I would like to take a moment to discuss something that has had a pretty big effect on my life, and how it connects to my spirituality. The thing I speak of my come as a surprise about how it connects to spirituality, but I will explain. My big, oddly spiritual thing I will be discussing is the wonderful world of ice-skating.
I used to love to go to the ice rink as a kid, but it was a seasonal rink and only open in the winter. I took lessons one winter and liked it, but ultimately I had to choose between dance and other activities, and dance won out.
When I was in my mid-twenties I was first introduced to the world of adult figure skating and tried it out for a few months. I completely loved it, but moved to go to grad school, where I had absolutely no time for anything but school.
Years elapsed, and I never even got to go to the rink.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2014. I found myself in a spiritual and physical slump, and I began to put a lot of thought and effort about how to pull myself out of that.
I have a strong interest/love of Hinduism, which teaches a connection between body, mind, and spirit, and it is within the Hindu tradition that yoga is a key element. I wanted to take on the challenge of pushing my body physically and studying the spiritual development that comes from that, but yoga is just not my thing. I am a dance professor, so of course I considered all sorts of dance classes, but I felt I was ready and wanting a completely new journey. Then it hit me, it was time to go back to skating.
Turned out there was a rink near me that had learn-to-skate programs at a time I could go. I fished my skates out of the closet to try them on again, and whoa, the energy that came out of that skate bag when I opened it was intense. I knew the time was right to skate again, but getting back on the ice was going to be a huge physical and mental challenge.
First I made my husband go down to the rink with me during a public session. I was awful. I couldn’t even stay on my skates for more than fifteen minutes without sitting down. I also could remember nothing about what I had learned years before, let alone execute any moves besides skating forward. I knew then this was going to be a bigger challenge than I thought, especially since lessons were an hour long.
So here the spiritual challenge begins. I had to push my body and my mind to get through that first hurdle of just going back to lessons. Lacing up the skates and joining a group class took some balls on my part, but I did it, I signed up for a month of lessons and began that journey.
In order to make any progress it is imperative that you go practice outside of that weekly lesson. Those practice sessions really speak to my spirituality, because they are so individual. It’s just me out there, pushing myself. There are physical and mental hurdles to overcome, as skating is extremely difficult, and it’s scary. But I quickly discovered that it is also meditative. The glide of the blade on the ice, and the different sounds the come from the blade to ice connection really spoke to me, and were soothing. I sweat like a beast, so I really love the cold, icy environment, and I feel like that chill helps put me in the mental zone.
Years of dance classes had taught me how physical activity connects to the spiritual, and connecting that to skating was very easy for me. But of course there are days when I don’t feel like going to the rink, but I have learned to push for it. If I skip I loose that physical, spiritual connection, and that has become really special to me.
I have been going at it strong for almost eight months now, and in that time I have made so many discoveries that I couldn’t even describe them all. I also cannot describe how the ice makes me feel, it’s completely non-verbal. But I bet any ice skater feels it, and that’s what keeps bringing them back to the rink.
I have also found a new community at the rink. Now other skaters and coaches know me, and I have made new friends. As an introvert, this is a pretty big thing, new friends. I don’t make friends easily, so it is a big thing for me to find connection in a new community. There is a lovely group of women who skate together every Friday, and I am honored to have been accepted into their circle.
Right out of the gate, only about three months into my new skating journey, I fell and broke my arm on the ice. That was eye opening, and sent me into some spiritual explorations. Was I doing the right thing? As a dance professional, one bad move on the ice could be career ending for me. Was it worth it? Should I be taking that kind of risk for a hobby?
As soon as I could wave my arm around I was back on the ice in a cast. The answer was I could not give it up. I loved it too much, and was hungry for more. Skating had pulled me out of my physical and spiritual slump. I knew it was risky business, but overcoming fear is a big part of the spirituality of skating.
Now I wear wrist guards, and I purchased really good figure, rather than recreational, skates. That actually makes a huge difference in personal safety. Figure skates have shorter blades, making it harder to go over backwards, which is essentially what I did when I broke my wrist. The figure blades also grip the ice better, and have completely changed my skating experience.
Long story short, I have found spiritual connection through skating. It pushes me emotionally and physically, and forces me to have faith in myself and my ability to advance. The repetition it takes to learn a new move is like my yoga. It challenges my mind, and forces a sort of meditative state. I often repeat a move over and over for up to thirty minutes, and that really does take you to a different place mentally. As I set goals and clear hurdles I strengthen my body, mind, and spirituality. The physical, spiritual connection had been seriously lacking in my life, and I am so grateful that acknowledging that void led me back to skating.
And there is a crazy world of competitive adult figure skating out there. Skating obviously has a strange power over certain individuals, since there are a whole bunch of other adults out there like me. We’re not training for the Olympics. We’ll probably never be coaches or skate in professional ice shows. Our goals are much more personal, and we have become enthralled with the unexplainable magic of skating.