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How a consciousness practice can replace willpower and give you freedom

Women's fitness

By Kristen Ulmer

This may surprise you, but discipline, perseverance, setting an intention, drive, and the will, as usually taught by sports coaches, are completely outdated. Same with goal-setting.

Here’s why. I remember having to perform a difficult ski photo shoot while still recovering from an injury. I wanted to maintain status and sponsors so I “sucked it up,” “did it anyway,” “refused to give up,” and “pushed through the pain and fear.” Sounds powerful, right?

Such willed effort is fine in a pinch: I skied great that day. But here’s the problem: doing something I didn’t feel like doing was the first step toward future burn out and ultimately resenting my sport.

There’s a better path.

Let’s say you don’t feel like going the gym but force yourself to go anyway. Sound familiar?

Picture a hose. All day long feelings and experiences flow through that hose. In this case ‘should I go to the gym?’ shows up. Next comes ‘no I don’t want to!’

Now picture you’re a corporation made up of 10,000 different employees. The mind is one of these employees. Throw in determination or a fitness goal and the mind becomes very clever at suppressing any employee who gets in its way, in this case; ‘No I don’t want to.’

She puts duct tape over ‘No’s’ mouth and throws her down the basement stairs. You trot off to the gym feeling victory over perceived ‘negativity.’

The mind does this enough times and guess what? The employee of ‘No I don’t want to’ isn’t taking the abuse quietly. She isn’t dying in the basement. She’s fighting back, plotting, building strength, having to do her job in a covert, pathological way and will even scream now in order to be heard.

Your hose is now kinked, and a war has started. You are now at war with your self. And you can’t see it because it’s being carried out in your subconscious.

But you can feel it. Repressed experiences and emotions remain in our systems and run our lives covertly, sometimes for decades or even lifetimes. They come out in the most disruptive ways — straining our relationships, causing injury, showing up as disease and body aches. They pinch off the possibility for happiness to enter. Over time you become burned out. All because the mind and the will refuse to be intimate with anything negetive ot working against a master plan.

What if, instead you had a consciousness practice, where you could first see how the mind and all her buddies act as slave drivers. To see it is to stop it. Stop that war. In today’s evolutionary world, next you welcome your emotions and experiences as they flow through the hose, and this way your mind instead sets you free.

What would you do with that freedom? Could you just listen to the wisdom of each moment as it flows through the hose, rather than crack a whip?

If I could go back and feel that pressure to ski injured over again, I would have honored fear and pain instead, and chosen my ‘No.’

How about you? When you think you should go to the gym and ‘No’ shows up, would you let her be this time? If so, she’ll only speak for about 15-40 seconds before she’s gone and another employee shows up.

It might even be this time: Yes.


Photo: Edson Hong

Don’t ever turn to stone. Take a leap to learn new things.

By Kristen Ulmer

People ask me all the time why I started Ski to Live.

I want to tell you a story about my past you may find shocking. It explains why I started these evolutionary mindset ski and snowboard camps, and also illustrates the next top mindset tip.

When I was 22 years old I was competing in local Utah mogul competitions and generally coming in last place. Heck, I hadn’t even owned a pair of ski pants until two years prior — just competing in anything was a big step.

That summer, while my fellow competitors trained on snow at expensive camps at Mount Hood, Whistler or even South America, I decided to take a trip to Asia by myself. For 5 months. To work on my self esteem.

I had two rules on this trip. I made these rules because I realized my self worth was entirely based on the fact I was pretty, and could ski well. I realized I wasn’t going to always be pretty, or always ski well, and I thought I’d better find a way to build a more solid personal foundation.

My rules where this:

1. I would make myself as ugly as possible: wearing coke bottle glasses instead of contacts, not washing my hair and wearing frumpy clothes.

2. I was not allowed to tell anyone I skied.

On that trip, I volunteered for Mother Teresa’s House for the Destitute and Dying in Calcutta, India. I was robbed in the Philippines by a group of 30 scam artists and forced to leave the country at gun point. I almost lost my right leg to gangrene in Nepal. The challenging but magical summer ended and I came home.

The first mogul competition that next season was a special event for the entire west against the best technically trained mogul skiers in the country. I felt funny just being there. But I didn’t come in last place like usual. I won. I killed it, actually.

Within one single year, I then made it on the US Ski Team. That same year I also filmed 3 ski movies, and was subsequently named by four different ski magazines the best woman “extreme” skier in the world.

Here’s the math: I became world class at two different sports, in one year, without a single drop of technical training. I’d never had any technical training actually.

That trip forever changed my life and how I saw myself. We all hear mindset is everything in sports. Well, I know it because I lived it.

THAT’S why I started these camps. Now I teach it.

Tip #6 is this: shake yourself out of your comfort zone, take a bold step away from what’s familiar, and try something new. And I don’t just mean skiing with your boots unbuckled for a run.

Look to the infinite world and get creative! Shave your head for a cause. Wear tap shoes to the grocery store. Take a year off your sport to study Taoism. Get a cat instead of a dog.

It’s hard, I know. The biggest addictions we have in society aren’t drugs, alcohol or sex. Our biggest addiction is to who we believe ourselves to be. Those beliefs and habits are hard to crack. It’s rare when anyone truly expands outside the stone rock of their comfort zone.

But please, take a leap. Don’t ever turn to stone. Be an open, empty, upright cup ready to receive new teachings, to learn new things.

Because when learning happens, magic happens.


Photo Credit: thriol