Ok, all you non-skiers out there, bear with me. I promise there is a Mindfulness related point!
Last week, I heard someone talking to a recent addition to our community. Referring to our ski hill, they said, “well you know, we have all conditions.” The reference being that skiing isn’t always rosy and perfect on our hill. It’s not all sunny blue skies, with endless ‘corduroy’ groomed runs, and feet of fluffy snow in the trees and bowls. My initial reaction was to be protective of our hill, which I love to ski. And then I laughed at the very absurdity of pointing out that we have all conditions. Of course we do! Even the large hills in Colorado and Utah have all conditions. When we used to live in SW Wyoming and ski Utah, they had good years and bad years. It’s the way of the weather cycles. On every hill there are days where one is thinking, “Best day ever!”. And, on every hill there are the days where the snow is hard and wind-blown, or icy, or mixed with dirt and rocks, or just full of thick snow that tweaks the joints with every turn.
Why am I making this point? Because when we think about what “all conditions” means, it makes sense that all hills have all conditions, depending on the year and the weather. Last year in Montana, we had above average snow pack the whole winter. Amazing skiing! But, very few blue-sky days – makes sense as snow comes with clouds! Other years we’ve had a lot of blue-sky days but average skiing, not as much snowfall. Or, some years are warmer than others and the skiing is hard and crusty all season. We don’t get to find and live near that one perfect hill that is always going to be good skiing and blue sky, no matter what is going on in the world around it that utopia doesn’t exist.
We can use this same analogy to make sense of the mind! Every mind experiences “all conditions”. Depending on our body, our surroundings, the world around us and a million other factors, we may be experiencing joy, calm, frustration, anger, sadness, happiness, distraction, focus, peace, confidence, fear, confusion, exhaustion, ease, disconnection, and so much more. Sometimes many of these conditions all happen in one day, and, there may be seasons where one of these conditions is the primary condition. Perhaps the political climate has us living with an underlying sense of fear for a while; or maybe, a tragedy happened to you personally and for awhile sadness is the main emotion flowing in and out; or for awhile life is good, work is good, there’s lots of blue sky and ease flows through each day. And yes, some people due to chemical imbalances, health struggles, etc. may lean more toward one ‘mind condition’ for periods of time, or even overall; but, every mind can, and will at some time, experience all conditions.
Just as people who may have spent their life here in Missoula think the skiing is always better elsewhere, it’s easy for us to look around at our friends and our social media pages and think, but that person is always happy, or confident, or content, why can’t I be like that? But we aren’t alone. Everyone in their individual way, experiences periods of worry or dissatisfaction. Most just don’t post about it on Facebook. Our challenge is to be here for all conditions, not wishing we had some other body, mind, or life that would be different. On the ski hill, I try to be with the blue-sky groomer days as much as the cloudy, can’t see days without desiring a different type of day. It’s important to note that hard ski conditions are easier to handle than a difficult mind, but that’s my practice.
Off the hill, can I notice when I’m distracted and unfocused, without taking it personally, just notice and move forward thru my day with that piece of information? Can I notice, “Ah, this is fear? This tightness in the chest, this furrow in my brow, this desire to hide under the blankets; this is what fear feels like. Interesting.” In the next hour when I have coffee with a friend, can I notice, “This is connection. This warmth and openness in the chest, this lightness in my face; this is what connection feels like.” Just like that old saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change.” Allowing myself to notice when the conditions in my mind change and trusting they will change, often, throughout each day – this is my practice. Mind conditions may not fully change, for example: from doubt to confidence forever, but the clouds may lighten and the sun shine thru for just a few moments. Those few moments are worth noticing, so we can begin to see that yes, things will change. We can begin to look around and notice we aren’t alone. All minds experience all conditions.