What do you get when you take a fish out of water, put the fish on the highest snowy mountain peak in sight, and ask her to find her way home? She begins to remember her essence, applies it to what ever surrounding she finds herself in, and starts to transform into the mythical sea goat her ascendant, North Node, and First House Mars foretold she could be.
Or, something like that. 😉
Truth be told, the short story of irony I’m about to tell is one I did not foresee being one I would tell. And yet, I feel guided to share it for the seed it might plant in any one of you who also may have fears or doubts about what is possible, as I’ve always strongly believed that our greatest fears hold the greatest alchemy for us. In fact, I feel that our greatest fears are the doorways to our gifts and potentials.
I’ve seen that transmutation with things like my fear of public speaking, which turned into teaching, leading retreats, being interviewed on radio shows and video spots, coaching others, creating a YouTube channel of my own, and even openly sharing in various forums or platforms like this.
But skiing? I had pretty much accepted it just might not be my thing and was okay with that.
As many of you know who so sweetly follow along with my journeys, skiing is likely close to the bottom of my list of things I would have considered doing well. I didn’t grow up doing it, I didn’t start to really ski more consistently until the last two to three years – I’m now 48, and I had layers of fears around it that at times were debilitating when first I tried my hand at it.
This fish – I’m a Pisces – was more comfortable in liquid water rather than on frozen water even though I loved the enchantment of it.
That is, until my Capricorn stepped in to help me merge into that sea goat.
Fast forward to 2021 and I find myself on a nine week “ski safari,” as Dave likes to call it, and unknowingly to me, this presented the opportunity to embrace, hide, or run away from my fears. The sea goat-to-be decided to embrace it and hence began the daily consistent journey of supporting myself through a different layer of growth for the next chapter in my life.
I made a decision to transform my relationship with fear and skiing and reprogram a whole new way of nurturing myself that would make it fun, gentle, encouraging, and unconditional. I spent the last eight weeks really listening to myself, understanding my feelings, and developing a consistent practice and system of trust and support that translated into a natural progression of greater confidence, comfortability, and the surprising personal skill to get down a mountain that I wouldn’t have thought was possible.
I still wouldn’t call myself a great skier with amazing form, but that was never the goal. My intention was to create an inner trust and way that worked with who I am so that I could experience the natural out of something that once felt very unnatural.
But even greater than not seeing that coming, was not seeing what unfolded next, which just so happened to take place the day before and on my birthday.
We had a surprise visit from one of Dave’s law school friends and his girlfriend who happened to be finishing up a short ski trip in Park City, Utah and were on their way to visit his family near Boulder, Colorado. They decided to stop a couple of days near us and didn’t know it was my birthday. So, in fact they ended up being with us to celebrate and we met them at Copper Mountain where they were staying, so that we could ski with them for two days.
His girlfriend is a beginner skier, also learning late in life like me. She’s three years older than I am and just started last January in Lake Tahoe. She’s only skied half a dozen times and has taken several lessons. So, it was a good match for me to ski with her while Dave and his friend skied together.
What I had no idea would happen, though, was the two days turned into me teaching her. She didn’t ask me and I didn’t set out to do it. It just naturally evolved and the result was something neither of us expected.
But let me repeat that…the two days turned into me teaching her. What?!
Somehow the self trust and confidence I had built within myself the last eight weeks, alongside the self nurturing and transparent vulnerability and understanding of my fears had created a bridge between me and her. It was an unspoken language that my heart understood during the first two minutes I watched her ski. And a camaraderie of nurturing ignited instantaneously and the teacher side of me found a new channel to lovingly work through.
It didn’t matter if I was “expert” at this skiing thing or not. I had personal experience and tender understanding about what was running through her. I saw her as me and I knew how I had nurtured my own inner child through this, so this experience was simply another version of that inner child I naturally gravitated toward and vice versa.
What unfolded within literally ten minutes almost made both of us cry.
She looked at me with the hugest smile and sparkle in her eyes (we were wearing our face coverings so that’s all we could see of each other) and said, “Oh my gosh Tania. This is the first time I’ve ever been able to make turns. This is the first time anyone has ever told me what you just did. I can’t thank you enough. You’re such a good teacher because you explain things the way I understand them.”
To say I was humbled by what she said is an understatement….I nearly fell over because the irony of this shocked me. I merely felt what she was going through and relayed things as I would have to myself. Nothing fancy, just from the heart in a simple way.
She had been used to expecting she would fall, expecting to have fear, and just holding her breath, ploughing straight down steep parts, and hoping for the best. She had no confidence. Her trust was in the fact that falling was normal and fear would always control her.
After just one, long run together she was a completely different person on skis and she went from a past history of multiple crash falls and landings to only one small, gentle fall on the first two runs we did together, to not one fall on the third.
But more importantly, she was smiling huge, excited, felt confident, and was finally having fun!
I was floored because it was the last thing I would have expected and yet it actually seemed to make sense when I thought about it.
It’s not that I know all there is about skiing because I hardly know anything, but I know fear and I know processes. What I learned was a step-by-step way to address and explain things so that a better relationship could be developed with something new and scary. I knew that creating a bridge to more confidence and what would support that best, was where to start. The rest would naturally evolve.
She went on to tell her boyfriend and Dave that she’s had what she considered not great and good instructors, but I had done what neither had been able to.
It’s still actually hard for me to even say or write this because it’s challenging to see how this happened and so it makes me want to giggle in disbelief. And yet, we both witnessed, and her boyfriend did too on the second day, the progress she made.
He actually thanked me when we arrived on day two, my birthday, after doing one run with her, saying “Wow Tania. You really upped her game. She’s made huge progress. I don’t know what you did – hypnotized her or something – but thank you.”
You can imagine the laugh Dave and I had when we returned to the car on our own and I said, “I guess I’m a ski instructor now?!”
On our second day together, and first run of that day, she had a moment where her ski hit a round ice ball on the steepest part of the run. This, as you might surmise and is quite natural, put her back into a place of fear. So, it started to make her second run more challenging, as that fear thought was lingering with her and wondering if it would happen again. She began to lose confidence.
I knew that place very well, too. Those little setbacks when you have a different day, things feel different, conditions are different, etc. These are times that call for you to double back and navigate things from the beginning again in a way that feels nurturing instead of pushy or judgmental.
I started to do that with her and explained how it was okay…natural…but we could work with that. And we did. We talked through things and she took it step-by-step, including just looking a few feet in front of her to navigate her path rather than at the whole landscape, and then following closely behind me as I took a very slow and deliberate run like I’d done the day before that helped her feel guided to focus on rather than her fear. She mirrored me and we were as one.
She shared her gratitude for helping her through the fear and explained she felt so much better.
Once again, she looked at me with the hugest smile and sparkle in her eyes and I knew she was having fun again.
And that my friends, is priceless.
On yesterday’s Chinese New Year of the Ox (my native zodiac), day thirty of skiing this Winter season, while protected and overseen by Ullr, the Norse God of Snow, I hit a milestone on my journey with fear. The fear I’m referring to has to do with heights associated with being on edges like riding chair lifts and skiing down mountain runs. The milestone was going down a Black Diamond run for the very first time and having fun doing it.
For anyone new to skiing, as I was, ski slope colors refer to the steepness of the gradient and the level of difficulty. Green is Beginner, Blue is Intermediate, and Black is Expert. That said, there are many levels in between and these are very loose terms in my opinion, as I see people of all levels on various runs. Also, you don’t have to be what you think might be considered an “expert” to go on a Black Diamond run. You simply, in my opinion, need to have courage, but indeed you need to have some level of skill to safely get down, especially in terms of turning and being in control. “Double” of any color means more challenging…for instance a Double Green is more like a Blue or Intermediate with more steepness, and so on. I find also that every ski resort has different ideas about what they think each level is and where you might not feel comfortable on some in one resort, on others you would. So you need to ask questions to the staff and explore for yourself. Also, I find some Green runs at resorts to mostly be cat tracks – paths used to move around the mountain, rather than actual runs. I tend to not like these and don’t consider them really great for learning to ski because they are narrow and don’t really allow for turns and practice. And if conditions aren’t great, they can be icy too. That said, they ARE sometimes the only way down the mountain so are necessary to be familiar with.
If I had to label my level of skiing I’d say I’m at the beginning end of Intermediate. However, I like how Jeffrey Weidel breaks down the three main color-coded levels further into nine levels, which speaks to me more. According to his breakdown, I’m at Level 4, edging ever-so slowly into Level 5.
But these are just ways of understanding categories and to give you a little understanding of things in reference to the main theme here – working with fear.
So, back to that milestone I hit yesterday, which to me isn’t just about a fear of heights and edges, but spoke to my making friends with fear in general and how I have been teaching myself to navigate it on my own terms.
As I mentioned in my last blog, “my skiing approach is one of enjoyment, not achievement.” And this has been the key for me in how to reprogram fear, no matter what the fear involves.
It’s also about honoring my needs and supporting that.
Rather than take something I’m afraid of and try to make it a system of how to progress to achieve a certain level or status, I’ve made it purely fun without any agenda, and my learning to be something I’ve decided to be my own coach of so that I can provide the kind of nurturing and motivation I know speaks to my inner little girl – a marriage of the wise adult and the innocent child. I become my own parent or instructor based on the knowledge of my fears and how I can engage them to feel safe and join me, rather than want to run away.
That doesn’t mean that getting a good ski instructor isn’t a good idea. Ski instructors are great no matter what level you’re at, to help refresh or take you to new levels. However, I’ve found that for me at this point, my own coaching is most nurturing, as part of the repatterning I am doing has to do with my approach to things. So, having someone overseeing and controlling that right now isn’t helpful. I have had a few instructors in the past and retained the basics from them, but I also learned from those experiences that this is the more supportive approach right now for me. I also learned a lot more by skiing with Dave and what he’s shown me. He’s an amazing skier. So with the basics, I’ve been able to formulate my process intuitively and gently support growth.
You see, in the past I learned to “perform” and in many cases push through something with an old “race horse” mentality that quite literally was engrained within my soul history from lives as just that. It wasn’t about how I felt, but what I felt I needed to do – in many cases being for someone else and not myself. It was that old “suck it up” and dishonor what your feelings and process are, in place of what you are either told you should do, or is driven only by achieving.
I began to slowly reprogram that approach nearly 15 years ago, upon discovering it, but skiing has been the best gauge of change with this for me and the biggest leaps of progress from my work have come in the last few years. And this year, when the opportunity came from this Winter immersion adventure we’ve been on, I’ve been able to really bear witness to my process because of having so many consecutive days of skiing.
The most I’d ever skied in a season, previous to now, was sixteen days. The last two years sixteen days was my max and previous to that in the first years of my starting at this I had only skied a handful of days each season. Not enough to really shift a pattern. And with thirty days under my belt this year, it’s provided that consistent focus and commitment I believe anything takes if you really want to change something. I still have another fifteen possible days to add to this for 2021. So this year really is monumental for supporting transformation.
Without going into all of the details of how I’ve been retraining myself, my basic approach is to honor my feelings, consistently repeat runs over and over and over in a flowing way at levels I feel comfortable with that have a slight stretch to them (in this way making them feel more natural to me and giving me lots of repetitive practice), taking my time, enjoying nature all around me, staying ultra present, talking gently to myself and even giggling the whole way to help make adjustments where needed and to keep things light, pausing to take it all in, and celebrating the moments.
I explore different little off-sections of trails to introduce change so that I can feel the unknown a bit, but at my own choice. And when there’s a slightly more challenging run connected to my path, I will slowly introduce it by trying it once in between my runs. Even if I don’t do it again, it’s my way of stretching into the new space to support growth. Usually what I find is that when I do that, I actually return to my usual run with greater ease, skill and confidence. And if I feel like something isn’t going right or I don’t like the runs or conditions, I will not push anything. I do only what I feel safe and comfortable with, then stop.
Since skiing doesn’t come natural to me, being that I didn’t grow up doing it and don’t have any muscle memory, as they say, for it, I am having to create that now.
But the key in all of this is enjoying the process. If it’s not fun, then it becomes work and feels like the old way of force.
This is why I will also stop along the way to take in sights I see, explore, notice the details of the terrain and little fun things like the Gnomes you saw in my last post.
And yesterday was proof that my confidence and relationship to fear had shifted hugely when I decided to try the Black Diamond run.
There was build-up to this, as several days ago we were skiing at this same resort and I overhead some guys telling their girlfriend that the Black Diamond run next to where I was skiing was considered an “easy” Black run. Normally that wouldn’t get my attention, as I would have a huge block to Black. And many times I have the same block to a lot of the Blue runs too. So, I spent my day observing the Black run they mentioned while I rode up the ski lift because I could see the whole thing from that vantage point. I kept taking in the pitch of the slope, watched people ski down it at various levels including my own, and mentally was processing it.
I told Dave about it after we left the resort that day and that I was curious about trying it, but didn’t want to do it alone if I did. I never like to be on something steep by myself in case I fall.
On Friday we were actually supposed to go to a different resort – you have to make reservations with Covid – but due to snowy weather and the longer drive to that resort we decided to cancel and go back to the place that had the curious Black Diamond run and where Ullr, the Norse God of Snow directs his guardian aim because it was closer.
After skiing the runs I practice on for a bit, I asked Dave to try the Black run and tell me what he thought. He did and I remained curious. I didn’t feel a block or a huge “no” in me, but continued to have curiosity and felt like it was a good chance to try something more difficult. I felt that there was reason I had overhead the other people mention it, as if I hadn’t heard that I wouldn’t have thought it possible. And the only reason I was curious was because they said it was an easy Black Diamond, which Dave confirmed. Plus, I obviously had built up courage from all of my consistent practice.
That said, I still knew I was in for some steep terrain. However, I’ve been practicing like heck and feel confident with my control and turns even if not done like a graceful swan. I also had just gotten my skis tuned up and they felt better than ever to carve those turns.
So, I went for it. On my own accord. It wasn’t anyone else’s idea. I wasn’t forced. I chose it and was curious about it. Curiosity invites wonder and innocence to stay with us and softens the seriousness or feeling of pressure.
And off I went, with Dave staying with me to the side just in case.
In the past I would have froze, cried, stopped and took my skis off and walked down, or perhaps even fallen.
None of these happened and in fact I saw how both my practice had supported my ability to make slow, in control turns and my consistency and fun approach took the edge off of fear.
I still felt my heart beat, but I knew I could do it and I did. I was in control of my experience.
It was a huge celebration of what for me was monumental in experiencing the shift that had taken place.
I returned to the run I was doing before it and I saw how much better and even quicker I was getting down, after stretching my curiosity on the Black Diamond run.
I celebrated my milestone and Dave did too.
This is a post about possibility.
That you can learn anything at any age – I’ll be 48 in just a couple of weeks and didn’t start to really ski until my 40’s.
That you can move through any fear – my fear of heights is not little, but I’ve learned to find ways to walk hand-in-hand with it, rather than push it away or avoid it.
This week has been full of beautiful snow time and family visits, coming full closure today.
There’s something about snow that just takes me to a pure place of being…both connecting to my inner child and the inner mystic.
It’s been a fun week and I will miss my family, as it’s also been a quick visit due to proximity of our out-of-snow campground needs without a winterized RV. I will definitely be returning to spend more time with my parents and brother.
There’s been a lot of big shifts for both families and the dynamics that are playing out now, versus the past. Powerful stuff to both experience and witness in reflection.
It’s also been very supportive for my own life transitions right now in seeing the reflections of my changes being mirrored before me and receiving Nature’s guidance and love for what is in my heart that I must follow.
Here are some photos from our snow shoeing and skiing time spent in the winter wonderland of Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood Ski Resort, and Silver Lake, just South of Kirkwood.
Winter has definitely become my playground over the years, as I’ve truly embraced the season’s gifts of which I was born in.
Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood. ~Andy Goldsworthy
The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? ~J.B. Priestly
A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder. ~Susan Orlean
There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance. ~William Sharp
Farewell for now magickal winter wonderland! Grateful for your clarity and heart connection.