Mushin, Flow and Open-Focus related Quotes

Here are quotes on the related topics of Mushin-no-shin 無心の心 (Mind of No Mind), the flow-state and Open-Focus.  The breakdown of the sections is as follows: 

  • Quotes from Takuan Soho 1
  • Quotes from Takuan Soho 2
  • Quotes from Dr. Les Fehmi and Others on Open Focus and Diffuse Attention
  • Quotes from Additional Authors 1
  • Quotes from Additional Authors 2

Quotes from Takuan Soho 1

  • 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 [Takuan_Wiki].
    • 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 [Takuan_Wiki].
  • Make it a secret principle in either seeing or hearing not to detain the mind in one place [Takuan, p.14].
  • The Right Mind is the mind that does not remain in one place. It is the mind that stretches throughout the entire body and self.  The Confused Mind is the mind that, thinking something over, congeals in one place [Takuan, p.12].
  • When facing a single tree, if you look at a single one of its red leaves, you will not see all the others. When the eye is not set on one leaf, and you face the tree with nothing at all in mind, any number of leaves are visible to the eye without limit. But if a single leaf holds the eye, it will be as if the remaining leaves were not there [Takuan, p.6].

Quotes from Takuan Soho 2

  • Not stopping the mind is object and essence.  Put nowhere, it will be everywhere.  Even in moving the mind outside the body, if it is sent in one direction, it will be lacking in nine others.  If the mind is not restricted to just one direction, it will be in all ten [Takuan, p.12].
  • If the mind congeals in one place and remains with one thing, it is like frozen water and is unable to be used freely:  ice that can wash neither hands nor feet.  When the mind is melted and is used like water, extending throughout the body, it can be sent wherever one wants to send it [Takuan, p.12].
  • When this No-Mind has been well-developed, the mind does not stop with one thing nor does it lack any one thing.  It is like water overflowing and exists within itself.  It appears appropriately when facing a time of need [Takuan, p.13].
  • The mind that becomes fixed and stops in one place does not function freely.  Similarly, the wheels of a cart go around because they are not rigidly in place.  If they were to stick tight, they would not go around.  The mind is also something that does not function if it becomes attached to a single situation [Takuan, p.13].

Quotes from Dr. Les Fehmi and Others on Open Focus and Diffuse Attention*

  • Dr. Les Fehmi / Jim Robbins:
    • In Open Focus our attention is inclusive – sights, sounds, and other sensory information are all taken in along with space in a broadly interested way; no one sensory signal is focused on to the exclusion of the others [Fehmi, p. 51].
    • Open Focus is not just about taking in peripheral awareness but also involves rendering all objects and space with an equal and simultaneous awareness – a subtle but crucial and unmistakable difference [Fehmi, p. 54].
    • When we pay attention in a rigid, effortful, and thus stressed way, it is a drag on the entire mind-body system:  We are more likely to overreact in ways that are fearful, angry, effortful, rigid, and resistant.   When we pay attention in a flexible way we are more accepting, comfortable, energetic, aware, healthy, productive, and in the flow [Fehmi, p. 12].
    • Seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling, and thinking of space, basking in it – while simultaneously experiencing timelessness – is a powerful way to let go, the most powerful way that I know [Fehmi, p. 37].
    • Diffuse focus is panoramic rather than exclusive or single-pointed; in its most extreme form it is inclusive and three-dimensional, giving equal attention to all internal and external stimuli simultaneously as well as the space, silence, and timelessness in which they occur [Fehmi, p. 48].
    • Walking through the forest and being simultaneously aware of the sound of birds singing, the smell of flowers, the feel of a breeze, the view of the trees, and the space and the silence in which these sensory experiences occur is diffuse focus [Fehmi, p. 49].
  • I’m back here open – seeing everything simultaneously without isolating anything.  That’s what we’re going for:  Open Focus.  Because from that vantage point you’re actually seeing holistically.  You can see that you’re in the context.  You’re holding the whole context to see what the parts are doing in relationship to the whole without ever losing the whole. Elizabeth Locke, Artist (at 2:37min).

* A description of Open-Focus and Diffuse Attention can be found in “Open-Focus, Mushin and Kendo.”

Quotes from Additional Authors 1

  • Gaze to the distant mountain – 遠山の目付け (enzan no metsuke).
  • Mind of water – 水の心 (mizu-no kokoro).
  • Miyamoto Musashi from “The Gaze in Strategy” section of [Musashi, p.14]:
    • The gaze should be large and broad. This is the twofold gaze “Perception and Sight”.  Perception is strong and sight weak. 
    • In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things. It is important in strategy to know the enemy’s sword and not to be distracted by insignificant movements of his sword.
    • It is necessary in strategy to be able to look to both sides without moving the eyeballs.  You cannot master this ability quickly. Learn what is written here; use this gaze in everyday life and do not vary it whatever happens.
  • In that world of no thought or intention there is neither sound nor smell, neither gods nor devils. Take for example the mirror, as the mirror reflects what is before it, so does the heart, and thus it is known as the heart-mirror. When the heart of the opponent is observed in the mirror of ones own heart, one cannot be struck, however when ones own heart releases its image it ceases to be the true heart-mirror.
  • Chiba Masashi sensei used to practice a continuous set of 3000 suburi every day. . . .  but if we do aspire to reach a state of no-mind (mushin) in our keiko, the answer lies in constant repetition of the basics – Geoff Salmon (7th Dan) [KendoInfo_Moment].

Quotes from Additional Authors 2

  • Robert Greene: [Mastery_Greene]
    • The end point of mastery is an intuitive feel for what you are doing where you no longer have to think.
    • You’ve got muscle memory, you’ve mastered the craft, but the thinking will mess you up every single time.
    • The most powerful point you can reach in sports and in any kind of endeavor is when you’re one with the moment.
  • It was just one of those programs that clicked. I mean, everything went right, everything felt good… It’s almost as though you don’t have to think, it’s like everything goes automatically without thinking… You hear the music but you’re not aware that you’re hearing it, because it’s a part of it all. – Susan Jackson (Figure Skater)
  • May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children. ― Rainer Maria Rilke
  • The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind. – Shunryu Suzuki [Suzuki]
  • From Tao De Ching (The Way)
    • A good traveler has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving.
    • Remind yourself daily, there is no way to happiness.  Happiness is the way.
  • Is there anything you do regularly that makes you forget what time it is? – Martha Beck
  • Attention is like energy in that without it no work can be done, and in doing work is dissipated. We create ourselves by how we use this energy. Memories, thoughts and feelings are all shaped by how [we] use it. And it is an energy under control, to do with as we please; hence attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience. ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [Csikszentmihalyi].


[Csikszentmihalyi] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990.

[Fehmi] Les Fehmi, Jim Robbins, The Open-Focus Brain – Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body, Trumpeter Books, 2007.

[Hisashi] Noma Hisashi (1910-1939), The Kendo Reader (PDF, 55 pages)

[KendoInfo_Moment] Geoff Salmon, “Getting lost in the moment,”, May 12, 2014.

[Mastery_Greene]  “Robert Greene:  Mastery & Research,”, Jan 25, 2017.

[Musashi] Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings (五輪書 Go-Rin-no-Sho), Translation by, 1644.

[Suzuki] Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice.

[Takuan]  Takuan Soho, “The Unfettered Mind:  Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master,” (Translated by William Scott Wilson).

[Takuan_Wiki]  According to  Takuan Soho, The Unfettered Mind:  Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman, Translated by William Scott Wilson, Shambhala, 2012.


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