Principle 3 Timely Action – Week 2 – 2023

Principle 3. The Principle of Timely Action. Second Week

Do not oppose a great force. Retreat until it weakens then advance with resolution.

Like the cat in the photo who is just chilling until that dog gets bored and leaves.

Last time:  Another Story or Two

This time: External and Internal Forces

This Week:

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). 

Last week we looked at the principle in general, its overall sense and structure. 

This week we will be examining how we applied it, or could have applied it, in the past. 

At our next meeting we will discuss and compare our reflections.

Personal Reflections:

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

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 attacker’s energy against them. A famous example from Western boxing came up in today’s discussion, Muhammad Ali’s “rope a dope.” A brilliant tactic in the hands of a skillful fighter where they take on a protected stance while leaning back against the ropes. That allows them to absorb some of the the punch’s energy, while the opponent slugs away tiring themselves out.

Perhaps more than ever our attention these days is drawn to the enormous upheavals taking place all over the world. How could it be otherwise given the convergence of factors like: the wars, a rapidly changing climate, species extinction, the growth of authoritarian regimes, the disintegration of the social fabric, the increasing acceptance of violence as the way to settle grievances whether personal or socio-political. 

As a little break from all that I’d like propose a review of the principle, not as it applies to the latest crisis around us but how we can understand it interns of navigating “internal” forces. Perhaps we find ourselves thinking about the current conflicts that threaten to lead to the direct confrontation between nuclear powers. Very good but — just for a moment let us reflect not on those historical threats but on the forces at work in us. Forces like fears, tensions, compulsions, etc.  How can we measure them? Are they great? That seems to be something you only know by experience, by testing them, by pushing back against them. How, if it is necessary, can we retreat? How can I create a momentary respite from their pressures? How can with their waning 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.

Game of the Week:

Perhaps after meditating on these general aspects of the principle, you can provide us with a new version of the principle or some aspect of the principle and name the captures its essence. 

For example, we might call it the

The principle of measure and proportion.

It says:

Never Piss Against The Wind.

Coming up:

Next week we’ll look at how the principle of timely action might apply to our present situations. 

We study the principles this way not just in order to deepen our understanding a particular principle, but also to find a way begin to reflect more rigorously about our daily behaviour in general. And to discover ways to transform daily life into a permanent meditation.

Worth Repeating:

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. 

Coming up:

Next week we’ll look at how the principle of timely action might apply to our current situations.  All of this is not just useful in order to deepen our understanding this particular principle, but more generally to cultivate increasing awareness of, and insight into, our daily behaviour. 


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:

Up next…

Cat just chilling until that dog gets bored and leaves.