What we’re describing here really, is a person who is completely in tune with their emotions and their own impulses, rather than someone who is constantly trying to overcome a haze of self doubt and of concern over what they should be doing.
Once you remove the anxieties that come from behaving the way you think you should and the way that others think you should, you can start to become in tune with who you really are. You are clearing away the mental fog and beginning to more purely express yourself.
Someone who believed very strongly in this was Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee often discussed the importance of being true to yourself and being completely in tune with your impulses and emotions: rather than acting in any way that was false or forced.
This, Bruce Lee believed, is the secret to tapping into your inner power and your greatest artistic beauty. One of his most famous quotes describes this concept eloquently:
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”
Another, lesser known quote that expresses the same sentiment says:
“Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.”
In martial arts and in performance, acting in this way makes you far faster and more formidable because you are avoiding overthinking situations and instead acting purely on instinct and reaction. This state is described in martial arts as ‘mushin’ or ‘no mind’: where your honed instincts and reflexes allow you to fight without any conscious thought.
In sports and athletics this state is called ‘flow’ and is described by neuroscientists as ‘temporal hypofrontality’ meaning that the frontal regions of the brain are suppressed and only the more instinctive areas are lit up.
Something similar happens when we’re in an amazing conversation and we forget about the passage of time, or when we are playing an instrument in a band and we seem to almost become one with the music.
This is us at our very best and at our purest.