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Shredding in search of Zen

Whistler inspires local author to take to the hills, explore new environment

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Anyone who has learned to snowboard knows the importance of finding your centre of gravity. But for Michael Symonds, the experience was also about exploring his spiritual centre.

Symonds has studied with renowned spiritual leader, Deepak Chopra and  

is a personal growth facilitator and certified primordial sound meditation instructor.

After living in Vancouver’s west end for over 20 years, Symonds decided to retreat from the “up-town experience” of the city to the quiet beauty of the mountains.

“Even though Whistler itself is a busy town, the truth is, you can escape up on the mountain or into the parks or the forests and get away,” says Symonds.

And now he has taken his experiences and put them in a new book, ZEN Shredding. The about-to-be published work is about the pursuit of dreams, and chronicles Symonds own foray into the world of snowboarding, using vignettes from his personal experiences to outline the process and explain the risks, fears and insights he gained during the process.

“It depends on the angle you look at it from,” explains Symonds of the book’s content. “It’s a book of insights, but it’s also kind of a journal of my whole exploration of learning how to snowboard in the past three years.”

While some of the vignettes are personal and specific, the insights and ideas drawn from the process can be applied universally.

“I think that someone reading, even though they might not be a snowboarder or might not be a skier, or even play on the mountains in the snow, they’ll be completely able to relate to the questions and the insights,” says Symonds.

Learning to ride wasn’t exactly an easy process for Symonds. During his first season in Whistler, he was too busy working 50 to 60 hours a week in the resort to learn.

“I was intrigued by it, and also, by being in Whistler, you’re also kind of seeing it 24/7,” says Symonds. “I spent a lot of time just hanging around the bottom of the hill and watching all these people having fun.”

He took one lesson the next season, but it was icy and intense, and he gave up. It wasn’t until the following season that he decided to give it another shot, this time, signing up for four back-to-back lessons, immersing himself in the process.

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