In Aikido we learn how to enter into a peak performance state that in Japanese arts is known as "mushin." In Seishindo work we often call "mushin" a state of "embodied presence." "Mushin" is similar to term "flow state" as used by many people to describe conditions for peak performance. For several years now I have been defining "embodied presence/mushin" in following manner: "When 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 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 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 that is meant to be lost and found a gain, many times over in course of our life. Please be certain that I consider peak performance states to be an enjoyable quest and not just for some special few who are professional performers of one sort or another.
When we enter into mushin for even brief periods of time we find that we receive what I call "a residue experience." By this I mean that even when we enter back into our everyday mind, we find ourself living our life with a greater sense of vitality and well being. Our relationships with others tend to be more heartfelt, compassionate, and aware. We find ourselves feeling more connected to our "self" and our everyday experience, while living our life with a greater sense of meaning.
If you are at all like most of human beings I meet every day, and one that I meet in mirror every morning, during much of your life your thoughts, actions, and feelings occur somewhat independently of each other, and you lack a certain sense of spontaneity. To some extent this is part of human condition, and yet we can definitely also achieve from time to time, a much fuller way of learning and living.
One of unique aspects of embodied presence is that we do not have internal dialogue when we are fully present in moment. By "fully present in moment" I mean remaining relaxed while fully engaging in an activity, without internal dialogue taking up any of our attention or awareness.
Mushin = Embodied presence Embodied presence = Fully present in moment Fully present in moment = Michael Jordan during an NBA final; Tiger Woods at Masters; My daughter watching her Saturday morning kids program.
I think that being able to be free from internal dialogue at times is quite an interesting phenomenon. One of main questions I always ponder in this regard is "Who is talking to who?" during internal dialogue. Another thought that I often have is "Why in world do I need to tell myself what I am feeling? Why not just feel?" And of course asking myself such questions is just another form of internal dialogue!
To me, fact that we have internal dialogue in first place leads me to understand that each person has at least two different selves that they experience life through. One self is a rational/cognitive self with its "headquarters" being just that, in head. This is self that generates our internal dialogue and likes to critique what we are doing. Our other self is an emotional/somatic self with its command center being in body. This appears to be self that cognitive self is trying to inform via words. The problem is that somatic self thinks in feelings and not in words, so really only thing it understands from verbal communication of cognitive self is tone of voice, volume, and phrasing. Seem hard to believe?