Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Tao of the Kettlebell - Verse 1

"The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name.

The Tao is both named and nameless.
As nameless it is the origin of all things;
as named it is the Mother of 10,000 things.

Ever desireless, one can see the mystery;
ever desiring; one only sees the manifestations.
And the mystery itself is the doorway
to all understanding."


The Tao Te Ching is an ancient Chinese classic text.  Written approximately 5,000 years before Christ by a man name Lao-Tzu.  I don't speak Chinese, so I'm going to have to trust in what I have found so far on-line as to the translation, but let's take a look at the words in the title.

Tao means simply "way"

Te can mean "virtue."  Te can also mean "character" or "inner strength."

Ching basically means book.

Since a part of Pura Vida Kettlebells is going to be about exploring the development of inner strength through the training of the physical body, what wisdom can Lao-Tzu share with us as we journey down this path or way?

Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life, a book by Wayne Dyer attempts to show the wisdom of the Tao and how you can apply it to modern daily life.  What if there was wisdom specific enough to strength training that is, in some way, hidden deep with in the verse?  What does Lao-Tzu have to teach us about strength?

Let's look at the first verse of the Tao, for now and see what we find.

"The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao." 

Or, the way that can be told is not the eternal way.

"The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

Similar to man's search for happiness and God, there is no "way" to happiness.  There is no "way" to God.  Happiness and God are the way.  In the same respect, there is no "way" to strength, strength is the way.

"The Tao is both named and nameless.

Perhaps strength is not as it was?  Perhaps strength needs to be looked at from a new perspective and paradigm?  Having a name and not having a name doesn't make sense.  It's a double-negative or paradox.  What it reminds me of is the Yin-Yang.  Black AND white flowing together.  The strength of the body flowing together with the strength of the spirit to create one whole being.

How often do we see people who claim to be strong of spirit yet weak in the body.  And how often do we see people strong in the body yet weak in the spirit?  Somewhere these individuals got lost along the way.  At the very least, they are not whole.

"As nameless it is the origin of all things; as named it is the Mother of 10,000 things."  

Here we start to see the blending of physical and spiritual.  There is a continuation of this paradoxical thinking.  Now it is time to open up to the things we don't always understand.  Time to allow the great Spirit to flow into our lives and finally trust that there is purpose behind every event.  If there is no way to strength because strength is the way, how do you label that?  You don't.  When you merge it into the physical world it births only 10,000 things.   A limit.  ALL things verses 10,000 things.  Sooner or later, the physical will join with the spiritual.  You can do it now and begin to connect with that side of who you are or you can wait until you die and do it then.  But why limit yourself?  What can you gain by merging with spirit in this life, now?

"Ever desireless, one can see the mystery;  ever desiring; one only sees the manifestations."

This reminds me of another spiritual teacher of mine, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  He said, "Let go your conscious self, and act on instinct...  You're eyes can deceive you, don't trust them...  Stretch out with your feelings..."  The point?  Yes, the point.  There is a huge difference between doing something and trying to do something.  Take a look at a giant Redwood tree.  Do you think that tree tried to get that big?  How about a daisy?  Did the daisy try to grow and blossom?  Now look at the Kettlebell Snatch.  What is the difference between trying to snatch a Kettlebell and just snatching a Kettlebell?  Might be hard to describe, but you know it when it happens.  When you have no desire to snatch it, your hips pop at the right level of force, your arm gently guides the bell upwards and you punch through, like the daisy, effortless, because like Nike, you just did it.  As an RKC, I can teach the snatch, but it will be up to my student, to know the snatch.

At some point you will have to let go and trust in your ability and strength to get the movement.  It is when you are not trying or thinking about it that it happens.  When you are open to and receptive to all that is around you.  When you know it so well it becomes you and you become it.

"And the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding."

What mystery is he talking about?  The mystery of the Kettlebell Snatch of course!  What?  This verse is about flow and allow.  It's about having the strength to not hold on but instead let go.  It is about opening yourself up and connecting to some force greater than yourself and letting that force work through you.  When you're two thirds trough a workout session and you want to quit, do you have the strength to push through, like the daisy?  When the weight seems to heavy and it's not rising any higher, do you have the strength to root yourself like the Redwood, stand tall and rigid and press upwards?  Would you allow the Great Spirit to spot you?  To reach down from heaven and pull while you push?  Can you feel the difference between trying and doing?

So in your strength training, practice letting go.  Practice being strong.  There is no try in strength.  You are either strong or you are not.  A strong body will flow into a strong spirit if you allow it do so.  Enjoy the mysteries of growth and strength.  Walk through the door.

Pura Vida!

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