Isshin, Mushin, and Zanshin

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Image of tree inside glass ballI’m a planner.  In fact, my standard mode of operation has always been to try to anticipate every possible complication or contingency and plan for it.  I’m the classic “if he does this, then I’ll do this” kind of girl.  Since beginning to study the principles of martial arts I’ve been intrigued by the possibility of letting go of such rigid thinking. In theory it sounds like a great idea. In terms of fighting or martial arts it even makes some sense to me.  I had the opportunity to test this a while back in my real life.

The best part of this story for me is….I didn’t pre-plan it. It wasn’t one of those times when I said, “hey I think I’ll see how these principles would work here.”  I was scheduled for a meeting with a lot of different professional people.  In the past these meetings have always felt quite adversarial. I’ve always gone into the meeting wearing my very best power suit and armed to the teeth with copies of the current applicable legal statues, braced for a fight. Typically I would have spent the night before rehearsing in my mind everything that I thought I should say and appropriate responses for any and all objections.

I woke up on the morning of the meeting and had actually forgotten that the meeting was scheduled. I put on a rather feminine (aka “girlie”) dress and went to work. There was only a slight moment of panic when I realized I was deviating from my plan. On the way to the meeting several things happened that weren’t in my game plan, including a change of meeting location and awful traffic. During that drive I reflected briefly on what my desired outcome was and set my intention to reach that goal.

When I arrived in the room I spent a few minutes listening to the mood of the other individuals that had arrived. I paid some attention to the energy that each was giving off. Normally I would have just assumed them all to be hostile. What I found was that most of the people in the room had the same objective that I did. I made a mental note. I also chose to position myself nearest the person who was most likely to be my major opponent. Again, this was in sharp contrast to anything I might have done before.

When my adversary attacked (verbally) I countered. I relied on my previous experience and training to allow me to respond, not some pre-orchestrated response. This worked so well I was amazed. Each time there was a new objection or a diversion I focused again primarily on my objective. I was able to adapt and continue working toward what I believed was the inevitable goal.

The meeting actually went well and my objectives were met. In the past I would have turned tail and literally run away. Instead I stayed and connected with the individuals that were present and made sure that there wouldn’t be any stray items to deal with later.

While all of this was happening I certainly wasn’t thinking of Isshin, Mushin, and Zanshin. It wasn’t until I was driving back to my office that it occurred to me that my meeting is some ways paralleled these principles. I was very excited. While I have studied martial arts principles in the dojo, I was excited to experience the principles in the rest of my world.


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