Silence in the Snow

Skiing, Integrated Behavioral Health Psychological Services, Kalamazoo, MI

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One of my favorite things to do in February and March is downhill ski.  In addition to the downhill part, the uphill part is magical.  This is the time for a pause in action.  When you sit down on the chairlift you learn to trust the seat under you, maybe you skootch back one butt cheek at a time. As you are whisked away from the chairlift operator; the silence, the pause, settles in.  It is a unique quiet that only happens high in the open air insulated by the snow below; sometimes the silence is broken by the mechanical clink of the chairlift but largely the quiet remains until you reach the top of the chairlift. At this pause in the action, my eyes take in the diamond-like glistening of the snow, skiers and snowboarders that look like different sized pebbles sliding down a decline pushed by the power of  water, rolling down or side to side based on their girth and natural characteristics.  I feel the weight of my ski boots and skis stretching the muscles of my calves giving my feet a reprieve from the pressure of the boots.  I feel the chair lift’s motor vibrate through the mechanical pieces to the chair and onto my back. I feel the ski gear on my body, layers of soft clothing, thick ski gloves, the pole handles loosely held in my hands, the weight of the helmet on my head and goggles on my face. I smell the clean, dry cold oxygen the trees have provided for me on each breath in.   On my exhale, I give my carbon dioxide to the trees.  

This pause in the action cannot be interrupted by the sounds of people talking, phones ringing, buses, autos, the radio, television. So this pause in action is an opportunity to simply be, to saunter through the senses allowing my mind to dwell on each sense one by one.  My mind’s function is to fire thoughts at me like “that little person is flying down the hill, I hope he knows how to stop,” or “lost pole,” “steaming cocoa might be nice,” I note those thoughts and allow them to pass through my consciousness, I redirect my mind to the sense I was dwelling on.  Consciously not pushing the thoughts away but noting them as a separate entity from myself, knowing the job of the mind is to fire thoughts that alert me, remind me of future items, zip to the past with a familiar smell, organize the bombardment from my senses.  Trying to slough off the judgement and frustration of not having complete and direct control of my thoughts, I return to the few cherished minutes of quiet until the sign “Tips up” enters my visual field.  It warns me it is time to direct my attention toward the stand up while the chair remains below me for two seconds until it bounces off my body to push me forward into the action of downhill skiing.  I look forward to the next cherished opportunity to be mindful during the pause in the action, and I being the descent downhill.  

Sheryl Lozowski-Sullivan, MPH, PhD.

Printed in the Good News paper, January 2021

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