“I was alone on the mountain, swooping downward with long, clean turns. Each one was effortless, a perfect transfer of weight and control from ski to ski. I was lost in the motion, rhythmic, caressing. I could taste the sun and the wind and feel every inch, every crystal of snow beneath me . . .
“Suddenly, I saw my new challenge. I was cutting hard across the mountain, aware only of the inner edge of my downhill ski, when all else stopped and I heard my quietest voice guiding me, compelling me: Write a book. Describe this clarity. Call it Skiing Zen.”
Guided by his strange epiphany, Richard Phipps travels to Japan with little else than $600 and a pair of skis. A bumpy start leads to a fascinating but frustrating time in Tokyo, where he gains insight into Japanese culture but draws no closer to his dream of skiing in Japan. Finally, as the days fly past, a sharp karmic turn brings him not only into the service of Japan’s most famous skier, Yuichiro Miura, a descendant of Samurai, but to the former site of the winter Olympic Games in Sapporo. His struggles are far from over however, as pressure mounts immediately for Phipps to adjust both socially and athletically amidst a tight-knit group of elite skiers. Instead of meditative awareness, he is gripped now by self-consciousness and the need for acceptance. Only with the help of a young Japanese maverick is Phipps able to break free, clear his mind, and trigger the dominos of realization that had been quietly aligning themselves during the winter. For skiers and athletes tantalized by their own moments of clarity, the last fifty pages will resonate deeply.
Skiing Zen is a tapestry of thought about sports and awareness, about differences between Eastern and Western thinking, and about individualism amidst group pressure. Woven into the travel anecdotes, cultural insights, and skiing action are intriguing concepts such as the spectrum of attention and distraction, the evolving spiral of learning, the power of guided imagery, and the correlation between Zen and love. Stunning in scope, yet penetrating in its earnest insight, Phipps is indeed Searching for the Spirituality of Sport.