I have always been afraid of ice, falling, sliding, skiing, snowboarding, skating, anything that may cause a physical lack of control. In my personal life I take big risks, but I have always been afraid of taking physical risks like these. It has been a big mental barrier since childhood – I never got on kids slides because they were so scary! A very astute and dear friend once told me that I should learn how to fall safely, like using aikido techniques, for example. I didn’t quite understand what he was saying then.
Recently, for the first time ever, I learned to let myself fall, and learn how to catch myself when I do, so I fall safely. I learned how to glissade.
That means to sit and slide down steep slopes on snow. It is often steep enough that the only way to stop yourself is to use an ice axe to ‘self-arrest’. When you are sliding down the snow on a steep mountain, you are not in control at that moment – gravity is controlling you. What you are in control of, however, is when you choose to stop. Sure, there is a risk, but is very minimal if you keep your wits and confidence about you.
And when you decide to let that confidence drive you, when you drop the fear, when you lean in to the experience, then you slide down screaming joyfully, whoo hoo! You experience freedom when you drop control. You experience joy when you let yourself go. You experience bliss when you work through your fears.
It took me many tries to get comfortable with glissading – it didn’t happen after the first time, or the second time, or the third time. But by the tenth time I started to feel comfortable. That’s the beauty of it! If you keep hacking away at it, then the fear drops and a whole new world opens up!
Now I can do hikes that were completely out of my reach before. Now I can dream of summiting Mt Rainier!
I have found my aikido of snow hiking. What is the area of your life that you feel fear and the need to keep control? What can you do to build the skills to catch yourself safely when falling, instead of shying away from things that might make you fall? What can you do to let go of your fear and allow yourself to open up to new possibilities?