Tag Archives: skiing

Trying to be mindful

After my recent (actually it was about 6 months ago- wow) foray into mindfulness I was kind of aware of the fact that it might be useful to practice some simple techniques on a regular basis (mindfulness aficionados would refer to this as a “daily formal practice”) for the whole thing to really benefit me when it counts. But, like most things I know I ought to do (or not do) regularly, it kind of got shoved in the “too hard” basket (which should really be re-named the “can’t be bothered basket”).

We are in Canada skiing at the moment, and getting myself down a ski slope is one such time when, you could say, “it counts”.

Skiing is not something I am naturally good at. For starters, I didn’t ski for the first time until I was 33 years old.

The other things that go against me are:

  • I am not very brave. Specifically, I don’t like going very fast (on skis, horses or mountain bikes), I don’t like falling off (skis, horses or mountain bikes) and I don’t like breaking bones (which I have only ever done in association with horses and mountain bikes…. so far)
  • I don’t have a great innate sense of balance (although luckily it turns out that this can be developed)
  • I am not naturally very coordinated
  • I tend to be put off by previous bad experiences (such as broken bones)

Sometimes I have these amazing skiing days when things just effortlessly come together. Each time this happens I try to identify what it is that’s going right. Somehow, my posture seems spot on, my weight is balanced, I’m relaxed and I gain confidence with every slope I comfortably negotiate.

Conversely, I sometimes have days, or at least runs, when it seems I’m doomed. I try to lean forward, remember what I’ve been taught previously, be brave and confident and relaaaaax…… easier said than done, right?

Well maybe not any more.

I didn’t have the best day yesterday, it wasn’t terrible but it ended with a long, difficult, icy, monotonous run home. Not my finest moment. (If only it were just a moment, it was actually over an hour of “moments”). At the top of that steep, white, icy descent, my brain went from thinking “Ok, let’s do this! Final run!” to “Oh my god it’s steep! It’s long! How long is it exactly? And how long will it take? My legs are tired! Will I be able to make it? How long till I can take a break? Is there a bail-out option? Why did I ever think this was a good idea?!?!?! HEEEEEELLP!!!!”

But this morning, when my thoughts started to rapid cycle, I took some deep breaths. In and out. Cold, pure, mountain air. I looked at the snow on the pine trees. I saw the icicles hanging from the tips of the branches. I noticed how the trees seemed to grow out of the rocks, from barely any soil. In the distance I took in the blue sky, the mountains, how the snow goes from a dense white blanket to a speckled mixture of green and white, to dense evergreen lower down- a gradual transition from white to almost black without any discernible borders. I made a point of thinking “Just take it as it comes. Not even one run at a time, but one turn at a time, one moment at a time. It is what it is.”

Did it make a difference? I don’t know. I was less anxious than yesterday. I didn’t ski brilliantly, but I didn’t ski terribly. I didn’t have any moments of complete and utter panic and despair. I still wimped out of a lot of stuff I should have been able to do.

But at the end of the day I thought “It was what it was. I’m better than I used to be. I wasn’t as good as I can be at times, but that’s ok.” I didn’t worry about wasted time or wasted money. I felt like I had spent the day doing what it felt right to do at the time.

And I have convinced myself that as well as lots more formal skiing practice, I need lots more formal mindfulness practice. Fortunately, unlike skiing, I can do that every single day. Without breaking any bones.

Family Travels

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Exploring the snow at Whistler Creekside

We’re at the end of our 8 day trip to Canada now. It’s always sad to get to the end of a holiday, although I know I’ll be glad to be home once we actually walk through the door.

This wasn’t our first overseas trip with children, although it was one of the more logistically complex. There was a conference I wanted to go to in Whistler and given that we love the place and love to ski, the obvious choice was to take Mr L and the two little Ls with me.

A number of people (most of them with children themselves) expressed their admiration, as in “Wow, you’re brave coming all this way with 2 young kids”. A couple of others (without children and unlikely ever to have them) simply gave me the impression they felt a bit sorry for me having to compromise my holiday “fun” because of my kids.

However, I really don’t agree with either of these sentiments (although I was happy to accept the admiration of the former group!) Like many things in life, and definitely life with kids, not only do you get out (to some extent) what you put in, but you learn fairly quickly that if you really want to make things happen, you can. Yes it might be a bit more work, but there’s a good chance it’ll also be more rewarding.

A lot of it boils down to mindset, I think. When I was pregnant with Master L, friends of ours announced they were getting married in Whistler (he’s Canadian). They hoped as many people as possible would make it and were planning a week’s skiing leading up to the wedding. I calculated that Master L would be about 5 months old by then and so my first reaction was “Oh, that’s such a shame, we won’t be able to make it” but before I could say words to this effect out loud, Mr L said “Awesome, skiing in Whistler, sounds great!”. I was a bit dubious, but once I realised Mr L was serious, I thought “Well if we’re going to do this I need to be positive about it and make it work”.

And so we did. And it was brilliant! Flying with a 5 month old, breast-fed baby is a piece of cake (now that I look back on it anyway! Ok, so at the time it seemed like a bit of a big deal, but it was fine). We stayed in a self-contained apartment at so we had everything we needed including a kitchen. I hear a lot of people complaining about going away with kids and staying in self-contained places, they grumble that they still have to cook & wash and tidy up, so “you may as well be at home”, they say. But I disagree. You cook a bit, but much more basic stuff, the biggest load of laundry you’ll do is the contents of your suitcase (and that’s unlikely to be done all at once) and someone comes in every day and spruces up- but only when it’s convenient for you, of course. When Master L was playing on the floor or sleeping I a) read b) slept as well or c) drank wine (well, at night anyway!) I did a bit of skiing- we’d get a babysitter for a long morning (which is about my skiing limit anyway, especially 5 months after having a baby) and it was actually very relaxing. Plus there are none of those chores and ongoing projects calling to you and making you feel guilty for sitting down and relaxing.

So we had similar plans this time. I took loads of distractions and snacks for Master L on the plane, we booked an apartment with an extra bedroom and we had my conference to complicate the logistics slightly. It’s a little harder flying with 2 kids, in that you end up each “having” a child the whole time, instead of passing one back & forth between you, but that’s ok, at least he had his own seat and I gave up the expectation of reading or watching movies with children on planes a while ago. Babysitting costs no more, really, for 2 than for 1. And because you have a toddler there’s not as much time for the reading & sleeping etc, but then there isn’t at home, either. And we still had our wine!

A spanner was thrown in the works by Miss L, who came down with a nasty bug the day after we got here which meant we had to cancel the baby-sitting a couple of times to stay with her ourselves, which was really disappointing, but those things happen at home, too. It also meant Mr L and I didn’t get an awful lot of time alone together. With her cold, Miss L slept terribly all week and in a strange bed, Master L didn’t sleep well either. So we are all tired!

There were some great things about going away with our toddler, though. We got to spend more time actually doing things with Master L and watching him enjoy them- like playing in the snow, riding in the cable car and watching the trucks clear the snow each morning. Last time we went, at 5 months old, these were the things we wanted to enjoy with him but he was more interested in practicing rolling over! We got 8 days away from the work-home-sleep-work cycle to take stock. I really enjoyed my conference. We both managed to get in some skiing. We went on a sleigh-ride….

I’ll never be one of those “I backpacked around south-east Asia with my baby on my back” type of people, nor have I been brave enough to try camping with the little ones yet, but I do think you can do anything if you really want to. You will undoubtedly have to compromise at some stage and be realistic about what you can enjoyably do. So while I look at those people who do go traipsing round the world and think “you’re crazy!”, I also say to those people who tell me “Oh I wish WE could go skiing with our kids”, you can! Yes we are lucky that we can afford it, some of it’s about affordability, but from a  logistical perspective, some if it is really just a bit of lateral thinking and determination.

So, what did we learn?

  1. Get to the airport extra-early. Toddlers hate to be rushed, they also love running around the airport and plane-spotting. And toilet stops take a long time!
  2. Don’t plan to do anything much within 24 hours of a long-haul flight. The kids need time to recover.
  3. Don’t worry too much about not having “exciting” things for little kids to do at your destination- riding buses and going to new playgrounds can be just as much fun as things which cost money.
  4. If you have the luxury of being able to take or meet (helpful) friends or relatives on holiday, do it! We realised (way too late) that Mr L’s mother was off work this week and it would have worked out perfectly if she’d come with us. It would also have solved our problem of not being able to leave a sick child with a baby-sitter.
  5. Don’t overestimate how much time and energy you will have to do your own thing- we booked a 5 day lift pass, of which I skied 2 and a bit days, and I brought 2 new books with me, and haven’t read as much of a page of the book I was already on!
  6. It’s your holiday too, so while you need to consider your kids, you also need to do what you want to do some of the time as well.
  7. You can make it work with kids, you might just have to compromise a bit!

So, to our next holiday, bon voyage!