A few years ago "Inner Tennis" and "The Inner Game of Tennis" swept up the courts with a combined sale of almost 400,000 copies. It's time for the instant replay, so here's "Inner Skiing," by the same author, Tim Gallway, applying the same far-out Far Eastern principles to the equally trendy sport of skiing.
"Inner Skiing" is an excellent example of American pop-psychology shlock in the post-guru era. Gallwey's recipe for teaching skiing and living is based on heavy doses of love and devotion to Guru Maharaj Ji, Esalen, yoga, Zen, T'ai Chi and tennis, with just a pinch of skiing thrown in to establish the subject matter and credibility.
An objective review of the book is almost impossible, because it's entirely subjective and ephemeral. Gallwey's basic notion is that people will ski better, learn more about themselves and live better if they free themselves from the self-imposed restrictions of thinking about how things should be rather than feeling how things are and how things might feel better. It's a simple notion, but it's the only one presented in 140 pages. The rest of the book is repetitive conceptualizing and applying this simple idea - which does not warrant such laborious treatment and which is not clarified by the repetition.
Applying this idea to skiing, Gallwey conceptualizes that there are two control centers ("Self 1" and "Self 2") that govern the body, but that only one can govern at a time. Self 1 is the adult verbal "you," who tries to learn by analyzing, instructing and scolding. "Weight on the downhill ski, harder, you dummy!" is Self 1 talking, according to Gallwey.
He prefers Self 2, the copycat and experimenter he thinks we were as kids - when, he speculates, we could learn any new skill without the trouble and embarrassment we have now. For Gallwey Self 2 skiing is "skiing out of your mind," it is transcendental and the peak of performance.
The value of "Inner Skiing" is that it focuses on such peaks of performance - breakthrough runs, Gallwey calls them - in which mind and body seem to flow naturally and effortlessly. The book is conducive to skiing relaxed. That's its greatest concentrates on form and therefore is conducive to physical rigidity. Another strength of the "Inner Skiing" approach is that it views skiing as play, a simple but rarely made point that's contrary to rigidity and consistent with being relaxed. But breakthrough runs can't be achieved simply be bypassing the acquisition of physical skills. The incongruity of Gallwey's approach is that it says on the one hand Don't think about what you're doing and, on the other, Feel what you're doing. I'm not so sure the two are distinguishable.
The book represents more than the sport of skiing: It represents the amount of verbal garbage that floats around in and pollutes our society and our language. Once only railroads had "system." Now Gilette has a "shaving system," Newsweek offered a "calender system," Baggies are a "food-storage system" and skiing has a "delivery system" - which, according to Gallwey, is our "innate non-verbal guidance system" of "Self 2." Pseudotechnology and pseudothought.
Take a look at "Inner Skiing." You might ski better by conquering Self 1 or Self 2 or whoever the two of you are. You might even save your marriage or get the divorce you've always dreamed of.
More likely, the book is one of many the market today that says be yourself, I'm okay, you're oaky, be here now and all I gotta do is act naturally - notions that are founded on the assumptions that we are not ourselves, that we are not okay, that we are not happy, that we are not here now, and that we don't act naturally. Notions that are founded upon insults.