Sunday, May 10, 2009
Repetition repetition repetition leads to the possibility of enlightenment. What I mean is, by learning a sport, and becoming great at it, which requires practice and repetition, over time that practice and muscle/mind memory renders you free enough to have an opening. It’s like meditation, or chanting. The more you do it the more you clear the way. Finally after all that work your mind relaxes while engaged in the sport, moves aside, and voila…
Sports as a form of spiritual practice? I can think of no more obvious and clear way for people who otherwise would never have the chance, to experience a transcendental space. A space of infinity, no mind, God Nature, Buddha nature, The Tao etc. yet it is the least discussed of all the practices.
Probably because if you go to church, or meditate it’s obvious you’re there for a meaningful spiritual experience. In sports, it’s not so obvious.
Maybe I can help…
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
If Helen Keller were an athlete
Many of us, who once found cheese in our sport, are now finding only pellets. Enough to keep us alive, sure, but why not go in search of cheese again, maybe down other paths?
Sports are either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Ode to Ski to Live Guests: Alta 2009
Larry- who is not as much of an asshole as he thinks,
Randy- who is magic,
George- the creator of mircles,
Michelle- who is always her own person,
Maria- standing tall, strong and pround, no matter what,
Chase- the most evolved sixteen year old I’ve ever known,
Kayleen- who has the ability to smile, and appreciates it all,
David- who is making me fat with all the brownies but I don’t care,
Nicole- with your absolute and complete presence,
Brenda- will you be my mom, too?
Hayden- you don’t have to say a word and we already know who you are,
Annie- who has no idea how lovely she is,
Abby- the dice slayer,
Wendel- who grows stronger every day,
Toren- who has to make do without a lick of powder in Illinois,
-Thank you for attending This Amazing Weekend Together
Sunday, March 29, 2009
“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.” –Bruce Lee
As Americans, we often focus on what is wrong with us, what is missing. Don’t believe me? Look no further than in advertising: “look younger” “ski better” and you’ll begin to notice the want.
You say; “I’m going to learn how to do a backscratcher” which suggests you have no backscratcher, you’re lacking that skill, but would like one. Women’s-only sports clinics are notorious for this phenomenon- they offer to “help women become empowered” which suggests women lack power and therefore need to find it. That’s why I avoid most women’s only clinics.
In Zen, we don’t practice in order to attain enlightenment. That’d be like rubbing two tiles together in order to make a mirror. The more we effort, the further away it becomes. The only thing we can do is to make spacious a part of us in which enlightenment can now enter.
Another way of putting it: in Indonesia, a village master will not “pray for fish” instead he will “Pray Fish.” Notice the difference.
Like an artist who carves a brilliant work of art out of a stone block- the art was already in there, the artist just unleashes it. “I’m going to give myself access to a backscratcher” is honoring that the back scratcher already exists in you. You just need to open the space for which it can enter.
Sounds hokey, I know, and if anyone were to talk like that around me I’d want to barf. But at least anchor this in your heart as anther possibility for spaciousness…
Perhaps that’s worth talking funny for…
Friday, February 13, 2009
Many athletes use breathing to get there- others through long-term practice or a natural shift can simply be there in an instant. Once in this “zone” you have transcended your ego self- and have dropped into what is called many things, including Enlightenment, Infinity, Buddha Nature, and/or God Nature.
But you cannot have the goal to be in the Zone. Oh no. If you try to be the Buddha, you’ll never get there, because: you already are the Buddha.
While being the Zone, this is where the projections of the mind are no longer experienced, where the body no longer feels, you move beyond both to become your true nature- who you truly are. This is why sport is so nourishing–as essential as food–for it has the potential to change your reality and bring you home- if only for an instant while running down the street.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Though sports, if you pay attention and not miss the lessons, you can be powerful beyond measure. You can access and express the connection of everyone, and everything that exists- including the mountains, the skis, the streets, the bike and the water.
Or… sports can be nothing at all.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Your life as a movie…
A little bird is flying in the forest. Suddenly he sees a great fire below, raging out of control. “My home!” he cries, and flies to the lake to gather a beak full of water. Flying back to the fire, he drops his little bundle of water onto the inferno, then races back to the lake. Over and over he repeats the gesture until he becomes so exhausted, he falls into the fire and dies.
Is this a beautiful story or a sad story for you?
I used to be a professional Big Mountain skier- basically I jumped off cliffs and skied you-fall-you-die exposures around the world for cameras. Now I facilitate the intersection of sport, adventure and Infinite wisdom in clinics called Ski to Live and in private sessions. In sports- we have exhilarating moments, sure, flying around our own forest, yet like the bird we also struggle- through injury, through disappointment, through aging, for our entire lives. I know as I get older and nurse my ski injuries, my new goal as an athlete is to get worse at my sport every year, yet be ok with it. I continue pouring beakfuls of water on such fires, daily.
What if this story were made into a movie? Most of us love sad movies, eh? They’re familiar. They move us, comfort us, make the struggle of being a human being seem more touching. Perhaps if we see this story as a sad movie, it won’t seem sad, it’ll seem beautiful. Graceful. Like a kitten struggling for it’s first breath. Like an athlete struggling to learn some hard lessons.
I love the hard lessons, maybe more than the easy lessons. I love fighting the fire. That’s why I prefer vacations that help me explore my own existence. The challenges and sadness of life make me feel the most alive and curious.
That’s a movie worth watching…
Saturday, January 24, 2009
WHY WE DIG SPORTS
When you have a secret, can you keep it from even those closest to you?
“Yep, like the best poker player.”
When you’re angry or upset about something, can you hide it from other people?
“Sure, I just smile and keep quiet.”
When you’re skiing the moguls, can you fake being better than you really are?
How about rock climbing, if you say you climb 5.12 but it’s simply not true, when it comes time will you rise to it?
Not a hairy fingernails chance. Same with baseball, football, golf, cycling, race car driving, all of them.
That’s the thing about sports, you can’t fake anything. You can’t hide from the truth in sports like you can the rest of life. You can’t pretend to be stronger, faster, more intelligent, more charming, more sexy than you really are. And so sports, my friends, are the ultimate mirror. A mirror solidly held and no matter how much you try to squirm away, you cannot avoid the reflection.
That’s why I choose Sports as Spiritual Practice, as my church. No bullshit. Just living.
They bring us to our knees and little else does…
Monday, January 12, 2009
The Ultimate Path of the Athlete
Sports are the ultimate test. They offer a great mirror. We can fake other aspects of our lives- like we’re actors in a movie- but we can’t do any such thing in sports. It’s just not possible to pretend to be better than you are while hanging it out on a 5.12 rock climb or in golf tournament. Sports break us down into little pieces, show us clearly our strengths, our weaknesses. They offer us lessons, an opportunity to wake up to what it means to be a human being. But alas, most of us miss these lessons…
The greatest lessons of our lives.
Will you take advantage of these lessons? To become more conscious makes you a better human being, and to be a better human being makes you a better athlete- in whatever way that matters to you. That’s good incentive.
In the words of Paul Valery: “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Skiing Without Fear
This is a blog for www.kristenulmer.com and the Ski to Live clinics.
People ask me all the time, “How did you do it? How did you ski without fear all those years as a pro?”
They want to get rid of their own fear, so they can ski better, of course.
I always answer: “You’re asking the wrong question.”
The question should be: “How do you embrace fear?”
Much like a whining child, the harder we ignore fear the louder it whines. It simply will not stop yowling until we listen to it. If we listen, instead of being our enemy, it becomes our friend- our warning bell. The one who has our back.
Take it a step further now, and embrace fear not like a friend, but like a lover, and you’ll see that it is fear, actually, which creates our passionate for this sport. Without fear there is no challenge, no adrenaline. Without fear, skiing would have little appeal, no fire.
I love fear like I want to love Brad Pitt.
Now THAT makes for good skiing…
Monday, September 29, 2008
Recently performed a marriage ceremony for two close friends at Burning Man. This is what I wrote/presented. Thought it would be nice to share:
We’re born and very quickly we feel so separate from one another. From the earth. From the universe.
So we spend our lives searching. For what- sometimes we’re not sure, but the search goes on regardless. We come to Burning Man to continue the search, and here, if it’s a good year and our eyes are open, we find.
Find what though?
When we watch the man burn tomorrow perhaps we recognize ourselves, Standing up there, arms in the sky, feeling the power, the magnificence, the knowing of who we are and what we are. And instead of searching for, perhaps we can finally find…
Connection. Not just to other human beings but to our own skin, connection to the ground, to gravity, connection to the earth, the atmosphere, to others, to the sky, connection to the stars, to the universe, to beyond even that which we cannot grasp.
In this place, we can finally, with great relief, experience a collective, universal consciousness and truth- a connection to everyone and everything. The other 51 weeks of the year, you are you and I am me. But here, I am you and you are me. Most people never have this chance.
When two people get married, whether it be in Africa through a tribal ceremony or in India with an arranged marriage, the world comes yet another step closer to the truth, that we are all connected. Just like a butterfly beating its wings in Africa affects a child’s cry in Peru, A marriage at Burning Man effects the murmur of the whole world.
This connection doesn’t have to wait through a two-year courtship though, or even for the guy to get his act together and ask, it can happen in an instant. Imagine a world with everyone in love, where there is no fear or confusion. Imagine a world were you can even tell total strangers that you love them.
***(The following is a ceremony)
Look for a partner, best if it’s a stranger, now stand and look into each other eyes
First person say slowly, repeat after me: “I love you. I have always loved you. And I will never stop loving you.” (second person, same)
Pause for crying, hugs, happiness, celebration***
What you just did is what David and Kelli are doing today. Even after two years, they’re still strangers, even after 50 years, they’ll still be strangers, but they’re willing to love, always love, and never stop loving. Not just for themselves and their own lives but for all of you as well. To change the murmur in their lives, but to also to create something so much more for human kind.
Now take that energy and on the count of three I want you to send it, arms extended palms first with the word BANG to David and Kelli, and also past them out onto the playa, and beyond.
My hope is that the whole world will feel it.
Three, two, one
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Poems for Ski to Live Guests Alta ’08
Mel- Who one day, will say with authority “I’m not sorry”
Patrick- our beloved new, old friend
Abby- knowing when to turn around and come back tomorrow
Sabrena- who laughs with abandon and makes us love her
Laurie- who can’t say penis, but can definitely paint them
Seanie- who speaks like a bunny, but lives like a lion
Robin- holding as trophies, her rolladex in one hand and her heart in another
JJ- Who will drop everything when it’s right
Amanda- drawing us in with but a wink
Jennifer- who keeps our ball rolling, even when we’re asleep
Paul- as we whistle at you from inside the Zen Center
Andrea- feeding the world with devotion and pursuit
Nancy- who trusts unconditionally- you know you can write me about anything, anytime
Mike- linear he walks, yet directly into the arms of his waiting father
Ron- who has come so, so far in this journey, and is awake
Lisa- now speaking her truth with strength and certainty
Sharon- who deserves a standing ovation everyday
Karl- who is not afraid to reveal secrets
Al- turning the dust of his past into gold
Peter F- exploring heart ache through the path of love
Melanie- Merry Christmas to you, wife, friend, and human being
LeeAnn- No matter how long it takes, you always graduate
Leah- smiling, all the while, passed out on the floor
Amy- who finally had sex with anger
Tom- whom I miss more than words can say
Larry- the bright, beautiful pain in the ass
Peter K- as he starts a revolution
Chris- who dares, oh no, to share the truth while skiing.
And to Kristy- will you be my assistant?
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Poems for Ski to Live Guests Park City ’08
Sharon- who hopefully will want the clinic back again and again to Park City
Ori – who maybe found his boost
Danelle – who WILL go to the Olympics
Andrea- who always had her wings, but might ditch her job
Lauryn- who taught us spiritual breakthroughs and psychotic episodes are the same thing
Kelli- who with every swirl of those PMS hips can bring the playa to it’s knees
Bill Wilson- with his head in the stars both brings STL to Park City and seduces his wife on river trips
Christy Wilson- who falls for his charm, will have a baby in 2 months, hopefully while wearing red toe nail polish…
Jason- who will tell the world
Bill McGinnis- who deserves to be famous
Karl- who’s tan is so deep it goes 100 feet deep into the earth
Ray- who feels like the luckiest guy in Park City
Rob- who saved my ass when I didn’t know how to find the right instructors
LeeLaa- who will never, ever need to be told to *&%$ off
Jonathon- who, if you go visit him, will teach you all to fly like superman
Gina- who is not in touch with spirit- she IS spirit
Chris- who will say no to the next person who asks
Vicki- who wasn’t born a red head, but fixed that
Cindy- the pearl living in the oyster
David Sr- who is truly my friend
David Jr- just do it- for one year, what the heck, be a ski bum
Marie- may you always eat ice cream for dinner
Heather- anyone from new hampshire is like salt on the earth
Amy- who will say yes to the next person who asks
Jeanette- who wants to be of service
Guy and Susan, who wake up every morning to a sunny day, even when it’s raining
Adam- the most likely to suddenly shave his head and build an ashram in Vegas, baby
Steve- may you always build your barns lop sided
No Mistakes? Not a Chance. Namaste
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
This is something I wrote to the folks who just attended Ski to Live last weekend. It was an incredible group and an incredible experience:
These clinics always feel, to me, like having been at a really good movie. You lose yourself in it, you’re not even aware of your previous existence anymore- where you are or who you were- during the event, until it’s over and the lights come up and you blink once or twice and then remember. But like all good movies, you’re transformed afterwards, from having experienced another reality besides the familiar. This time the movie lasted almost 4 days though. It moved us, maybe only into the next part of our lives, maybe into a completely new world, but from this place we can perhaps look back and see where we had been stuck, or where we had clung. Or maybe we can finally acknowledge something we had previously refused to learn. Who knows? The essence of life, and hopefully Ski to Live, is ongoing…
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Answering a question
Matt, a skier who used to live in Utah, wrote in a great letter and asked some interesting questions, to which I responded below. Here’s his letter- it’s edited for length:
Hi Kristen- I didn’t see much about you in the ski mags anymore- and knowing of your absolute strength on ski’s- my wondering why led me to your site and thus your blog. What you do sounds absolutely great.
To my questions: I’m curious what is your idea of the creator, however personal or impersonal. And (this sounds confrontational but I assure you I don’t mean it to be) since you say you don’t prescribe to any religion at all but teach Zen Wisdom, how do you divorce the practice of Zen from the Buddhism. Is it possible that the connotation of the word religion is simply something you’d like people to avoid attaching to your philosophy? Thanks for taking the time to read my humble question. Sincerely matty lundquist.
Awesome letter. Here’s my response:
Hi Matty, thanks for writing. I believe in the Big Bang and evolution, which I think is, at this point, undisputed in the science world. That’s hard to ignore. So to answer your first question, no, I don’t believe in a creator.
That’s not to say that God doesn’t exist, though. And before people freak out over the word God and stop reading, here me out. (yes, it is that kind of world).
To the Buddhists God is everyone and everything. To the Catholics God is separate from us, and the image of an older bearded man with flowing robes is hard to shake. To the Taoists God is that tree over there. Zen, of course, is housed and birthed in the religion of Buddhism, so it’s easy to put it in the category of religion.
The best explanation of Zen I’ve heard though, is that while religions are studies of what the great masters taught- for example Buddhism is the study of what the Buddha taught. Catholicism is the study of what Jesus Christ taught. Islam is the study of what Mohammad taught. Taoism is the study of what nature teaches.- Zen is actually trying to FEEL what The Buddha Felt. Feel what Jesus felt. Feel what Mohammad felt. Feel what the trees feel.
So in many ways, “my philosophy” is not my philosophy at all- it’s not exclusive to me or to Ski to Live or to Buddhism- it’s the embracing of everyone’s philosophy, including yours. And at the clinic or in private session, we don’t study anything, we practice experientially.
Thus is the reason why we can run these clinics & how I can coach the intersection of sports, adventure and Zen, and manage to include all people, and all beliefs. I would never, ever presume to think that my way of being or believing is the only true way. I am but a single human being in a vast, and beautifully complicated world. So we don’t teach anyone anything in these events, or steer anyone in any direction based on our own agendas. We facilitate people into their own recognitions and realizations.
Thank you again for writing Matt, and I hope you decide to join us for a clinic or for a private coaching event some day. I think you’ll feel right at home.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
The Path of Injury
By Kristen Ulmer, for your enjoyment
Do you love to ski perhaps, or sky dive, maybe wrestle goats? Great choices! Problem is, even if you just play Yahtzee, you’re probably gonna break a bone/ligament/gasket at some point. Damn dice.
But not to worry- that compound femur fracture is simply not a problem! Just pop 4 Advil and find a massage therapist (throw in a 5 hour reconstructive surgery too, if you have the time).
This may come as a wee surprise though, but turns out injury (shhh) ain’t that easy. Of course denial comes first, then acceptance (hello- the bone is actually sticking out of your leg), until weeks later as your couch cushion starts to form a black hole in the shape of your flattening butt, when resistance takes over. Us humans always seek identity, and with injury– even if you mask it behind a joke or smile—getting stuck in “this is terrible” or feeling like a victim usually becomes your new identity. You’re no longer the stockbroker, the yodeler, heck you’re not even Frank or Mary anymore but rather: “the guy who broke his leg.” Life quickly becomes a grasp toward the future: “I’ll be happy once I’m strong, then I’ll be my old self again.”
Your old self though- is that wise? Imagine you’re expecting a hard fastball, which you planned to knock out of the park, but instead are tossed a hanging curve ball. Would you really just stand there, bat on shoulder, complaining “Hey! This isn’t what I wanted!” and wait for the next pitch?
No, you’d take a swing at that ball. Injury is an amazing opportunity, but if you don’t embrace it, you may miss the lessons. You must submit to blackness in order to find a brighter light– Pain? That’s where great art is always birthed. Being reliant on another person? That’s the exact makeup of romantic love.
And being on crutches, or hooked up to a whirling machine? Wow! Even the 5-year olds know– the person on crutches is always the most interesting in the room. Everyone wants to know what happened, because privately they’re all going through their own, most recent ‘injury.’
Life is about injury, that’s why the movie American Beauty was so popular. The key is to embrace your own sad movie- the energy there is staggering, especially if you watch it over and over until you feel all the hidden layers. So with this newly broken body, why not crawl on your knees across the floor to pet the dog. Have a stranger carry you down the stairs and appreciate it. Learn how to finally play bridge, and take the time to actually listen to your breathing.
Do this, and when you’re much older– lying on your hospital bed now, breathing slower every minute—you’ll look out the window at a snowstorm and remember your skiing trips, or how much you loved those goats. Suddenly you’ll recall that broken femur back in ’07. “Wow, I broke my leg!” you’ll think. “The bone was sticking out- it was gross!” That was when you starred in your own sad movie, swung at the curve ball. You’ll hold that injury with reverence, as the time you cried the most, felt the most pain, and couldn’t escape anymore, the reality of being truly, exquisitely human.
Oct. 9th, 2007
Poem sent from Ski to Live guest, Jeff Fink
This is a beautiful poem, isn’t it? We all listen to “they”, don’t we, even those of us who think we don’t. We’re such social creatures, we like to be liked, we like to be good, but thank god, more than anything we like to be freeeeeee.
Maybe that freedom is why we like skiing and snowboarding so much? Aside from making sure no one saw your big stupid floundering crash (brush all snow off before reaching the chair lift now…or else someone will notice), and carrying your skis tips-first so the locals don’t snigger, the rest is all freedom, isn’t it? And we’re proud when they whisper about our craziness…
“They’ll” by Cheryl Denise, from I Saw God Dancing. © Dream Seeker Books, 2005. Reprinted with permission.
take your soul
and put it in a suit,
fit you in boxes
make you look like the Joneses.
They’ll tell you go a little blonder,
tinted contact lenses,
conceal that birthmark
under your chin.
They’ll urge you to have babies
They’ll say marriage is easy,
flowers from Thornhills
are all you need
to keep it together.
They’ll push you to go ahead,
borrow a few more grand,
build a dream house.
Your boys need Nikes,
your girls cheerleading,
and all you need is your job
9 to 5 in the same place.
They’ll order you never to cry
in Southern States,
and never, ever dance
in the rain.
They’ll repeat all the things
your preschool teacher said
in that squeaky too tight voice.
And when you slowly
let them go,
crack your suit,
ooze your soul
in the sun,
when you run through
the woods with your dog,
read poems to swaying cornfields,
pray in tall red oaks,
and pretend you’re crazy.
Oct. 4th, 2007
Behold a blog about my life and the work I’m doing with regard to Ski to Live and wisdom sports facilitation! WHEW* I’ve been resisting the creation of this blog for awhile now- years. But it’s time…
I’m a unique kind of sports educator. For starters, my background: I come from the world of ‘extreme’ athletics and spent much of my adult life risking my own death for glory and excitement. I don’t make any apologies for this wild side or background, it was a hell of a ride, but I’m also so, so glad it’s over. Currently I love the Burning Man ethos and swear and dress according to whatever moves me and openly admit to my idiotic embarrassments (massive ego?). I also use sports to facilitate Zen Wisdom full time for a living, what a trip! I’m not religious in any way, although many of my clients are, and I can help them on their chosen path alongside their sports practice.
So- the goal of this blog is to put ideas out there for you to mull over about what sports may have taught you. Basically, I’m making spiritual practice funny and cool and sexy and progressive as hell and shockingly real and even…get this…applicable to real life.
My own life and struggles will slip in here naturally, and maybe you’ll find that appealing as well.
Anyway, more to come. Am hoping people will respond to my spew, get pissed off, challenge me, and I promise to challenge you too. If it ain’t controversial it ain’t worth reading…let’s see what kind of irreverence we can muster up in our need to be reverent…