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Remaining Mind

Zanshin translates as “remaining mind.” It does not mean the mind remains on the past or a few moments ago, or that thing you did well or poorly. It remains here and now.

Zanshin also translates as “the mind with no remainder.” Divide any number by one and the remainder is zero. If you are one hundred percent in the present, there is no room for ego to attach to the past or to fear the future.

In Aikido, zanshin is the moment after a throw, not walking away, but remaining present and focused on the uke. But it goes deeper than that, I think.

I took my blackbelt two weeks ago. It was a four hour ordeal, a constant challenge to stay present in the current movement. Botch a throw? It’s in the past. Feel something odd or curious? It’s in the past. The hardest part was to stay present in the moment, letting future and past go. Remain. Be ready.

But the actual hardest part has been the post-test. Now I can reflect and ask questions. And that means the post test is the real test of zanshin. Self-judgement? Let it go. Why let my mind remain there? Success. Failure. Good throw. Bad throw. None of it is zanshin, fudoshin, or mushin.

The blackbelt test means taking the first step into the practice of aikido. It means becoming a beginner. For five years it has been the spoken and unspoken direction of my training, looming as a target in the distance. For the past six months, the whole dojo has leaned into preparing, investing in me. My time and thoughts were consumed by training and preparation.

Suddenly it was here.

Now it’s gone, and with it, the direction it provided.

The carpet got pulled and I wasn’t really expecting it. Now what?

I know the physical basics of our curriculum. The broad strokes of form are familiar. Now the mental stuff of training. Shoshin – beginner’s mind. Stay curious. Search deeper. Explore the movements. Mushin – avoid opinion and judgement and just be in the zone. Fudoshin – do not waiver from the shugyo and don’t quail from new challenges. Zanshin – be more fully in the moment and remain there.