On a recent trip to Lake Tahoe for some snowboarding, I was deeply disappointed because the warm weather wasn’t ideal for snow sports. The first day we were on the slopes, I stayed in the story that it wouldn't be as fun because I don't do as well in warmer, groomed conditions as I do when it’s cold with fresh powder.
I felt a familiar fear, like I'm about to be out of control and hit an unforeseen patch of ice. I gutted through it- letting my toes curl under and taking too big of a swing when I carved so it looked as if I was a leaf floating down the mountain.
I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to ride with the smooth back and forth I witness in other snowboarders.
I had a sense that I was grasping for something; like if I don't work really hard to be in control, I'll tumble and end up like one of those giant cartoon-like snowballs at the base of the mountain.
Of course, this isn't true- just what I imagined in my head. And that keeps me frustrated and sullen when the weather doesn't cooperate.
Instead of letting go and going with the flow, I realize I cause myself physical and mental anguish because I just assume I'm going to mess up and hurt myself or others.
I often say when I teach yoga classes that how we show up on our mat is how we show up in life, and the same holds true about how I show up on the slopes. I notice that when the yoga poses get tough, or the snow conditions aren't ideal, my mind tells me to hold back, hold on and don't let anyone see that I'm struggling or not fully in control. This pattern often has me missing out on a lot of joy and opportunities for growth.
I consciously decided to challenge that belief in myself that day on the mountain.
I asked my husband to watch me snowboard and to give me helpful suggestions on my form. The fact that I was even willing to ask for help from him was a big leap for me because in my mind, it meant I was revealing a flaw that I don't like to show- that I needed help.
I was really looking for a quick fix and holding on to the hope that he could adjust my board or bindings, and I'd immediately be able to carve gracefully down the mountain. When he gave me his take on what I might do to get better results, I barely let him say his thoughts before I jumped in and explained that I had already tried that, and it didn't work. I caught my resistance this time though and took a deep breath and really listened to him.
His advice was to put more weight forward; to just lean in and let go. I gave it a try, and after a few turns of flailing around and struggling with the weight distribution of the board, I was catching my edges and carving better than ever!
I was lost in the moment and experiencing a deep connection between my body and the mountain through my board. I was caught in the sheer joy that my leap of faith into something unknown and scary had brought me.
I felt confident and bold.
There was a perfect balance of elation and freedom happening for me that was just the shift in perspective that I needed. I had made the choice to override my pattern of pulling back and playing it safe.
I realized that it was so much more rewarding to lean in and have faith in my ability to grow and change.
Looking back now as a midlife woman, I know that I have spent most of my life building up the shields by pulling back and grasping for control. It has protected me in some ways, but at the same it has always left me with an underlying current of dissatisfaction and disconnection that kept me stagnant and small.
Now that I've tasted the liberation of leaning in and letting go, even for just a few moments at a time, I see new possibilities and openness.
Yes, I will fall, yes, I will be hurt, and yes, I will make mistakes that will affect others, but I will keep taking the risk because the connection, growth and joy I encounter in those moments are far more precious to me than my fear of messing up.
The truth is, I'm going to be okay. One turn down the mountain at a time, I bring myself back to the bold, courageous woman that I'm meant to be.