Monday, February 25, 2013

Ski Touring at Dusk

Went out for a late afternoon ski touring workout at low temperatures and really enjoyed it. The mountain was completely empty of people and nobody had even made tracks up there all weekend due to the cold. My only company was a lone fox and our tracks crossed at 6500ft altitude. It amazes me that animals can live and survive wild all winter in such an environment. Animal intelligence is impressively independent. I wonder what the fox thinks of our cars, towns, supermarkets, corporations, medical system, military, health insurance, taxes and on and on and on? It probably just looks at us humans and thinks “assholes!”


Presence, Process, Chi-walking

It’s the first time since using lightweight equipment that I’ve started to feel a natural movement when climbing. The ski slides along the ground when you advance and the temptation is to slide the foot too. It’s really more like cycling though in that your foot goes in a more circular path due the the hinged toe piece. Once that feeling is there the leg relaxes better and that probably improves blood flow – the legs being a pump that assist the heart anyway.

Apart from the feeling of the need for exercise and the desire to be outdoors and away from people there is another significant motivation: Presence. During the day the mind gets caught up in all sorts of tasks but few of them are related to observing our own behaviour or activity. Something like 95% of our behaviour is governed by the unconscious part of the brain and all day long we just let if get on with the job and put up with all the fears and irrational junk that it generates. Meanwhile the conscious 5% is fully occupied with filling in tax returns or trying to get money, spending it and avoiding losing it all. When we take that conscious mind and directly apply it to monitoring and modifying our unconscious behaviour then that leads us to “presence”. Presence is a combination of self-awareness and being “in the moment”. Practising this leads to changes in perception, self discovery and re-programing of the unconscious mind – an entire process that becomes a goal in its own right. This process still needs one other vital ingredient and that’s where human intelligence comes in. It needs knowledge – at least a key, an insight – to get the process started. For me the relevant insight here comes from “chi-walking”. Using the mechanics of chi-walking allows the focus to move onto the body and to apply the conscious mind to internal management - re-programing the unconscious mind and changing the inappropriate habits it imposes on us. During the workout the circular action of the feet became steadily cleared to me. I was focused on avoiding bringing the foot and hip too far forwards so as to ensure less use of the quads for climbing and more use of the hip extensors. After about an hour it suddenly became much easier even though it became steeper – and that’s because I realised that the hip had to be pulled much further back during the hip extension than I thought – exactly the same intensity as during downhill skiing where the hip has to be consciously pulled back. When the spine became clearly involved and the hip came well back then the apparent effort decreased dramatically. I didn’t want to stop climbing because it became enjoyable – but it was getting dark and so at about 2000m altitude  - near the home of the fox, I pulled over beside an old building (c 1802) and stopped.

Chi Skiing

The snow was crusted at 2000m but soon gave way during the descent to a properly transformed solid base at lower altitudes where it had been exposed to the sun. I had my 1200 lumen Chinese LED headtorch on and it was the singular most enjoyable descent of the entire winter. It felt great! I used chi-skiing in the descent to ensure good alignment and turn initiation in case of any surprises – but there were none after the start had been carefully negotiated. The quality of the descent was so good that it beat anything in a ski resort. Great workout – great skiing!

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