Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Ice Skating Bliss
Being “present” in the moment is not always an easy task for me. Even when I am out walking, as I breathe in the crisp air, my mind wanders, thinking, turning ideas or worries around, until I realize that I’m passing by the pretty flowers and blue skies. They at least pull me back to the moment for a time, and I try to watch my breathing, in, out, but then it happens again, I’m zipped away into my thoughts.
The first time in along time that I have experienced being fully present was when I went for my first ice skating coaching session last week. I mustered up the courage to meet with a coach for a lesson. I explained to her on the phone that I had previously skated long ago, and that I was interested in taking adult skating classes, but first wanted to see where I was. We set the date and I woke up early that morning, left the house at 6:45 a.m. It felt good to be out of the house early for something other than work.
I arrived early, rented skates, laced up, and sat and watched until it was time for my session. I felt like my mother, as I watched the young skaters out there. I observed that of the handful of girls on the ice, all of them were Asian, except for one Caucasian girl. They were clearly at different levels, some were quite graceful. One girl seemed a little bit heavier than I normally see, short, and her arms were not out straight. She was trying an advanced turn, but she didn’t strike me as graceful, and her coach didn’t seem to correct her flailing arms. I felt so odd, sitting, and in some way critiquing. Who was I to judge? I couldn’t help it, but it would also make me aware of my own body movements.
8:00 a.m. came and I met the coach, we exchanged pleasantries. I got onto the ice and skated along and she watched and we went to the other half of the rink in a corner away from the other skaters. We started back to basics, with the most elementary of strokes. Still quite wobbly, I returned to the starting position until I had at least completed a move without completely losing my balance. She kept encouraging me, “good job, that’s it.” And she said that I was picking it up quickly. As I pushed off, I had to learn to allow my body to wait, and let my shoulders do the turning. And then when I would turn and the coach saw me lose my balance, she kept reminding me, “bring your tummy in, watch that front arm.” Ah, is that why I was so slender in childhood, all this tummy tightening. It was amazing, though, how I had forgotten how important my center is, something I take for granted. So I had to be mindful of my center being pulled in, my shoulders back, which is a chore for me, since I actually have developed somewhat bad posture over the years.
At small points throughout the session, I let go, the movements became familiar, my strokes were smooth, I was one with the ice, the skates, my body. I only realized this later when I drove away, realizing that I was truly in the present, no thoughts tried to intrude my mind while I was on the ice, instead focus was on every little thing the coach said, correcting, redoing, learning, skating. It was bliss.
My mind was completely focused on learning these rudimentary moves—moves that I do not even recall learning as a child. It was so long ago, that my body remembered most of it and began picking it up quite quickly, but my mind had no recollection of any of it. My mind only remembered a small fragment of my past ice skating experience, while my body seemed to remember all that I needed to know. At the end of the session, the coach said that she didn’t think the adult class would be good for me, not challenging enough. She thought I did quite well and that if I wanted to continue, I could test and move on, but I would need to get my own skates because the rentals are so horrible and never the same, and of course I would need to practice.
I asked if many adults skate and she said yes. She even had a 50 year old man she coached who started from scratch and had been practicing and taking lessons for two years. Wow! to learn to skate at 50—that is incredible. It gave me the little extra hope that I needed to hear. She recommended someone for me to get fitted for skates, so I made the trek and did that and am now eagerly awaiting the moment I put on my very own skates and take another coaching session and start practicing on my own. Going back to basics has been both rewarding, revealing, and quite humbling.