This weekend was spent in the mountains, in the snow, beneath the bright light of the full moon, in Telluride Colorado. The beauty of Telluride is majestic to say the least, nestled in a valley beneath numerous fourteen thousand foot peeks. It is not hard to feel small beneath such magnitude, and the true and awesome huge and sometimes frightening beauty of nature. Playing in the mountains, like living, is an adventure. When out there in nature one has the option of staying on the track or path, and one also has the option of taking a risk and finding ones own way, the same is true for life. This year marks my eighteenth season on a snowboard, some skipped, but more hit than missed. Like most life experiences, snow boarding has gifted me with many opportunities to know myself more deeply. Early on I was care free, which often is synonymous with careless, which was followed by an unrelated and serious injury, followed by a desire to get up and do it again, walking, running, snowboarding, anything...followed by fear, and extreme conscientiousness...followed by quitting! Why did I quit, because despite my ability to do it again, and to ride with more skill, the fear of being seriously hurt, impeded the ability to have fun, to try new and challenging terrain, to risk getting hurt.
I wasn't willing to risk.
Two weeks ago Noah Maze, the brilliant, intelligent, remarkable yoga teacher, was hosted by Shree Yoga Taos for a weekend workshop. I was most impacted by one sentence; anything in life worth doing is risky, love, honesty, living your truth...yoga...maybe he said handstand...I would add snowboarding, owning a business, getting out of bed... It's the risk of loosing that makes it so worth while, whether you succeed or fail. If we fail we know our liabilities, if we succeed we can honor our skills. If we do nothing at all because of the risk, than we may spend the rest of our lives wondering what the outcome could have been, and in this we can acknowledge that doing, resulting in success or failure, frees us from a life attached to the question "what if"?
Nearly seven years ago I took the biggest risk of my life and I fell in love. It has completely paid off so far. Not only is it the most honest reflection I have in my life, the most challenging yoga, the most fulfilling gift, and changing all the time, my dear husband refused to let me give my snowboard away. In the refusal was an invitation, Take A Risk.
If you have ever been to the top of a mountain, you have experienced the arduous journey up. In Taos we are so fortunate, (especially since 2006 when they lifted the ban on snowboarders) we have beautiful mountains to play on, and our ski hill gifts us the opportunity to take risks. If you are keen on standing on the top of mountains than you may take the long walk to the top of Kachina Peak, which is long, above the tree line, short on oxygen, risky in the wind, challenging in ski boots, a trek to say the least. The first time I hiked Kachina Peak, I had stayed up very late the night before drinking whiskey, having fun, and I had no ideas of what lay ahead...somewhere along the long hike up hill, being passed by children and old people, thinking the wind may blow me off the mountain, and I may die from my hangover, I am sure I thought of turning back, berated myself for my foolish decision, and committed to never hiking to Kachina Peak in those personal conditions again...but I kept going up...it was more important to get to the top than to have the memory of turning back. The view, though I had been to the top of mountains in that area before, was new, magnificent, and rewarding, as was the run down. It was not the first time I had summited a mountain, nor the last, and though I have kept my commitment to not hiking with a hangover, every mountain summit requires more of what I have to give, than if I stayed in the valley.
No matter if I am hiking, or skiing, being in the mountains is an invitation to being with myself. Every ascent, every descent gifts the sweet reward of risk, and mindfulness and choice as I choose my path, and pick my lines.
On Sunday I stood on the top of some beautiful mountain of which I don't know the name, in Telluride. We had to hike a short distance, really short in comparison to Kachina Peak, to stand at the top of my namesake run Genevieve. I have known of this run for nearly a decade when friends came home from a ski trip and showed me a photo of the sign. It said something like "Genevieve, ski at your own risk, serious injury, even death may occur." Though they took that sign out a few years ago, the message was still there, as the descent was not flat, nor without obstacles...and the mountain, as they do, stood calm in its nature which is formidable and alluring. I picked a line, I dropped in, the snow was surprisingly deep, more than two feet, I caught an edge, I went down, I bounced back, I acknowledged my liability, I leaned back pointed and skillfully made sweet turns in the deep deep snow....I lived and didn't even get hurt, the risk was worth it.
Mountain pose (Tadasana) is a foundational pose in any yoga system. Tadasana is a posture that invokes the practice of standing with equal, and still attention (Samasthiti) equal standing. During the asana practice we stand in Tadasana/Samasthiti to come to attention and bring our awareness to our breath, coming back to our center. I find it is easy as a practitioner and teacher of yoga asana to blow through this pose, to not honor it like the formidable and powerful place it is, to miss the recognition of the risk of knowing that formidable power within oneself, which is what yoga eventually leads us to. As we learn to traverse the mountain, to take risks, to walk our own paths, we also are rewarded with the sweetness of each breath, each step, and each courageous risk along the way.
As the earth turns back toward the light, and we dwell beneath the waning Hunger moon, during a time of purifying and the end of long nights may we allow ourselves to risk, risk following our hearts to the peaks of the mountain, and risk the return to the valley, to take the journey again. May we courageously dive into the journey of knowing our own mountain tops, to know our own center, to know our liabilities and our skills, and to permit ourselves the freedom to change.