The search for spiritual enlightenment (or at least a rest from my chattering mind) has led me to many workshops and meditation classes in my time. I did finally commit to the Buddhist practice of SGI (http://www.sgi-uk.org/) and enjoy the benefits that come from regularly aligning with my deeper vision and sharing it with others.
However, it has always struck me that skating has deep meditational qualities, in that it most definitely has the potential to focus the mind and block out the ‘monkey mind’ tendencies that modern life creates in our heads every day. On a routine street/pavement skate from Hyde Park to my new abode in north-west London, I noticed how my attention is focused even more acutely at the moment as it is ‘twig season’ and there is more debris than usual. Are those fallen leaves slimmey underneath? Is that distant paving slab crack facing towards me or away? This surface has just changed to become damp so now I need to quicken my tempo if I don’t want to slow down. These kind of moment to moment observations and decisions are what make street skating so engaging and fun for me. I can’t possibly be thinking of what’s in the fridge for dinner or worrying about a task left undone. This is the mental holiday that skating gives me.
But it isn’t only street skating that gives us that. Skating calmly in the park on smooth surfaces, I can become deeply conscious and fascinated with my breath (as meditation teaches us). I love the feeling when I have timed my inhalation for 3 strides and my exhalation for 3 strides and one locks into the other and I am ‘in a groove’, ‘in the zone’, propelled by gentle counting, moved by a rhythm that feels like it is set outside of me and yet it is all me and I feel my ‘me-ness’ even more acutely. That is when I find myself. Or am I just reconnecting with the carefree 12 year old girl who only felt truly happy on her roller skates? All I know is that, that feeling, that aliveness, makes me smile inside and out, makes me deeply grateful for my life and my body which makes it all happen. Feeling deep gratitude is a Buddhist concept that I find so much easier to practice when I am feeling happy, and skating helps me access that more easily, efficiently and consistently.
What do you feel when you skate? Am I alone in making these spiritual comparisons? As a child skating saved my life when making the difficult transition to living in the UK after a childhood abroad. As an adult, after having a breakdown in my 20s in response to unsatisfying work, skating once again saved me, first by being the only activity that finally melted away my depression and then a few years later by granting me the opportunity to earn my living by skating. I have been deeply fortunate in this respect and in my determination to keep the life that I love. It is those simple emotions, sensations and feelings that skating gives us which explain why we love it, and why we stick to it. If we do it consciously, skating is meditation and the benefits for us are unlimited.