Muga-Mushin – (No Self-No Mind)
“still the patterning of consciousness”
When we practice the art of shooting, our minds must become calm and simple.
This will not happen by accident, because by nature our minds are busy and complicated. Usually, while undertaking an activity other thoughts intrude. These make it difficult to concentrate fully on what we’re doing. In fact, most people are distracted by two or three other things while they try to complete one activity.
Like the old saying, most people are trying to “Kill two birds with one stone”. Because we try to kill too many birds we cannot concentrate fully on one activity – and that means we may end up killing no birds at all.
If you allow the merest trace of mental distraction to intrude on your activity, you will become attached and focused on that distraction and not the activity.
When preparing to fire a single shot, or a string of shots, our first priority is to bring all of our awareness to the present.
The routine processes of taking our stance and focusing on our breathing should act as the triggers that automatically bring our thoughts fully to the moment at hand.
Picture a digital clock. It has no sense of, and does not display, the past or the future – only the moment.
Watch one. See how it changes. Yet it only ever displays the present moment in time.
Take this as a challenge to “Catch the ceaseless flow of quality in the passing moment”.
How much quality can you compress into any single moment by simply being there and nowhere else? This is the magic and the life-lesson of our art.
The state of mind we are trying to attain in Zen and the arts is called “mushin” in Japanese. There is no exact equivalent in English, but it can be roughly translated to mean “empty mind”. Professor Daisetz Suzuki describes it as a state of “conscious unconsciousness”.
However, because the mind and body are inseparable, mushin cannot be viewed as a purely mental phenomenon. You cannot simply reason yourself into mushin – you must create it through proper breathing and stance.
When you have assumed your correct shooting stance and are preparing to raise the pistol, recall Thich Hanh’s saying; “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.”
Awareness of our breathing is the most important key to uniting our mind and body, and the first step to creating mushin.
Focusing on our breathing allows us to lose any distracting thoughts that can cloud our minds and lets us “become” the present moment, as we become the water when we swim. We lose all sense of ourselves and others – and completely concentrate.