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The Virtues of Not-Thinking

There’s virtue and value in thinking. To a point.

A fighting art is a complex pursuit. Matters of positioning, force, counterforce, attention, weight distribution, technique, personality, and skill (to name a few) are available for consideration in every moment.

Analysis, questioning, clarifying, challenging, and critiquing are strategies of mind that can and do lead to deeper levels of understanding. But, when I’m at my best as a practitioner, I am aware of the line that differentiates exploration from rumination.

And when I start to feel the physical sense of constriction that comes with over-analysis, I try to shift focus.

It’s a matter of letting go of the need to understand fully right then, which I can often achieve with a little humor—”ah fuck it” usually works pretty well—and a dip back into the waters of not-knowing.

For a mind conditioned to knowing, the sensation can be a bit brisk—er, biting. But, as the darkness closes in, and the chill cuts to the bone, not-knowing becomes its own kind of relief. I guess you could say I become comfortable with drowning.

And that’s when I start to make progress.

This article is part of my “Martial Arts Journal” series on self-defense, mindset, and practical philosophy in the martial arts and in life. If you liked it, you can read more of my journal entries here.

P.S. Ever wonder what it’s like to have no head? Read more here.

P.P.S. The drowning metaphor was inspired by Sam Harris’ blog post The Pleasures of Drowning.