The Ancient Art of ‘No Mind’ and the Benefits of Modern Practice

When the Olympic athlete is approaching the final moments of her performance and ready to grasp that glorious medal, she is unaware of the screaming crowd.

She is not thinking about the dispute she had with her colleague last week. She is not pondering over that e-mail that she has not yet responded to, nor is she attempting to conclude how winning this event could impact her career.

The connection between her mind and body is very subtle. Any distraction; any uncertain thought; any emotionally stimulated reaction could cause the communication between her mental and physical to be disrupted.

When her mind is quiet, it moves freely and with the most unbelievable effectiveness — directing her movement in a stunningly accurate way. After mindful repetition, her body knows exactly what to do, and in order for this to happen, her mind must be completely still — almost empty.

The Ancient Art of ‘No Mind’

In the philosophies of Zen Buddhism this state of mind is referred to as ‘Buddha Nature.’ At this state the mind is working at a very high speed, but with no plan or conscious direction — free to adapt, change shapes, flex, and shift like the wind.

In the ancient times of the Samurai warrior, the ability to act without conscious thought is known as ‘No Mind’ (Japanese term: Mushin – a Zen expression meaning “the mind without mind”).

For the swordsman, interrupting this state of ‘flowing’ movement in battle would mean death. For the Olympic athlete, though the consequences are less fatal, allowing any hesitation to infiltrate the moment could result in potential collapse under pressure, and ultimately defeat.

So how does this apply to us?

The mind is able to guide us and help us execute what is in our best interests at all times. Once our immediate safety is established, and the mind is left unbounded and free to flow, we can conquer what is in front of us with extreme presence, and without wasting any excess energy.

Applying this level of presence in our modern lives would mean:

  • Better performance at work.
  • Stronger and more meaningful presence with the people in your life.
  • Engaged social interactions.
  • Healthier relationships.
  • Better decision-making and problem-solving.
  • Dramatically reduced feelings of worry, fear, and anxiety.
  • Heightened levels of confidence.
  • An enhanced vision of reality leading to consistent progress and less distraction.
  • Enlightened focus on what’s important and in your greatest interests.
  • Frequent feelings of peak experience and flow.
  • More energy, more often.

For the average person, when unnecessary contemplation and emotionally driven thoughts flood the mind, it becomes very difficult to see things as they are. We tend to react less to the reality of our situation, and more to the emotional implications that we place on them. This reduces our ability to behave with accuracy and effectiveness, eventually accumulating into the loss of direction and overwhelming confusion.

The result is irrational behavior, unrealistic judgments, unaccomplished tasks, and lack of mental strength required to pursue fulfillment.

How to Acquire No Mind

No mind is a mindset that is not fixated on a certain outcome or even occupied by thought or emotional stimulation. We are freeing ourselves from thoughts of anger, fear, and ego during combat, or in terms of today, typical everyday life.  The mind becomes open to everything and extremely adaptable — always ready to perform and respond at peak level at any given moment.

Acquiring this skill takes practice, discipline, and sometimes mental and emotional pain. The culmination of the Samurai’s vigorous training became the ability to execute a perfect attacking stroke without thought. Today, however, achieving no mind is no longer needed for combat.

But to attain a deepened presence of mind means that we can apply the ability to focus our energy on much more productive behaviors and more meaningful moments that would lead us towards a higher experience of life.

When no-mind is reached through study and everyday practice, the objective is to attain this same level of awareness in all aspects of life. Many martial artists and modern meditators train to achieve this state through extended periods of meditation.

No-Mind Meditation

One of the most common challenges that many beginners face when getting started with meditation is being able to surpass the whirlwind of thoughts and tendencies that are typically present in the mind.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when practicing meditation:

  • The objective of meditation is not necessarily to eliminate thoughts, but to first become aware of the ordinary activity of the mind before transcending the noise. It’s from this perspective that you can assume the position of observation in stillness, which is one step away from no mind.

  • Attaining no mind does not mean that there are no thoughts. It means there is no need to grasp, no judgment, and no identification with the thoughts.

  • You are aware of thoughts and feelings without the need to establish an attachment. In meditation, this is also referred to as ‘open monitoring’ or ‘free flow of thought.’

  • You remain open to anything and everything that makes its way through to your conscious awareness. With practice, you will notice that whatever comes to the surface will naturally pass.

  • When the mind is calm and unswayed by thought, it becomes more flexible, adaptable, and free to move in any direction. This sense of freedom is euphoric; this is no mind (also known as pure consciousness). Reaching this incredible sense of freedom will begin to permeate through all aspects of one’s life.

The Art of Calm Abiding Meditation

In Tibetan meditation practice, reaching this state of mental one-pointedness is referred to as ‘Calm Abiding Meditation.’ And just like anything extraordinary in life, there is a certain journey that must take place in order to safely arrive at this place of complete clarity and pure concentration.

This is achieved through practice and development of meditative concentration, also known as Shamatha. What makes this path of meditation unique is that it also provides a very invigorating way for true progression and evolution to take place — a very appealing process for the advanced practitioner.

Here are a few more techniques and resources that will enhance your meditation and help you attain the ancient art of no mind.

Leave a Comment

Kelly Stiles

I love publishing topics on meditation and mindset development. While providing you with the tools and resources to live vibrantly and consciously, Mind Body Vortex is your modern guide to an exhilarating lifestyle of personal growth.


Meditation and Mental Resilience

What Does It Mean to be Zen?