieties of terrain, with perhaps some subtle tweaks and adjustments for extreme conditions. It’s a question of staying alert and being able to respond to what’s underfoot and in the immediate environment.
In life we can practise this type of alertness in our journals. We can pay attention to what we are experiencing physically and write about it, until gradually physical awareness becomes automatic.
Similarly when we resist the flow of things we put ourselves in danger, and when we try and go too slow we start to think and fear too much. So we can practise getting into the flow in our journals, allowing our pen to move without resisting, expressing ourselves without over-analysing.
With practice we become more relaxed, more responsive, more ‘in the moment’, more able to deal with whatever variables are thrown at us. And these principles, borne out by journaling, boost our confidence and our adaptability, on and off the slopes.