Last Updated: January 27th, 2019
In the classic cross-country technique the athlete employs a diagonal stride. Both skis stay parallel to one another. This motion is repeated again and again. The effort, the weight of the body, the stride in concert, determine the coast. Not so much the burst of alpine skiing. Repetitive, methodical, quieter is this carve through snow. Originating in the 19th century as a means of moving from place to place in winter, Nordic skiing bids a rush of another sort.
Two planks and some patience… absent the assist of any steep decline. Out here in the depths of this new-fallen snow the work is all mine. Back and forth. Inhale. Exhale. Slide right. Slide left. Repeat. Repeat. Push. Pull. Before I know it, through my physical effort, all has grown quiet. Blades slicing through fresh powder. What a lovely soundtrack. With my mind now more spacious I can hear this music. Crystal clear is the sound of the birds beginning their day and the wind’s rambling among the trees. The light from the sun tempers the chill of this February morning. It’s like a cloak at my shoulders. The sound of my breath rises to the forefront. I believe I can even make out the cascading to the Earth of a leaf as it carves through space. Just me and my lonesome travelling in this grand sanctuary. To think all of this splendour eluded me as I rode out the snowfall in the comfort of the house in which I dwell. Until this splash of awakening I thought myself quite content in that zone of comfort. I enjoyed shelter, the warmth of a fire, electricity and all its trappings. Yet something was amiss. Something was murmuring. My mind was busy. My thoughts were endless and straying. Doubts. Judgements. Contracting. Anxiety. Always anxiety. Leaning forward. Much clutter in the mind.
What has lured me outside of those doors and onto these boards of wood is the shining sun, the blanket of snow and the opportunity to exert myself physically in the elements. This interest trumps any subconscious need to cultivate presence and quiet the mind. Yet as I ride these blades and repeat the loop, the imprint, both internally and externally, grows more significant. Just as the stride left and right becomes smoother over time, so too does the terrain of the mind. This clearing allows me to meet life just as it is right here in the woods. It’s like the image one makes with a proper lens opened all the way up on a camera. The background falls off, enhancing just the moment in the foreground. This all feels quite familiar. I’ve been here before, yet in my travels through the snow there’s no cushion on which I sit. There’s no candle at which I bow. No chimes calling me to quiet. Always for me, it’s in the physical exertion, the repetitive movement, the communion with nature. That’s how I contact glory.
When he championed an approach of colouring outside the lines, Emerson advised, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This wisdom flashes a green light to the independent mind. There’s a tremendous freedom in going forward in that light—be it an endeavour employing crayons or our meditation practices. I don’t believe in a manual for prayer. My life experiences suggest it is a practice to be made our own, absent of any striving. Keep an eye out for bliss—for those clearings that arise naturally simply doing what you love. Lean into those habits. Enlightenment sports many masks.
image: Susan Currie