When Michael Symonds decided about three years ago to learn how to snowboard, he never imagined it would lead to significant personal growth and insight — and ultimately to his new book: Zen Shredding.
Out there on his board on the frozen mountains, Symonds was amazed at the intensity of the learning experience and the personal issues and insights it brought to the surface. It was a time of vulnerability — scary but also exciting, nurturing and inspiring.
The snowboarding experiences and insights led to journaling, then a slideshow that Symonds created for Whistler Wellness Week two years ago. The slideshow eventually became the book, and the whole journey is culminating in a book launch tonight (Thursday, June 5) as part of Whistler Wellness Week.
Symonds admits that the two words that make up the title of the book — Zen Shredding — are both borrowed. While he practices meditation and he’s a certified instructor with the Chopra Centre, Symonds isn’t a Zen practitioner. And while he’s a regular snowboarder, Symonds doesn’t think of himself as someone who “shreds” on the slopes.
But together the words, an apparent contradiction, describe Symonds’ life since he moved to Whistler and rediscovered his inspiration.
“You can have these extreme dichotomies and they come together and you can have this amazing experience,” he said. As the subtitle reveals, the book includes the “insights, questions and confessions of a meditator and novice snowboarder on the pursuit of dreams, inspiration, passion and change.”
On the surface, Zen Shredding could be a coffee table book that one can flip through and take in a few of the large-print one liners that appear on most of the right-hand pages: “You are never too old or too young to pursue a dream.” “Pursuing dreams is not just about achieving something.”
But take time to read some of the left-hand pages, or better yet an entire “chapter,” and it’s apparent there’s more here than feel-good sound bites. Zen Shredding is about asking questions, challenging preconceived notions and cultivating change.
“My book is an invitation to maybe go a little deeper,” Symonds said. “It’s for anybody who feels they are going through some kind of change or they want to create change in their life.”
While the book isn’t directly about Whistler, there’s an undercurrent that speaks to the pursuit of “the dream” that draws people to Whistler, he said. There’s a lot of passion and inspiration here, and the Whistler experience speaks to the soul, he said.
“The book really is an invitation for people to reignite that inspiration inside of themselves,” Symonds said. The Zen Shredding launch is set for Thursday (June 5) at 7 p.m. at the Telus Conference Centre. In addition to a reading from the book by Symonds, the event includes a panel of his “mentors” — Kelly Oswald, Joseph “Pepe” Danza and Louise Thompson — to share their insights on Zen Shredding.
Danza will share an “electrifying” performance with about 40 percussion instruments, Symonds said. The event also features a presentation on the Zero Ceiling Society’s work with at-risk youth. Proceeds from the event will be donated to Zero Ceiling.