My day on Sunday started like every other day on this sabbatical. It started with me waking up too early. For some reason no matter how much sleep I intend to get on this journey, I always get less. In journeys past I would often neglect my sleep in order that I could do more and experience more. It has been a path that I have followed with great failure for many years. I would often return from a vacation totally spent and in need of more rest or even in a state of illness.
On this journey though I came with a specific intention of having less activity from minute to minute. I carefully chose a place to stay where I was away from the action and the temptations to go out and do more. I planned active days in the company of nature followed by a retreat nest in a cabin where I could spend each night in reflection writing and thinking. While I have held true to that intention of enjoying solitude at my lodgings each night, I have been in such an intense energy exchange with my Higher self that I I am often up late writing and exploring the nature of my being. I wake up early in the morning after four to five hours of sleep with my mind and heart engaged in deep meditations.
Yesterday I ran across an interesting passage in the book I referenced in my last blog. The book is by the well renowned yogi Paramahansa Yogananda. In the passage I reference, he says the following words:
“Man remains firmly convinced that he is essentially a body, even though he daily receives proof to the contrary. Every night in sleep – the little death – he discards his identification with the physical form and is reborn as an invisible consciousness. Why is it that man is compelled to sleep? Because sleep is the reminder of what is beyond the state of sleep – the state of soul. Mortal existence could not be borne without at least subconscious contact with the soul, which is provided by sleep…”
Could it be that my physical body is requiring less sleep because of the experiences that are unfolding in my extraordinary path on this sabbatical? Could it be I am requiring less sleep because of constant communion I am having with my soul self? The thought has indeed crossed my mind.
Despite my lack of physical sleep I began my day as intended. I made a nice breakfast. I packed my things for a day on the slopes and I even brought my yoga clothes on the slim chance that I would have enough energy left for a little apres-ski yoga class. I would not need those yoga clothes.
I arrived at the slopes in time for the first chair. The first chair experience has never happened for me. When you get in line at the front before the chair lifts even open you have the distinct honor of being the first person down the slopes in the morning. To think that these sacred grounds sat idle all night and collected snow and that I get to be the first person to explore them on this day? It made me feel close to the Native Americans who worshipped theses mountains of God’s country in the Rockies millennia ago long before we came and stole them. I stood at the top of the mountain and drank in the bliss of the moment. Then I pushed off and took the first run.
My morning was nearly perfect. The sun was shining. The light was perfect. The snow was a little hard but I knew that it would soften up in time under the warmth of the sun and the skis of fellow explorers. I skied peacefully from 8:30 a.m. until shortly before noon and then I decided to take a break and grab some food. On this day I carried a backpack for the first time while on skis, so I enjoyed my home prepared lunch as I sat at the base of the slopes.
After my lunch I went back into the high hills expecting to feel fully restored from the nourishing lunch that I had prepared with my own hands. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My first run was sloppy and sluggish. I almost fell for the first time on the trip. I was concerned. I began to doubt myself. I made a second journey up the hill. Things did not improve. I felt light headed. I began to think that my lack of actual sleep was finally catching up with me. So much for that constant communion with the Divine being the cure all. I was afraid and being afraid is no place to experiment with when skiing at the elevations that I was skiing at.
I thought about quitting for the day. I was feeling defeated because in taking yesterday off it was my expectation that I would be able to ski from open to close on Sunday. From 8:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. I ran through the myriad of considerations in my mind. I had paid a pretty nice penny to ski today and if I cut it short I would be losing my money, wouldn’t I? I also thought that this would be my last day on skis in 2016. I wanted it to last until the end of the day at 4:00 p.m. I wanted it to end with the perfect run like it did on Friday. I spent about ten minutes at the bottom of the slopes drinking a bottle of water and checking to see if maybe my hydration levels were effecting my physical experience. After drinking the water I made a rational decision. I’m getting better vat doing that these days.
I decide I wouldn’t quit for the day, but I also wouldn’t do something stupid and continue to take the chair lifts to the higher mountains and risk getting hurt. I went to Chair 5, the same chair I started on on my first day of skiing on this sabbatical. It is a chair that serves only beginning hills and is often filled with families and children. The lines were almost non-existent at this time so I would have the great likelihood of being able to ride the chair up by myself and get my head on straight.
As I approached the lift a woman called out to me. She had three young children with her, all of whom looked to be less than five years old. They were adorable in their little skis and helmets and gear. She then spoke words that would change my day in ways that I never would have imagined. She said, “Would you mind taking a child up on the lift with you? I have a group I’m in charge of and I could use your help.” I told her of course I would help even though my inner self was terrified to be responsible for a young boy as we dangled 30 feet in the air behind a thin metal bar. She told me his name was Nate.
As we got to our turn to board the chair Nate said, “Make sure you help me sit down. My legs are pretty short.” His voice reminded me Macaulay Culkin as it sounded in Home Alone. My insides chuckled but my fears were still there. I had never boarded a chair lift with a child before. Thankfully everything went smoothly as the chair lift operator slowed the chair down in my favor as if she knew I was a beginner at all of this.
As we started our journey to the top I put my right arm around Nate’s shoulder and held him as far back in the seat as his short legs would allow. He then looked up at me and said, “My name’s Nate.” I already knew that because his ski school teacher told me and because he had masking tape across the tips of his skis with his name written on them. I asked him if he was renting the skis or if they were his very own. He told me he had gotten them two Christmases ago for his birthday.
I asked him if he was really born on Christmas Day. He said no, but that everybody has two birthdays. Their real birthday and then Christmas Day which is like everyone’s birthday because “it’s the most important day of the year and you get presents.” I didn’t ask him to expound about his spiritual beliefs, but I marveled at his purity and oneness with all that is right in the Universe. Aren’t we all born with that same sense of joy and purity before we un-learn it?
The chair lift ride to the top on this slower lift takes about ten minutes. I had spent most of my time on the slopes in quad chairs or six-person chairs where it is much easier to disappear into the group and have casual conversation about nothing. I was now faced with a one-on-one like none I had been involved with for my entire sabbatical and my conversation partner was less than three feet tall. I resorted to some of the questions adults ask children who they don’t know very well.
I asked Nate what his favorite color was. Orange. I asked Nate if he had any pets? A dog named Charlie. I asked Nate if he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up?
There was a pause. I prepared myself for many of the obvious answers. Astronaut…Fireman…Doctor…Pro Baseball Player…
Nate then spoke without turning his head at all and told me he wanted to be a turkey hunter when he grew up. It was all I could do not to burst into hysterical laughter and lose grip on Nate’s shoulder at risk of his short legs sliding under the thin metal bar. He the continued to tell me that he wanted to hunt turkeys with a bow and arrow because if you shot them with gun their feathers would go everywhere and it would be a mess. He added that he expected to be fairly busy around Thanksgiving Day each year.
My tired legs and somewhat defeated spirit were growing increasingly more renewed as I laughed on the inside and smiled on the outside. As we reached the top of the lift at the point to exit the chair Nate reminded me to give him a little push. Apparently I pushed too hard because he started to fall. Even though I had never had any experience in helping a five year old off a chair lift, I scooped him up under my right arm as I held my poles in my left hand. I then set Nate safely down on the snow and wished him well on his skis and in his career and watched him scoot off to find his two other friends and teacher.
After the ride with Nate I felt better about myself. In helping somebody else I had a renewed sense of energy and I skied better than In had at any point in the day and maybe in my life. I increasingly leveled up over the next two hours. My skis were running side by side, my turns were tight and my I trusted my legs again. I suppose that was mostly because I trusted myself again. At 3:45 p.m. I decided to take one last chair to the top. The longest run on the entire property is called Four O’clock because that’s when the slopes close and you can ride the run all the way into town and avoid the long Gondola lines to get back to the parking area. The run is 3.9 miles. I had yet to ski the run in my time on this trip or ever for that matter.
For the next 20 minutes I had the run of a lifetime. It wasn’t sunny like my last run the other day. In fact the light was quite flat. It wasn’t empty like my last run the other day. In fact it was crowded, but I always found my space. I wasn’t fast like my last run the other day. In fact it was rather slow.
In that slowness I found the greatest lesson of this journey. My life is a myriad of possibilities that are growing exponentially with each passing minute. I can choose to rush through and maximize the opportunities – OR – I can take the time to ask for help and offer help by moving in a more controlled pace. As a result perhaps I will live in a richer experience? So on this day of ups and downs, at the hands of a five year old mentor named Nate who wants to be a turkey hunter when he grows up, I gained the confidence and the perspective I needed.
It’s Four O’clock in Paradise my friends. Oh how I hope the time will stand still…