"Mushin is not the turbulent mind. But the tranquil mind. The empty mind. Without fear." Grandmaster Gedo Chang


We’re strong because we’ve been weak. We’re fearless because we’ve been afraid. We’re wise because we’ve been foolish.

Our mindset is the set of beliefs that shape our worldview and self-identity. Our mindset becomes our inner thermostat, influencing how we think, feel, and behave in any circumstance. Our mindset is our belief about ourselves, which impacts our success or failure.

According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” our beliefs play a pivotal role in getting what we want out of life. Dweck suggests that we are capable of upgrading our mindsets by:

  • You are focusing on the journey (process). When building a growth mindset is seeing the value in your journey. When you’re fixated on the result, you miss out on all the things you could be learning along the way—process matters.
  • Add “yet” to your inner narrative: Remember those good things take time when we struggle. We have not mastered our struggle as of “yet.” But mastery is a process.
  • Focus on your words and thoughts. Catch yourself being negative. Stamp negative thoughts out, “if I don’t mind, it don’t matter.”
  • Find ways to challenge yourself. Making mistakes is the only sure way to learn. So embrace challenges like a game to win with practice.

Upgrading your mindset is essential. But more importantly, we must transcend our thinking minds to a place of instinctual trust in our actions and responses to obstacles.

Let me introduce you to the concept of mushin. Mushin is translated as “the mind without mind.” Mu (無) is nothing or nothingness, and shin (心) refers to the mind.


Mushin is a state of mind where our brain is not preoccupied with anything other than the specific activity we are performing.  Mushin is achieved when a person’s mind is free from thoughts such as fear, anger, or every other emotion in everyday life. That’s the state in which the person is free to act and react, whatever they do. There’s no hesitation or disturbance in such activities.

If we recall the film The Last Samurai. Tom Cruise’s character Nathan Algren is being taught by a samurai, Nobutada (Koyamada Shin), during a practice match in the village. After Algren is knocked to the ground, Nobutatda runs up and offers this suggestion in broken English, “Too many minds. Mind sword, mind people, watch. mind enemy. Too many minds. No mind.”

The concept of mushin is not challenging to comprehend. But mushin must be gained through experience and not an intellectual understanding. It is easiest to understand using the work of John Eliot, Ph.D., an award-winning professor with expertise in business and psychology. In his book, Overachievement: The New Science of Working Less to Accomplish More, he describes a “trusting” mindset as absent our critical thinking, evaluation, and analysis. We are just doing. (See graphic below)

Eliot, John (2006) Overachievement: The New Science of Working Less to Accomplish More

Go down the list of trusting mindset (mushin) traits. It is our next evolution in performance and happiness. Below is my mushin in action. I have walked on burning hot coals in one of my many firewalks, but actual fire is more daunting to our minds. No, I have never been burned or even tenderized by the blaze. Yes, I can feel the flames wrapping around my leg. Please do not try this at home, as I have seen many burned by the intense heat when they fail to release their minds to the process.

Firewalking requires a trusting mindset. It is pure mushin, where I am free from thoughts such as fear, anger, or every other emotion. I am free to act and react without hesitation.

Mushin is when your mind is completely free & present with full awareness of the self.

Until next time. Travel safe.