Principle 2 Action and Reaction – Week 3 – 2023

Principle 2. The Principle of Action and Reaction. Third Week

When you force something towards an end you produce the contrary.

Last time: Unintended Consequences
This time: Compulsions!

This Week:
Over the last two weeks we focused on the general structure and implications of the principle, how it played out (or didn’t, or could have) in our past. This week we look at what it could mean in the present moment. Can I discover where this principle might be helpful in my present situation? 

Where am I forcing something? Where might I be tempted to force things? What might happen if I do this? What might be a contrary result if I give into this impulse? What might I say if someone asked my advice about how to deal with this tendency?

In addition, this week I have included a rather long note about different forms of meditation and deepening our reflections.

Personal Reflections:
Here’s some raw material that I hope you will find useful in your own reflections. 

Another Restating of Principle Two and Two Musical Selections
It struck me that when I find myself “forcing things to an end” it often involves wanting things to happen more quickly or follows from a compulsion to resolve things sooner. As many have pointed out in previous meetings, each week’s particular perspective seems to bring to mind other, related principles — and really it should be no surprise they are all related! In this way, I realized that sometimes I unnecessarily force things because of my compulsiveness. Certainly, my version this week of the principle easily takes us to consider the principle seven about pursuing ends, for example.  

Last year Chris W shared some similar reflections. Both of us focused on the aspect of forcing that has to do with compulsion, which so often has that register of speeding headfirst into things. 

We also both had musical illustrations. 

At the time Chris wrote…I got thinking of how the principle seems to imply some sort of process with a particular “end” and forcing seems to imply doing violence to the process in pursuit of that end by rushing it or applying too much energy. Like over-stretching a muscle or turning the heat to high when cooking and burning the food. This brings us very close to the principle about pursuing an end but this one seems to emphasize the excessive force that may be compulsively applied when pursuing an end. It also brings to mind an attitude of possessiveness or “grabbing” the end, which paradoxically also inverts (subverts?) the end itself… …Speaking of overkill; here’s a nice version of that song, which seems to be about unnecessary worry — maybe one of the roots of “forcing”?

Chris’s song selection focuses on the overcharged images and worries that can push us to reckless action even when we know they are illusory. Similarly, I’d chosen my submission because I found it an amusing reminder to myself about how, when caught up in compulsions, it’s very hard to not force things even knowing the outcome will not be what you want. You might not find these amusing or useful reminders, but perhaps you can find some that work for you.

I’d certainly say this aspect of the principle could give it the name:

The Principle of Compulsion
So, this week I’m looking to an ancient Roman adage that says:

Festina Lente that is: Make Haste Slowly

Here’s the music. The first is from Frank Sinatra

The second one (thanks Chris) can be found not quite so far down memory lane.

Coming up:
This week we are considering this principle and how it applies to our present situation. Next week we’ll look at how the principle of action and reaction might apply to what we imagine in the future. 

Reflections on reflecting.
If you’ve participated in our weekly meetings, you know that they are centred on interchange about the Principles of Valid Action, as well as experiences that facilitate connecting with internal peace, powerful vital energy and growing joy. These registers (of Peace, Force and Joy) frequently arise from the practices embedded in the ceremony known as the Service. In our group (and this varies from community to community), we follow the experience of the Service with The Ceremony of Well Being. For its part the latter helps us focus on others and their needs. 

It seems that even in a short amount time one can experience very varied forms of meditation.

When it comes to my daily meditations on the principles, the big question for me is how can I deepen my reflection? To apply the principle to the present situation means that, as a minimum, I’d need to know what is this situation through which I’m living. How can that be something difficult to discern? After all its what I’m going through! It’s surprisingly easily apparently, as I discover when I try to see each moment more clearly and live those moments more intensely!

Sooner or later it becomes unavoidably obvious that most of the time when I’m supposedly awake, the reality is I’m in an internal state closer to dreaming. Daydreams and reveries, simple or elaborate, cloud my consciousness through almost all my waking hours. 

So, the first step is simply to not get lost, not in myself, and not in the unfolding events. To learn to be in my centre, i.e., to learn to be in whatever I’m doing but not lost in that activity. 

Gently paying attention I notice what’s happening, I start to wake up — at least a little. In fact, it is exactly trying to do that makes me aware of the astonishing reality that I live most of my time in one form of sleep or another. There’s been a lot written in recent years by “experts” of all sorts about attention, and mindfulness. A lot of words, but not necessarily a lot of clarity. Look through a few of the popular books (websites), or listen to some of the blogs, and you’ll notice a host of contradictory claims and explanations. 

 Want A More Fulfilling Life?
Here’s some ideas drawn from a note I sent to a friend some years ago that touched on some of these issues: 

“I hope you are doing well in the chaotic and difficult time in which we find ourselves. I have not forgotten I said I’d write with some suggestions on works that are easily done on one’s own. I will, but I’ve been trying to find some time to compose an explanation of context, approaches, etc. That’s proven difficult and unfortunately it will be delayed a little longer. For the moment then in the briefest of terms:

 Deep Relax: 
There are numerous techniques to help one learn to “let go”. Among the things Silo taught us were these three simple exercises. One is for the muscles or external tensions, another for the internal or emotional tensions, and the third specifically for mental tensions. Let’s not worry about that for the moment. For now, any relaxation technique will do – or no technique at all. 

Here’s a simple way to begin. Close your eyes. Breath in and exhale deeply a few times. Focus on the sensations of your body. That doesn’t mean to think about them but just to gently, softly, and without forcing anything, become aware of what your body feels like. Stay with those sensations for a few minutes. You will become aware of tensions, thoughts, etc. Don’t try to do anything about them. Be aware of them and focus on the sensations of your body. If you start to exert yourself, struggle with thoughts, etc. simply let go and refocus again on the sensations themselves. 

 A Simple Meditation: 
This is not a matter of sitting down in a certain posture or breathing in a particular way. It’s an attitude to be cultivated in daily life, an exercise to apply wherever and whenever. It can be called simple attention. It’s the beginning of the kinds of very important work now marketed so widely under the mindfulness “brand”. It is also the culmination of those varied and sometimes elaborate exercises. It’s not thinking about what you’re doing. It’s not a tense attitude in front of the world. It starts with the sensation of letting go which you’ve been cultivating in your relaxation exercises above. Then you simply do whatever you are doing — but do that, and not something else. If you are eating, eat. If you are laughing, laugh. Try to simply be in whatever activity you are doing. It’s a deceptively simple idea. But you don’t want to think too much about the idea — you want to be deeply into whatever you are doing. At the beginning even remembering to do that for a few moments every day is a very big accomplishment.

 Meditation on the Principle: 
Before opening your eyes in the morning think about what the day holds for you. Imagine the specific events and encounters you think will arise and how you want to face them. How do you want things to go? What do you want to focus on? Where will you need to be more attentive, or more sensitive, or communicate more clearly? consider for a moment how applying this principle could change your day. 

Before falling asleep review the day that is concluding. Don’t judge what you did or didn’t do. Briefly and quickly review the day. Notice when you felt angry, violent or in disagreement with yourself (contradiction) Notice where you felt very good, where your thoughts, feelings and actions pointed in the same direction (unitive). Try not to fall into the trap of wallowing in guilt, self-recrimination, neither into the trap of patting yourself on the back, and self-satisfaction. You want to maintain an attitude like you might have watching the trailer for a movie. You watch with interest but not as if it’s something you are responsible for. Think about the principle of the week, how it could be applied or not…” 

Coming up:
This week we are considering this principle and how it applies to our present situation. Next week we’ll look at how the principle of action and reaction might apply in the future. All of this is not just in order to deepen our understanding this particular principle, but also to begin to reflect more rigorously about our daily behaviour. 

Worth Repeating:
Much of the time when I’m supposedly awake, really I am in a state closer to dreaming. 

Our principles are not meant as isolated bits of wisdom, any more than they’re meant to be a conventional moral code. They can be the framework for a dynamic meditation, and the rudiments of a transformative practice that you can apply in every moment of your life. but only you can make them into that by your conscious effort.

These notes have been posted on Facebook and sent to our email list. You will also find them along with other comments, and reflections on my website:

Not the end…