Accept and move forward

I just had some thoughts about where I am in life today. Most people will view the Quit-your-job-and-travel idea as a romantic adventure that puts life in perspective and adjusts life goals into better focus. It is.

Few people understand that it’s hard to do. The friends we talked to as we thought through our sabbatical, as we planned it, and as we turned in our resignation letters and started packing, recognized the magnitude of our decision and goal. There was major excitement, wonder, and fear from everyone, including my wife and I. Of course, looking back, I would say we didn’t know what we were getting into. Looking forward, we worried about what we would do when we got back. We thought about the obstacles to traveling with minimal luggage across borders. And we dreamed about the exotic places, the people, the food, the natural features of other parts of the world.

When we did go, we did see amazing things. We did meet people that we loved, and we did savor wonderful foods. There was time enough to sit and to let thoughts come and go, to let anxiety dissipate, and to understand a different time realm from the “nine-to-five” machine. Sure we had to use our money to buy ourselves out of the box. But that didn’t change the things we saw outside of it.

When we did get back, it was hard. We lived with my mom for a few months. That got rough, naturally, so we lived with her parents for a few months. We looked for work and income for a while, and eventually we decided that it would be better to get an apartment. This really motivated us to find work. And we did. The grind was tough at first. Every day back from our travels, every day further from that openness of time and space, felt dark. But within that darkness we had warmth. We had each other and stuck to our dream. Our dream of living life outside of the box.

Even as I work every day, even as she works every day, we do it differently. There’s no more crushing anxiety. No more narrow-minded misery. Sure there are tough moments every day. Yes we struggle and stress as we solve problems. But we appreciate every bit of work we can do individually. We appreciate the time we have to make a meal and eat and talk with each other at night. We appreciate every minute of sleep we can get. The sun goes down, and it comes back up, and we hold on to our goals, our passions, our desires, and our discipline.

On the surface not much looks different. We’re not perfect by any means. And we understand we’re vulnerable. But the picture is bigger now. The goal is longer. The determination is harder and the fire burns cooler but longer. Every day is a bite into the gift of life, a step forward, and a pull upward. When something happens to get in our way, we’ll be ready to accept, adjust, and keep moving.

Live powerfully.

No complaining

No matter how hard we try, something unexpected can happen and throw off the results of our efforts. The art of living seems to be how we take that kind of blow and act during and afterwards. It’s hard to accept when life doesn’t go the way we expect. It’s hard when we have had success in the past, and with the same methods and skills we now meet failure. And it’s hard to change our ways to learn how to succeed this next time.

Yesterday I was thinking about how physical training tests the spirit to fight and thrive. It does so because hard exercise requires the will to accept pain in order to win. Whether you train your body or not, it’s the same deal with the mind, isn’t it? When we have adversity and perservere, we pass the test of our spirit to fight. We get stronger. If we don’t succeed, we still get stronger.

As long as you keep your mind on the goal, there’s no need to languor about the hardships. The hard stuff, the tiredness, the stress, the injustice, it’s part of the exercise of your spirit, your willpower.

I think that complaining about the hard stuff is like grunting too loud at the gym. Everyone knows that lifting a heavy weight involves strain and effort, sometimes gigantic effort. There’s no need to make noise about it. The act of lifting that weight is enough to make the body stronger. The strain, the struggle, the fight in itself is what builds your body and even your mind. To yell or groan or make other unnecessary show of the pain is irrelevant and ridiculous. It’s a call for attention, an indication that a person is not satisfied with the growth from training. This person is looking for acknowledgment of their effort and they will not get it from anyone who understands nature.

And so I look for parts of me that still want to complain. When am I looking for acknowledgment, when I could be still and realize my growth? When do I not feel satisfied with the work I have done, and instead look for approval?

When I’m in the midst of the struggle, I often lose sight of the goal. I try to remember that this hardship or that is sometimes a random occurrence that I can’t control. What I can completely control, as Ryan Holiday writes in The Obstacle is the Way, is my own self (142). And that involves not complaining, not looking for attention or acknowledgment of my struggle, but accepting the hardship, savoring the burn, realizing that I am in the middle of growing and achieving my goal.

Live powerfully.

I’ll make my body

This was the response Teddy Roosevelt had for his dad as a young kid crippled with asthma. After a childhood of miserable breathing attacks, young Roosevelt took up his father’s offer to train his body to strength and overcome his weakness. The Obstacle is the Way, written by Ryan Holiday, says that “We craft our spiritual strength through physical exercise, and our physical hardiness through mental practice” (136).

It turns out that physical training also strengthened Roosevelt’s spirit. He developed the inner grit to face the obstacles of family deaths and wars. And he exercised every day through it all.

I’ve always known that exercise and physical training shaped the spirit. I just never really had the guts to say it. Hard physical training, running, doing drills, and lifting weights to the limits of the body, fatigues and builds the body. However, go deep enough, let the level of difficulty get hard enough, and you find that your spirit is tested. There’s no measure of this. It’s simply a matter of whether you will stand the pain and hardship, the burning muscles, the aching lungs, the heat, the cold, the impacts, whatever the pain may be, and whether you will continue to push ahead. It’s a matter of whether you will return for another day of training after that. This tests your spirit.

I don’t mean spirit as a separate ghostly entity contained within our minds or bodies or hovering around somewhere in another dimension. I mean spirit as the strength of the will, the determination to do, the absolute resolve we have to move forward through fear and pain. And I do think that physical training can show you your spirit, and it can bring it to life, and maybe even make it stronger.

I say “maybe” because there is also the factor of the mind. The second part of this phrase in Holiday’s book says we build “our physical hardiness through mental practice.” No matter how much weight I can lift, no matter how fast I can run, if I don’t want to do something tough, I won’t and thus I can’t do it.

Training every day with the kettlebell keeps my body lean and strong. This is only possible to do with the mindset that I will train every day. The physical training itself does not build my resolve to train every day. Actually, it makes me not want to train. It’s hard, it makes me sweat, it makes me use up a lot of energy, and I have to be out in the cold in the dark. Only the mindset that this is good for me allows me to cherish all of these “painful” things. Because I have set my will do exercise like this every morning, I have done it. And because I’ve been doing it, I see the strength of body and spirit I am developing. This is rewarding, and then of course the rest of it becomes fun. I savor the sweet, cold air in my nostrils and lungs. It cools me down after each set of swings. My feet have come to be fond of the biting cold ground. It’s a wonderful texture to work against to keep balance and exert maximal force.

I don’t feel sorry for myself when it’s raining outside. I love it. When I step out of my office into the night, I am comfortable with the dark and the cold. I can walk or run for block after block for the train station, and I’m not bothered that my lungs burn or I sweat or that I am panting. I love it, because it’s a great capability I have to be able to move fast and hard.

This chapter in the book is called “Build your inner citadel”. What a great lesson in life, that physical training is connected to spiritual strength and that mind training enables physical strength.

Live powerfully.

Earthing Every Day

Set yourself up to earth every day.

I’ve been earthing almost every morning the past few months. The way I’ve been doing it is by having a set exercise time with my kettlebell outside. Since I train barefoot it works out well. I get a good recharge for the day, through strength building and by absorbing the Earth’s surface energy.

I enjoy being outside barefoot, whether it’s to train or to leisurely walk with my wife through the neighborhood. I was talking with a friend the other day about my travel in Thailand. During our stay in a beach town at the southern coast, my wife and I never touched a bit of asphalt. It was all sand, concrete, or dirt, and I had the ironic luxury of treading barefoot for four days straight. What an experience to not smother my feet in tight socks, then encase them in rubber and leather shoes, day after day! To simply wake up and walk out the door to explore without the hassle of shoes.

Walking barefoot, training strength with feet directly on the ground, running and jumping and moving with your feet gripping and helping you to maneuver, and simply sitting in a squat or standing while talking with company, is a wonderful physical part of life that is lost to most people here. You feel different when you’re barefoot. You walk differently and talk differently when you have no shoes. I have become something different, something more, from living a small part of my days with my feet on the ground.

Get that connection to the surface charge of Earth and start to neutralize excess inflammation. You can create a schedule which places you barefoot on the dirt, grass, beach, or at least concrete for ten minutes every day. If you have a dog, be barefoot together on your walk. You might find a more harmonious pace with your furry companion. If you have a fellow human to go outside together, hang out without your shoes. Do it in easy places. If you’re at the park or the beach, don’t hesitate for the right moment to shed your shoes. The moment is now. Prolong your time barefoot and expand your experiences barefoot. Walk to the parking lot barefoot after you’re done. When you’re camping go barefoot. What better or easier way to connect to the place in which you are staying.

Live powerfully.

The quirks of daily kettlebell training

Having a kettlebell at home is one of life’s great blessings. It’s convenient and is a great start to each day. There are certainly some challenges that come up as I train day to day, though. I see these as variables to training and additions to my development of strength.

First of all, I live on the second floor of an old apartment building. The floors are not very thick, and I assume based on what I can hear of my neighbors below that any noise or banging against the ground would be quite audible. I used to do my kettlebell sessions indoors, and the whole building shook during swings. It’s not surprising, given the force against the ground with which I have to accelerate the bell. Now that I’m training at six in the morning, I take it outside.

Outside means downstairs, because the landing in front of my door is quite small. I imagine a kettlebell that slips loose mid-swing from the second floor would travel quite far and dig quite deep into the pavement below. I’m not prepared for that risk, so I lug the heavy thing down a flight of steps. This is the first part of the fun of kettlebell training for me. Going down stairs with a kettlebell in one hand creates a nice exercise in balance and stepping. Because I don’t want to wake or startle my neighbors, I step lightly. It’s easier barefooted, of course. Without shoes that restrict the movement of my feet, I can lightly descend and feel the stairs enough to move smoothly and maintain balance. So why is my kettlebell in one hand? Well, because I have my doormat in the other hand. That brings me to the next fun thing.

Since I’m doing the swings outside, I’m pulling up and setting down the iron ball on concrete ground. This creates a nice scrape on the way up, and a dull but resounding thud on the way down. As I want to maintain my privilege of exercising right outside my door for the near future, I needed a way to minimize this noise. So the answer was to bring along my sturdy doormat. The rubber bottom and soft felty top act together as an efficient muffler. To save a trip up and down the staircase, I hold the mat in one hand and the bell in the other. Thus, I naturally go through the strongman drill known as the “suitcase carry”. Carrying a heavy load on one side trains you to balance out that load and develop better stability side-to-side while moving forward. Do it on a staircase and I guess it adds another level of complexity.

It doesn’t end there, of course. Part of kettlebell training involves precision of movement. When swinging the weight, it’s important to keep your feet planted, to stand tall at the end of the hip drive, and to pull it back down with the lats between your legs. If for any reason your heels come off the ground, you must release the bell. Holding on to it can cause injury to your back as you overreach to pull yourself back into the correct stance. Naturally, I wouldn’t want to fling a fifty pound iron ball into the dark dawn. I imagine the effect would be similar to a wrecking ball meeting the side of a high rise. The best case scenario would be a good clunk. A bad scenario could include a shattering crack, a bounce, another crack, a rumbling roll, and thunk thunk thunk down the front steps of the parking area. This is quite the incentive for me to pay full attention to my movements, to execute each part of the swing with precision, and to exercise greater strength in keeping the bell under control. My primary concern is to move in the best way possible. My secondary concern is exerting force. Both of these build strength, but I didn’t pay as much attention to the movement when I was training midday with no concern for how much noise I made.

There are many other unexpected factors that play into kettlebell training early in the morning in an apartment dwelling, but I’ll end with going gentle on the getups. For all the same reasons I want to finesse my swings, I have to be sensitive to the way I come back down on the ground during the different touch points of the movement. I do the getups inside, after I finish the swings and carry the bell back upstairs. To begin there is simply the act of laying down. I can’t just collapse onto the floor. I’ve learned to get down gently, but quickly because I don’t have too much time. Do this for the first time and you appreciate the control it takes.

With the weight in hand, pushing up on the elbow, the foot, and then coming to a stand on the rise, I go soft on the ground too. Counterintuitively, this takes more effort than slamming down on the ground, because the stability is coming from my midsection when I brace myself to make minimal touches on the ground. When I get to exercise on a grassy field, I can slam down against the ground with my foot as I come up to elbow with acceleration. In my apartment when people are sleeping below me, I don’t have that option.

Whatever your situation, if you take up the kettlebell or if you’ve already been training with it, try to appreciate the quirks that come with it. Everyone has a different situation, a different home environment, different time for training, and many other factors that make the training scene unique. See every thing that life brings in your path as part of your strength training. Let it make you stronger.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Restart

The last couple of weeks have been a sober return to good health. In large part due to my wife’s tireless cooking and preparing groceries, we have been able to get back to our normal diet.

The end of last year was polluted with the degenerative tradition of gifting sweets from family, friends, and coworkers over the Holy Days of the United States of America. Cookies, candies, cakes, and all kinds of creations from the products of modern agriculture saturated my body and mind. I had started to feel pain in my joints, knots in my neck, and generally lower energy and negative mood. I had at least two teeth getting cavities. It was time to stop the nonsense. I happened upon some delicious food provided at my workplace for lunch, and had two full plates of basmati rice topped with curried lamb, cilantro, and fried shallots as an indulgence. Incredibly, but of course, I felt no fatigue from eating this food as I continued to do good work. I was very grateful for this boost.

It is good to eat during the day here and there, as availability of good food and time allow. Eating a good midday meal provides energy and building material for the body. It also lowers tension and eases the mind, for times that do not require maximal intensity from a man. Eating bad substances like sugar, vegetable oils and wheat reduces energy and substitutes poor building materials for the body. It triggers defensive responses from the body in the form of hormonal reaction to the flood of manufactured substances, immune attacks on the food and body against poison, and a negative mindset in response to a general sense of unease and fading vitality. In short, it is better to avoid this kind of meal when it is reasonable to do so.

These types of products are farmed and processed for maximal profit to the man who makes them and for minimal benefit to the man who eats it. Humans can be much more vigorous and happy without them. However, along with the addictive nature of over-processed products, the marketing is almost inescapable. Almost. One of the easiest and most effective ways that my wife and I have avoided bad food product is to simply not buy them. These things end up in the pantry because someone picked them up off of a shelf and paid for them. That someone is you. It’s your choice what you eat, and it’s your choice what you buy. You can buy foods that are in their whole form or closer to it. You can buy foods that are raised and grown well. It’s in your control.

Man of today worries that he or she will not have enough energy to live without regular meals. This is a fallacy built of the rigid work schedule that was necessary to maintaining the structure of an agriculture-based society. In order to fulfill the labor that man was bonded to each day, living in the same place and no longer moving through the land for food and water, meals became routinized. In turn, the labor and the society were built to maintain a steady supply of food, which encouraged a regimen of eating and a ration of food. As humans of this type of society grew in number, and their ways became exponentially more efficient through the industrial revolution, the desire for regular meal times became more and more a need. Workers had to produce maximal products in a day to give employers profit. Meal times were measured and rest times were limited. This practice is still in effect nearly three hundred years later.

We are capable of going without any food for much longer than you would think, if you are in the habit of eating two or more meals every day. This cognitive bias is especially pronounced if those meals consist of manufactured substances. Depending on the current state of a man’s body, he can live well for days without any food. It is not likely that a human will die even after weeks without anything to eat but water. This is only natural, as man became man and survived as man for one million years taking food from the earth. To hunt for meat and search for edible plants, man had to endure periods of time without food. Those who couldn’t live without this ability to hunt and forage on an empty stomach would not survive. How could they? Even if they were fed and helped by their sturdier fellow men, would anyone want to couple with such a person? It doesn’t seem likely that such weak humans could be supported for long. It is even less likely that similar people would be born of them as their children. After one million years, the men that are alive are probably adapted to the changing environment in which they live.

I know from short periods of intentional fasting that I can even go for a run for fifteen or more minutes in the mornings for four days with a minor reduction in energy toward the end of the third day. And though I am more athletic than the average person, I have no experience in a life of hunting and foraging. A domestic man like myself can last for four days without food and still run. How much more capable would a wild man be? Perhaps he could track, find, observe, and then kill a large animal after several days without food. Watching videos of men in the Arctic hunt for seals all day long in extreme cold, I saw that men could last without food, catch an animal, eat a small portion of it, and then carry the rest back to their camp. A group of men would probably have an even greater ability to find good food on a regular enough basis.

All this says man can go without food for a while and be even healthier than when eating throughout the course of the day, day after day. Even abstaining from food for the first part of the day and waiting to eat a good dinner brings my body good health. There are no rules to eating, for who should ever tell anyone what or how to eat food for their own body? That is each human’s choice. The only thing in the way of a guideline I can derive from my experience is that enough good food gives good health, positive energy that does not turn to fatigue, and steady mood that does not turn to misery. Too much food or bad food does otherwise. Find the foods that you can eat in a way to improve your health for the course of the life that you choose.

Life is tough as it is, but this is a good thing. If you are feeling miserable day to day, there is a good chance that you are not providing your body with food that gives you the energy and the substance to be healthy. Remember too that some things you eat may be taking away from health, regardless of how good the other stuff is. Work it out!

Live powerfully,

Steve

Being nice on the road is powerful

What a blessing it is to be alive!

The rising hint of sun and pink sky

The blue mountains etched with grey

The cold air in my nostrils

No coffee is too hot to drink in this cold morning. The steam from my mouth unfurls with refreshing vigor.

The street along the train station parking lot is often packed with cars heading toward an adjacent freeway entrance. There’s a left turn lane to turn into the lot, and I have to wait until it clears a bit to make the turn. The drivers heading in the opposite direction are in queue for a stop sign at a three way intersection up ahead. They don’t usually move very fast, but I used to have some trouble getting through. People wouldn’t stop, and sometimes they would speed past but end up blocking the entrance. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it gets a little stressful when I’m trying to make a train.

Well, from my road experience, especially in Los Angeles but also in the Bay Area, I found that it’s often more powerful and multiple times less stressful to be nice. This sounds like horse poo but really this is true for me.

For example, when I need to switch lanes on the roaring 101 freeway toward downtown LA, and there’s a driver parallel to me in the lane I need to get to, I could speed up and slide in front of that car, causing a bit of excitement and cheap pride on my part, and some stress and worry on the victim’s. That’s if my plan works easily. If the other driver is also doing what I’m doing, playing the domination game, speeding up too to block me out, well then both of us end up stressed regardless of who “wins”. Assuming we both make it out alive. When you’re dead, well, there’s no stress.

Alternatively, I could simply let off on the gas as I check the mirror, signal and check over my shoulder, and slide in behind the car. Stress on me? No. Stress on the other driver? Quite the opposite.

Here’s another one. I’m in a traffic jam and need to switch lanes, and signal and do the shoulder check and all that. Then the driver in the car the next lane over slows down and makes space for me to switch. What a cool gal. Before I go zooming off, I give a big wave long enough for her to see. Whether she actually sees the gesture or not, I don’t know, but I do know that every time someone’s given me that wave of gratitude I get good vibes. It totally acknowledges what I’ve done for the person, and reinforces that behavior in me. All that, for such a tiny move!

I’ll also say how cool it is for someone who has the right of way, or has the road advantage, to give the small gesture to go ahead before them. It comes as a nod, a slight wave, even a finger point in the direction you want to go. These are cool moments, quite heroic in the way that can’t be forced, admirable. Tiny, tiny gestures, but great actions. World-changing.

Back to the train station entrance. Today I wasn’t in a great hurry, thanks to good hustling upon waking, but I was ready for a little bit of friction as I neared. Lots of cars as usual, and as usual one driver that was in a position to help me did not. No worries, I waited for the wildebeest to pass. The car behind them was stopped. Not only that, but this person actually signaled for me to pass by flickering their headlights! Not high-beaming, which even with good intention can be obnoxious, but switching the lights off then on. What a subtle yet graceful move! Simple and brilliant.

I gave a good, long wave of acknowledgment as I passed. What a winner there. To be nice is one thing, and in itself it’s something to be admired and acknowledged. It is good for the world. To be nice with good taste, that is skillful and extraordinary.

Who would think to flicker their headlights off and on, rather than high-beam? Very few people. But now there are two of us at least.

Kind actions are often subtle, quiet, and in a funny way, embarrassing to the beneficiary because they’re vulnerable. They are like gifts and in a culture of independence we don’t like to receive unsolicited help. Many of us don’t even know how to receive. But we can learn.

Live powerfully.

The Down and Dirty of Creating a Morning Routine

The idea is to establish a complete and aggressive schedule that lets you accomplish essential start-of-day tasks and puts you in a winning position for the rest of the day.

Part of this is taking care of basic needs. Nutrition, elimination, and basic hygiene are some elements that are necessary to a good start to your morning.

Another goal is to include some type of meditative and physical exercise to get yourself warmed up and energized.

Steps

1. List the essential tasks in your morning. Things you must do to feel healthy and good for the rest of the day.

2. What is your deadline? If you work away from home, at what time must you leave in order to be comfortably on time? Determine a comfortable estimated time of arrival at your workplace, train station, or other final destination for work that is controllable. Then, use experiment or your most trustworthy phone application to find the time that you must leave in order to meet that ETA. Take five minutes from this leaving time. This is your “walk out the door” deadline. If you work at home, choose a start time and subtract a minute or two to get your deadline.

3. Make a list of times. At the top, write the deadline. Place your essential tasks below this. Order your tasks to follow a natural sequence for your body and mind. Remember, you will end at the bottom with the first moment if consciousness, the moment you wake. The next thing you do after waking could be physical and rigorous exercise, or it could be gentle and slow journaling. Think about this deeply and create the order of all your essential tasks.

4. Next, determine the number of minutes you want to give each task. Write them next to each task. Do not try to easily assume that ten tasks will fill an entire hour of your morning routine. Think hard about how long things take. For example, do you really need 45 minutes in the shower? Try imagining a 5 minute shower. If you actually went from 45 to 5 minutes, you would have 40 extra minutes to do some awesome, fulfilling morning tasks. With that being said, showering may be the best part of your morning. It is up to you to decide what you want to get done and then how much time you will give those things.

5. Calculate the times and find what time you will need to wake up in order to complete all tasks. Surprised? Decide whether you will go to bed and wake up early to make this happen. If it’s too early, adjust the durations of your tasks and consider eliminating some tasks. This compromising may cause you to reconsider waking up early.

6. Open up your alarms setting on your phone or computer. If you don’t have multiple alarms, you can either write your schedule clear and large on paper, or purchase however many analog alarm clocks it takes. Set your deadline alarm with an appropriate, no nonsense label like, “Walk out the door”. Have it actually sound an alarm, something alarming.

7. Set the start time of your penultimate task, label it if possible, and make it silent if you have family or roommates. Go down your list of tasks, setting alarms for the start times of each task, labeling them, and silencing them if you want.

8. Set your wake up alarm. If you have a second alarm clock, preferably a battery- or windup- powered mechanical clock, set the wake up time on that too.

9. Place the secondary alarm clock outside your bedroom door. Have it on the ground if you can bend over reasonably well, or somewhere a bit lower than comfortable. This will make you move and will wake you up!

10. Place your primary alarm, the one with all the alarms on it, even further away from your bedroom. The next room over or the living room, depending on your home layout. You will now have to hustle to turn this second alarm off. Furthermore, this means you will need to leave your phone, if that’s where the alarms are set, outside of your bedroom. You won’t be needing it once you’ve gone to bed. Put that thing on airplane, plug in the charger that you’ve cleverly removed from your bedside nightstand, and get serious about sleep.

11. Go to bed, wake up when your alarm goes off, and get your morning started.

Live powerfully.

Break in routine, nothing new with Thanksgiving

Feeling tired today. And training didn’t wipe that away as I’d hoped it would. I expected as much. Thanksgiving week brings with it lots of junk food, namely wheat and sugar, and alcohol too. It also brings a disruption to my daily schedule.

I’ve been training every day, but getting up and going to bed at different times. This also threw off my energy. My main focus this week is going to be to get back on schedule.

The past couple of weeks have been a great trial period of getting my training sessions in at the start of the day. I want to reinforce the sleep and energy schedule that I’ve been building up through routine. I’m finding greater energy from eating dinner and going to bed without excessive delay. I miss out on shows and movies and chill time, but I gain in not being tired and miserable and lazy the next morning. I love the newfound ability to jump out of bed and start living at the crack of dawn, without compromising sleep.

It’s a work in progress. Days like today I learn again from negative feedback how important discipline and routine are.

Live powerfully.

Ringing in a beautiful day with my kettlebell

Two weeks into Simple & Sinister training, doing daily sessions of one hundred swings and ten getups, I saw that I was getting strong in a new way. I did not learn to control a swinging mass through powerlifting. Nor did I lay on the ground and lift a weight up to standing, guiding my shoulders through all these different frontiers.

When I was two months into it, the daily training got me stronger still in new ways. I formed and tore callouses. I recovered faster from training. My work capacity increased. I became more disciplined.

When I was four months in, I started to feel like I was really getting a handle on the bell. Swings felt easier, more natural. Getups became less of a workout and more of a practice.

Six months in, I realized I was getting even stronger. I was beginning to develop skill and could see between the frames. I saw the inner parts of the movements I thought were seamless and found weakness and hesitation. I didn’t always pull back with my lats on every swing. I sometimes tensed too much and became weak at the top of the float. I found more effective cues and more efficient methods of executing the movement. And on every stage of the getup I felt tiny instabilities, slight immobilities, and ounces of doubt that had built up over time. I began to work on these in-between gaps.

Nine months in now, I wake up and see that there is a stronger familiarity with the kettlebell. What once was just a sphere that I swung and lifted has turned into a more granular entity, with endless bumps and nooks and crannies and irregularities. Every bit of the molded iron has some say in how it will move and challenge me. And I am learning enough of the language now to respond in an elementary way.

I’m finding that it’s better to relax and treat the swing like a game of throwing the bell forward. Better to take on the spirit of a playful dog than that of a charging bull.

I’m also seeing that getups must be done with full intention. There is nothing outside of the goal of pushing that mass up and focusing on it until it’s back on the ground. Everything revolves and builds up to that.

I take up the same kettlebell every morning and find a new lesson prepared in that cold iron each day.

Live powerfully.