It is widely known that the Japanese often have a different way of looking at things. Their difference in character and culture makes Japan a fascinating place to visit, where you can compare many things to your home country and maybe learn something about yourself along the way. Culture in general, across the world, varies from ancient traditions to attitudes in daily life. Some say that there is a lot that western people can learn from Asian concepts, and one of these is the concept of “mushin”, a fascinating form of meditation and mental state that can greatly affect the way one lives their life and carries out their life.
The word “mushin” is comprised of two kanji characters: 無 (mu), meaning “nothingness”, and 心 (shin), meaning “heart,” “spirit,” or, in this case, “mind.” In this way, mushin can be roughly translated to “nothing mind” or “no mind.” It comes from a longer phrase used in Zen Buddhism, “無心の心” (mushin no shin), or “mind of no mind.”
So what does this mean, exactly? Why might it be important? Mushin is a mental state where your mind is empty of all thoughts, all desires, and all assumptions. When your mind is clear, you are free from your ego and are able to act spontaneously and fluidly without emotion and hesitation getting in the way. This is a concept that is important to martial arts, and it is prevalent throughout many other traditional Japanese arts as well such as “ikebana”, or the calming Japanese hobby of flower arranging, and shodo, the beautiful calligraphy art style. In this article, I will further illustrate this concept, drawing both on Zen Buddhist philosophy and my own personal experiences as a practitioner of aikido.