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GTD and Zen

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  • GTD and Zen

    GTD and Zen

    This is a question that I would love to present directly to David Allen.

    I have been reading several books on Zen Buddhism over the last number of years, and it is astonishing how closely David’s system meshes in with the principles of Zen. This is no coincidence of course, as David has often made references to Eastern influences.

    But it really is extraordinary how, when you read descriptions of Zen processes or concepts, that you find yourself arriving at precisely the same spot to which David is trying to bring us.

    I particularly found the writings of Laurence G. Boldt in Zen Soup to be right on the money. Although the book is mainly based around collections of quotations, it is Boldt’s own sections that precisely describe what Zen is trying to do. For example, he mentions how the mind confuses thoughts feelings and fears about things, with the things themselves. We construct huge mental burdens that we have to carry through the day, and which drain our energies and come between us and the things we are trying to do.

    The GTD mind dump is meditation through pen and paper.

    What I would like to ask David is – and this will address the concerns of those who fear that GTD is a passive system – is there a technique for focussing on and attacking tasks in the way that say, a martial arts expert kicks out at a target … or are results achieved more in the way that the author of Zen and Archery discovered i.e. by getting into the zone?

    Or am I looking for too many parallels?

    Thanks

    Dave

  • #2
    Another Eastern Philosophy Thread

    Dave:

    Your post reminded me of another interesting thread started by arleneq, in which she remarks on similarities between GtD and Eastern Philosophy, and particulrly the idea of focussing on the task at hand.

    http://www.davidco.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=304

    Andrew

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    • #3
      Andrew, I agree. I considered placing my post as a continuation of that thread rather than a new start. I wonder if Zen is the philosophy to which Arleneq was referring? She certainly had the same sense of confining set actions to the moment at hand.

      Comment


      • #4
        Well, sort of...

        I've had a fascination with zen since high school, when I read all of Alan Watts' and Suzuki's books. And getting a black belt in karate gave me a visceral experience of the power of clearing your head. Zen I think reflects the plain truth that a combination of full concentration and total openness is the most elegant way to live your life, not to mention get things done. Anything that helps either, and especially anything that helps both, would be a power tool in my toolkit; and core dumping your brain is a good exercise toward that end (though not at all the only one).

        David

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        • #5
          Thanks David. I think I'll be pursuing Zen for the foreseeable future. It seems to me that GTD is a great way to keep everything in its place as I try to retain a centre of calm throughout the day.

          Dave

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          • #6
            Dave:

            Oh Alan Watts! I do remember his
            late night talks way back.............
            He kept me glued to the radio,
            wishing his lectures would never end.
            He was great.....I can still remember
            his voice articulating the aspects
            of Zen..

            I believe he broadcasted from
            No. Calif...

            Osu

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            • #7
              Zen?

              The nice thing about GTD is that it also works great for those of us who think Zen and Alan Watts (especially Alan Watts) are bogus!

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              • #8
                DM,

                I compared GTD to Zen because they both produce the same result.

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                • #9
                  I have to agree with DM. Zen I don't care about. GTD I care a lot about. It may incorporate a few Zen philosophies or concepts, but for me what matters is that it works. And that it accomodates those of us who aren't concerned with Zen.

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                  • #10
                    Zen & GTD

                    I think the intersection of GTD with Zen (& other forms of Buddhism) lies primarily in the emphasis on the only-here-and-only-now character of our existence. Of course, you also find that in other religions, including Christianity, and in other works on time management. It appears quite clearly in the old Franklin Timequest seminar, developed by Hyrum Smith, a devout Mormon. The "mind like water" imagery is superficially more Taoist than Buddhist, though.

                    It's been years since I looked at anything by Watts, but I recently returned from a three-week trip to Japan (2 weeks of buiness + 1 week of sightseeing). This was my third trip to Japan, and I have visited many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Zen is an authentic, living form of Japanese Buddhism, and should be spoken of as politely as one would speak of, say, Protestantism or Catholicism. One thing this trip really made me aware of is the complicated history of Buddhism in Japan, about as messy as the history of Christianity in Europe.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      People should not get "hung up" on the label of Zen.

                      One of the primary misconceptions about Zen is that it is a religion. It is not - it is a form of austere living that can be applied in a religion, such as Buddhism.

                      "Zen" can be applied to other aspects of life, such as martial arts, without it being religious in nature.

                      Zen is a spirit of simplification of life, focusing on the key issues.

                      I think I was attracted to GTD because of the fact that I have been a martial artist for many years, and have followed the mind like water approach.

                      Mind like water (Mizu no kokoro) was popularised by the swordsman Musashi Miyamoto, and is one of five minds.

                      Call it what you will, but simplifying life and focusing on that which really matters can only be a good thing!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Exactly. Zen meditation is a systematic, mechanical process by which a total “core dump” is carried out. The result is mind-like-water. It is about as religious as getting your second wind when running.

                        GTD has the added benefit of organising all the stuff that you dumped so that it is accessible and fully trackable.

                        Dave

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Zen and GTD

                          Originally posted by mondo
                          People should not get "hung up" on the label of Zen.

                          One of the primary misconceptions about Zen is that it is a religion. It is not - it is a form of austere living that can be applied in a religion, such as Buddhism.

                          "Zen" can be applied to other aspects of life, such as martial arts, without it being religious in nature.

                          Zen is a spirit of simplification of life, focusing on the key issues.
                          I think we disagree somewhat here. In my youth, I was taken with Zen as it has been portrayed in the West. But that has been, I believe, a simplified portrait with just the tip of the iceberg showing. It is certainly true that there are, for example, Catholic priests practicing Zen in some form. It is also true that people disagree as to whether Buddhism itself is a religion or not. Regardless, Buddhism (and Zen as a form of Buddhism) in Japan certainly fills a part of culture usually assigned in the West to religion. My point was that Zen deserves the politeness and respect we (should) extend to religions other than our own.

                          Originally posted by mondo

                          I think I was attracted to GTD because of the fact that I have been a martial artist for many years, and have followed the mind like water approach.

                          Mind like water (Mizu no kokoro) was popularised by the swordsman Musashi Miyamoto, and is one of five minds.

                          Call it what you will, but simplifying life and focusing on that which really matters can only be a good thing!
                          Thanks, I was unaware of the reference. ["Mizu no kokoro" is more literally "Mind of water."] I've stayed away from the Book of Five Rings because of all the "Japanese Samurai for the Businessman" books. Do you know if there is prior use of the term? Musashi Miyamoto lived during the time of Ieyasu Tokugawa, which puts him well after (800 years or so?) the introduction of Buddhism to Japan through China.

                          In any case, mind like water is a vivid and useful phrase.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            To Zen or not to Zen

                            There are times when I feel like my brain is wrapped in a wet blanket: all this esoteric talk of Zen, philosophy, Samurai, religion and 'mizu no kokoro.' I've just always like the image of mind like water and the thoughts it triggers.

                            It’s interesting to see the different views of the same image. For me, “Mind like water” conjures a thought of appropriate reaction to new input.

                            It also reminds me of David Allen’s missive, circa Aug 99, entitled Are You Ready for Ready, which I hope he includes in his new book.

                            We’re all ‘blindsided’ with the disruptive and unexpected. 50%-70% of my tomorrow can’t be anticipated today (which was one the primary reasons I chucked the detailed daily and weekly plan years ago.) I quickly needed to get balanced to get ready for the next volley of incoming. The peaceful image of quieting water reminds me to react appropriately, refocus and get back to ready....and I want to leverage the heck of that!

                            It’s a great state of mind and survival skill to nurture.

                            hl

                            A planned day is an ice ballet but my real world is a hockey game.

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                            • #15
                              DM

                              I dont like the "open mind" aspect of Zen. I find that people with open minds tend to have their brains fall out.

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