Suddenly, as though hit by an implosion of awareness, a satori in the richest sense of Zen - an eastern philosophy Id studied briefly when stationed in Japan after an old war - I realized Id been doing exactly what my companion had said. My mind clutched the mountain while I tried to free myself from it and ski. This mental holding on was a manifestation of the fear of letting go.

Be. This is probably as close to Zen as I can express the thought through western terms. Grab not for tomorrow. Do not hold onto yesterday. Release yourself. Be. The snow is snow. A mountain is a mountain. Now is now. Apprehension is one result of clinging to the impossible. There is neither behind or beyond, only now. Only here. Be. Ski.

Throughout the rest of that day, whenever and wherever I was skiing, I kept reminding myself to let go. Be.

I found that Id begun placing my confidence where it should have been from the first time I locked my boots onto a pair of skis - in the skis.

In what they were doing. By clutching fear I could never let myself put my faith in my ability to use the ski techniques Id been taught.

That suggestion from a friendly stranger was the first of two nonskiing lessons that turned me into a skier.

By a couple ski lessons later, far more confident than Id ever been, I was skiing all over the mountains - but still with trepidation on the blacks. I knew I could handle them, and did, but more through determination than through skill.

Even though Id continued to take an occasional lesson, sometimes with a mountain class, sometimes with an instructor, my skiing had reached a plateau that I couldnt seem to break out of. And then, without at first even being aware of it, I learned my second significant lesson: Balance.

It happened not on the slopes, but in a classroom. At the time I was teaching a course in The Art of Lightweight Camping at the New School in New York City. As a faculty member, I had the opportunity to take any class at this distinguished college for adults without charge. Glancing over the catalog early one evening while waiting for my own class to begin, I was intrigued by the offering of Tai Chi Chuan, sometimes referred to as Chinese shadowboxing.

I enrolled. Within a few weeks I began to understand the relationship between the balance of body and that of the mind. I felt it as a down flowing, a flexible blending of the body that wed all once accepted as young children, before we grew into stiff adults. The various positions we practiced in Tai Chi were all an interweaving of sensitive yielding, supple movement and constant balance.

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When the ski season and I finally got together on the slopes that winter, I found myself unexpectedly skiing with the same sense of balance that Id studied in Tai Chi classes. Do
Suddenly, as though hit by an implosion of awareness, a satori in the richest sense of Zen - an eastern philosophy Id studied briefly when stationed in Japan after an old war - I

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