Way back in the early eighties I became a fan of Douglas Adams. I discovered The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in middle school and his lesser known Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency shortly thereafter.
I thought Dirk Gently was awesome. He was a total Zen master. Nothing was ever out of sorts, ever, no matter what happened. Lost? Just follow the car in front of you it’ll take where you need to go, wherever that might be, whether you realize it or not. The idea was: the universe is perfect as it is, no matter what happens. Little things like personal agendas or the machinations of ego just get in the way. Life is a process of flow. It’s best when we get out of our own way and just ride it out.
This was my first introduction to the term holistic. Which in subsequent years got ground into the dirt from overuse, sort of like Macklemore’s Thrift Shop, a fun little ditty that through overplay and endless exposure has become somewhat painful to listen to. As the Green Market and environmental consciousness grew “holistic” got over used, overplayed and finally became downright annoying.
But now, twenty five years later, I see the chance for this simple little idea to be reborn, phoenix-like, from the ashes of its annoyance. Weightlifting gurus Chip Conrad, Nick Horton, and Tamara Reynolds have brought back the term and applied it to the their personal passion, weightlifting, with the dead-on accuracy of a Zen archer.
In a world largely dominated by strict programming based on percentages of one rep max, with prescribed sets and reps laid out ad nauseum, they offer a more natural approach, one based on the true measure of achievement, hard work, but also one that ebbs and flows with the dictates of the day.
That’s one of the cool ironies of Zen, heck, it’s one of the ironies of cool. If you want it you can’t have it. Coolness is truly expressed only by those who don’t care about it. The Zen master is elevated precisely because she does not seek to elevate herself.
A client recently asked me, “What’s the point of lifting heavy? I mean, once you’re fit why keep trying to go heavier?”
“Because it’s hard.” I answered.
The child lifts heavy so that he can impress his friends. “Hey! Look how strong I am.” The holistic weightlifter lifts solely for the experience of lifting. He knows heavy is relative, that what was heavy today may be light tomorrow and what’s light today may on another day be quite heavy. He lifts, not for the numbers on the bar, but for the experience of the lift. That is all that truly matters.
I like weightlifting because of its intensity. In the middle of a heavy lift, for a brief moment, I am total concentration. So much of our lives we are scattered. As I write this I struggle with focus, Sonny Rollins coming through the speakers, the temperature of the room, people walking back and forth from the bathrooms, the hum of the refrigerator, the TVs in the cardio room, the tendency of my mind to wander, all of these things compete for my attention. But in the midst of a heavy lift, all that exists is the lift.
Believe it or not, that is a very pleasant place to be and I find myself seeking ways to get there more and more. The real trick, of course, comes from being able to find that state outside of external stimuli. But you know what they say, practice makes perfect.
To that end I’m looking forward to some serious practice in a little over a week. Those aforementioned gurus are converging at Nick and Tamara’s gym in Asheville, North Carolina. If you’re a martial arts movie nerd like me, this is the equivalent of the abbots of Wu Tang and Shaolin meeting to co-present a symposium on the martial arts. If you don’t know what that means, I feel sorry for you, but just know it’s a REALLY big deal.
This meeting of masters will take place June 22nd and 23rd at Asheville Strength and Conditioning in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. All levels of lifters are welcome. The event is entitled Creating the Holistic Weightlifter and is for anyone interested in elevating their lifting and themselves, because at a certain point, you can’t do one without the other.
Follow this link, HERE, for the nitty gritty details and to register. I wouldn’t dawdle, either. Spaces are limited and filling fast.
To our perfect imperfection,