Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Tao of the Kettlebell - Verse 11

Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub;
it is on the hole in the center that 
the use of the cart hinges.

Shape clay into a vessel;
it is the space within that makes it useful.
Carve fine doors and windows,
but the room is useful in its emptiness.

The usefulness of what is
depends on what it is not.

There is much strength in this verse.  I promise.  We all tend to come from places of isolation.  Even in the womb we were alone.  When we are sad or feel weak we tend to want to be left alone.  You can also look up to the sky on a clear night and feel very alone.  Even when you're right next to someone.  Space is vast.  Yet so is the table.  When you look at a solid object through a microscope, you will eventually realize that it is made up of mostly empty space.  Yet, when you look at space, it would be if it weren't for the galaxies, stars, planets, moons, comets, and asteroids that populate space.  Could there be a table without the atoms and molecules that make up the table?  Could you do a pull up with just you biceps?

If the center of a wheel doesn't fit, the cart can't roll.  If the cart can't roll, where can you go?  But what about the middle?  The center of the wheel.  The Gap.  The space between.  Without that "empty" space, there is no wheel.

In Wayne Dyer's The Power of Intention, he begins his chapter on Connecting to Intention by quoting Thomas Troward.  "The law of floatation was not discovered by contemplating the sinking of things, but by contemplating the floating of things which float naturally, and then intelligently asking why they do so."  If your vessel is too heavy, if it has holes, if its shape is not deep enough, it will sink.  You will not get yourself or your goods very far down the stream if the boat don't float.

A beautiful home that is empty.  The space is there to be filled.  Filled with people, laughter and love.  Without the void, the space, there is no house to fill with love.

And so it is with our practice of strength.  The space between.  The top of the Snatch, Press, or Get Up.  Any drill really.  At it's halfway point; the moments when a Kettlebell is weightless.  Without these parts, the Snatch doesn't exist.  And what muscles are involved?  Can you really isolate your bicep when you curl a weight?  What happens when you ask you lats for help with a press?  Separate parts are weak.  When you work your body as a whole, you are stronger.

For those in the field of strength and conditioning, this is simply stating the obvious.  For those new to strength and conditioning or those who have read too many bodybuilding magazines, this idea of working the body as a whole might seem either new or primitive.  First off, there is nothing wrong with primitive training.  Secondly, the body, as most things, like the cart, works better as a unit.

So what about this gap?  The void?  They say the music lies in the space between the notes.  Let's go back to the Kettlebell Snatch because that is Kettlebell music if you ask me.  There's these moments where the bell is weightless as it rises to the surface. It is there that you punch up and through to complete the movement.  Then there you stand.  Tall and proud, Kettlebell straight overhead, paused.  From here it's a gentle toss over and through, back to a swing, hike, Snatch again.  And so it goes.  On and on and in those moments of weightless iron and repetition, can you find yourself in the Gap? 

The Space Between.  This is where you can commune with spirit.  Many religions practice mantra to silence and focus the mind.  For me, the Snatch is like a mantra.  I take all my pains, prayers, intentions and pour them into my workout.  There with in enjoying the pain and pushing through mental and physical barriers I have been able to transcend the physical.  My training is more ritual to me then just mere exercise.  My training is as much a spiritual practice as it is a physical one.  I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that.  And it is in this way of communing with spirit that we will truly experience our self as in this universe and as being a part of it instead of isolated from it.

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