Inspirations From Skiing
Inspirations from Skiing
26-Dec-08 Vancouver Bodhi Meditation Center
In December of 2008, the biggest snowstorm in 40 years hit Vancouver. Everything was blanketed, and the snow created an image of wondrous beauty. Christmas and the New Year brought an air of celebration, and the alabaster landscape added to the feeling of magic. Whistler, a famous ski resort near Vancouver which attracts skiing enthusiasts from all over the world, was set to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. Grandmaster JinBodhi is one such enthusiast. Another mountain, Cypress, was also set to host events for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Cypress Mountain can be accessed from the city center in a short amount of time, and Grandmaster JinBodhi likes to ski there. As you stand at the apex, clouds float under your feet. The winter sun edges the clouds in golden lace. In the distance, snowy peaks and evergreen trees rise against the blue sky to form a gorgeous postcard. Plenty of snow in the winter predicts a good harvest. Meanwhile, students at the Second Level Bodhi Meditation Retreat were buzzing with excitement. Grandmaster JinBodhi had just flown into town. He didn’t stop to rest before joining his students, who had come from all over the world seeking dharma and truth.
Live with a Joyful, Relaxed Heart
This Second Level Retreat has been hard work for us all. In such a big snowstorm, food choices are limited. It is especially tough for those who don’t live in the city. Anyone cold and hungry? The weather is freezing, and you’ve all been too busy to buy food. However, a few of you are better off, the fasting ones. You don’t feel hungry despite not eating. At home, when you cook or eat, mood plays an important role. Your mood, your emotions, communicates with every grain you cook and eat. Say happily to the food: “Thank you for filling my belly.” It may seem miserable for the grain being eaten, but food serves its purpose. Food is eager to let you eat. If it could speak, it would say: “Eat me, please!”
When you approach food happily and gratefully, it will nourish you with health and joy. When you eat and cook with gratitude and happiness, food brings goodness into you. If one is angry during mealtime, indigestion results. One’s stomach becomes upset. Have you noticed that? Many people experience it. Negative emotions cause food to get stuck in the stomach. They cause the nervous system to resist anything coming into the body, including the food you eat. Eating while angry always results in a blockage that will create problems. So, cook and eat happily. Doing so is good for us. Feel happy while listening to music, so that you can fully enjoy it. Feel happy while you work. The positivity will prevent fatigue and promote creativity. When you work without fatigue, and with enhanced creativity, what do you attract? A raise! Working while angry creates discord, the same as eating while angry, and it becomes hard to do your job well. Right? A good mood is very important. To be happy we need to understand that there is nothing in this world that we can’t let go.
No matter how you feel about things that have happened, they have happened. Even if you regret something, what’s done is done. I hope you understand this logic. For example, a Kung fu master who hasn’t fought a real battle has the skills of walking up walls and hitting from a distance. But if his skills are untested by adversity, then he may get scared and lose confidence when faced with an enemy. He is not a real master; a real master should be able to always fully utilize his skills. If one’s mental state is not happy and relaxed, it is impossible to access the full power of consciousness. Therefore, if you sit down to eat with a settled, happy heart, the food becomes alive in your consciousness. Cooked rice will seem to become sprouting seeds, full of energy. There is life in the food you eat. After eating in this manner, with body and mind joyous and receptive, the food will be well digested, and the nutrients absorbed. The nutrients in ordinary food, when properly absorbed, are the best healing agents for the body. If food gets stuck in the stomach and isn’t excreted smoothly, negative elements get absorbed by the body, and illness can start to develop.
Therefore, when you eat and work, or face your friends and family, take care to be generous and keep a happy heart, especially when dealing with people you dislike. If you can do this, then you’re standing on higher mental ground, with a heart free of turmoil. Health, happiness, and longevity are the results of this approach. If you have such a big, generous heart, then you never discriminate, deity-like. Would God love you then? Certainly. You would be the happiest and luckiest person in the world. On the contrary, the smaller one’s heart is, the more trouble and suffering one experiences. Is a small-hearted person lucky? No. Regardless of intelligence, a person with a small heart, who is always self-interested, will experience the life of a narrow-minded person. Narrow-minded people suffer. They don’t experience happiness because their self-interest gets in the way. This can be true of both men and women. Examples of narrow thoughts: “He praised him but not me.” “I thought he was looking at me, but he told someone else that she’s pretty. I hate him! I’m so embarrassed!”
The state of your spiritual evolution shows in your life. Sometimes we forget to experience life situations with a relaxed and joyful heart. Often remind yourself: I experience everything with an open and joyful heart. Especially, when our own interests are involved, or when we sense some trouble waiting ahead, we must remind ourselves: My heart is big, and I am unconditional love, like God. By doing so you will dissolve your difficult situation – in fact, not only dissolve it, but turn it in your favor. Your consciousness will ascend to new heights. When you achieve this once, you will continue to do so. We struggle to overcome our limitations, like in the legend of the carp fish jumping over the gate to become dragons. Many of them didn’t make it and died trying.
Or think of the salmon returning to their birthplace to spawn. This is one of Vancouver’s natural miracles. The fish try so hard to travel upstream, jumping up the waterfalls, trying repeatedly. This annual miracle is inspirational to us. Human beings need to cultivate a new consciousness, a higher consciousness. Initially, we may feel inadequate to the task, both physically and psychologically. However, if we succeed in experiencing a higher consciousness just once, we’ll taste the feeling of transcending limits. Transcendence is blissful. We need to become accustomed to this new state of being. Let go of negative, repeating thoughts such as: “I am sick. I’m a patient.” “I have an incurable disease.” “Nobody can cure my illness.” Let go of these thoughts.
Everything in this world is made of yin and yang, opposite energies. If disease exists, so does a cure. This is certain. If a problem occurs, its solution can be found. It takes the right connection for the two to meet, like someone trying to find a spouse. A man might walk thousands of miles in search of his dream spouse, but it is when he suddenly turns around that he sees his dream wife right behind him. Just like that. Many have found their spouse in this manner. When the energies are such that connection is possible, problems attract solutions. During our journey through life, we need to adjust to our new consciousness. Speaking of adjusting to a new consciousness, I remember how I learned to ski. At the start, I thought maybe I was too old to learn to ski. However, I did fancy the idea.
My Inspirational Skiing Experiences
After all, I was living in Canada. On TV, I watched Inuit people in the Canadian Arctic living in igloos, and they inspired me. I decided I shouldn’t be scared of skiing. Fearing embarrassment, I climbed the slope at midnight. I didn’t even know how to fix the ski boots onto the skis. I put on the boots, put the two skis together and sat on them, and down I glided. When I stopped, the skis were nowhere to be found. No sight of them. They were hard to locate in the deep snow. I had only glided for a minute, but I spent an hour hunting for the skis. Oh, how dismayed I felt! The snow was so deep, and it was very dark out.
After I finally found the skis, I set on attaching them. I tore a piece off my shirt, and tried to use the cloth to bind the skiis to my feet. A man came over with a flashlight, and asked me what I was doing. “I’m skiing,” I said. “But these skis won’t stay on.”
“Press your feet down.” I heard a click, and then the boots were attached to the skiis.
“Why didn’t you show up earlier,” I thought. “I’ve already torn up my shirt.” But he didn’t come too late to prevent me from tearing more. He helped me to stand up and gave me a push. I went down at once, all the way, gliding on my back, a bit like water-skiing. No, people on TV don’t ski like that. I tried to ask the man for advice in English, but he said: “Please speak in Chinese,” I asked why.
He said: “I can understand you better in Chinese.” What an embarrassment for me. I won’t go into further detail. I fell a few more times, and soon I was exhausted.
Then I went home, my body aching all over. I swore never to ski again. Only unenlightened people like to ski, why bother with it? Right? Isn’t skiing a waste of energy? Isn’t it a kind of greed? I’m a dharma practitioner, and I’m not greedy. A week later, my back stopped hurting. I thought maybe I should give it another try. I went up the slope again. Not an easy decision. Anyway, I went up the mountain. But I didn’t dare go during the day. I had to go in the evening again. This time it was simple. I attached the boots to the skis – that part was easy. Then the weather turned bad. The wind started to blow. It wasn’t snowing, but the wind blew the snow off the trees, and I could not open my eyes in the snow-filled gusts. So annoying. Anyhow, I managed to stand up. I saw on TV that people skied with their hands behind their back and I wanted to try that. I felt pretty good at the start, but then I fell forward. I was convinced I had no talent for skiing. The same man that had helped me came over to me again.
I’d been on the snow for a while now, but hadn’t been on my feet yet. He greeted me with a smile: “Hi, it is you again!”
I was so embarrassed! But he had shown me how to attach the boots properly, so I asked for more advice: “How can I stay on my feet?”
“It is easy,” he said, as he dragged me to my feet. I asked him to tell me how to ski.
He said: “Be brave and glide.” I felt bitter about his answer. Just “glide down”? Easy as that?
I said: “The slope is so steep that I might not be able to stop. I’ll end up food for the wolves. Look at all those trees down there. That wouldn’t be a good place for me to land.”
Apparently, this guy didn’t like the fact that I was stalling, and said: “Give up then. Skiing is for gutsy people.” I didn’t like what he said, but I had to rely on him to help me.
Then I asked him gently what sort of people are suited to skiing. He answered: “Well, my sister is mentally challenged, but she can ski.”
“Oh, if your sister can ski, and she has those challenges, who am I then if I can’t?” With this in mind, I struggled to stand up and reminded myself of my God-centeredness. As soon as I stood up, I started to glide. I was afraid that he’d given me another push. I kept in mind that God can do everything, as I whooshed down the slope. All went smoothly. I zoomed down. And a miracle happened. I didn’t fall! Thanks for your support! Too bad I didn’t have your support back then! A pity it is a few years too late. Anyway, I didn’t fall, and I even made a turn at the bottom of the hill. Another miracle occurred when I turned – I started to glide down backward. When I saw the place to stop, I simply turned and should have halted.
But the skis were suddenly like a train that changes direction seamlessly of its own accord. Now… I’m telling you this for the purpose of spreading dharma. So yes, I had to fall again. Again, thank you for your support! A hero is not always completely courageous. But I’d like to emphasize here that I fell on purpose. I made myself fall. I’m sharing this story so that you will benefit from it. This time I didn’t fall like before, rather I fell to stop myself from gliding backward. For if I’d kept on going, I would not be standing here today. I gained confidence from this. I got up quickly, and felt God-centered. God can do everything! The God who is me can ski now! I climbed up the slope again and took a rest. My helper smiled at me, asking: “What did you shout down there?” I told him it was nothing. I said: “You said you understood my Chinese, perhaps you can guess what I said.” He told me he knew what I had shouted, but I didn’t believe him. Anyway, I wanted to try skiing again, but I still felt a bit of lingering fear. He said to me: “Try it again. You did really well last time, so give it another whirl.” I thought: Alright, I’ll show you.
I stood up, trembling a bit. I didn’t want him to push me. I said to myself: God never gets pushed out of the plane when He wants to parachute. I encouraged myself by repeating: I’m God-centered, and there’s nothing I can’t do. I’ve endured suffering, I’ve educated challenging students, and I’m not afraid of anyone or anything. After thinking these thoughts, I bellowed: “I’m God-centered!” Then I was ready to descend. My helper looked at me. I looked back at him. I paid close attention to my location in order to plan ahead, and know when to slow down. I didn’t want another failure. I tried to veer to my right, where the terrain was flatter.
Finally, I stopped without falling. Great! I climbed up the slope. My helper asked again, “What did you shout down there?” I told him, “I am God.” He said, “Oh, so my sister is God, too, then.” I said: “Yeah, we all are. You may not understand it, but it is a simple yet deep truth. Buddha said: All sentient beings are Buddha. Buddha is God, and God is Buddha. All skiers are Buddha and God.” I practiced a few more times. I’d gained confidence. I didn’t feel tired. The next morning, I went up the slope to practice more. When I arrived, I was shocked: I must be a very low-level God! Only children of 5 or 6 years old were practicing on that slope. I didn’t want to practice there anymore. I sighed: “It is not fair. Little kids can ski so well, like birds flying. This world is unfair. I’m so old.” What could I do? I sighed again and went where the young were practicing. I walked around the bottom, because the slope was too steep for me, and I didn’t feel embarrassed. I got very tired from walking, but the trek gave me confidence. I knew then that the slope wasn’t so bad.
I wondered whether I should give it another try. The skis were a big investment, so I decided I should. At worst, I’d roll down. I used my old trick and thought: I am God-centered. Down I went. I didn’t need to worry about stopping that time, because I hit something soft – a safety net. It served me well. In Canada, people are very aware of public safety. In less than five minutes, I heard the emergency sirens. Two emergency vehicles attended to me, and the staff wanted to know if I was hurt. I was okay. When I was on board, staff wanted to measure my blood pressure, which I didn’t want them to do. They suggested I go home, thinking I wasn’t feeling well. But I wanted to keep practicing. I gave the slope another try, using a squatted position. I didn’t hit the safety net. But I fell and rolled a bit.
Some parts were really steep, too steep for me. I looked around and saw some skiers falling even harder than I. My falls were minor. I pushed away my fear, determined to continue. “In emptiness, we come and in emptiness, we go.” A hundred years ago I didn’t exist, and I won’t exist a hundred years hence. Sooner or later I’ll be gone. This thought was comforting. I no longer felt afraid. I thought: Everybody dies. I can die a hero, or a coward. Everyone here, cowards and heroes alike, is skiing. What do I have to be scared of? I let go of all other concerns and only focused on skiing. After a few falls, I did well. Even when I did fall, it wasn’t a big deal. At least I was still in one piece.
A New Level of Consciousness- A New Way of Being
The level of consciousness to which I ascended – was it a human’s or a deity’s? Contemplate it. So many gods were skiing there, big and little gods, and they inspired me. I told you this story, not in order to tell a joke, but to highlight how one can adjust to a new consciousness, no matter how difficult it seems. My skiing was at a kindergarten level, but the important part was my God-centered confidence. The next day when I went back to the slope, I discovered that I wasn’t God at all, but the thought of God helped me to overcome fear. Since then I’ve been able to ski, no matter how steep the slope. I seem to be able to manage, and I fall infrequently. It is interesting that whenever I felt fear, I fell. When I forgot fear, I didn’t fall. We can always adjust to a new consciousness, one that at the beginning might seem to be unreachable, very far away from what we’ve been accustomed to. Regardless of how high we must reach, we can become one with a new way of being. It is not terribly difficult.
When facing new consciousness our inner critic often whispers: “This belongs to other people. I don’t deserve it.” One’s inner critic may reject the idea of compassion, insisting: “Other people are better at that. I’m not that nice.” But the inner critic lies. We all want to live in a nice house, become rich and powerful, and experience freedom and happiness. Everyone wants those things. When challenges occur, it is not the circumstances that block our view of the truth, it is our old mind that always gets in the way. Let’s say you swear a lot, but you resolve to quit. You’d need reminders in order to stick to your resolution. In ancient times, in order to express determination, aspiration, or love, people often tattooed themselves.
Many devout Buddhists tattooed lotuses or the image of Buddha in the vicinity of the heart. Forehead tattoos are another way to express an aspiration. Even today, some monks in China have their scalps burned with incense. This may sound cruel, but the scars serve as a way of expressing determination. What good does this do? It reminds people of their goal. Some choose to tattoo the hand. As their goals evolve, so, too, do their tattoos. However, the hand is too small to allow many tattoos. Say you want to learn to ski. Engrave: “I am God” on your hand. These words fit on your little finger. But if you then want to become a fast runner – well, a hand can’t hold many tattooed goals. So be careful, if you want to tattoo things on your body. I haven’t done that so far. What’s more important is your heart and mind.
Set a goal in your mind, then stick to it and work toward it. When situations arise involving your own interests, act in line with your principles. I’d like to recommend a good way to remind ourselves of the principles we’ve set up: write them down. What do you use daily? For ladies, it might be a purse. Stick slips of paper with your principles written on them in places where you will notice, like on the back of a compact that you keep in your purse, or on the bathroom mirror that you look into every day.
At work, stick a slip of paper on your desk. In this way, you’ll be reminded of your goals and principles. Don’t be like that so-called kung fu master I mentioned. Even though he was very skilled, when facing the real enemy, he forgot how to use his skills. They were disconnected from practical application. His behavior was two-faced. He was powerful during practice, but, during a real fight, he forgot his skills and appeared powerless. Many people have this problem. We often forget our principles when faced with real life. That doesn’t help us to achieve transcendence. We must cultivate a new consciousness, no matter how slowly, and we need to constantly adapt to it. That’s how progress is made. It is important to understand why and how to transcend the old consciousness. Then we can make real progress.
When we embark on the journey to enlightenment, we find many paths. Choose the one in which you have faith. Self-cultivation is about raising consciousness. If we stand on higher ground, illnesses don’t seem to find us. Unpleasant experiences become less frequent, because we don’t perceive things as problems. Then problems disappear. We experience less anger, dissatisfaction, depression, fear, and arrogance – All these are human frailties. They are a part of humanity. Most people experience them. Therefore, very few people have become wise; very few have really understood life.
When you encounter a wise person, or when you sense that you’re becoming wise, seize the opportunity by opening your heart wide, by relaxing your body and mind, which will allow you to receive the energy and wisdom totally. Let this energy and wisdom become one with your own life. Then your existence will indeed be wonderful. Your high level of consciousness will dissolve any potential suffering. I’ll let these be my parting words. Thank you, all.