Eugen Herrigel picks up his bow
Eugen Herrigel (1884-1955) was a young German philosopher who took up the study of archery in Japan as a means of deepening his understanding of Zen Buddhism and of the concept of “no-mind.” He studied under the master Awa Kenzo and wrote about it in his classic, Zen and the Art of Archery.
The challenge for Herrigel came down to the moment of releasing the arrow. He would hang on too long or let go too soon. He would force it. He would apply his ego. He would attempt to control the motion. He couldn’t get it right.
The arrow, according to his master and to true Zen, must “release itself.”
How does the artist learn to access the higher dimension? Not through will or ego, except as will or ego exhausts itself over time and finally “gives up.” Like Herrigel learning to let the arrow release itself, the artist builds up all her work and effort and intentionality and then lets them all go. She surrenders.
Can you do this?
I couldn’t. Not for years and years.