On Wu-hsin (No-Mindedness)
By Bruce Lee
The phenomenon of wu-hsin, or "no-mindedness," is not a blank mind that shuts out all thoughts and emotions; nor is it simply calmness and quietness of mind.
Although quietude and calmness are necessary, it is the "non-graspingness" of thoughts that mainly constitutes the principle of no mind. A gung fu man employs his mind as a mirror - it grasps nothing and refuses nothing; it receives but does not keep. As Allen Watts puts it, the no-mindedness is:A state of wholeness in which the mind functions freely and easily, without the sensation of a mind or ego standing over it with a club.
What he meant is: Let the mind think what it likes without interference by the separate thinker or ego within oneself. So long as it thinks what it wants, there is absolutely no effort in letting it go; and the disappearance of the effort to let go is precisely the disappearance of the separate thinker. There is nothing to try to do, for whatever comes up moment by moment is accepted, including non-acceptance. No-mindedness is, then, not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling is not sticky or blocked. It is a mind immune to emotional influences.
  • Like a river, everything is flowing on ceaselessly without cessation or standing still.

No-mindedness is to employ the whole mind as we use the eyes when we rest them upon various objects but make no special effort to take anything in. Chuang-tzu, the disciple of Lao-tzu, stated:

  • The baby looks at things at things all day without winking, that is because his eyes are not focused on any particular object. He goes without knowing where he is going, and stops without knowing what he is doing, He merges himself with the surroundings and moves along with it. These are the principles of mental hygiene.

Therefore, concentration in gung fu does not have the usual sense of restricting the attention to a single sense object, but is simply a quiet awareness of whatever happens to be here and now. Such concentration can be illustrated by an audience at a football game; instead of a concentrated attention on the player that has the ball, they have an awareness of the whole football field. In a similar way, a gung fu man's mind is concentrated by not dwelling on any particular part of the opponent. This is especially true when dealing with many opponents. For instance, suppose ten men are attacking him, each in succession ready to strike him down. As soon as one is disposed of, he will move on to another without permitting the mind to stop with any. However rapidly one blow  may follow another, he leaves no time to intervene between the two. Every one of the ten will thus be successively and successfully dealt with. This is possible only when the mind moves from one object to another without being stopped or arrested by anything. If the mind is unable to move on in this fashion, it is sure to lose the combat somewhere between two encounters.
His mind is present everywhere because it is nowhere attached to any particular object. And it can remain present because even when related to this particular object, it does not cling to it. The flow of thought is like water filling up a pond, which is always ready to flow off again. It can work its inexhaustible power because it is free, and be open to everything because it is empty. This can be compared with what Chang Chen Chi called "serene reflection." He wrote:
  • Serene means tranquillity of no thought, and reflection means vivid and clear awareness. Therefore, serene reflection is clear awareness of no-thought.

As stated earlier, a gung fu man aims at harmony with himself and his opponent. It also stated that harmony with one's opponent is possible not through force, which provokes conflicts and reactions, but through a yielding to his force. In other words, a gung fu man promotes the spontaneous development of his opponent and does not venture to interfere by his own action. He loses himself by giving up all subjective feelings and individuality, and becomes one with his opponent. Inside his mind oppositions have become mutually cooperative instead of mutually exclusive. When his private ego and conscious efforts yield to a power not his own he then achieves the supreme action, non-action (wu wei).
Excerpted from Commentaries on the Martial Way by Bruce Lee