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Skiing and the art of Zen

As Alexander Graham Bell so famously wrote:

"When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us."

I have been thinking about that saying a lot over that past few months….. and have finally got that I had been staring at that closed door for years without even realising it.

As a fresh faced, music loving 20 year old living in London in the early 1990s with no real idea of what I wanted out of life, I did what a lot of my peers did, and found myself a job in the City. This was not my forever job, you understand, but just something to tide me over and keep me in beer until I found my ‘calling’. Well, the City got its claws in me, seduced me with its money and blinded me with its glamour….and I have to say I loved it! I made great friends, enjoyed experiences you can’t buy and generally lived high on the hog.

Then 2008 happened: the door closed.

Not only was this the year that world discovered (and I include most bankers in this world) how crooked the financial system was, it was also the year my daughter was born.

So I found myself in a less secure environment, with fewer jobs and less opportunity and with more responsibility than I had ever known. Things started to get ugly. Friends turned on friends for that final dollar. The bonhomie vanished. People became obstacles and the whole working world became a darker place. I did things and said things that I am not proud of, and told myself that I was doing it for my daughter's sake. I began to despise myself, and all the people around me doing the same thing. That feeling of loathing is insidious and creeps into everything: daily interactions, friendships, relationships. I developed acute anxiety, and started to find any form of crowd (think commute) deeply distressing.

I stared at that closed door for years, half-heartedly changing companies periodically to try and break free, without really knowing what I was trying to break free from – each time when the change didn’t happen I got more angry and depressed.

And then, at the beginning of 2016, I had a bit of an epiphany. I was taking some Skiing lessons on a family holiday in Austria, and as was my way, I was getting angry with myself and everyone around me because I couldn’t do it first time. Cursing, shouting…..generally being the publicly held definition of a Banker! I was very lucky that Oskar was my instructor. Oskar is a 60 year oldwiry grey haired zen master of a guy who has lived in the mountains his whole life. He took me aside at lunch the first day and said to me ‘Peter, why so angry, so scared? The mountain senses this … is why you find it hard. Relax, love the world around you, love the mountain, and don’t be afraid.’

Something clicked in that alpine air - I suddenly saw what I couldn’t see before. My whole demeanour to all those around me changed, I even started to like myself again. On arriving home, I saw my working life through new eyes, and realised how far away I was from the ‘calling’ that the 20 year old me was searching for. I didn’t want to be banker me anymore, time for something else……

Peacebeam has been part of that something else. It has given me the means and power to face some long-held demons, and to start to live again. It is the open door that I couldn’t see. I hope to be able to hold this door open for others out there, who find themselves in the same situation that I did.

Just remember-  love the mountain.


Peter Snasdell