Principle 3. Timely Action. Second Week.
Last time: A Story or Two. This time: Battles Large and Small.
We are continuing to explore the “The Principle of Timely Action” the third of the principles of valid action (chapter 13 of The Inner Look). It says:
“Do not oppose a great force. Retreat until it weakens then advance with resolution.”
This week we will be examining how we applied it, or could have applied it, in the past.
General Considerations and Personal Reflections:
I hope these reflections might be useful raw material for your own meditations and they are being shared in that spirit.
I was talking to my friend Fernando Aranguiz the other day and he mentioned how its easy to consider only “external” factors. That’s especially true in times like this where it’s easy to focus on the new Corona virus as an example of a great force. He explained that he had been trying to apply the principle to “internal” forces. I relayed Fernando’s thoughts on this in yesterday’s meeting and we had an interesting discussion about great forces like fears, tensions, compulsions, etc and how we could measure them. Are they great? That seems to be something you only know by experience, by testing them, by pushing back against them. We also discussed what it meant in these cases to (momentarily) retreat. How do I create a momentary respite from their pressures? How do I then advance?
In this, and the other examples we give are trying to deepen our understanding of the principles and their applications by meditation, interchange and questioning. I can always start to ask myself very simple questions. For example, things like, how did I know when a force was great? Is there some way, besides hindsight, that allowed me to reliably judge the strength of the opposing force? Did I sometimes misjudge and retreat in front of, what were really, minor inconveniences? How did that work out? After a moment I found I had lots of questions.
Last week I used some examples referred to the martial arts. I hope you won’t be troubled if I continue in that vein for a moment. Perhaps because of the word “retreat” when I think of this principle I immediately think of military tactics in general and a couple of famous battles in particular. The martial arts are full of examples where this basic idea is applied. Here are a few. I’m sure someone more knowledgeable could supply many more examples. You don’t have to turn to the Eastern arts of Jiu Jitsu or Aikido, both of which are famous for proposing turning the attackers energy against them. Western boxing for example has its famous example of Muhammad Ali’s “rope a dope,” where the fighter takes on a protected stance like lying against the ropes, which can then absorb some of the the punch’s energy while the opponent slugs away tiring themselves out.
Remember Napoleon in Russia? Military historians still argue about what mix of events beyond the military (the weather, disease, etc) tipped the scales. But in both cases the apparently stronger invaders pushed ahead while the Russian armies retreated, stretching the enemies supply lines, providing the opportunity for some combination of weather, disease, fatigue, and hunger to decimate the troops demoralize the troops. When the enemy weakened the retreat transformed into attack —with the help of General Winter and his colleagues General Snow, General Ice, General Cold combined with a willingness of the Russians to sacrifice themselves on a terrifying scale.
However it is clear that, “retreat” like the other key terms here will mean different things in different circumstances. For example, to wait things out, to go in another direction, to go along with something, etc.
What has “retreat” meant for me in previous situations? Probably, it wasn’t about pulling my troops back toward Moscow. Did I find appropriate ways to retreat for the situation in which I found myself? Could I have been more skillful in how I applied this? What was a situation where I retreated but I could have done it even better?
And lets not forget the second part! Then did I advance with resolution? Were there times where having retreated I then used that as an excuse to give up, or as a convenient way to forget that I had originally wanted to go in another direction? What about those situations where I advanced but only in a half-assed way (without resolution)?
Can I think of three occasions where I applied this principle successfully? What difference did it make?
Next week we’ll look at how the principle of timely action applies in our present situation. All of this is not just in order to deepen our understanding this particular principle, but also to develop a form of dynamic meditation that can be applied in every moment of life.
Learn to resist the violence that is within you and outside of you.
Silo, The Path
Eyes Wide Open!
Not all meditation requires you to sit down and close your eyes.
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