Yin & yang

How do I respond to criticism? Well, I’m usually a little bit angry, especially if the criticism is justified. What makes it even harder is if I legitimately don’t know how to fix what is being criticized OR, if while there is some truth to it, on the other side there are plenty of reasons (not rationalisations …. reasons) to justify the behaviour.
The visionary and the realist. The two need each other but will be continuously butting heads. Yin and yang.
Training and rest. To train effectively you need to be able to bring intensity. To bring intensity you need to rest. Yin and yang.
I’m finally starting to feel the power of the qigong. At first, it felt like “just” meditation, but of course with this absurdly hard element of trying to relax while in stress positions. But now, I can actually start to feel the power and energy that comes from it.
On Tuesday I spent a good hour after class talking to Derek, who has been around the centre for years and years. Interesting conversation, but at the crux of it was that yin and yang element. Apparently they always suggest people start with a physical activity like kung fu, because without having a good understanding of the physical body it’s hard to relate the mental and spiritual aspects. I watched Kim teach one of the shaolin kung fu classes this week and it is beautiful. Rather, he is beautiful (not so most of the other students). I can’t wait for when I’m properly healed; he and I have some fun plans. But they require me not to be tentative in what I can and cannot do!
I realised this week that the injury affects me more subtly than you might think. Yes there are some things I will not do at the moment because it strains the back too much. But more so than that, I was having a hell of a time getting into the right starting position for the clean with the PVC pipe … I was just inflexible. And when we were doing death by pullups and burpees, I wasn’t able to go at more than about 90-95% … because I didn’t want to risk hurting myself and I could feel that the risk was there. Thank GOODNESS we’re not going to the CrossFit Games. There, I said it. Andre was right (although his timing was a bit off … but he’s not the only one!).
Anyhow that concept of not just using physical force and force of mind but to generate force from within fascinates me. I doubt I’ll ever be bending metal pipes with my neck, but I think what they describe is sort of like going into ‘the zone’ except more so. And I’m incapable of going into the zone unless my pain level is less than, say, an 8, AND I’m doing something straightforward. Not so trying to do box jumps or handstand pushups or something.
But it’s fascinating. The more I learn, the more I want to know. It’s kind of like nutrition, movement, physiology, training. I’m excited for the formal opening of the centre next weekend (it’s been around for 20 years but just moved locations a few months back). Finding what is the appropriate balance, because there are so many hours in the day, is of course, the challenge.
At the same time, good old Western medicine is good for some stuff, definitely. Sometimes you just need the nuclear bomb approach.
My co-worker Anton asked me this week if I would ever consider doing some sort of athletic pursuit as a full-time vocation. My answer? An emphatic no. Firstly, what better way to turn a hobby into a chore or a duty? Secondly, the market here isn’t big enough. Africa is ground zero for real social enterprise, but there’s a reason Carl Paoli is in San Francisco; one we discussed at length. If your career involves being a thought leader or innovator, you need to be where the action is.
So I turn now to the proper choice of how to spend my time. The challenge this year has been shifting goal posts, and trying to figure out the most productive use of my time. Long story short, I’ve failed pretty miserably.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. So, it’s time to dial back the activity and the unstructured trying to help, and letting my inbox become my to-do list, and back up about 30 paces. My timing, of course, couldn’t be worse, with the descent of several new interns (two started this week and they are both amazing and doing awesome work already!), but there are more to come, and people don’t manage themselves, especially when what they are doing varies so dramatically.
Had quite an interesting visit out to Mama Rosie this week. There had been protests the day before. Unlike protests in, say, New York, or even in Cape Town outside of Parliament, protests in Philippi involve violence. Burning of tyres, tearing down of traffic lights … goodness knows what all else. It’s so easy to forget, when caught up in the details of day to day life. We really are killing all the fish on the planet. And there will probably be wars over water in our lifetime. And yet we do what we always do. We go to the grocery store and buy fish, go home and watch TV, maybe go out with friends and get drunk. It’s easier to hide from reality than face it straight on.
There are a couple generic ways to fail. Don’t know where you’re going. Going the wrong place. Not knowing how you’re going to get there. Failing to move at all. Time to move the needle.
  • “Ellie, why are you so fat?” – Mama Rosie
  • “More needles!” – Kim
  • “If you just talk, talk, talk all the time but never do anything it’s not very useful is it?” – Derek
  • “These young people nowadays, they don’t know how to train!” – Shirfu
  • “I’ve heard it’s worse than childbirth.” – Bryony
  • “Well it’s a one-way ticket in that I don’t have a return flight.” – Charlie
  • “I’m not jaded. I’m realistic.” – Ellie
  • “Charismatic people can be dangerous.” – Ellie


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