"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are." – Chinese Proverb

Onward! Through the …. frozen tundra? It’s amazing what life brings you when you live with an open heart. After spending most of 2012 in West Virginia, I am now living in Manitoba, Canada, spending time between Buffalo Point First Nation and Winnipeg.

With so much to piece together, sort out, a new way to navigate, it’s nice to find an activity where I can let it all go, and just be in the complete present moment with what I’m doing, my sense of “aliveness” not originating from my head, but going into my body, into that interface where my physical body is in contact with nature.

The Forks, Winnipeg, Manitoba. The confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. 

This winter time activity has been ice-skating, even though it’s been ten years since I’ve had on skates.

You know that feeling when you start something, and you just want to be good? And fast? And maybe do a triple lutz like an olympic figure skater? And then feeling like, I am no good at this. Why? Why are you no good at this? The mind answers: I have scoliosis. One of my legs is longer than the other, due to a sideways-S curve in my back. Is that true? Aren’t there all sorts of olympic athletes that have some sort of slight limitation then learn how to work with it, and overcome it as a limitation?

And so I slow down, realizing that the only person I am competing with is myself, which guarantees success, as I only need to improve upon a previous version of me. And as long as I love the stillness of the cold, the silence of the morning, the awareness of skating on a frozen river, and being absorbed into the landscape, being alone, challenging myself, I realize I am happy, no matter if I am “good” or “bad” on skates.

And so I begin. Slowing down, grounding myself into the blades of steel atop a frozen river. Becoming aware that I lead with my left leg, and that in actuality, I am dragging my (longer) right leg along. With this awareness, the left is still leading, but the right is not so much dragging, but swiveling along. I can try for speed, but without the leg strength, skill, and confidence, speed does not come fast enough to feel satisfaction. And so, I settle in to the feeling of the skates. Where should I be resting my weight inside these skates?  I am aware that I am putting my weight on my arch and tension exists on the sides of my feet. When I am more tense and having a feeling of not being able to settle into the experience, my arches ache with tension.

Gradually, I settle in and just see if I can put some weight into the balls of my feet. And if I can put some pressure into the ball of my foot. How about my right foot? Yes. There it is! I’m on the ball of my right foot! Let’s see if I can apply pressure there and get some resistance, to push myself along. Yes. My right foot is beginning to participate, and not merely keeping up. And, so I have settled in. And it becomes not about speed, or turns, but about how comfortable I feel in my own skates.

Does this sound familiar? How comfortable do you feel in your own skin? Are you down on yourself for not having done enough in the past, or for not having made the right decision? When you get going in a direction you are excited about, do you start to anticipate the prestige of achieving your destination?  It’s the game of the ego, the mind, and it steals the present moment from us. The ego starts to again dream of the new possibilities with the attainment of the present skill at hand. Any physical activity that you can do will help you put your attention out of the mind, and into the body. Simply putting your attention into the body takes the power away from the mind. We learn how to control our mind, we begin to be able to use it as a tool when we need it, rather than it running the show at all times. If this does not sound logical to you, remember that there is vast intelligence that exists in the universe, in the functioning of nature itself, and all of this came before the development of the human mind.

The river trails have now closed for the season, and I was at first saddened, but use it as a reminder to never become too attached to one thing for happiness, or too reliant on one activity alone to achieve awareness. Instead, I must delve into other things, and use the experience of being present in one activity to bring presence into more experiences in my life.

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