-Remembering my skiing career and contemplating the aging process –
It was not only summers we spent in France.
We went with friends and rented chalets in Switzerland, Austria and Italy. But later we often went to France with our Grüne Minna. A great diesel-burning stove kept us warm. That way, so close to the lifts, we could be the first ones on the slopes in the morning and the last in the evening. I know, we chuckle about it ourselves sometimes today, in those years we seemed to only be satisfyed when we were physically totally exhausted at the end of the day.
When I had finally grown out of the seductive adrenaline rash of heedless mogul-humping, technical skill, and mere raw speed, I, almost against my will, rediscovered the intriguing pleasure of rhythm and the free flow of motion, the joy of unspectacular swinging. In my last years of skiing I would leave behind all the bone-breaking effort of always mastering the hardest runs, of taming my body like a circus horse, and instead dance down the steep slopes, usually without poles. I would spread my arms and glue my skis and knees together and let go and dance. The rhythmic hiss of the snow was the music. In a way I didn’t do much, there was no will, no task to be accomplished, just one carving swing leading naturally into the next, it went by itself, the body following along this fine line between falling and blissful flow, effortlessly moving by itself. It was heaven!
Well, that doesn’t work anymore. My right knee is in ruins, still good for climbing and walking but no more torsion. Skiing is passé. Here in America (in Mammoth Lakes), in a highly emotional, theatrical act I threw my skis away one day.
In the end all this wonderful skiing was also another lesson in letting go.
The essence of letting go is not the effort to open your holding fingers, overcoming the force of holding with the greater force of opening; it is the cessation of the effort to hold. Letting go is not an action at all, it is not stillness either, it is the end of doing something, it is what makes an action complete. In order to be able to let go, one has first to know that he’s holding. And all it takes is just observation, paying attention; there is no effort involved. Then it is nothing but intention, this sublime point at the center of awareness where freedom exists, where we actually can say yes or no to the natural flow of things.
In order to let go one has to stop resisting movement. Our trouble is that we interfere, that we have preferences, that we love or hate what’s on the way, that we get entangled in what just happens and flows and hang on and want more of the first and less of the second. We are slaves to our preferences. We spend our lifetime resisting this effortless flow, it is our nature to grasp or reject what passes by and to waste our energy doing this obsessive sorting-out business, instead of just paying attention to the journey. Imagine the liberation from the lifelong futile struggle to seek satisfaction by trying to reconstruct the world according to our preferences, and finding the alternative satisfaction that comes from just relaxing into the experience of the present moment that is immediately available without any effort. And doing this is letting go.
Letting go: this “non-action” we need a lifetime to practice, the highest skill of all, the ultimate secret of happiness; it is noticing the interference and, in the very same moment, casting our fate into the wind, resuming The Journey.
And what I mean by journey has really no beginning or ending. It’s a timeless, dimensionless affair, and it takes place all the time. We were long on our way when we woke up one day and noticed that we didn’t know where we were going.
It seems to be our nature to resist the journey, but it is also our nature that we have this incredible gift to learn and understand our nature. We are free, free to decide to participate – no matter what – or resist and suffer.
Klaus October 10. 2011