Circus Conditioning and Tao Te Ching: Verse 9

Let me prelude today’s thoughts on the Tao Te Ching by telling you about my morning. I got up at 5:30 today to go to a circus-style conditioning class that’s starting up in the Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts. It’s being run by the lead physiotherapist of China’s Cirque du Soleil, who also happens to be the brother in law of my two martial arts teachers. Being such a big kid, I was really excited about the class and I wasn’t disappointed! Although getting up early kinda sucked, it was like an adventure and the traffic wasn’t too bad. Actually, it was quite refreshing to be awake before the sun was up! The whole class was really enjoyable, and I had so much fun doing even the most strenuous exercises. From my experience of group fitness classes, focusing on how hard the exercise is and how sore your body is is a quick way to demotivate yourself to continue. With Trev, everything seemed like a game and it was easy to forget the strain and just enjoy it! And the equipment that we used is kind of radical. Unlike traditional weights, the exercises we did were highly applicable to motions we do in every-day life, and because they’re so unusual and require creative manipulation, the possibility for imagination explodes. Last night’s boxing/fitness class is a good comparison, where I was holding a bridge position, there wasn’t really much to focus on other than how hard it was to maintain good form. So I started visualising Goku telling me that the Z Warriors needed me to do it in order to save the Earth somehow, that Ivy had challenged me to a bridge contest in front of all her macho Muay Thai friends, that I was keeping Bethwyn alive by shielding her from snow which would otherwise drop her core temperature to freezing… I really had to stretch my imagination to find motivation to just keep going. But in the class this morning, doing a similar bridge, the addition of a freeform board just made it so much fun (albeit it, it worked different muscle groups) I barely noticed the sweat I worked up.

Afterward, the sun had just crested the horizon when Rob and I walked out of the dojo. The morning sun was so unusual for me, but it felt like the rays were filling me with energy and life. I felt so happy and healthy! And I carried that energy and joy with me all the way home. It started to wear off in the shower and over breakfast, but doing taiji and meditation restored it in waves. And reading the Tao Te Ching brought on unexpected waves of tremendous peace, love and acceptance. All in all, a truly spectacular morning- not bad for 10am! Now, on to today’s lessons… In particular, I am reminded of my good friends Ju Transcendancing, and Lee Wong (who taught me that “Enough is a feast!”).

Verse 9 [original]

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 honour and pride
and no one can save you from a fall.

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

Verse 9 [my interpretation]

Endless desire can never be sated.
It is better to know when demand is enough
than to aspire to finite supply.

When you achieve perfection, and then continue to strive
you undo what you have worked for.
Amassing more wealth than you need does not increase your happiness,
only your insecurity.
Having too much ego (the idea that you are more important)
will always lead to suffering;
it is far better to know humility and humbleness.

Know when enough is enough.
And then stop.

This is the Way.