Mountain Thoughts: Reacting to Life’s Kerfuffles

What happens when life hands you a kerfuffle?

A few weekends ago, I finally had a chance to ski. It’s been hard to get away this winter because of my kids sports schedules and on our free weekends, there’s been zero snow. Finally, the stars aligned and a winter storm delivered three plus feet of fresh snow. We made a last minute trip to the Catskills.

After getting my kids squared away at ski school (OMG why is this always so stressful year after year?), I couldn’t get to the lift fast enough. It had been a stressful week and my mood was in the dumps. All I wanted to do was feel the snow beneath my skis and the wind on my face. I wanted the rush of speed, hoping it would blur away the blues and leave me feeling freer.

Of course, that didn’t happen. I didn’t feel any lighter at the end of the day. Instead, I just felt more wound up, tight and sore.

I get it. We don’t like to be uncomfortable. We all turn to our active lifestyles and outdoor time to slow down and take us away from the daily grind. It’s a healthy way to deal with stress and the antidote to the modern lifestyle, right?

But my time on the mountain reminded me of something my yoga teacher said:

When you hear a kerfuffle in yoga class, it’s a good opportunity to stay with your breath and watch your reaction. Because there are kerfuffles all the time in life and you can’t always be thrown off. It’s a chance to practice your reaction and bring it off the mat.

Yes, there have been a lot of kerfuffles in life lately—the highly technical term for the unexpected bumps in life.

What I realized was that I’ve become very good at distracting myself when those moments arise. I turn to social media or burrow myself in an Internet rabbit hole so that I don’t have to sit with and feel those uncomfortable feelings. I chase the perfect run, yoga practice or (in this case) ski run to get out of my own head so I don’t have to think about why those moments make me feel crappy.

But in doing so, I’m taking the easy way out. The purpose of sport isn’t to zone out, to be blissed out all of the time or to run away from bad and uncomfortable feelings.

It’s a chance not only to challenge ourselves but to notice how you react to those difficult situations. Do you choose to stick with easier runs because you just want to zoom down the mountain (ahem, raises hand)? Or do you choose harder trails because it requires more conscious engagement of your body and mind? And what happens when you make a wrong turn and your only choice is a double black diamond? Do you freak out, sweat and swear? Or do you take a deep breath and lean your skis over the edge?

By always seeking the good feelings, I’m ignoring the opportunity that sport gives me to learn to notice the kerfuffles in life and how I respond to those situations. It’s an opportunity to learn how to deal with them, be OK with them and not tune them out entirely. And what I learn on the mountain, on the trail or on the yoga mat is something that I carry with me into my everyday life.

Christine Yu

Christine is a freelance writer, yoga teacher, runner and wannabe surfer. She shares stories about life, fitness and wellness on her blog Love, Life, Surf (yes, she started a blog after falling hard in love with surfing in Costa Rica!) and inspires others to embrace their choices to be happy and healthy. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.