‘Inside – Out’ an Instructor training session at The Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead.
By the end of session, the intention is that you will have gained some awareness into how you think and feel about your skiing performance. This will highlight some of the emotions, feelings, sensations, thoughts, thinking and attitudes which either help or hinder your skiing improvement. We will be exploring the nature of your ‘performing mind’ and how you can improve performance by increasing self-awareness of how your mind, emotions and attitudes shape your skiing.
When we take part in training workshops such as this one we lean towards trying to find answers and / or confirmation of what we already know and believe. We participate with much on our minds which serves only to inhibit fresh thoughts and insights from which we can learn. See if you can recognize this mind activity of reductionism and when you do, let go of this limiting mind set.
This limiting mind set is a bit like being wowed by a magic trick. We know it’s a magic trick, but still get caught up by it. Its why tools and techniques won’t consistently work to change thinking or behavior directly as you’re trying to fool yourself! But once you know how the magic trick works you are no longer caught up in the illusion, you see it for what it is, an illusion. The illusion of reality is much like this.
You’re not going to be told, by me anyway, how to think. This is not part of the process or my approach. It’s my intention to open you to alternative ways of thinking, different ways of ‘perceiving’ yourself, using all our bodily and mental sensory channels. Why? Primarily because it’s the most valuable and helpful thing to be doing to improve your skiing and your instructing, teaching and coaching, in the longer term. Self-awareness is a fundamental element into which new ways of thinking, attitudes and new skills can be nurtured. When you have the capacity to see yourself as you are, beyond the masks, the shadows of self and social personas you will experience change and significant change at that.
What we focus on here is creating the conditions for change, it’s an exchange between us all, an exchange of energies which foster fresh ways of thinking, new perspectives and insights. One element of these conditions is for you to participate in a variety of ways, for example by listening, making notes if you wish, attending, speaking, sharing, thinking and not thinking and so on.
Here in this session I suggest to you that you all have absolutely nothing to prove! If you believe you do, then to whom are you proving and who is it that has decided that you have something to prove? Place these same questions into a skiing context about you and your performance, notice what comes to mind in the very first instance you consider these questions.
Future practice - Explore the experience of letting go of ‘proving’ and see what happens to your energy. When you notice proving something is present, inquire into ‘from where it is arising, who is causing it to arise?’
‘You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. This is their mistake, not my failing.’
Richard Feynman, American Physicist
Staying on this theme of how we perceive ourselves as performers / skiers, here are a few more to consider; ‘Improving your skiing is not a test! There’s no winners, no losers! If you do see it as a test whom is testing? If you do, who is it that has decided it’s a test?
Again, put these questions into the context of you and your skiing performance. Take a few quiet moments to reflect on these questions.
Future Practice - Move beyond the limiting perception of your skiing improvement or skiing performance as a test, what is beyond this? Move closer into the experience of the performance itself.
‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’
A change in self-perception is enabled when you see yourself and your performance clearly. There are a few basics you can apply to help you see yourself more clearly:
- Know the learning process is a roller coaster, a journey of achievements and hurdles.
- How you relate to the journey you’re on is more important than the journey detail.
- An open mind is one where you recognize your own preferences and bias.
- A learning mind is one which is curious, inquiring and dissolves judgement.
- The untrained performing mind has single focused effort and is restricting.
- The skilled performing mind is both intuitive and rational, and is expansive.
- It is focused and sees the bigger picture, has plasticity and scope in its attention.
- A ‘flow’ learning and performing state emerges from your being not you’re doing.
- Recognizing what is arising within and not engaging with it, is progress.
- Performing within the ‘slightly uncomfortable’ will stretch you and aid learning.
Here’s Richard Feynman, the American Physicist again;
‘I would rather have questions that can’t be answered, than answers which can’t be questioned.’
Do we see how this points to a perspective of inquiry, openness and curiosity? One which is fearless of unknown and embraces some of the above statements.
How we see and experience ourselves occurs in our present minds and our subconscious mind, the latter being the most powerful and impactful. To break through the veils and masks which we have learnt through our conditions existence you must develop your capacity to see yourself as you truly are, the parts of you which you approve of and the elements you would care to change.
The faculty, or the method if you like, which is used to do this is called introspection. Inspecting the inside, the inner self. Move your attention to the ‘being’ element and away from the ‘doing’ element. An over focus on the doing and striving to achieve will induce all sorts of energies which complicate and actually often hinder performance. In this mode we grasp at outcomes, like trying to catch a butterfly, the more you ‘try’ the less able to achieve you become.
Trying may be an outdated mode of learning when it’s the only mode. I suggest this can be supplemented by immersion into the experience, notice it deeply and broadly, being curious and inquiring along the way. Being aware of all our sensory channels and attending into these, is underpinning. We have a framework for practicing which is based on broader principles and values awareness and attention rather than a singular didactic authoritarian approach.
Consider this question for a moment; how do you become an expert skier? A simple question which has many answers depending on your perspective. Your perception of what is learning will significantly shape your learning experiences and its impact on improving your performances. How do you view learning? How do you describe the process of learning as you perceive it?
The endeavor of improving your game of skiing is about you and your learning experiences, where the skiing is the context, the environment, the vehicle for the learning experience to unfold. Look into focusing on the performer a little more and on the performance less. Placing more attention to the process, of which you are at the center, and less attachment to the outcome. This is an important distinction and one which many people confuse. How you relate to these experiences is crucial to improving.
As you can see the approaches I am advocating pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. Learning and performance will change significantly when you pay attention to the content of your mind and emotional activity during learning and performance. Thinking on its own will not lead to change. We require an energy to be associated, to be hooked, with the thinking. This is what happens when we get the ‘aaah’ moments; thoughts and energy combined.
To check in that we are all on the same page about thoughts and thinking, that they are not the same. A thought is arising, existing and diminishing of its own accord. This is natural mental phenomena and we don’t have to give the process any energy as they fuel themselves quite adequately. See these thoughts arising like clouds crossing an open otherwise clear sky. A vast expanse of sky, much like the vast expanse of one’s own consciousness, through which thoughts arrive, exist and pass.
Now take the cloud analogy and see the clouds passing through the sky and begin to engage in the process of inspecting the cloud and seeing what it looks like, apart from a cloud of course, it’s the shape of a cat, dragon, eyes, fire, whatever it may resemble. Now you have engaged with the image and thought of the cloud and are thinking, being drawn in closer and imagining. (Not that there’s anything wrong with imagining, particularly when you have chosen to do so). Move now to the thought arising and as you notice it enter this same engaging process, take your attention to the thoughts into it and see where your thinking goes. Let it rampage through your mind like a wild bull before being tamed.
When your able to see this simple nature of mind its seems amazing that we can focus and attend to anything specific. Here’s the ‘rub’ - the mind has the capacity to be flexible, shaped, focused, calm and harmonious and we have the capacity to grow it towards this state through mental training which applies the basic conditions of meditation. So, here’s an introduction to this type of mental training.
Towards the close of session, I guided you through a short (12 minutes) episode of training as an introduction to seeing the nature of thoughts and thinking. I suggest that you play with this practice as its helpful in beginning to have an awareness of your content of conscious mind, which is a useful starting point in ‘focusing attention’ and ‘attending to the relevant’ when performing.
What we are intending is a clearer mind, one which can discriminate and remain aware of itself, even as itself becomes fuller of distractions. If I had to chose between a full ‘doing’ mind and an emptier ‘being’ mind I will choose the latter. However why not ‘have our cake and eat it’ and aim for growing both, so we can apply and use at our choice.
Now did someone mention tea and cake? Time for refreshments, thank you.
John Arnold, September 2017