Mushin is a Japanese form of mediation that influences the way a person lives and carries out his life. The word was derived from the kanji characters 無 (mu) “nothingness” and 心 (shin) “mind.” It is a state where the mind becomes empty of all desires, thoughts, and assumptions. During this state, a person is free from all forms of ego and is capable of acting spontaneously and rationally without emotional interference. Mushin is an essential aspect of Japanese art, including martial arts, ikebana (calming by arranging flowers), and shodo (calligraphy ). Mushin is pure enlightenment and cannot be grasped by any intellectual means. It has to be experienced to be understood.
The Origin Of Mushin
The earliest description of mushin was by Takuan Soho, an accomplished swordsman, and a Zen Buddhist monk. In his publication, The Unfettered Mind, Soho connects martial arts to Zen Buddhism by suggesting that during a fight, a swordsman should not focus on himself or the opponent, but he should allow his subconscious to take over. The technique was criticized since a swordsman could not win a fight using his mind without learning combat techniques. However, this was not the intention of mushin since the art involves both intensely physical and mental training. Once mastered, one could easily defeat an opponent by letting his mind control his body movements. It is similar to the complex process of learning how to ride a bike, but once mastered, it becomes an easy task.
Mushin is a crucial part of Aikido, a martial art technique developed by Morihei Ueshiba (O-Sensei). Ueshiba explains that if someone tries to punch a martial artist on the face, there is no time to gather consciousness, but instead, the person drifts into an unconscious state, and the mind instantaneously initiates a defensive move. The secret of mushin is dedicated practice as one needs to train his mind to react spontaneously. One of the ways to achieve this is by learning the basics of Aikido, which emphasizes on building muscle memory by performing basic body movements. After several steps of learning, one can perform the movements subconsciously by letting the mind move their body. Practicing against an opponent is also an essential part of Mushin since the mind should be able to react without expectations and assumptions. In addition to the mental and physical practice, tools such as mediation help clear the mind in preparation for the vigorous training.
Mushin is not limited to martial arts, but it extends to other arts where discipline and awareness are required. Practitioners can achieve high sensitivity and mindfulness since clear minds are capable of performing duties subconsciously. Although the technique was initially tied to Zen Buddhism, it is experienced in different disciplines. Professional cyclists can pedal for long hours without realizing they are doing so while athletes can subconsciously run long distances. It allows actors to improvise whenever they get lost in character without the audience noticing. Regardless of the discipline, one can achieve mushin through dedicated practice and a mindful attitude without ego.