Tuesday, December 11, 2012

You hereby have permission to forgive yourself.

I was working with some pros the other day in early season training, and we were talking about the idea of meeting someone where they needed to be met.

One of the people in the clinic, (we'll call him Fred, but that's not his name) has been teaching on Aspen Mountain for almost forty years. He has a depth of experience with customers that is awesome, he builds relationships beautifully, he is well respected in the ski school.

One day, about twenty five years ago, Fred had a customer whom he couldn't connect with. He tried several different things, and none of them seemed to work. He passed the client on to another pro, who was very successful with her.

Rather than pointing a finger endlessly, look in the mirror, find the lesson.
Since that time, Fred has wondered what went wrong. He has been carrying forward a feeling of guilt at not being able to connect well with this guest. He failed in his attempt to build a relationship with her, and it has been haunting him.

In the clinic, Fred realized that he hadn't been able to let his client have as much control over their relationship as she wanted, and so she wasn't able to walk toward him. He couldn't see where she needed to be met.

And that's okay.

Over the next couple of days, I realized that there was a common theme emerging here. Ski instructors are a group of incredibly dedicated, talented pros. They work hard, they love their clients, they give their clients everything they have to ensure a great lesson experience.

When it doesn't work out, it hurts. The instructor feels like they have failed. They feel like they are wanting for some reason.

In this moment, you have choice. You can choose to see the lesson you need to learn, and take it, and grow from it, or you can take your "failure" and push it in front of you from that moment forward.

That's called letting your story define you. Lots of times we do this because we feel obligated to acknowledge our lack. We don't want to put down the mistake we made because we need other people to know that we know we made a mistake, and we are truly sorry.

The problem with pushing your story in front of you, and letting it define you from that moment forward is that it keeps people from seeing you, and it keeps you from growing. You are stuck. Behind this moment in which you didn't behave the way you wish you had. That's a heavy burden, and it doesn't help you.

If, instead, you are willing to look at that moment, and search for the lesson, (perhaps in Fred's case it would have been "Look carefully at what she needs in order for her to be able to hear me. Decide if I'm willing to give it or not."), be willing to "take the hit" of ownership and accountability. This will sting for a moment, maybe even for a few days.
My story defines me, and I need you to tell me I'm okay.

But if, at the same time, you can thank yourself for being willing to look honestly at what you can change in order to do a better job next time, and truly embody that moment, let that lesson shape your future behavior, you can grow.

And the act of being willing to learn can give you permission to forgive yourself. "I wish I had done that differently. But I didn't. The lesson is X. From now on, I will be more cognoscente of X when it shows up."

If you can look at guilt as your conscious asking you to learn the lesson, once you have agreed to learn it, you can let go of guilt, shame, and wishing. You can fold your growth into your understanding of who you are and how you function, and you don't have to push your story ahead of you, being defined by your mistake forever.

When we push our stories ahead of us, let our stories define us, we ask everyone in our sphere to continually re-define us so that we might take the power away from our own self judgement. We build a need for constant contradiction of that judgement, in order to feel good about ourselves.

Unfortunately, what this does is make the guilt feel deeper, feel secret, and we begin to feel like a fraud. Even if it was a mistake that was only made once, or made many times, but now we have made a change in our behavior, having people validate that we are good, when we secretly think we are bad makes the problem worse.

We begin to rely on the feedback from others as our only compass of our self worth, but we don't actually believe it is valid and true, so no matter how many validations we get, we are left wanting.

How, then, do we heal?

That's better. Be a good parent to yourself. Take the lesson and live again.
By accepting who we are, and what our experience was and is in this moment. It is okay that you had a learning experience. It is okay if you don't feel great in that moment. You are allowed to go through the spectrum of emotions, but once you have found your lesson, forgive yourself. Let go of your need to feel guilt, to cary your story forward. Let the mistake go, like a helium balloon, floating up into the sky. Keep the lesson. Lose the guilt. Grow.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What's next for Kate?

Three days before 2012 Alpine Team Tryouts. What a ride. 
I've been wondering that myself. And I've made a decision. For the last three months, I've been working with my little sister, Liat, and my team from Skiing in the Shower trying to figure out, what is the next step? And then, how do I take the next step?

The first thing was to figure out what it is that I want to do, simply. What am I passionate about? What is it that I do best, that I love doing most?

It turns out it is personal journey and relationship building! (Shocking I know.) Understanding interpersonal communications and helping people identify what is keeping them from moving forward. How to see obstacles both internal, in our understanding of ourselves, and external, in our understanding of others and how we fit in to, and define the relationship.

My challenge (as you can see from the last paragraph) is a verbosity issue. I need focus and distillation. Not just with the information, but with my approach to doing it as a business.

Now what?

I realized this personal growth thingy was my bag a few years ago, but I didn't really know how to package it. giving talks here and there, writing proposals and clinics, but it wasn't quite gelling. Because it wasn't sorted into small, sticky clumps.

I spent about six years writing from a personal perspective, which taught me a lot about my own journey.  This, in turn, made me realize that my journey, fundamentally, is the same as everyone else's. We all want to know where we fit in and how to feel safe, secure, and happy while growing and contributing something meaningful.

Lots of people teach this, and talk about this. What sets me aside? Is there room for another teacher in the personal growth field? This path is rife with mine fields of inauthenticity and ego. Ew. How to navigate?

Enter my INSPIRATIONALLY organized surprise teacher, (my little sister). I taught her how to stop spilling her milk, and she is teaching me how to organize my thoughts and beliefs in a way that holds true to my core values. She is helping me before we even get to talks, books, blog posts and eBooks, with the foundation. Who am I? What do I bring? Who is my audience? How do I reach them? What am I helping them with? What's the best way to deliver the message? I'm so excited, I've never gone this route before.

This is a fun and scary challenge for me, I've lived in a first draft world for a long time. I've lived from passion, which has been a great teacher. I'm a putter out of fires and a plate spinner. But mostly because I didn't plan so that I wouldn't have fires to put out. Now, I'm learning new skills and moving into strange, new, uncharted territory of information wrangling, which requires a much broader-spectrum vision, patience, persistence, and a lot of introspection.

I wondered if I should shut down Skiing in the Shower, now that the six year experiment is over. Is it a distraction now?  Does it take me away from my goal of developing this material into something concrete and deliverable? I don't think so. Skiing in the Shower is one of my favorite places to connect with people who are on their own journey. Its my reality. Its my truth. I'm grateful to go at it, embark on my unsure journey, knowing I'm not alone. I cherish your comments, your stories, and your growth.

I'm so glad to know you are there, on your journey, while I'm here, on mine. 
So I have decided to keep Skiing in the Shower going, as a personal blog about the experiences I have and the lessons I learn as I take this next journey.  I have some friends who worry that being so personal might be detrimental. But I think its a fundamental truth of who I am, I like to work things out out loud, writing helps me do that. And its given me the gift of a relationship with a likeminded community. It keeps me facing the honest truths, it keeps me accountable. I wouldn't let that go for anything. We started this journey together. Lets not chicken out, now.

There will be a new website and blog that center around my consulting business, which I'm tentatively calling "Making the Jump" (I'm going to say that's it's working title, its a bit "corp speak" for me. If anyone has another idea, let me know...)

So here we go, again, gentle reader. Another ski season is upon us, and this year I have a different challenge, a different focus. I've been invited to present some materials on Trust Building for the Ski Company, and other fun topics, and so my focus isn to sift through my material with clarity, extrude it into its foundational pieces, and split it into digestible, easy to understand chunks that can be understood easily and taught by anyone.

I am building a business, from the ground up, new mission, new biz plan, new financials, new materials, new talks, new books, and it all starts with a clear idea of my brand, a clear strategy to spread that brand identity, and an open heart to my teachers while I'm learning new skills.

Its funny, I've owned a business before (several actually), and I've learned a lot each time. But I always have gone at it from a place of passion, with planning happening almost in real time. I function well under a heavy deadline. But that's not a recipe for longevity.

This time, I ALMOST did the same thing I often do, (because I'm eager and excited) but I've decided to open my ears and find my leverage points. So. Liat, Weems, Jonathan, Andy, Kurt, Peter, Megan... I'm listening.  And I'm so grateful to be launching from the ski industry, for all the lessons and mentors I've had to this point, and all the ones to come in the future.

Next Tuesday's blog post: Being willing to learn your lesson. (Eat your peas!)

I loved this business, I had it in Pasadena for about eight months. It was called Prelasser, the Relaxing Bath. All passion, no planning. Very soothing. A vision of what it could turn into without a plan for how to get there.  

Thanks for coming along on the journey!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Make a Different Choice.

This morning, I ran into a friend of mine. She is feeling sad and stressed. She made a big life decision to move to Aspen and try something adventurous and difficult. (She's in the wellness industry).

Its not working out as well as she had imagined. She imagined that coming here by invitation, she would have a safe space to land, to plant roots and begin to forge relationships and grow.

I'm kind of frustrated with you, but I can't show you how I really feel... 

Aspen is a tough place. Its expensive, its a super small town with an international and nomadic population. The wellness industry is saturated here. There are SO many practitioners of all kinds of wellness here, and many of that huge population are also really talented at what they do. Because of that it takes a REALLY long time, even if you are super talented, to make a living with steady clientele, even if you work at it full time.

What I heard this morning was that the situation was frustrating, my friend felt trapped in a toxic situation with no way out. There are relationship triangles and drama all over the space in which she assumed would be safe. I was listening to her and thinking that everyone who is in that situation with her probably feels the same way.

And this happens in every industry. This happens in so many work places. This happens in families and in relationships and on teams.

And I think it comes from a need for each of us to feel right, to feel vindicated, to feel important, to see our place. To take and own our place, to guard our place, in order to feel safe.

Passive aggressive behavior is everywhere, its hard to know when we are doing it, its hard to know when we have bought into it. Its hard to know when we are victims of it. Its hard to know that the choice to not be a victim lies with us, not with the person who is "doing that to us."
The problem is that guarding ourselves and our emotional space as our primary motivator makes OTHERS feel unsafe, so we move further away from each other, making all of us wary and protective. This is part of the toxic cycle.

It can be compounded in situations where the person in the position of authority knows enough about how they SHOULD relate to speak out of both sides of their mouth. In the wellness industry, it can be confusing and painful for someone you work with to say "Love and Light" to your face, and speak behind your back at the same time.

My friend felt stuck. She feels like she is not in a position where she has or can find an ally. She is hanging on while people run rampant with the roles they have chosen: Martyr, Dictator, Earnest Worker, Frustratingly Neutral and Beatific.

I suddenly saw a pattern that I recognized from my life, from a long time ago. As I heard her talk, I thought about how many times I had taken on someone else's drama as my own, because their role dictated that I must, in order to be in a relationship with them. I was asked to merge completely with them in order to exist. And I did, not seeing another option. And I would feel stuck, and un heard, and like I had no value, even though I was working hard and giving all I had.

It took a long time for me to see that the only person who had the power to change that situation was me. I could choose to buy into the story that each of those people were insisting was reality, and truth, and have my own life's path ruled by it, handing all my power for happiness and peace to them.  Or, I could choose to see that their story was THEIR story. And mine was my own to make.

In this realization, you have choice. You can choose to confront. You can choose to get a mediator. You can choose to distance, you can choose to remove yourself completely. All of these choices have consequence.

Once, when I felt like I was stuck in this situation, I was care taking a friend who I had a huge amount of love in my heart for. This was a long time ago when I lived in Pasadena. He lived with me and my husband at the time, and he was suicidal. I cared about him, and so I felt obligated to give everything I had to keep him alive.

I see you. I see you as separate from me. I care for you. But I also care for me. 
Eventually, I felt trapped. Because I knew that I had given more than I had to give, and we were at a stalemate. He was super depressed and suffering, but not killing himself. If I stopped working, he would die, because no one else was stepping up. I felt like stopping giving all I had was tantamount to killing him. Consequently, neither of us had lives. We were captives of each other's stories.

One day, a therapist who I was working with said to me, "What's the worst thing that could happen? He could kill himself, right? What if you let him, Kate. What if you let that be his decision?"

I hated her for that in that moment. How could I let him kill himself? How could I allow him to take responsibility for his own health and happiness?

It took a long time to understand what she meant, and why she was right. It wasn't my job, or place, to STOP him, to save him, to change him. I can choose to not be stuck in that role. Because I am CHOOSING that role. It doesn't change how much I care about him, it doesn't change how much I hope he learns to find a path out of his crushing sadness.

But even thought the consequences of making a different decision seem dire, there is life on the other side of that courageous, compassionate choice. I needed to leave space for him to be right. I needed to let him decide that life was too hard if he wanted to.

What I COULD offer was that if he wanted to chose another path, I would be there, next to him, if he reached out for me. This was a choice that I could NOT see from inside the trauma, having abdicated my ability to have my own life to his drama and trauma.

Its not about disengaging and feeling like I am more important than he is, or believing my own story as much as he is believing his. Its about letting go of imperatives brought on by thoughtless imposition of personal crisis. You can still love someone who doesn't know how to let go of the thing that is driving them, the person who is a victim of their programming. This includes people who believe they have been wronged and need to cary that hurt in front of them like a shield or a banner on the field of war.

"I have been wounded, so before anyone goes anywhere, I need to hear from all of you how terribly sorry you are for me." If the people get this message, it feeds that toxic need, and the message on the banner turns into: "I really like it when everyone is gathered around me consoling me and telling me how wrong it was that I was hurt. It makes me feel valued and important. To be my friend, to work for me, or to share space with me, you need to do this for me, or I can't see you."

Take a moment to honor where YOU are, feel your feelings, and then pick your head up and try to see it differently. You might, in the process of taking back your peace, discover that you are worth caring for, and that the person who can do that most effectively, is you. Surprisingly enough, you will teach other people in your life that you are worth treating well, when you treat yourself well. Be patient, its hard to learn how to do this.
I hugged my friend today, the people she is working with are carrying their banners, and she feels she must capitulate, they hold all the power of the business, let alone asking her to sacrifice her personal power on the altar of their self-esteem.

I feel horrible for her, the pain, the betrayal, the confusion, she is lost. I asked her if she had to stay, if being with that group of people was worth the money she was making. Could she make a different choice? Could she see that taking her power back, letting their stories be their stories, separate from her, was indeed a choice?

I don't know if she could. It might have sounded as harsh as they day my therapist asked me to consider letting my friend die.

But that's how crisis feels. It feels desperate, and desperation narrows our field of vision, we only see thoughts like "run" and "protect" and "lick wounds". That is a dark, small world. Pick your head up, friends. There is choice on the other side. Its so hard to get there, its exhausting.

But, ultimately, it lets you see the people around you for what they are, people. People who are struggling, some consciously, some unconsciously, with their understanding of their worth and their place in the world. You have your own struggle. Focus on that, let their stories be theirs, honor their struggle and their pain, have comparison for them, but your peace? Your power? That belongs to you. And if you feel powerless, perhaps the culprit is not the person who "took" your power. But the person who gave their power away in the first place. You.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Short Hiatus (in case that wasn't obvious...)

Hello, gentle reader! I think of you all the time, and I think of so many things I'd like to share with you. Here's a brief update from the land of Kate...
I learned to love to climb on my bike this summer!

On the last day of the biking season, I was ripping around with a bunch of my friends, riding fast and having fun, and I wiped out on the in run to a jump (I wasn't even on the jump yet), and I broke three ribs in six places.

Because of that, I didn't go to Whistler as planned. Second year in a row that a fall trip has been cancelled! Last year, Kurt and I were to go to Ushuia to train and I got neck surgery instead.

I'm six weeks out from breaking myself, and I'm healing nicely. Ribs take a long time, those of you who have been reading for a while may recall about four years ago when I broke a bunch of ribs skateboarding with my favorite 13 year old at the time. (Can he really be 16 now?? Unreal. Driving.)

In the meantime, it has been a very tough six weeks. There are some things that I can not share with you that have been difficult to go through. The result of facing these things, and facing them alone, was that I was not very kind to myself. It is in those moments, when I am fighting for myself, for my sanity, for some grace, that I want to share with you.

Those moments are so hard, and I know that we all experience them. Its the reality of our human struggle that is interesting to me, the small triumphs that make me believe there is a future worth having.

HOWEVER, I haven't been writing my blog because I have been writing furiously almost every day, and my novel is almost finished!!

I picked up an agent at Aspen's Summer Words festival, and I'm very excited to deliver the manuscript to her in the next two weeks.

SO. My blog is on hiatus until I finish this draft of the novel, and I make a little cash. Being out of work for six weeks was BRUTAL on my bank account, but huzzah huzzah, I had saved up enough that I came through it okay with a little help from my sister.

(Whom I will, one day, take to Fiji on a glorious Stella Got Her Groove back vacation. She deserves it.)

In the mean time, my younger sister has been traveling all over, from California, to Israel, to Argentina this summer, and we all miss her terribly, but she is doing amazing things as well. She has become my model for project planning and execution. This girl has got her shit together, let me tell you.

When she gets back, we are going to sit down and look at how to organize my writing better so that I can stay in touch with you all on a more regular basis, and our conversations (which happen mostly by email or Facebook) can be more open to the general public.

My older sister, Beth, wrapped a movie and went back to her beautiful little nest in Topanga canyon. I'm going to visit her on on the 27th, and we are going to see the Book of Mormon, which I'm really excited about!

The boys are doing well, they were both horribly sick, the worst I've seen them, but they are hale and hardy again. They are devouring the Rick Riorden stories voraciously, reading and re-reading the series over and over. The books are falling apart. Ethan is in Arches with his Fifth grade class, and Bodhi is swimming his way back through a mountain of make up work.

I was accepted to study at the Ashtanga Institue in Mysore, India, for yoga, and I had been planning on going in November. Because of my broken ribs, I am unable to go (the practice is incredibly demanding), so I have rescheduled that trip for April of 2013. I hope to take Bodhi out of school and bring him with me. We will be in India from April through June, where Bodhi will attend a local school.

So. In the meantime, ski season is fast approaching, plans are being made, Christmas dates are being vied for, and I have started working in the training department helping make some whiteboard animations.

Once again, I'm fairly frustrated at my lack of traction, I'm tired of being on such a tight budget in the off season. Breaking my ribs didn't help, and I did better this time than in the past, but I'm ready for a change. Its been a long time coming.

Having no "Big Goal" like the tryouts imminently looming ahead has left me without my compass, which isn't a bad thing. People have asked me if I'm going to try out again, and I'm not sure. I'm open to the idea. But this year I think is a year of recovery, it was such an intense journey. I'm looking forward to going to Japan with a client and friend of mine, I'm looking forward to working hard in the training department, helping others develop their journey.

I wish I could have gone to India first before this season, and come back ripped and ready to rock. But, again, breaking my ribs gave me a couple of gifts, time to write, time to face the difficulties I was going through without running away from them, time to think, time to be with my kids.

Its time to stick my paddle in the water and steer this boat... Thanks for your patience, and for sticking with me through spotty posting. You are in my heart, gentle reader, and I'll stay in touch. As soon as I finish the book, this month, I'll begin posting regularly again.

Much love and grace on YOUR journey!


Monday, August 27, 2012

The day the Tail Whip came to town.

I really never thought I'd actually be able to do it. At the beginning of the mountain biking season, I had a couple of goals that I said out loud. I would like to pedal enough that I learned if I could like pedaling or not. I would like to ride a road bike up independence pass, I would like to commute to work on my bike at least once.

I want to learn how to corner, squash and scrub, I want to learn to ride clippless and ride more xc so that I can take an xc ride with my friends without them wanting to strangle me. I want to learn to roll a rock drop. Ride a rock garden, and go off the the medium drop in the fruit bowl.

And one day, I wish I could go off the green fruit bowl itself, and throw a big ole gnarly whip on my bike. And ride skinny bridges high off the ground.

Those last three, those are pipe dreams for me. At 40, with a fused neck and only two summers on a bike, riding at that level is really not a reality. So I watch it in the movies, and I fall asleep to Red Bull TV World championships DH race video, and I have a blast riding my bike.

And I kind of suck at riding a bike. About five years ago, you will recall, I fell UP Smuggler mountain. The only reason I won the DH races all summer last year was because I was one of the only women racing! Now all the girls I taught intro to jumping to last year (who are in their 20s and 30s) are kicking my butt. (And I kind of love that. That means I did my job.)

Last week, in Crested Butte, I pushed my bike up the ROAD on the way to the 401 trailhead. (But I rode about 30 miles in clip less shoes and didn't eat shit once, so CHECK and CHECK off some of the seasons goals! Boo yeah! Hike a bike is part of Mountain Bike and I aint afraid to push that sucker uphill!)

In other news, I was on that trip with Kurt, who was riding one handed the whole time and probably had time for lunch and a latte after every switchback... I didn't mind pushing as long as he didn't' mind that I was pushing, so onward we rolled, and I felt AMAZING when we got back to town, so CHECK CHECK, I like to pedal, and I feel like I can ride with my friends and only torture them somewhat.

Then I hoped in my car and drove to Steamboat all by my lonesome to ride with my great friend BT. You remember him from epic cat skiing of doom last winter in Whistler. He builds trails for Gravity Logic and he was in Colorado for a short time working. I jumped at the chance to go play with him, we always have a great time. BT was working so we didn't ride a huge number of laps, but I was out on a road trip on my own, making new friends and riding in a new place.

I loved meeting the trail crew and seeing their passion for how fun the trail would be when it was ridden in, and it was awesome to meet Lana, the only girl on the trail crew. She had an amazingly sunny disposition, so happy to be working outdoors. So psyched to learn to ride her bike even faster. (Apparently, she rips). The energy was so good, I felt inspired, free, and happy.

I haven't done that in biking yet, just taken off to go ride and visit and just see what happened. It felt really really good. Expansive. Happy. While I was there, I started tipping my bike over with more authority, keeping my knees more open, twisting down into the turn more, screwing my body down into the bike.

Something was changing. In me, in my riding.

When we got back, I found suddenly I didn't really care about racing right now. I had coached Michelle a little, and I really enjoyed watching her become blisteringly fast. I wasn't ready to ride that fast, and I was really stoked to see her take that leap. I wanted to keep practicing my cornering so that WHEN I rode that fast (one day, maybe), I would feel solid and happy whipping around the berms.

Riding that fast to try to win while putting my body at risk was not on my list of things to do. I just didn't have the skill set to hold the turn and feel really good in it at that speed. I needed to change something technically first. And that change might never come. And I had accepted that.

I taught a lot and didn't free ride that much because I was doing massage every afternoon and I needed to save my hands and my neck, both of which get tired from riding. I spent all the time that I was riding trying to demonstrate good cornering. Consequently, my patterns in my cornering changed.

Then I had a couple of jump lessons in a row, and suddenly all the work we had been doing in cornering on body position and my understanding of how to push my feet into the turn, to snap and bump the bike started translating into understanding the trajectory of the bike in the air so much better. I could finally begin to FEEL when to push my feet into the face, how to adjust the flight of the bike, at speed. With less guessing and more instinct. With less "Oh shit I hope I'm right" and more "wheeeee".

Now the only problem I'm having is I'm starting to overshoot the jumps and my cornering still isn't quite... I know that one of the solutions for overshooting the jump is to scrub or whip. But I just really don't think, even though its the next step, and its time to learn it, that I'm ready or really even capable.

And then I started riding with Ryan and Dean. I met them on the trail at Snowmass, Ryan was riding in a big pack. A couple of them split off and joined us, a little bike school group rolling, but not ripping. Mostly because they were waiting for me.

Ryan took off, Dean followed, and, tired of waiting in the back of the pack because I knew I was slowest, I jumped in. I hoped I could ride fast enough to let the guys behind me have a good time, not be held up, and to follow someone who I'd never ridden with before and see what the difference was.

Right off the bat, we were rolling faster than I usually do. I figured "Oh well, they are going to drop me and I'm going to be riding alone. But I'm gonna do my best to hang on and follow his line." Being dropped and riding alone is fine, and can be really fun, but there is something amazing about ripping along with a group of people.

Its hard to see what other people are doing on a DH trail, you have to stay fairly close, and manage your own flight through the berms and jumps while trying to watch the person in front of you do it well.

But something happened. They didn't drop me. Either Ryan was waiting up for me a bit, or I was rolling faster, or some combination of both, but I wasn't completely dropped. I started following Dean's line.

"Early and High", I always tell my students. "That gives you more time in the turn". And it does. But what I had failed to realize is that the faster you are going, the earlier and higher you have to enter. I never even SAW the line that Dean was taking before I rode behind him. It never occurred to me to start my turn THERE.

Suddenly, I didn't feel like I was going to slide up the berm and out of the turn. I was able to tip the bike more, drop into the turn further, enjoy the sensation of the force pulling me into my bike without worrying if I could handle it and hold the line. I had time to dip my foot and push on the up bar. I was RIDING!

Over the next couple of days, I practiced at speed more. This morning, I ran into Job, an amazing rider from Brazil who can throw his bike around with unbelievable athleticism. He's also super easy going and encouraging. Last year, I taught his girlfriend how to ride downhill, and we had a blast.

Waiting at the water cooler for Ryan to get to the top, Job and I started talking about whips and scrubs. "You just take your inside foot and push the bike like that." He showed me.

"Ohhh!" I said, as though I was going to try it. I really want to learn to do this, but I really just don't think I have the skill level for it. I asked all the questions I had, because I really do want to learn, but I think more so that I can help coach people who want to do it than because I ever thought I could do it myself.

We talked about the pattern that the bars make in the air, how you bring the bike back around by moving your head. We talked about how you counter steer into it off the lip of the jump, how important it is to try it in both directions.

Ryan came up, and suddenly we were a posse of six or so. I wasn't hanging off the back. I was third from the back, kinda almost keeping up, but not really. The boys up front were rolling pretty casually, it was Job's warm up run. I was pinning it, but I never felt loose, for some reason, riding on the shops 2012 Giant Glory (I destroyed my front fork jumping my old Slayer and don't have the $700 to fix it) I felt like I was on a cush ride that just wanted to help me out.

Up at these speeds, the bike actually feels much more stable, and now that something has clicked in my cornering (LINE CHOICE, thanks, Dean!), I feel like I'm just rolling along, like I can play, not like I'm holding on for life and praying that I don't fuck it up.

The next lap, we are lined up at the hay bales at the top of Valhalla, and Job says, just before we roll out, "Hey Kate, lets work on those Whips, okay?'

Really? I was going to just work on them in my mind and never really try it until I went to a Whip Clinic in Whistler one day and sucked at it under the watchful eye of a trained coach. I was putting it off.

Mostly because I hadn't talked to anyone who could voice a concise understanding of the steps one could take to learn this in a safe progression. I was pretty sure I was going to whip the bike come down sideways, jackknife the handlebars and bury myself in a broken heap in the dirt.

Stay positive. Thats something else I tell my students a lot...

Apparently, Job thought I had the skill to do this, and hey, we've taken all of one lap together, who am I to argue with him about my skill and his ability to evaluate it?

(By the way, this is also how I broke four ribs three summers ago. Learning how to drop into the big bowl on a skateboard because a 13 year old told me I could do it. (To be fair, I trust this 13 year old, he has pretty good judgement)). (Side note, don't ever get the flu after you break your ribs, Throwing up sucks.)

Now, with a fused neck and healed ribs, I've been trying to be more adult. I walked through a lot of Psycho Rocks at Crested Butte, unwilling to take a fall with consequences like that. On the other hand, I had ridden all the little rock gardens with good energy and I felt solid helping the tire over the back side of the rocks while dropping down. Things were changing... maybe?

Also on the other hand, I had surprised myself at Steamboat, rolling along a skinny and dropping about  6 feet onto a bridge. I surprised myself again rolling down a steep rock drop. (Oh wow, CHECK AND CHECK off my seasons goals! Can this really be happening??) And then, who knew, CHECK on one I didn't even know I could aspire to; take a bike road trip and ride with a bunch of people I don't know just for fun. Hang with the group. Try hard stuff and pull it off. Make new friends who love to bike.  (Hi, Holly! We miss you guys!). (The hot tub incident and its ensuing late start consequences the next day were NOT on my list by the way...)

"Do you want me to follow you?" I asked Job, thinking he was going to say, "No, just work on your whips." "Yes. Follow me." He let the rest of the guys pull out and we hung off the back. Am I really going to do this?

We railed through the berms and pulled off at the top of the jump portion of the run. "Try this on these step-downs, you will have success here."

He said it with so much certainty that it just seemed rude not to try it.  And what the heck, we were not going that fast. Yet.

He dropped and whipped.

I dropped and scooted the tail of the bike to the side about three inches. Step-up, he throws a huge whip.

I follow him off of it and surprise myself. The bike goes out, i look and pull and it comes back under me. Step down. No time, wall ride. Im thinking about the whip so much that the corner takes care of itself and we are rolling at a comfy pace that makes the bike suck up the trail like I've never felt before.

Through the second set of berms, snap through the chicaine and then: jump line. These jumps are regular enough and far enough apart that I want to try it again. Mini whip on the table top, choke on the drop, straight air on the step up. Last chance. There's a big step down coming with a great landing and the group is waiting on the road. Kodak courage. I push the bike out from under me and everything slows down.

I have plenty of time. The bike is floating through the air, stalling, floating out to the side. I push the bar over and down, thinking about putting my knee across the frame. I'm not there by a long shot, but the action makes the bike do the strangest thing. It tips over sideways as the bars float over and suddenly, I'm riding in three dimensions in a way I never thought I'd experience.

I push the bars down in space as I crest the apex of the arc, and the bike floats up. I turn my head back to the trail and the bike follows. The landing falls away just perfectly and I land, SQUISH, two tires at the same time at the bottom of the transition.

I can whip.

I, me, nearly 41 years old and who fell UP Smuggler mountain, today went 34.8 miles per hour at some point on that ride and whipped the crap out of that bike.

Now, just like everyone who gets a teeny tiny bit of air on their skis for the first time feels like they went huge, I'm sure that my whip has a LONG way to go. The bike is probably not going that far up, that far out, and I'm probably not landing truly straight yet.

But I feel it. and out of those 55 jumps, I got to practice about 10 whips. And on the next lap, probably 30. And out of those 40 attempts, there were three that felt like time stopped and space was there to play with.

Like the rules of gravity and force still existed, but I could experience riding my bike at a right angle to the mountain and feel as though gravity applied in all directions, sucking my tires down into the earth when I was cornering. And when I was airborne, it felt like everything was timeless and slow and smooth.

And then I wanted more time up there, so I adjusted bow I was hitting the face of the jump with my feet, and suddenly I went from passively guessing to some beginning of kinesthetic understanding of when to push with my feet, the bike was getting so high in the air, I had all the time I wanted.

Six more days to practice flying. Six more days to ride Snowmass.

Don't let it pass you by!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How to be in love. Really, truly in love.

In love without attachment. How can I be really truly in love without being attached? 

Full of peace, no drama, no crisis, just being.
Ive been wandering around this question for years, reluctant to let go of the idea of “being in love” for the more noble goal of developing Bodhicitta. I felt often at war with these concepts, unwilling to let go of my desire to be in a loving relationship, to feel and to be loved, while developing compassion for all sentient beings.

I don’t think that these things are mutually exclusive. I think that you can love and be loved, while being free from attachment to the person you love and to the concept of love itself. 

And once you are there, the act of loving and being loved is pure, free from wanting and taking. I think in order to get there, you have to examine closely what it means to be loved, to give love. What love is and why it is necessary. 

One of the major tenants of Buddhist Philosophy is that we become free from attachment. Attachment to things, people, emotions. If we are trying to achieve emptiness (which is a desirable state, a place of equanimity, not a place of abandonment as many western minds would initially think), we must look at what causes feelings of attachment.

Our ego is the source of pride, of wounds, of attachment, of bliss, of elation. Identifying our ego not as the thing that defines us, (our ego is not our personality) but as the thing that emotionally reacts according to our programing. We were programed emotionally to respond by those who raised us, by society in general around us. So our programming, our automatic responses are not thoughtful and mindful, but are just that, reactions.

Our ego is a bottomless pit that desires to be attached, to be fed. We feel temporary sensations of elation and bliss when our ego is appeased. Often the price of appeasing your ego, or indulging it is equally painful as the bliss was wonderful. Being led by your ego into decisions you make on how you relate to others, decisions in business, decisions in general is being led blindly. It is decision making in life through base, un filtered emotion. It is also how most of us make most of our decisions, without even realizing it. 

We check with our internal desires: “Do I really want this?” might be a question we ask. “Is this healthy for me?” might be another. But what is the filter through which you receive your answer from yourself? Years of conditioning, fueled by want, probably. Even for those of us that have learned to find our internal compass, it becomes important to know what tuned or informed that compass.

A gift given freely. I feel love in my heart for you and so here is a kiss. Its yours, something to recieve.
The compass will get clearer as you begin to identify areas where your ego is asking you to respond one way, and you listen to it without first creating space between yourself and your emotional response to a situation. 

So first, in order to practice identifying ego, and removing it from decision making; practice observing your emotional reactions with curiosity. Observation and curiosity are two powerful tools that create space between you and your emotions, and your action following those emotions.

This is not to suggest that having emotions is wrong or bad. I think our minds easily go to a place where we might think, this is me being asked not to feel, or to deny my feelings. Not at all. To feel is to be human. To experience emotion is to live the human experience. 

The question is can you be a more evolved human? Can you experience your emotions with some detachment to their directive? Without being owned by them? Do you have choice in an emotional place. Can you feel pain and sorrow and observe it as it goes through your body, noting its depth, and its quality, without wishing you were not experiencing it? Can you let the emotion that you are experiencing be your teacher? Can you be grateful for the lesson without cultivating anger towards the person who you would like to blame for making you feel this way? Can you own your part in whatever mad you feel this way? Can you allow grace and compassion for yourself while you observe yourself going through the process of grief, knowing that it is perfect and necessary. 

Obviously we learn how to handle our emotions to some extent through social norms. Lets say we are walking down the street, and there is a person who is eating an ice cream. Our internal desire lights up. Ice cream tastes good, we may experience desire to taste that ice cream. We know better than to walk up to that person and just lick their ice cream cone. 

We know that that ice cream belongs to them, and even though we have the desire to taste it, we decide not to follow through. If we observe our emotional reaction with curiosity, we may have the added benefit of being able to take that sensation of desire and turn it over in our mind. This is the quality of desire, this is what it feels like, this is how my mouth reacts to the idea of ice cream, this is how attached I am to the concept of needing to fulfill my desire. 

Ultimately it may be a more rewarding experience to meditate on your emotional reaction without being an unwilling victim of it. You can choose to go buy your own ice cream, and experience the sensation of eating it mindfully, or you can continue walking.

Here is where the question of love and attachment comes in. 

Blissful emotions are easy to become attached to. Experiencing them is amazing. We all desire bliss. They say that the state of enlightenment is blissful, entering a Nhirvannic state is the ultimate. (Bodhisaatvas continually deny this pleasure, refusing to attain their final state of Buddahood and enlightenment until all sentient beings are free from suffering. They “flee Nirvanna like it is a burning iron house”).
Am I holding on to you, or are you holding on to me? Or are we touching each other to transmit loving kindness, freely? A gift passing back and forth between us, each time giving with no expectation for reciprocation, each time received with gratitude.

But attachment is attachment. How do we experience bliss while not being attached to it? The same way we experience anger without being attached to it. Emotion is like the water in the stream. You wade out into it, and watch it swirl around you. You experience, in much more depth, the quality of each emotion when you are able to dispassionately and with curiosity observe its characteristics and qualities.

Attachment means thinking that you need this emotion in order to feel fulfilled. Experiencing your emotion fully means making space between you and that feeling, so you may observe with curiosity each aspect of the human experience, whether blissful or sorrowful, but ultimately without having your equanimity disturbed by either one of these emotions. 

Like a willow tree in the wind, imagine your capacity for feeling to be as expansive as the universe, imagine each branch capable of moving with the wind, whether its a gentle, warm breeze, or a cold gale force wind. 

Your ability to stand in the midst of all of these kinds of emotions, to see them, feel them, examine them, experience them without having them dictate your behavior allows you to have a greater depth of human experience. 

Now imagine that you are in love. There is one person in your life that you have formed a loving bond with. This is a good thing, and it doesn’t have to mean that you are “attached”. Think of attached meaning your sense of self or self worth being dependent upon unregulated input by someone else. In other words “they act loving towards me, therefore I feel my worth” that is a direct attachment. 

“I feel love from this person and experience its gift, I look at and examine the feelings of love not dispassionately but from a perspective of curiosity.” This allows you to actually experience the person, the feeling, to cultivate gratitude, to practice loving kindness, to remove your ego, to really experience love without contamination. 

If we are looking at an overall goal being that of achieving emptiness, ending suffering, that of yourself, and that of others, the road map would look like this, the end point being on top. (So read the list from the bottom)

Finally, Emptiness, void of attachment and suffering of any kind. Bodhicitta.
Resultant Equanimity, at peace with the fluctuations of our emotions, not owned by them, able to see clearly and have choice in the midst of bliss or chaos.
Compassion and loving kindness for all sentient beings
Cultivating Loving Kindness and Compassion for our enemies
Further exploration of and detachment from our Ego
Cultivation of Compassion for those we have no connection to 
Cultivation of Compassion for those we care for, like family or friends
Cultivation of loving kindness to those you care for
Cultivation of Loving Kindness to yourself
Each branch catches the wind, feeling its power, whether gentle or fierce. At its center, the tree experiences all of this, but in the end, is not defined by it. 

Loving kindness leads to compassion. When practicing loving kindness, we learn gratitude, we learn to give from a peaceful place. The process of learning not to be attached begins with attachment. 

Skipping to the end, trying “not to care” or “be attached” to others without first practicing cultivating loving kindness and compassion simply leads to a denial of emotion and an in-emotive state. You become conditioned to “not feeling”, rather than feeling all of it, but having a beautiful space of objectivity through which you can observe your emotions and reaction. 

Who do you feel attached to? Your friends, your family, your lover? Practicing gratitude for those people cultivates compassion for them. Practicing loving kindness towards them helps you learn to grow the capacity of your heart. 

In the next step, when you practice expanding your loving kindness to those you feel ambivalent about, you deepen your ability to not be attached while feeling love, or compassion. 

This is a good place to recognize your ego. If you can cultivate compassion for those you have no attachment to or affection for, you may find yourself wanting praise or accolades or recognition for these acts. 

This is a beautiful opportunity for a lesson. See the egoic piece that needs recognition, and then ask yourself if you can give your love as a gift, needing nothing in return. Because you are also compassionate to yourself, and have cultivated loving kindness to yourself, when it is time to give to someone who is not your friend or family, give willingly and without need for return. Give from your overflowing cup. 

If your cup is not overflowing yet, practice loving kindness and compassion toward your own self first. 

This is not selfish behavior, this is you practicing understanding what love and compassion are before you try to give them to someone else. If ultimately, your love is grounded in need, when you do give it to someone, you give it conditionally, with strings attached. 

“I will love you if you act this way.”

Practicing being enough for you makes you whole and healthy enough to give your love without toxic attachment, and at the same time, allows you to receive the gift of someone else's’ love without needing to take it from them. 

So how do we deal with wants and needs in a relationship? Giving your love without stating your needs can feel like laying down and letting someone walk all over you.
Its integrity intact, the tree bows to the force applied, acceptance. Over time, the tree will stand as the weight is lifted. 

However, laying down and letting someone walk all over you shows that you do not have compassion or loving kindness for yourself. It is not a compassionate choice to be in a relationship with someone who is not practicing gratitude for the love the are receiving. And at the same time, we do not give our love conditionally.

Here is where it can get tricky, and I think a good step to remember is that in order for you to give your love to someone else, whether it is a stranger or your committed partner, you need first to shine that light on yourself. Fill your vessel to overflowing, and from that place, give. 

If you practice making the compassionate choice for yourself, when your relationship boundaries are bumped, you can say clearly, that was the boundary of how I like to be treated. If you want to be with me, I need for you to respect that boundary. As we cultivate gratitude for the person we are with, and compassion for them, it becomes second nature to see our partners boundaries, and honor them well, without feeling like doing so takes from us. 

If we are practicing cultivating loving kindness towards first ourselves and then to those we love, and then to those we are ambivalent towards, and then towards those who cause us harm or feel like our enemies, we become powerful in our equanimity. We can stand in the center of bliss and loving kindness with those we care for just as easily as we can stand in the anger and ferocity of our enemies. 

Being able to stand and bend and see with objectivity both the positive and the negative allows us insight into the situation, enabling us to cultivate a strong middle path. 

This does not mean not to feel or love dive into the hearts of those we love. By all means, dive in. Love with ferocity. But allowing yourself to be owned by that love, attached to that sensation, dependent on it like food, as opposed to cultivating it and then having gratitude that in this moment, that emotion is present, you miss the point.

When you chase the bliss of love and attachment, you let the essence of its depth slip through your fingers. Compassion for the person you love means and includes loving them not in spite of, but inclusive of their faults as you see them. It means standing next to them with equanimity when they struggle. It means loving them the same whether they are on top of the world or being beaten up by it. When you are attached, or mistaking attachment for love, your partners ability to give love to you may define your experience of the relationship. 

If your partner loves to go hunting, lets say. And you are a vegetarian. You have nothing in common with this part of who they are. But it makes them happy and fulfilled. It is a healthy pass time, they get into nature with their buddies and get all muddy and bloody and come home feeling like they have accomplished something. They experienced time in the woods with their friends, cultivating gratitude and increasing loving kindness towards their friends. Lets say its not a trip you’d want to go on, or even better, not a trip you were invited along on.

Living in love without attachment means that when an opportunity for your partner arrises to do something that is meaningful to them, a wonderful way to cultivate loving kindness for them (which leads to compassion, which leads to equanimity), is to find a place in your heart where you WOULD be ego attached. 

This is the place that says, “Why doesn't he want to stay home with me? Why am I not invited? Why does he need these guy friends? Why is the trip a month long? Why do I have to stay home with the kids?” 

And hearing those little hurts and milking them, that’s your ego. That’s attachment.

Hearing those little hurts and recognizing them as your teacher, and then looking for a place to be able to say with truth, “I recognize that this is something that makes him happy. If I love him, I want him to be happy. Part of my job as a person who is in a loving relationship is to help my partner experience his world with love and joy. Therefore I am so excited for how happy he will be when he goes on this trip!”

Look for the emotion that he will get to experience. Let his potential to go without guilt, to feel freedom and support and compassion from you also fill you. Find the gift of yes, truly unattached to the outcome, not expecting tit for tat (If you go on this trip I get to go on this other one). Live your love free from worry or want or fear, let them go with your blessing. When you are willing to make that choice, and really practice it, you are living a depth of love that is that much more fulfilling for both of you.

Now this, of course, is about you experiencing love and commitment to a partner while practicing not having attachment. It is difficult if one person is practicing this way, and the other person is not, and therefore just takes.
Wrapped in each other, neither one owning the other, giving freely, experiencing the gift of human emotion without being defined by it.

You must evaluate whether you are making a compassionate choice to yourself to be with a person who is very ego attached and can not practice compassion towards you. If you stay in this situation, eventually, you will be depleted. 

However, practicing compassion for the fact that this is a path that takes people lifetimes to walk down, cultivating patience and grace for their practice is also important. This is a long journey, you yourself will need plenty of grace along the way. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How do I move my edge forward so I'm always pushing myself?

I had a friend email me the other day after I wrote the post about looking over your edge but not jumping off of it.

You might have to take a running leap off your emotional or mental edge to make change, like getting to class in the first place.
He asked to some extent, "What about moving your edge, so you are always pushing yourself?" Another friend asked something like "What about re-evaluating your boundaries and deciding if you want to move your edge?"

I thought those were good questions. And I think they have the same answer.

If you practice the right way, your edge moves itself.

But you have to pay attention. And have grace for where the edge is. And test it. Is it your mental edge or your physical edge? You have to push against it to see if you have more to give. You must not judge where your edge is compared to where it was yesterday. Your job is just to walk forward, every day, to your edge.

That's part of the compassionate choice. That's part of listening. You will NOT make improvements every day.

You will make improvements over time. The body changes every day according to how much sleep its had, what kind of food its had, how much it stretched or worked the day before.

That's why in weight lifting, you take days off of body parts while they heal and grow.

In yoga, your body becomes MUCH more flexible over time. In fact, tonight, I surprised myself by putting my face on the floor for the first time ever in a certain posture. Ive been practicing diligently for about two years.

Over time, if I came to my edge with diligence and patience, every single day, my edge moved. Overall, my face was closer to the floor. But day to day, in this posture, my edge was a good eight inches away from where I'd been the night before in practice. Sometimes it would stay that way for a week.

Once you are there, it will feel more like this every day. Walk willingly to the physical edge. Have grace for wherever that edge is today. 
Sometimes, I'd have weeks where I was a millimeter closer every day for a week, and then suddenly be able to go several inches further, followed immediately by a class where everything felt tighter.

If I fought the process, I frustrated myself. If I had grace and patience for the process, and just made the commitment to go to my physical max every single time I practiced, over all, the result was hugely positive.

If you practice the right way, that is by dedicating all of your effort to practicing well and correctly, rather than practicing through a prideful place, you will be far less likely to get injured, you will be much more likely to get amazing depth in your practice, and your practice becomes singularly about you and where you are in your body on that day. You have grace for your own becoming, and with that grace, you grow faster.