Discovering subconscious fear pushing boundaries

Early morning sun rise @ Hotham 2016
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It was a sunny morning in the last weeks of September. The ski slope had frozen up a little overnight and felt ‘grippy’, but firm. The weeks prior had been warmer in temperature, yet the resort had been hidden in the clouds which made it feel very damp and cold, despite the melting soft Spring snow with a ‘beach sand’ consistency.

I still needed more training for my exam tomorrow, even though I had been doing fine in the soft snow of the previous weeks. This was a very different day and it looked like the same conditions for tomorrow, so went up the chair lift on the beginners run near the ski and ride school, enjoying the spectacular view that had been lacking for so long. This run is one of the highest ones in the resort and sitting in the chair lift makes you feel like you are on top of the world looking over an extensive area of the old Australian alps mountain range and National Park surrounding the resort.

Once I got off, l gripped my poles different to normal, so I could hold them out wide and drag them along the snow for extra balance, while lifting one ski off the snow. I had been learning to ski on one ski with proper outriggers, but only had a short time today before the usual lineup for group lessons would start, so did not waste it getting the keys to the container holding all the special equipment for adaptive skiing.

For the readers that have not heard of adaptive skiing, this is for people with a wide variety of disabilities, physical and cognitive, where with special training and equipment they too can learn and enjoy snow sports. Outriggers are ski poles like crutches, but with a very short ski on the end, touching and sliding along on the snow, providing extra stability, steering and balance. The reason I needed to master skiing on one ski now, was to be able to do demo’s for people missing, or unable to use one of their legs.

Today however, l struggled with the different snow conditions and felt like being back at square one! Oh, no! I started to feel a panic wash over me. My stomach went into a knot as fear started to get a hold of me and my body would not listen to my commands of how to move… I felt unable to get onto the outside edge of my one ski to turn both ways and balance!

All of a sudden it dawned on me that this is how my customers must be feeling when they struggle to keep their balance on their first slide on both ski’s! I thought that l remembered well what it felt like to learn to ski, but had overlooked the fact that l had already gotten used to sliding on slippery surfaces as a kid ice skating and roller blading well before l started skiing, something a lot of my customers had not learned yet!

l thought about what I had learned from reading about and listening to Bruce Lipton’s work, of how the mind works. How we use the conscious mind to learn new skills by being mindful in the moment and focusing on what we are trying to achieve and how the subconscious takes over the other important tasks at the same time that are not focused on. This happens without being conscious of it, because the conscious mind can only focus on one thing at a time. It is very helpful to our survival and functioning while multitasking, like driving a car while thinking about other things at the same time. Once a skill is learned sufficiently, it goes into the subconscious program, to come out when deemed necessary.

l understood now that my subconscious had a program running that told my body not to get onto the outside edge of my ski, because it would cause me to catch the “wrong” edge and lose my balance real quick! Something that happened a fair bit while l had learned to ski! l understood l had to override the old program, to be able to master skiing on one ski in icier conditions too, something that still made me feel a little fearful of falling some days when sliding on two skis down steeper and more challenging slopes. I had to work on building new neural pathways in my brain, and quickly too, a big challenge, with so little time left to perfect.

Thankfully some of my higher qualified colleagues nearby were helpful in sharing some special tips to focus on and within a few more runs l regained the ability I had been working so hard on to perfect in the weeks prior and felt confident enough to pull it off the next day in similar snow conditions.

The exam day came with light snow showers and again low visibility as well as firm snow conditions. Not ideal for showing off our newly learned skills optimally, but examiners generally take that sort of things in account when scoring your tasks. I managed to impress him with my sit ski riding skills and we ran out of time after all the different role play scenarios of teaching different disabilities to show our understanding and efficiency in the task of being an adaptive ski instructor. I did not have to demo the one ski skill after all that, despite our trainer Dean urging me to work on it predominantly, thinking it would be covered on the day. and noticing it was my weakest point.

Our whole team of candidates made it through, all passing and upholding our trainers amazing record of never having trained anyone to fail at the exam! I believed him, because ten years prior Dean also trained me for the hiring clinic, becoming a rookie ski instructor, and again, all 5 in our group got hired! Oh, great memories and jokes shared again…

Qualification medal for instructing adaptive skiing

APSI qualification medal for instructing adaptive skiing

Several years ago I got to know a lady at a local market over Summer, who always stopped at my plant stall for a look and chat. She was still fairly young, guessing in her mid thirties, yet could not walk well enough and therefore in need of a scooter to get around. When she told me she used to live near the ski resort I had worked for several seasons in a row then, I could not help inquire if she used to ski, which she said she did, before her current physical condition, upon which her face turned sad. Knowing about the adaptive program, I asked her if she had heard about it, which she had not.

Months later they turned up in the ski resort and found me through the ski school. We met up in the most popular lunch bar after my work finished and her partner offered me a drink. The lady was beaming with pride and joy of having pulled off what she thought she’d never do again. Her partner was very pleased seeing her so happy too. I will never forget how it made me feel having been the instigator of this joy and achievement! I never saw them again as I did not continue doing markets. I would love to find out if it had helped afterwards too, perhaps even moving her boundaries in general. Something I am currently educating myself about, by reading material about brain plasticity, are the possibilities and less directly related benefits of snow sports for people with disabilities.

This course was an amazing experience, pushing my own boundaries, fears and understanding, as well as adding to my neural pathways, learning new skills. The understanding I gained from it was a real eye opener too, realizing that slopes look a lot steeper from a sit ski’s (and children’s) perspective and gaining an enormous respect for one legged skiers, feeling the strain, pain and cramps myself after a few turns holding my weight on one leg skiing. On my first run I had to swap my ski from one leg to the other 5 times before reaching the base of the slope!

l am so GLAD to finally have done it! Especially after doing the odd training session here and there over the past years, since meeting that lady, unable to commit to all and never finishing off taking the exam. This was mostly due to the fact that work got in the way, as well as lacking the energy for extra training with the added task of minding our ski lodge at night. Then there was my lack of true commitment, for I could have asked for the days off to allow me to train more. Maybe I was not quite ready for it myself at that time?

The true motivation came mid season this year, from having met several more inspirational disabled people over the recent years that benefited from this little known service and some more that did not, but who served greatly in inspiring and reminding me of my dream of becoming an adaptive ski instructor myself. The last hint that made my motivation turn into eagerness was running into and chatting with the DWA (Disabled Winter Sports Australia http://www.disabledwintersport.com.au/) supervisor Phil for our resort, who was very keen to introduce sit ski’s in Season 2017 on the little beginners run where I had been teaching for the last ten seasons and have written about in some previous posts. ( https://happypollyesther.com/2015/08/23/you-have-a-choice/ and https://happypollyesther.com/2014/06/03/why-i-am-exited-about-the-coming-snow-season/ as well as https://happypollyesther.com/2014/10/05/storm-lovers/ )

I am eager to see where this all will lead me and cannot wait to serve my first customer with special needs next season! I hope you can forgive me for tucking my muse away over our past Winter and seeing very little action on this blog, but I think I will make up for this over the coming Summer ;). Comments/queries/suggestions welcome below.

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You have a choice!

Sunrise at the ski lodge
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15/8/15, 5.30 am. The alarm rings and I push the snooze button a couple of times. I love waking up slowly before my feet touch the soft sheep skin rug next to my bed in the ski lodge. It is only 6 am and at least another fifteen minutes until the rising sun announces the start of another day during the Australian ski season that runs from mid June to the end of September.

Quietly I walk to the kitchen to get my breakfast essentials out from the fridge. I squeeze a fresh lemon into a glass of water and grab the tub of yoghurt, to which I add some muesli once back in my room. The lemons have helped me with keeping the usual “lurgie” at bay, which strikes most mountain staff at some point over Winter. There is nothing worse than having to go out in a blizzard with heavy clothing, struggling to breathe from being clogged up by a cold that just will not clear up in those conditions.

My usual routine in the morning is to check my emails, work schedule and the weather forecast during ‘brekkie’, because at nighttime the lodge is often busy with exchanging the adventures of the day’s past and keeping the fires going among other things like waxing ski’s, showering and cooking.

I love the peace and quiet of the early morning. The sunrises can be spectacular from our lodge on the ridge of the small mountain. It sure is worth getting up early for.

This Saturday morning I find a sad email from a close overseas family member, someone dear has passed away overnight. This news comes as a bit of a shock, seeing I had not heard any news that she had been close to leaving us. It was a little comforting to know it was by choice and despite the difficulty in achieving this, peace was now with her. Still, I did feel sad and also a little useless for not being there to support my grieving family.

Straight away I wrote a short email back and looked forward to catching up by phone soon. It took me a bit of time to find the right words, but felt there was no rush seeing no one had rang to notify me of any early lesson bookings. To be sure I did try logging on to my on-line schedule a few times in between, only to find an error message. Some day’s it is a little temperamental and that is why normally I get a backup phone message, if I have to be there earlier than normal.

Upon arrival there is heavy wet snow coming down and the local slope manager rushes up to me to tell me I did have an 8.30 lesson. My phone goes off while trying to jump into my ski boots with a call from the big boss and a voicemail regarding that booking as well… The fact that I was now half an hour behind schedule, meant that I had to extend my lessons into the towies/lifties lunch breaks for whom I normally cover, so they can have theirs! Thankfully the manager was able to help out making sure they all got a decent break.

Not only that, but when the 10am group lesson starts, I find out that there are 16 people booked in! Normally they allocate two instructors for such a large number, but my helper was already flat out doing private lessons all morning. “Ah, well, just do what you can”, I tell myself, knowing that the calmer I can keep myself, the better I will be able to deal with it. Group lessons are mixed with adults and children on this small beginners run and for that reason they normally only allow children of six and over in the lesson. Under that age they have not fully developed their finer motor skills and need a lot more hands on help with balancing, edging and putting ski’s on, which would consume too much of the instructors attention away from the adult participants. This morning somehow a five year old snuck in! It seemed that everything that could go wrong was happening! Yet, despite my grief and heavy workload, I knew that I could only cope by staying calm and fully focused on the task at hand.

After only fifteen minutes to eat half of my lunch and no time left to eat my usual mandarin for an extra energy boost, I got into the afternoon session. The snow thankfully got a little drier and less heavy. Half way through, another booking comes in for the last two hours of the day till 5pm, making this the longest day ever, with seven and a half hours teaching beginners in ski boots. As I walk ahead of my group of private lesson customers a tear rolls down my cheek forcing me to remove my goggles to wipe it away quickly. I am feeling exhausted and emotional and my feet seemed to have swollen well beyond where my boots allowed, giving me serious discomfort. How am I going to give them a good first lesson experience in this frame of mind? Focus and realize they may only be here for one day! Somehow I manage to hide my emotions and distract my mind from my worries…They had a good time, a great lesson and achieved a lot for a fairly un-athletic group to start with.

Sunset driving home

Sunset driving home

I got home just on dark, feeling exhausted yet happy for not giving in and feeling sorry for myself, but managing my feelings to benefit the customers of the past day. The result was that my day went a lot smoother than it would have, had I not done that. Of course I was still sad about the loss, but having achieved control over my emotions made me feel a whole lot happier. I even felt grateful about the amount of bookings, because it forced me to keep my mind off my own worries!

Next time you feel down and hard done by, think to yourself and ask if getting down and out about it all is helpful in any way, or is there another choice that makes you feel better?

Feel free to leave a comment below.

Why I am exited about the coming snow season!

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I am going to start off with a flashback from last season:

August 29, 2013
Today l was sitting in the lift hut on top of the small beginners run, looking at some showers over a distant valley, thinking about the forecast for the coming week when the following poem came to me:

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“Wishful Thinking”

Grey clouds gathering above,
surrounding us with warmth and love.

Sending down some precious rain,
while I am wishing here in vain

for the cold air to return real soon,
to cover our hills once more in a fluffy white cocoon.

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This was the last day of that run being open for the season that ended in a fizzle for most Australian resorts with some closing a week prior to the end of the official season, which is normally the last weekend of September, due to lack of snow.

I had been enjoying working on this beginners run for 6 years now and knew what was coming, but tried to stay positive. Over the years I had dropped a few hints here and there on how snow making would make the run much more reliable for a large group of customers, that preferred the family atmosphere there, to the much larger and more crowded main resort. These hints were generally met with comments similar to the well known flying pigs one… In other words, the resort had a lot of other priorities to spend money on, before this was even a consideration.

The hole

Why is there a hole in the ground?

Easter this year, while up there to make preparations for Winter, like getting fire wood and cleaning the house, I went past the run to have a look if anything had changed. I noticed that someone had dug a big whopping hole, below the lower lift hut, right next to the fire hydrant connection! I could not help but wonder and hope. Was this a sign of preparations for snow guns to be installed?

Shortly after writing the above poem and thinking about how snow guns would have made my job easier and more reliable over the last few months, I had a conversation with a local council member about the possibility and talked about the positive impact I expected from having snow guns on the continuity of customers and revenue. This conversation was suddenly met with a little more hope raising response than any of my previous ones on this topic.

Snow Gun

Newly arrived

A few weeks back my attention was drawn to a post on Face Book, in which the announcement was made that confirmed my suspicions. The snow guns had arrived! I felt extremely exited! I am eager to find out what the coming snow season has in store and am so glad we now have snow making for everyone to enjoy!

Testing

Testing commences

It is difficult to prove what had changed, that all of a sudden people in charge decided that snow guns are an important asset for the revenue of the small slope, but I can’t help but wonder if my thoughts and poem had something to do with it. Was it just wishful thinking? Or can thoughts, like the ones mentioned in this story, actually become a reality? Through my own multiple experiences with this phenomenon, I have become convinced this is the case. Please share yours in the comments below. I am glad I never gave up on my dream to create better conditions for everyone on “my beloved ski run” and am looking forward to the coming season.