Using Mushin in Daily Life

   by Carol Gittins

An earlier article in the newsletter stated that ki was to be used to prepare us to retaliate and kill aggressors. That concept fails to recognize the need for mushin which is the centering of your mind and spirit into a state of aware acceptance. The literal translation of mushin is "void mind", and it accurately describes the state which a karateka should strive to maintain.

In the state of mushin, you possess a mental calmness which allows you both to focus and relax your mind. You are in the present, dealing with immediate tasks--walking, balancing your budget, conversing--and not dwelling on the past or future, on what you should have said, or on what you ought to do. The part of your mind not actively involved in carrying out these tasks is relaxed, almost meditative. It does not chase itself around in circles, worrying about indeterminate noises, various itches and other trivial matters.

With your mind peacefully composed, you are a receptive conduit, taking in external stimuli to evaluate, to act upon, and to discard. All of your senses supply information; sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch all contribute to your awareness of your environment.

By taking in all factors surrounding you while maintaining your calmness, you neither deny nor anticipate any possible situation or stimulus. You do not look forward to applying your martial arts skills, nor do you deny that you may possibly have to use it if the situation warrants. Too often, in situations of stress, people will think, "Oh no. This can't be happening to me." This hinders their reaction and timing, and they may lose the moment for response. If, however, you maintain an aware acceptance, you will be able to assess and react to any situation without preconceived expectations or hesitation.

At the same time, if you maintain your ki in its correct place near your center of gravity, you set up some desired physical conditions. First of all, you are balanced, prepared for movement without hesitation. Your posture is good so that your body does not cramp or strain. And finally, your respiration is deep and even, resulting in a well-aerated blood supply and a physical calmness.

In this state of collected ki, you are prepared for all circumstances. If a man's hat blows off, you can leap into the air to catch it. If you step on an icy patch, you can retain your balance. If you see a beautiful garden, you can appreciate its splendor. And if someone grasps you by the shoulder from behind, you can evaluate if he is friend or otherwise, and act accordingly.

Only in this manner can mushin be used in daily life. Your mind must be calm in order to facilitate physical movement and the distribution of ki. It must be aware of its environment so as to identify matters of importance. There can be no anticipation or expectations that cloud the perception and distort the evaluation; there must only be acceptance of what is immediately occurring. In this way, you can be ready to perceive and respond appropriately to any situation.

It seems that as karateka, one of our goals must be to live in a state of mushin, both for the tranquility which it will inject into our lives and for the advantage and security it will give us in meeting the problems of daily life. But of course, we cannot anticipate that, can we?

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