Between Mindful- and Mindlessness

How do you become great at something?

You learn and practice the proper technique mindfully until it becomes second nature. Then you forget about technique.

Martial artists learn the correct ways to punch and kick, and drill these movements until they can do it without thinking. They call this level of mastery “Mushin,” which means “no mind.” It is the ultimate mindset to possess while fighting, and the hardest point for one to reach in their training.

Many other disciplines have a similar goal, and these goals are reached in the exact same fashion: practice mindfully until you can execute mindlessly.

Mindful practice is required before one can execute things mindlessly.

Becoming mindless without being mindful first just makes you an idiot.

Being mindful without ever becoming mindless just makes you rigid. You are unable to act quickly and creatively in the moment. You are too busy analyzing it and adhering to irrelevant rules and dogma.

Too much horsing around with unrealistic stances and classic forms and rituals is just too artificial and mechanical, and doesn’t really prepare the student for actual combat. A guy could get clobbered while getting into this classical mess. Classical methods like these, which I consider a form of paralysis, only solidify and constrain what was once fluid.

-Bruce Lee

With that being said, there is a time and place for being both mindful and mindless.

Being mindful helps one to reorient their self should they stray from the Way. You analyze your steps that you have taken up to this point, where you went wrong, and correct it by going back a bit in order to move forward.

It is also useful when higher and more foresighted means of strategy need to be employed for a distant but sure victory.

Other than that though, it is better to remain on auto-pilot. This makes one have “no mind” about anything that might be trivial for one to worry about.

It also helps one stay fluid and able to react decisively in the moment, worrying more about the end instead of the means to the end.

When I started mindfulness practice, I found that all it did for me was make me anxious.

Crowds suddenly became a large, insufferable, suffocating mass that I wanted to get far away from. Not thinking about it helps mitigate this. They say ignorance of bliss and sometimes a mild form of “ignorance” (mindlessness) is necessary to not stress over irrelevancies.

Though remember that you can’t always be mindless.

Undulate between the two states of being.

Parkour is a good example of needing to switch between being mindful and being mindless. One must analyze the environment and the obstacles within it, and plan an effective route to overcome them. Then run the route and overcome the obstacles with no hesitation.

Switching between the two states rapidly is perhaps the height of strategic prowess.

Many of history’s greatest strategists have possessed this ability.

Miyamoto Musashi would analyze his opponent’s fighting style, weaponry, and psychology. Then he would formulate a strategy to overcome these factors and mindlessly execute his plans and achieve victory. No other swordsman has ever came close to his skill in battle, because they relied on physical weapons as opposed to the arsenal of the mind.

Napoleon would do the same but on a much grander scale, foreseeing his campaigns up until the decisive battle that would ultimately gain him victory. And mindlessly would he go through every battle, adapting to the quick changes of the battlefield, being aware of his contingencies.

Many thought him a psychic for his uncanny ability to predict his campaign victories down to the location of the final battle. But simply enough, this was the peak of strategy and execution. Of Mindfulness and Mindlessness.

History is littered with such stories, and not all of them consisted of conquering physical empires. There are also stories of fluid and crafty individuals dominating the weaknesses of their mind, and the weaknesses of the minds of their enemies.

Follow in their footsteps and you will surely become a force of nature.

Practice mindfully until you can mindlessly execute whatever skill you have developed.


  • Benjamin Strusnik

    February 6, 2018 at 2:35 am

    Incredible post. I’m trying to practice mindfulness every single day, by meditating and working on stuff without getting distracted by my mind’s chatter. It’s pretty hard and I still get distracted, but I’m getting better at it. Do you maybe have any additional advice about escaping and preventing the mind from always talking, instead of just being quiet? 🙂

    • Justin Nicikowski

      February 7, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      Thanks Benjamin.

      Overthinking can stem from physical/physiological issues such as anxiety, where your neurotransmitters and/or hormones are imbalanced, or it’s just plain mental, where you fear failure, criticism, or simply doubt your own abilities.

      Look deep and ask yourself why it is that you overthink and see if it is any of the reasons mentioned.

      Start drinking green tea once or twice a day, along with not worrying about the outcome and reception of a project, so long as you get it done.

      Visualizing a quiet and empty place such as an arctic tundra, or working at a quick pace to not give yourself time to overthink are also methods I use to prevent overthinking. Hope this helps.


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