Eckhart Tolle, celebrated 21st century writer and philosopher wrote a New York Times bestseller called “The Power of Now”. (Tolle, E., & OverDrive Inc. (2010). The power of now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment. Novato, CA: New World Library).
OK, now, bear with me for a moment:
In it, he argues, there exists no past and no future, only the NOW. For as time is only an illusion and every moment that you are alive, it is only ever physically possible to experience the NOW. The past and the future are merely an accumulation of moments, and our memories (past) and projections (future) of time are a construct of the conscious mind, stopping us from accessing our unconscious mind and unleashing our full potential of ability.
I am paraphrasing here.
Now... imagine you are at the start of a race, you can almost taste your heartbeat it’s so high up in your chest, sweaty palms, your mind racing, and you can LITERALLY hear time ticking (countdowns, start guns). If Tolle came up to me at that moment and told me to experience the power of now, frankly, I'd tell him to shove it where the sun don’t shine.
Here is what changed my mind:
In January 2019 I passed the entry exam of the staatlicher ski instructor course of Austria. It’s a two-day evaluation covering a GS race, demo skiing and off-piste skiing, (Note, this is just the entry exam to participate in the actual 12-week course!) You first must pass a GS race (i.e. make a certain time limit) in order to continue to the other examinations. This year had been my second attempt.
I had tried, and failed miserably, last year. I was 2.7 seconds off the time limit. In ski racing that’s as if I had taken a coffee break in between the gates and stopped to reorganize my crayons by color along the way. I was out after the second run, and cleared the field for the more proficient skiers, head down, tail in hand, dreams shattered.
For about a month or so, I considered selling all my gear and start training mini-golf instead, when after some soul searching and career planning I decided to give myself a year, train as hard as I could, spend what would turn out to be all of my money, just to try again. A lot was on the line this time. I had flown in from Japan for the exam which is only once a year, and more importantly, without becoming the highest-level instructor my career options in skiing would eventually grind to a screetchy halt, and it would be time to consider giving it up altogether, especially considering my age and (lack of decent) wage.
The week before the retake this last January, I was race training and turned out to be the worst in the group. I felt hopeless. Every day after training I would go scream-cry in my car, because I felt as though I just wasted a year of effort. Given the practice times there was no way in hell I was going to make it this year, so I even considered not entering the exams. Pragmatism took over however and even though I felt awfully sorry for myself I decided to try anyway, since I was already there.
On race day, the holy trinity of preparation, focus and luck was on my side. I pulled a low number starting bib, I was able to focus through my nerves by visualizing the race, I could barely feel the pain from overtraining all over my body, and I pushed out of that gate like Seabuiscuit at the Kentucky Derby.
It took a second or two, nerves turned into flow, I trusted my body’s instincts and automations and time didn’t stop, but it sure ground down to slow motion. When you experience time in slow motion though, you are still very aware of time itself, so that was not the lesson Tolle taught me. The worst was yet to come.
Day two of examinations. Off-piste mogul runs on race skis. My whole body was aching so much from the exams the day before that even sitting on the lift hurt. After the race the previous day we had been examined on 3 more technical demo runs. Before each one, as I lined up amongst a now much smaller sea of nervous peers, all I heard was the panicky
voice inside my head telling me that I am an imposter, that I will forget how to ski, and that I don’t even deserve to be here because I was just lucky at the race. It’s really, really hard, nay, almost impossible to tell that voice to shut the f*** up.