Mushin – Peak Performance States in Aikido Philosophy

Japanese arts is known as “mushin.” In Seishindo work we often call “mushin” a state of “embodied presence.” “Mushin” is similar to the term “flow state” as used by many people to describe the conditions for peak performance. For several years now I have been defining “embodied presence/mushin” in the following manner: “When the structure of your body is balanced, and your thinking mind is fully present but not engaged in any form of internal dialogue, you will tend to release any extraneous thoughts or actions and enter into the flow state of “mushin.” Your thoughts, feelings, and actions occur simultaneously and spontaneously. Nothing comes between your thoughts and your actions, and nothing is left over. When we embody such a state we greatly improve our ability to learn with grace and ease.”

At such times we have a pleasing sense of fullness and great potential. We do not attempt to eliminate or control our thoughts, feelings, or actions, but rather we move with our thoughts, and feel into our experience. Breath, movement, action, and rest. Breath, movement, action, and rest. So when I say above that I want to talk about peak performance states and how we can live our lives with a greater sense of ease, grace, and power, I am referring to how to enter into a special learning state where our thoughts, actions, and feelings occur simultaneously and spontaneously.

This state of “mushin” is one that we very much strive to experience in Aikido (and in other Japanese arts as well) knowing full well that it is not a state that we will maintain throughout the course of our everyday life. Indeed, what we do when we find we are NOT in a state of embodied presence and instead mired in a difficult situation, tells us much about our spirit and our deeply held beliefs. Mushin is an ephemeral state that is to be experienced and released. An experience

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