The Joy of Falling: Skiing as Meditation

Melvin McLeod shares a little piece he wrote for the July 2013 “Body” issue on skiing as a practice of fearlessness and trust.

Melvin McLeod
11 December 2013

Skiing is a beautiful blend of body, physics, and nature. Through graceful bodily movements and subtle shifts in weight you redirect the force of gravity with your skis, describing any arc you want, at any speed you dare. When it all comes together—when technique, equipment, gravity, and the snow underfoot are one—it is winter’s dance.

It is also an unnatural thing to do. Skiing is falling down a mountain. A controlled fall, yes, but a fall nonetheless. That’s where meditative practice comes in. The problem isn’t distraction—things are moving too fast to get lost in thought. The challenges in skiing are fear and trust. Both are well-known to meditators.

Imagine you’re standing on a steep hill. If you’re afraid of falling, you’ll lean back toward the hillside behind you. It’s the instinctive thing to do, but completely wrong for skiing. You have to lean forward and commit your body to falling down that hill. You can do it because you have trust in your skis.

Skis don’t just turn. They hold you up. That’s where the trust comes in. If you can overcome your hesitation and commit your body to falling forward, your skis will not just save you from falling on your face. They will work beautifully, and you will be a skier.

You know that trust exercise where you stand with your eyes closed and fall backwards, trusting your friends will catch you? Skiing is like that — in reverse. Stand at the top of the hill and let your body fall forward. Trust that your skis will catch you. They’ll take you on the ride of your life.

Melvin McLeod

Melvin McLeod is the Editor-in-Chief of Lion’s Roar magazine and Buddhadharma.