Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Literary Abandon

Thinking about thinking today.

And how sometimes less is more.

Something in the article I read yesterday reminded me of something I hear all too often from my karate instructors.  Don't think.

In martial arts, we call it mushin

FightingArts.com describes it like this:

"A Zen term referring to that state of mental clarity and enhanced perception (sensory and intuitive) known as pure mind, produced by the absence of conscious thought, ideas, judgments, emotion (fear and anxiety), pre-conception, or self-consciousness. A product of Zen meditative training. For the warrior, meditation (towards mushin) was an important compliment to technical training. Through mushin the mind is not absent, but instead is freed. No longer inhibited, slowed, distracted, or clogged the mind was free to fully perceive, respond and commit to action. The mind is not fixed on anything and is open to everything; a mind expanded through the whole body with total awareness of and focus on everything."

One instructor in particular has been working with me on this when we're sparring.  She'll start out nice and slow, and I'll be thinking about strategy, analyzing what she's doing, looking for patterns, remembering new techniques I want to try... and getting my butt kicked. 

"You're thinking too much.  Cut it out."

She picks up the pace.  Suddenly I'm overwhelmed.  Kicks and punches are coming too fast for me to do anything but block and counter, block and counter.  I want it to stop, but I have no choice but to keep fighting.

And then something happens.  Maybe the adrenaline kicks in, maybe one part of my brain shuts off while another part clicks on, maybe I just reach the point at which I give up control and just surrender to instinct.  But I start to fight, and I start to fight well.

According to her, that is. 

I have no idea of how I'm doing because I'm no longer thinking, not assessing or planning.  I'm in The Zone and some part of my awareness is hearing her saying, "Now you're fighting!  Much better.  Keep it up.  Don't think."

Much like the surrender and relaxation techniques I teach my childbirth students, it seems counterintuitive.  But the more you feel it working, the more you want to do it, and the easier it comes. 

The question is, can I take that same state of mushin and apply it to my writing? 

I wonder if there's a program out there which could force me to type faster than I think...

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