Sunday, December 22, 2013


    Walking a desert trail in the vicinity of the newly laid rail of the Union Pacific Railroad in the southwest, a Japanese laborer named Tazo comes upon a Navajo Indian by a fire next to a fork in the path as it turned south. The Navajo speaks to Tazo saying, “You’re not American!” Tazo replies, “No I’m not, but why do you care?” The Navajo answers, “The Americans are crazy!” They say they think with their heads. No sane man thinks in the head.” Tazo gazes down at the weathered Sage and smiles as the Navajo goes on to say, “You and I are different, I know!” “We think in the heart.” – adapted from a reference to a C. G. Jung mimeographed report of five lectures given under the auspices of the Institute of Medical Psychology in London in 1935 as published in D. T. Suzuki’s “Zen and Japanese Culture” (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973). 185.

    In applying the principles of Zen to mental training for cycling competition, I’ve been studying the Bushido culture of feudal Japan. The great 17th century Samurai swordsman, Miayamoto Musashi, would understand the exchange between Tazo and the Navajo as it deals with the Japanese term kokoro.  Kokoro is a very comprehensive term. It first of all means the physical ‘heart’, and then the true ‘heart’ (conative and emotional), ‘mind’ (intellectual), ‘soul’ (in the sense of an animating principle), and ‘spirit’ (metaphysical). In the case of the swordsman, the kokoro has rather a conative sense; it is the will in its deeper significance.

   “In distinguishing two kinds of kokoro: one is the physical ‘heart’ and the other is the ‘true’ heart. The heart susceptible to emotionality is the first kind. When it is kept down below the navel, it becomes immovable. Unless this takes place, all the skill the swordsman may have acquired is of no use. Ibid, pg. 185.  So to benefit from this application of kokoro, we must center ourselves on the “true” heart, moving our thoughts and actions away from all “emotionality.” But how is this accomplished?

   Miyamoto Musashi writes in his Book of Five Rings”, “In the science of martial arts, the state of mind should remain the same as normal. In ordinary circumstances as well as when practicing martial arts, let there be no change at all-with the mind open and direct, neither tense or lax, centering the mind so that there is no imbalance, calmly relax your mind, and savor this moment of ease thoroughly so that the relaxation does not stop its relaxation for even an instant.

   “Even when still, your mind is not still; even hurried, your mind is not hurried. The mind is not dragged by the body; the body is not dragged by the mind. Pay attention to the mind, not the body. Even if superficially weak-hearted, be inwardly strong-hearted, and do not let others see into your mind.” Miyamoto Musashi, trans. by Thomas Cleary The Book of Five Rings(Boston: Weatherhill, 2006) cover.

    This is a technique I am applying to the rigors of training and racing.

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