Friday, March 26, 2010

The Tao of the Kettlebell - Verse Five

Heaven and Earth are impartial;
they see the 10,000 things as straw dogs.
The sage is not sentimental;
he treats all his people as straw dogs.

The sage is like Heaven and Earth:
To him none are especially dear,
nor is there anyone he disfavors.
He gives and gives, without condition,
offering his treasures to everyone.

Between Heaven and Earth
is a space like a bellows;
empty and inexhaustible,
the more it is used, the more it produces.

Hold on to the center.
Man was made to sit quietly and find
the truth within.


This is a challenging verse, wouldn't you agree?  And although it may prove difficult to weave Kettlebell training and the practice of physical strength into this verse, I'm sure you can already tell that what Lao-Tzu is suggesting and asking of us will require an enormous amount of strength.

Let's identify a few items to fully understand the context.

The 10,000 things refers to all the observable things in the world, the physical side of things.  

In modern day speech, a straw dog is something of a scapegoat.  In Asian tradition the straw dog is a ceremonial prop.  Something to use for the showing of reverence but discarded after the ritual.

A "bellows" is according to Wikipedia, a device for delivering pressurized air in a controlled quantity to a controlled location.  It's that do-hickey that looks like an accordion which is used to fan a fire!  Remember that one for later.

The book I'm using to read the Tao and get some help and inspiration in interpreting the meaning is Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life  by Dr. Wayne Dyer.  The subtitle is called, "Living the Wisdom of the Tao."  In this book, Dr Dyer challenges us to look at the Tao as a guide to living daily connected to spirit.  For me, this book is as much a strength training book as Power to the People and Enter the Kettlebell.   With out developing a strong spirit, a strong body will never manifest.  You must train each one equally.

This particular verse of the Tao challenges us to look at the world through the eyes of God.  Eyes where there is only love and no one is excluded from that love.  To see the world where everyone is equal and the same.  No one is more special than the next.  The other challenge is, can we give of ourselves equally to everyone regardless of who walks through the door?  I see this as a very prevalent trait in the RKC community.  People always willing to help, share thoughts, ideas and through this spirit of community and giving, the RKC has and is changing lives.

This impartial aspect of the Tao can lend itself to the practice of strength.  Like the straw dog, your training should be venerated and focused.  Intense and given 110%.  After though, discard it.  It's over now.  Continue moving forward.  Whether you hit your goal or failed miserably is of no matter.  Did you train with all your heart?

Recently on the DragonDoor forum I read a post where a person was struggling with a lift and reaching his goal.  He felt as if he was going backwards.  There was discussion of over training and  proposals of new more effective programs.  Hitting your goals is important.  It's an essential piece of the development puzzle.  But what happens if you don't?  You must remain impartial so as not to be defined by your goal.  If I can just dead lift "X" then I'm strong.  What if you don't?  What if you couldn't dead lift.  When we allow our accomplishments to define us, we are not living in harmony with spirit or the Tao. 

When we have earned wisdom, share it without condition.  Offering your treasures to everyone.  This doesn't mean work for free.  This means that everyone willing to listen and learn should be privy to the wisdom.  Tangible things like money are abundant and inexhaustible.  There is plenty for everyone.  The idea that one needs to get as much of the pie as possible is short sighted.  You can always make another pie.

Your strength comes from inside you.  It resonates deep in your center and in the core of your being.  Uh-Oh, I'm using exercise terms here.  Your core.  The center of your being and doing.  Look at the breath.  Look at power breathing and tension.  That all comes from the center.  The core.  Like the bellows, you bring in air and force it out with tension and pressure to create force/strength.  The air that goes in is infinite and inexhaustible.  Abundance abounds.

Look with in yourself to find your strength.  If you are strong inside, your body will respond in kind.  True strength can be found in reserving judgment and extending kindness in the unlikeliness of places.  The last line of Verse 5 pretty much sums it up for me.

"Man was made to sit quietly and find the truth within."

Phew...  I welcome your comments and discussion.


  1. Hey Dude! You nailed it. Good stuff. Not sure what you were not sure of, but you got it! Again, inspiring for myself as I keep slipping into defining myself by every and anything but myself and who I am in the bigger context of life or more simply, my own breath!!
    Yhsnkd got snother inspiring blog. No smoke here. Mean every breath of what I wrote!

  2. Hey, sorry about the jibberish at the end!! Suppose to be Thanks for yet another!!

  3. Dad, as always, thanks for the support and validation