Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Tao of the Kettlebell - Verse Nine

To keep on filling
is not as good as stopping.
Overfilled, the cupped hands drip,
better to stop pouring.

Sharpen a blade too much
and its edge will soon be lost.
Fill your house with jade and gold
and it brings insecurity.
Puff yourself with honor and pride
and no one can save you from a fall.

Retire when the work is done;
this is the way of heaven.


As I began to type this, I was instantly reminded of two other pieces of wisdom. The first piece of wisdom is one that I'm mentioned over and over in the writings I've worked on over on HubPages which is a quote from David Whitley's eBook, 101 Kettlebell Workouts.

"Push yourself, but don't be stupid."

The RKC Code of Conduct is the second piece of wisdom that I was reminded of after reading this ninth verse of the Tao.

This verse, along with the simple wisdom of Mr. Whitley and the RKC Code of Conduct teaches and encourages humility.  In my study of the Tao, I have used Wayne Dyer's book, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life as my chief text for the Tao.  His interpretations are always insightful and even in the very title, there in lies the challenge of humility to "change our thoughts."  How often are our thoughts considered to be set in stone, as a principle?  The reality for us is that it may take great humility to recognize when a specific thought might not be the best way to look at something.  Another great quote from Dr. Dyer is, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."   

As we merge the wisdom of the Tao with the quest for strength, what can Lao-Tzu teach us about humility and how can humility help us get stronger?  Both in body and spirit... 

To keep on filling is not as good as stopping.

This is Lao-Tzu's way of saying, "push yourself, but don't be stupid."  As you train for strength, you will soon learn and understand your body better.  You will find yourself connected to and more in tune with many aspects of your body.  Situational awareness is a key result of strength training and Kettlebell training more specifically.  But so is the relationship between you and your body.  There will many cues from your body as to when to stop a session or a set.  Your task is to know when you have a barrier to blow through and when it's really time to stop.  You will soon recognize when it's the little voice in head that's trying so desperately to keep you in homeostasis, to the other voice that rings from your past, this is the one that reflects your self worth and ego...

(yeah, I grew up with a head shrinker for a father, so what?  I learned a lot and you're still reading, so just enjoy this little pop-psych for a moment and see if you don't get something out it)

See, right there was an example of the little voice manifesting itself right here in this blog.  Nice, huh?  So when you're shooting for a goal or PR and there's all these things saying stop, know when to stop and know when keep going.  There is no better way to say it than "push yourself, but don't be stupid."  It takes great humility to live to fight another day. 

Overfilled, the cupped hands drip, better to stop pouring.

This is direct contrast to the "leave it all in the ring" view.  This is the difference.  A professional boxer or weightlifter trains to peak in the ring or on the mat.  Powerlifters train for longevity.  Pavel Tsatsouline's book, Power to the People teaches us about cycling and progressive overload and also advocates not training to failure every time.  That it is better to stop pouring and only overfill our cup once in a while.  

Sharpen a blade too much and its edge will soon be lost.

This continues on to remind us not to over train our body.  That rest is an equal portion of the strong body equation.  We grow and develop while at rest, not while at work.  Work is to practice, train and apply.  Rest is where we process, repair, restore and rebuild.  The Seventh principle in Steven Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is "Sharpen the Saw."  Ironically, he talks about continual improvement, but this is not without giving the body, mind and spirit the time it needs to grow.

Now we will move deeper into the aspect of ego and self image...

Fill your house with jade and gold and it brings insecurity.

The fitness industry is filled with jade and gold.  The ego.  Your self image.  How you look and what you are worth should be separate.  You are a piece of God made flesh.  You do not need a 6-pack to be of value and worth.  You do not need to bench press your way to cut glass with your pecs in order to be attractive and wanted.  What happens when you can't bench?  If your sense of worth is locked into the image you see in the mirror you will be in a constant state of fear that the image will fade.  And when the image does fade, who will you be?

Instead train for strength.  Not so you can say, "look how much I can lift," but instead, what can you gain from the journey?  What can you learn from cultivating your strength, your will, your spirit?  What can you accomplish in the world when you take that strength outside the gym?

Puff yourself with honor and pride and no one can save you from a fall.

Use your lats!  You see guys in the gym who walk with puffed lats to look stronger or bigger.  In the animal kingdom you see countless examples of animals who puff and pump themselves up to look larger, stronger, tougher.  If that's all you got, what's going to happen when you really need that strength you've been feigning.  Like all mirages, it will fade and pass.  Pavel's book Beyond Bodybuilding has the "Strong As You Look Series."  This is an important aspect of training for strength verses training for looks.  The image that you put forth, like all aspects of yourself, should be congruent with your inner self.  Be as strong as you look and you will look as strong as you are.  Allow your appearance to be a residual effect, not the main goal.  Balloons loose their air over time but a rock is a rock regardless of its size and weight...  think about it.

Retire when the work is done; this is the way of heaven.

More for the sake of more is a waste of resources.  It is not in line with the Tao.  The quest for more because one believes that more of something is the way to happiness or success is the ego running rampant.  Instead, work hard in the moment and find your strength, joy, and happiness from what you are doing rather than looking to what this may bring.  And keep in mind, as I've said before, there is no way to strength or happiness, instead, strength and happiness is the way.

I'll end this with some wisdom from Carlos Castaneda.

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