SKI TOURING AS MINDFULNESS TRAINING
Christoph and Max Bründl ski touring with Felix Gottwald
“So, now consciously breath in and consciously breath out,” says Felix Gottwald. The most successful athlete in Austrian Olympic history is standing in ski boots, jacket, and gloves on the top of a hill below the Schwalbenwand in Zell am See with Christoph and Max Bründl.
Two hours previously: Felix, Christoph, and his son Max Bründl take their ski touring equipment out of the car trunk and put their jackets on. Today, a very special ski tour is on the agenda: Christoph and Max want to learn some mindfulness tips from Felix, experience the power of silence, and try and integrate it into their daily lives. “On today’s tour I want to stop all the balls bouncing around in my head and focus my attention more on my breathing,” says Christoph. Max is looking forward to a “cool tour” and to nature, which will help him to greater mindfulness
Felix, Christoph, and Max place their skis in the snow, and with a quiet click the boots lock into the bindings, then off they tour en route for inner tranquility. “Out here you’ve got real lab conditions for testing mindfulness,” comments Felix, his gaze wandering across tall, snow-clad spruce trees. “Anyone who goes ski touring hasn’t got a hand free to tap on a smartphone.” No technology, no hordes of humans, just a slow, even movement: According to Felix, ski touring is an ideal way to earth yourself and give your mind a welcome break from everything.
Mindfulness in everyday life
"Like nature, which pauses during winter and collects its energy, we also need to pause repeatedly,” Felix explains. During those pauses, we should ask ourselves: How am I? How’s my body doing? How’s my heart doing? And, as a consequence, how’s my mind doing? Because, fortunately, we humans only exist as the complete package. “So how can we integrate mindfulness into everyday life?”, Christoph wants to know. And Felix suggests the thing is to “immerse yourself in the movement the way we do when touring on skis,” and taps the snow from his ski tips. “Your body needs movement in whatever shape or form fits you best – that’s something you have to find out for yourself.” The right form of movement helps you to become more mindful, just like the right form of breathing, pausing, heeding your inner self, and breathing consciously, Felix continues, as that is the most direct path to more mindfulness. “If you like we can try it out in a minute.”
Christoph and Max nod, and the creak of the skis in the snow comes to a stop on a ridge. The men breathe deeply, in and out. After a few minutes they open their eyes again and smile. “I already feel better”, Christoph enthuses. Max chips in: “For me, mindfulness is an awareness of how good we actually have it.” Felix recommends that his mindfulness pupils do the exercise several times a day, that we invite ourselves to pause and enjoy our own presence, irrespective of the outer setting. The advantages of mindfulness are a greater resilience to stress, enhanced well-being, a good mood, and a better ability to reach decisions, because: “You make better decisions if you stop the balls bouncing around in your head.”