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Wipe Out by Rachel Hott, PhD

I have been a beginner, advance beginner skier for almost 35 years. When I first went skiing at age 19, the teachers were convinced that I was already at intermediate level. I always attributed that to the way I stood straight and confident. It was at the mogul moment that they discovered that just because I looked the part didn’t mean I could play the part. I went back to skiing 18 years later.

In our NLP training we do a lot of visualizing. We call this future pacing where we think about how we want to be and then have the mind and body walk through the process.  Although we can think about how we want to be there is the actual moment that is the test.

My most recent skiing test was in the Swiss alps in Zermatt. Zermatt is home to the Matterhorn a mountain that is over 14, 000 feet above sea level. Zermatt is a welcoming wonderland that looks like Christmas every day. There are no cars, horse drawn carriages clip clop through the streets, children are pulled on sleds and the Matterhorn looms in the background, always a focal point.

Although my husband tells the teacher she is a better skier than she, I knew that I was thinking I was good, but it was my body that was feeling something different. However my mind wanted to take on the mountain. I was ready to give it my best shot on the beginner slopes (the blue slopes) and even was considering the next level, which seems to be anything after beginner, (the red slopes). I was clear that I was not going down any advanced slopes.

There were six days of skiing to be had. On Day 1 we had a delightful teacher who introduced us to the mountain. I managed with my mind and body to do okay. I re-found my snow plow (looks like a slice of pizza) and made it down three times following his instructions to traverse as best as I could. This was the first time I was skiing in 5 years. My ski experience has been spotty so although I began at 19, I probably have skied about 10 times in my life for long weekends.

However, I do exercise and I have a dance background so I feel that my body is strong and capable. Even so I was going down, and literally down, the wipe outs were a total of five that day. When I did fall, there was no discomfort only a sudden realization that I was down and the challenge of getting back up. When there is a teacher to help me get back up I know that it will be easier then if I were alone. So I said, “How do I do this when I am alone?” He showed me and I was thrilled that I was able to get up. Sometimes doing something on my own is the greatest reward. Yet even with falling, getting up and managing to ski, my body still tensed. My mind was at ease but my body held onto fear.

On this first day the teacher mentioned a red slope and thought that I could handle it. We had plans to eat at a lodge and actually the red slope would get us there faster than taking a train. I was beating the mountain and I said, “Let’s do it.” I am glad I said it, but now thinking back it was my mind not my body that was ready to take on a more advanced slope. When we go to the steepest part of the mountain the teacher looked at me and explained that the only way to take this run was to fast. In order to go down and then up I was going to have to go parallel, no snow plow. Each of my family went first, then I went. Wow, I never went so fast. I was in the fear mode and feeling myself doing it, I did not wipe out. As soon as I got to the top I said, “I never want to do that again.”

My daughter said, “Mom you work with clients about phobias so why are you having a problem?” I explained that this was not a phobia. If it had been a phobia I would have not been able to ski at all, I would have taken off my skiis, this was me dealing with what I want and don’t want. My mind may say one thing, but my body was leading the way. Even though I didn’t fall, it was the speed that I did not enjoy.

I was ready to take on the mountain and day 2 provided another challenge as it was snowing and the winds were about 30 miles per hour. I had a teacher and I told her that I couldn’t see anything, she said, “Can you see me?”  Actually that was all I could see. We skied and I was beginning to feel my body begin to relax as I was getting familiar with the mountain. I had already fallen the other day so I knew I could handle it. I had already made it clear I was not going to challenge myself on the steep red slopes so I was doing better. That is how day 3 followed as well. It is no surprise that with practice comes more confidence. I was still aware of my body tightening, but I was becoming more comfortable skiing the mountain. Because my family is more advanced than me, I was also preparing to ski by myself and I wanted to feel comfortable with the blue slopes. I was happy being a beginner.

We all decided that it would be fun to go to a new side of the mountain, closer to the Matterhorn peak. I checked with my teacher to make sure there was a beginner slope and she said yes, however there was a T-bar instead of a chair lift. A T-bar is a lift that looks like an upside down letter T. You sit on the horizontal bar and hold on to the vertical bar. It also happens to be the longest T-bar in the world. When I first began skiing as an adult I had to overcome my fear of the chair lift. I did a lot of NLP anchoring by creating confidence and it was a great achievement to feel able to get on and off chair lifts. T-bars were something I did not know. Thus far on this vacation I had managed the mountain, but it was the T-bar that would be my next hurdle.

My mind was very positive and there went my body getting tight again. I went on the T-bar with my teacher and talked it through, went down the slope and felt fine about the slope and distressed about the T-bar. Then I went on the T-bar with my husband, and again felt my body tensing. Interestingly that during the T-bar ride with my tightness, we had a momentary discussion about our NLP book title and I believe for a second I must have felt better since I came up with a title that I had been struggling to come up with. I got off the T-bar fine and unfortunately he took a tumble. The T-bar stopped, he got back on his feet and then skiing down the mountain was fine again.

Now I am on my own. I am preparing to take the T-bar. There is a long line and I have time to mentally prepare myself. I watch as a man who is disabled is placed with his special chair that has one ski under it on the T-bar. I know if he can do it I sure can do it. I become concerned about going on the T-bar with a stranger and then see that there are many singles going up the mountain. All of my thoughts become positive. I can do this. I am on the T-bar and I am going up the mountain. My body is relatively relaxed, I am aware that I am doing this and then I wipe out.

I don’t know what exactly happened, my husband thinks that the two skis must have overlapped. Whatever happened I remember seeing the T-bar swinging over my head and I was able to duck. The T-bar didn’t have to stop, and in some funny way I thought that was a success. I was on my side on a mountain as the rest of the world was going up on a T-bar to go down on their skis. I shouted to someone what should I do and they suggested skiing from where I was. No I thought it was too narrow and too steep. I knew my limitations. I thought about standing up and then decided that there was nothing wrong with taking off my skis. Then and there I carried my skis down past all of the T-bar going up.

I beat the mountain. I did not beat the T-bar. I decided that I had skied enough. My skiing was a challenge, it was not particularly fun. I had challenged myself for four days. I had two days left and I was looking forward to working on my NLP book. I liked the idea of sitting at a mountain lodge and writing. To me that was fun.

I checked in with myself about fear, regret and criteria. Was there anything I would regret about not skiing for the rest of the vacation? I thought that what was most important to me was safety and if I was going to be skiing alone. which was most likely because my family was more advanced than I, that I would probably fall again, T-bar or no T-bar, and it was not a safe plan to ski alone. I also decided that I had taken on the mountain. I actually beat the mountain. It was just the T-bar that beat me. I had had enough. I skied enough for my beginner body.

So now I reflect back and think about what my mind wants and what my body delivered. Yes with practice I believe I will get better. I don’t particularly want to get better. I like the beginner slopes and finding ways to enjoy the slow traversing that will give me a state of relaxation. I will leave the speed to the rest of the world.

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