Thought of the Week for May 24th – Mushin – Action with No Mind

Submitted by Sensei Larry Link, Go-Dan – Ueshiro Midtown Karate Dojo

Mushin is commonly translated as “No Mind”, or a mind without thoughts. This shortened phrase come from a longer zen expression “mushin no shin” meaning “the mind without mind”, referring to a mind that is not fixed on one thought or emotion but rather, is flowing and open to all things. It can be interpreted as living in the moment, existing in the NOW.

For example, when we sit zazen at the beginning of class we should clear our minds, preparing ourselves to be present on the deck and not letting our minds wander. When we sit zazen at the end of class, we again clear our minds, removing all thoughts of the training and preparing ourselves for the world beyond the deck. In both cases, it is about clearing the mind and preparing ourselves to be present in the moment we are facing NOW.

As martial artists, we use the term Mushin to describe a state of pure and open readiness, preparation of the mind, body and spirit. In any situation, but most especially a combat situation, we must be ready for whatever comes our way, and seek to avoid the introduction of our own thoughts or emotions. We do this in order to respond purely to the situation at hand, rather than to a filtered version of events, tainted by our our own thoughts and feelings. This allows for a response that is more perfectly aligned to the situation at hand. We also do this in order to respond more quickly, since the filtering process takes time when compared to a “pure” response.

Two common emotions that often arise in situations of conflict are fear and anger. When we are fearful, we lose our confidence and become weak. When we are angry, we tend to overreact. Neither of these situations are likely to lead to an optimal outcome.

Instead, we must remember to act with Mushin, with no mind, relying on our training and the preparation that can only come from repetition. Moves which are repeated over and over again become engrained into muscle memory in order that we can do them without thinking. Practicing those moves with Mushin means that we will never be fearful or angry. Remove your fear, ego, preconceptions and judgment and simply see things as they are. Allow yourself to respond in perfect harmony to the flow of what is happening now, in this exact moment.

Mind like water – still and reflecting perfectly the moon above. When the ripples come, allow them to come and go without thought. Clear the mind. Be present. Breathe.

Arigato Gozaimasu Hanshi!

Sensei Larry Link