Interesting Samurai Thought: “The Spirit of the Thing”

Miyamoto Musashi is considered by most to be the greatest samurai and Japanese swordsman to have ever lived.  He lived from 1584 to 1645 winning 60 duels mostly against very deadly and skilled opponents.  If he was a boxer or MMA fighter today that kind of record alone would make him legendary. Read more about his life here

I could write many many posts about this guy and I probably will write several more here on this site, but today’s post is focused on his idea of “the spirit of the thing”.

One of my favorite books that I’ve ever read is Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings.    Find it here on Amazon

Book of 5 Rings

The edition I read was an easy 128 pages long.  The book is mostly about combat, but its principles can be used in many areas of life.  One vague idea that he mentions several times in these pages is “the spirit of the thing”.

Before the book “The Secret” came out, Musashi spoke of an all-pervading powerful principle with almost magical powers being the main reason for his success over a long career of combat.  He talks about a higher level of focus where he would tap into the very essence of swordsmanship to the point of being unbeatable.

Now he wasn’t saying that he used some magical power alone to be able to beat people with his sword.  Rather, Musashi trained and focused on the art of swordsmanship to such a level that he tapped into something deeper than just the physical motions.  Some might call it the Tao, Christians might even call it the Holy Spirit.  Musashi called it “the spirit of the thing”.  Musashi trained hard and forged a relationship with everything having to do with the art of the sword that was so deep that it became spiritual.

Like most esoteric spiritual, metaphysical and/or deep subconscious psychological principles fully putting them into words can be difficult.  He himself doesn’t give an exact definition of the principle, but mentions it many times especially at the end of the book.  The book itself merits more than one reading to further grasp the idea.

Today’s most successful and talented business people, athletes, writers, musicians or anyone else at the top of their game tap into this principle in some way.  Many famous musicians over the centuries have even said that they enter a meditative state where the music writes itself.  Athletes and writers talk about being “in the zone”.  Some others might call it “flow”.  All of these descriptions sound very similar to being in touch with “the spirit of the thing”.  When one is able to reach this state tasks get accomplished easily and effortlessly and the end result is always excellent.

How does one achieve this state?

There are several principles that seem to help:

  1. Hard work – Sorry.  This isn’t a magical formula.  It is a principle for taking hard working highly focused people to the next level.  Anyone that experiences this force works hard, learns whatever they can, practices, reads, thinks, breathes, and sleeps the area they are looking to master.
  2. Focusing on the Goal – Despite the many distractions that surround us (Click here for my article on overcoming distractions) and the demotivational negativity that can get in the way (Click here to read my article on projecting positive energy) , these people stay focused on their goal.  They do what needs to be done and keep the majority of their thoughts on where they want to go and what they need to do to get there.
  3. Trying new things – These people are always open to finding new tools and ideas in their pursuit of excellence.  The might try different diets or daily routines to maximize energy.  They might take the advice of different people that think differently than they do.  Maybe they’ll change their business strategies.  Whatever it is, they keep trying different things until they find ones that work, and then they keep searching for more.  They realize that the path to perfection is never ending so their search for better and better ways of doing and being is also never ending.

Living a most interesting life involves choosing the path of excellence.  It involves performing at a higher level than the average person.  Interesting people have interesting goals.  They embark on many challenging endeavors and often compete against other skillful and interesting people.  It is the greatest of these people that understand and tap into “the spirit of the thing”.  Even though they themselves have trouble putting it into words, they understand it when they hear about it and see it.

Go forth in life on whatever path you find most interesting and look to tap into this principle.

The best out there always do.

Best wishes,





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