[Mushin] is when your mind has a direct experience of reality and escape delusion
The mind is to become immovable—in the sense that while it reflects reality, it maintains its constant state of emptiness. This state should remain unchanged. In other words, there should be no suki (interval of relaxation) where the mind stops—such as staring at the tip of your opponent's sword or pondering what his or her next move may be. If there is, the opponent could take advantage of it and you could be killed. The goal is an utterly focused yet fluid mind and body acting as one. The opponent adopts a jodan (e.d front strike) with his sword and you unthinkingly adopt a yin stance, bringing your sword back to incite his move, then parry it and counter-cut all in one flowing motion. The key external or public sign of one attaining mushin is the ability to react and respond in this fluid way. For Munenori not lingering is essential.
[…] Perhaps most obviously, there is a reduced level of explicit self-conscious thought. The mind chatter that often interferes with athletic performance is reduced or is completely gone while one is in a state of mushin. As well, there is a lessened or eliminated sense of desire to win, succeed, or to avoid failure. This is true even in the cases in which we face death. The diminished level of self-conscious thought and the lack of desire are closely linked to the fact that, in a state of mushin, we are completely absorbed in the immediacy of the task at hand. It is worth noting that the direction of causality relationship between absorption in an activity and lack of conscious thoughts or desires is not clear. It might be the case that, as we become absorbed in an activity, desires cease to intrude and distract our focus. It may also be that, as we learn to eliminate self-conscious thought, through classic meditation, or perhaps intense repetitive training, we learn to focus more readily. Or, of course, some combination of the above two possibilities may be obtained. From the Zen point of view taken by Takuan and Munenori, this loss of desire and self-conscious thought is perhaps the most significant aspect of mushin because it most clearly indicates a loss of ego or self.
[…] Swordsmen who could cultivate mushin would be successful because they could have a direct experience of reality and escape delusion. They would act in a fluid way and respond directly and creatively. This is true, […], of all of the Zen art forms, as he puts it, “mastery of an art form came to mean total freedom, creativity, and beauty within the context of the form”. So, within the context of swordsmanship, Munenori maintains a creative state of freedom from his ego.
On this interpretation, Takuan doesn't dismiss the experience of swordsmanship, but takes it to be a legitimate way to free oneself from delusion. Ultimately, Takuan explains of the expert swordsman, 'He does not put his mind in his adversary. The opponent is emptiness. I am emptiness. The hand that holds the sword, the sword itself, is emptiness. Understand this, but do not let your mind be taken by emptiness.
If we think of mushin as awakened emptiness, then it can act as the ha, the blade's edge: the more we hone it, the better it can cut asunder attachments, discrimination, and the yoke of reality. This results in freedom from dependence on the conscious mind that gives rise to egocentricity, desire, and fear. Emptied from these encumbrances, the void becomes a free and creative 'space' for the body/mind. Awakened from the bondage of the self, we can look death in the face while appreciating life as both precious and fleeting, feeling the eternity of the present ephemeral moment. Citing Tsunetomo's Hagakure in this context, Suzuki states, 'all things are accomplished when one attains a mind of "No-Mind-ness" [...] a state no more troubled with the questions of death or of immortality'.
[…] it is worth noting that the concept of mushin goes beyond the martial arts, as it is a key element in all of the classic Japanese arts. Ikebana (flower arrangement), chado (tea ceremony), garden design, painting, and others are all do (ways, or spiritual paths) undertaken as lifelong commitments. They explicitly include the discipline and practice that bring out mushin. Renowned swordsmith Kawachi Kunihira inscribed in the tang of a commissioned katana 'discipline your mind with this sword; which inlaid his feelings as family motto for himself and his descendants. For master potter Soetsu Yanagi the key to developing our intuitive potential was in practicing the Zen state of mushin. In theatre, Zeami Motoyiko codified in the fourteenth century the theoretical underpinnings of Japanese Noh theatre, and was the first to apply this term to a genre of literature. The importance of mushin in his conceptualization of how acting is, more than merely entertainment, a way to help the audience transcend their egos and connect with the Universal is widely echoed. Buto (dance of darkness) originated in the 1950s and 1960s with Japanese enfant terrible Hijikata Tatsumi and his shocking performances. On this Sanders writes, 'a buto performance may be said to exist in mu no basho, a place of nothingness, where mushin (No-Mind) prevails'. This amply demonstrates how mushin ranges over the whole landscape of Japanese arts in meaningful, deep ways.
(references to previous researchs works have been withdrawn from the text)
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.
That was the real secret of the Tarahumara (ed. group of indigenous people of the Americas living in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico who are renowned for their long-distance running ability): they'd never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind's first fine art, our original act of inspired creation. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. And when our ancestors finally did make their first cave paintings, what were the first designs? A downward slash, lightning bolts through the bottom and middle--behold, the Running Man.
Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn't live to love anything else. And like everyhing else we ove--everything we sentimentally call our 'passions' and 'desires' it's really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We're all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.
As [the martial art student] studies various things and is taught the diverse ways of how to take a stance, the manner of grasping his sword and where to put his mind, his mind stops in many places. Now if he wants to strike at an opponent, he is extraordinarily discomforted. Later, as days pass and time piles up, in accordance with his practice, neither the postures of his body nor the ways of grasping the sword are weighed in his mind. His mind simply becomes as it was in the beginning when he knew nothing and had yet to be taught anything at all. In this one sees the sense of the beginning being the same as the end, as when one counts from one to ten, and the first and last numbers become adjacent.
The mind must always be in the state of "flowing," for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy's sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man's subconscious that strikes.
[...] true knowledge [...] is experiential. How do we explain the taste of sugar? Verbal descriptions do not give us the sensation. To know the taste, one must experience it. The philosophy of the arts is not meant to be mused over and intellectualized; it is meant to be experienced. Thus, inevitably, words will convey only part of the meaning.