It is a lot easier to crank a widget than to decide what widget to crank.
The idea behind the Getting Things Done (GTD) System is to define the next action item. So instead of having something like “Get an Oil Change”, you could have, “Call Mechanic to Schedule an Oil Change”. However, if we zoom back a bit, next actions are tasks that achieve successful outcomes of defined projects that support high level goals, often called “50 ft views, 20 ft views, etc” in GTD-speak.
The idea is after defining our high level goals, we determine projects supporting those goals, and in turn, define next actions items required to achieve the successful outcome of the project.
So, what does this have to do with cranking widgets? The widgets are the defined next action items. From the relation above, defining a widget to crank is based on a project that supports our goals.
What does cranking widgets have to do with taiji? Are we cranking the correct widgets to achieve our goals in Taiji? Does our training support our higher level goals in taiji?
If my goal is to be a bada$$ street fighter, then perhaps my training in silk reeling may not be the appropriate project to support that goal. I should redefine the supporting projects to include more sparring contact with varied martial artists. But what if my goal is to tap into the cosmic energy of the universe? Would my project of working on silk reeling be appropriate for this goal? Perhaps, but I’d say training in the Huanyuan Qigong System may be a better route.
What are my high level goals in practicing taiji? First and foremost, it’s to nurture my body after many years of wushu wear and tear. In addition, I enjoy the meditative aspects of the art. I don’t train in taiji to be a bada$$ martial artists, I don’t train to fight, I train to learn about myself and who I am. I train in taiji because it makes me a better person.
To make it more concrete, my high level goals are:
High Level Goals (50 feet views) in Taiji
- Physical well-being and health
- Mind and Meditation Training
To take the GTD exercise one step further, let me next define my projects that support these goals
Mid Level Goals (25 feet views) in Taiji
- Maintaining structural integrity and correct alignment
- Calm the Mind, Be in the Present
What are my supporting projects to achieve these goals:
Supporting Projects in Taiji
- Zhan Zhuang
- Silk Reeling
- Laojia Yilu
Finally, what are my “Next Action Items” for the above project list?
Action Items in Taiji (Sub projects?)
- Be Calm and Relaxed in Zhanzhuang
- Move with Correct Alignment and Intention in Silk Reeling
- Move with Correct Alignment and Intention in Laojia Yilu
Note, the above are really “sub projects” of the supporting projects. In reality, the absolute Next Action Items could be:
Next Action Items
- Count 100 continuous breaths in Zhan Zhuang
- Remove Shoulder Tension in Zhan Zhuang
- Relax the Hip in Zhan Zhuang
- Do not let Knee past Toe in Silk Reeling
- Identify Qi Path in Silk Reeling
- Keep wrist aligned with center of body in silk reeling
- Reduce use of strength in Laojia Yilu
- Check hip to foot alignment in Laojia Yilu
- etc, etc
You get the picture.. the “Next Actions Items” are the Widgets to crank. This leads us full circle to the initial question:
Am I cranking the correct widgets to achieve my goals in Taiji?
Does my current training support my taiji goals?
For me, I would say the answer is “Yes”. My Next Action Items support the projects to achieve my higher level goals in taiji.
Zhan Zhaung not only addresses the mental/meditative aspects, helps us to “know our center”, to develop zhong ding or central equilibrium. It’s the root, the foundation upon which taiji is built upon. A common question asked in taiji is, “Are you rooted”? “Have you developed root?”
Silk Reeling builds upon the foundation of zhan zhuang training and adds movement. The physical movements of silk reeling are defined to be simple so that we can focus on the structure, alignment, intention, qi path of each and every aspect of the posture. This add another layer, are we able to maintain root during simple movements? Can we clearly define the intention (yi) of the movement?
Zhan Zhuang is the alphabet, Silk Reeling are the words, the Laojia Yilu is the sentence. The Laojia Yilu is the vehicle that puts it all together. It is the test, the path, the goal, and the way.
I would like to send out a thanks to Cindy of Taiji Net for sparking the idea of this post by article titled, Taiji – How to Progress to the Next Level?. Also some gratitude to Merlin Mann for all his efforts and hard work on 43 Folders. For more ties between GTD and Taiji, check out my previous post: GTD-Quan.