I had the great pleasure of filming a lecture by Dr. Jeff Brantley on Mindfulness at Duke’s Integrative Medicine Center in Durham.  We had an animated conversation before and afterwards relating the confluence of Mindfulness and Aikido.  Specifically I was relaying time studying with the late masterful George Leonard, one of the presidents of the Esalen Institute.

Here are some of Dr. Brantley’s observations on the subject which coincide with our concept of Mushin.

  • A quality of mind that notices, in the present moment, without judging, or trying to fix or change anything.
  • An awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally and with acceptance, where “acceptance” means a willingness to see things as they are.
  • Is enhanced by developing skills of intention, attention, and an accepting, allowing attitude towards present moment experience; usually by “meditation” or “reflective practice.”

One of the biggest mistakes martial artists make is valuing mindless repetition of techniques. If a movement is practice a thousand times, each time it has to be done with full alertness, attention, context and the inner dialog designed to remove unnecessary tension.

But equally fascinating was Dr. Brantley’s emphasis on “Self Compassion – not being overly self critical”. Obviously this leads to anxiety, worry, stress and tension which prevents us from performing fluidly whether it be professional work, play or personal interactions.

“Train with a spirit of Joy once said the Founder but never let the focus waiver”.

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