The Zen of No Mind (or How to Live Happily in the Present)

by | Mar 20, 2016 | Liberating the Mind, Pursuit of Happiness |

I once blew an all expense paid for overseas vacation. Because while physically on vacation, I was worried about my work and a thousand other things. My mind was jammed. Back then, I knew nothing about the Zen of No Mind.


Do you live in the present or ruminate about what’s past?  


How often are you in a state of stillness and calm?


Or are you often in a state of worrying about the future?



The Zen of No Mind

Are often overwhelmed by errant thoughts? You will find that instead of undertaking thoughts in awareness you let those errant thoughts control you. Do you think about that dream vacation while at work? And when you finally on your dream vacation, you begin to fret about the documents piling up in your “IN” tray.  


You may find yourself stuck too deep in the rat race to have time to audit your thoughts. Most of the time, it is your wandering minds that distract you, create worries and put you into numerous sticky situations. All these incessant chatter inside your mind are known as monkey chatter.  


An effective way for you to get rid of all the monkey chatter from your mind is the practice of Mushin no shin [無心の心]. Zen Practitioners call it “mind without mind”. I call it The Zen of No Mind.  



The State of No Mind

You can make the choice of not being stuck and overwhelmed and you can increase your effectiveness in your daily life by practicing the Zen of No Mind. It is also the key to personal growth, health and your ability to relate well with others and your environment.  


When you are in the state of no mind, you are not fixated on one thought or emotion. You are in a state of mind where you “think without thinking”. The practice of no mind means developing flow, keeping the mind serene, blocking out distractions.


You can compare your state of no mind to a pond which merely reflects its environment and the trees around it. When your mind is presented with a distraction, it is similar to the distortion of the pond’s reflections by waves and ripples.


When your mind is free from conscious thought, judgments, ideas, negative emotions (anger and fear or ego) and concerns of past or the future, that is the moment where you attain the state of no mind. In this instance, your mind exists purely “in the moment”. And you experience a state of mental clarity, awareness and enhanced perception.



So, How Do You Achieve the State of No Mind?

Martial artists are the most fervent practitioners of Mushin no shin. Martial artists practice moves until it can be performed without thinking. This is the state of no mind.


Your thinking inhibits action. When you concentrate on the here and the now, concentrate with an empty mind rather than thinking about here and now. Do not let the words “no mind” confuse you. It does not mean empty mind like an empty shell. It means letting go of your fears, worries, and distractions. Let your mind be fully present, aware and free.


A good way of practicing no mind is being in a relaxed meditative state while doing mundane daily activities like washing dishes, mowing the lawn or doing the laundry. Physical and mental tasks will seem like a breeze. Your mind becomes intuitive and reacts naturally to whatever comes along instead of thinking of what is happening next.


Takuan Sōhō, a priest in feudal Japan who applied Zen principles to swordsmanship wrote:


Takuan Soho


In my practice of no mind, I always keep in my mind what my sensei had taught me about sparring with an opponent during Kendo practices: go into combat with the mindset that you are already dead.


Within the Way of the Warrior tradition of ancient Japanese is the mindset that a samurai warrior must always be prepared to die. This is a samurai’s best chance of attaining Mushin no shin, for his life depends on it.


Embrace the Zen of No Mind and live happily ever after. In the present moment . . .

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