Principle 3 Timely Action – Week 3 – 2023

Principle 3. The Principle of Timely Action. Third Week

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

Last time: A Tale or Two

This time: A Rout or a Tactical Retreat?

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), 

This week we will be examining how we might apply this principle in the present moment. At our next meeting we will have a chance to discuss these reflections.

 Personal Reflections:

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

At our last meeting a couple of ideas were raised about ‘the retreating’ phrase of this principle that really resonated with me. One was about retreating when it wasn’t necessary, the second about forgetting to advance with resolution. On a previous occasion the point was raised that the idea of retreating isn’t necessarily passive. In recent days I found myself thinking thinking about those three ideas, and what it means to retreat. 

I realized I usually assume that retreating is a passive stance in front of an active force. But of course, there can be much more to it than that. How we might retreat could vary a lot from situation to situation.

Returning to our military metaphors, tacticians distinguish between a rout as opposed to a retreat. Wikipedia says: A rout /raʊt/ is a panicked, disorderly and undisciplined retreat of troops from a battlefield…

It also tells us that a clever tactician can even use the rout to outwit their opponent: Feigned routs may be used as a military deception to entice an enemy into pursuing the “retreating” force, with the intent of causing the enemy to abandon a strong defensive position or leading the enemy into an ambush. I think combatants, from those on the game board to those on the battlefield, can recognize that situation. That virtual encyclopedia adds this caveat: This carries some risk because a feigned rout can quickly turn into a real one.

In my daily meditations last week, I found myself floundering for a way to identify the present forces I might retreat from or advance on. It helped a lot when I made things more concrete and asked myself: what are the “forces” opposing my specific plans or objectives? 

Silo explained, that applying the principles requires you to be discerning. For example, in this case, if you oppose a great force, you risk being overwhelmed. If you misjudge however and decide something is a great force when it really isn’t you will become overly passive, and progressively weaker.

When I find it hard to discern what might be the great forces in my present situation, I try to consider it from other angles. For example: What am I trying to do at this time (lose weight, write a novel, be a kinder person, change the world around me, etc.) and why I don’t. What makes things difficult? Are these great forces? If not, why don’t I accomplish, or at least move forward, on these things.

Somethings are easier to notice first in other people and only later in yourself, sometimes the reverse is true. Can I try and see the forces at work on my friends, family, neighbours, or on the wider world?

Perhaps like me you’ll find that after a moment of this kind of simple reflection, you have few answers and lots more questions. Some are as basic as: “what are my objectives?” “Do I have objectives”, or even more directly: “what do I want?” However, let’s assume we have at least a rough answer for those, and turn to other aspects of the principle. That is, the forces in play, and my action in front of them. 

Now my questions are more like: are they great forces? What does that mean in this context? What will “retreat” mean in the present cases? How will I retreat?  Will that mean physically withdrawing, or cooling off certain relationships? Will it mean acquiescing and going along with something? Perhaps it will mean something very different, or very specific to the circumstances. 

Finally, how will I fulfill the last part of the principle and “advance with resolution”? How will I know when it’s time to change gears and begin to advance? What kind of difficulties can I expect? What kind of result?

More simple questions with perhaps life changing answers.

Coming up:

Next week we’ll look at how the principle of timely action might apply in situations we imagine we will face int the future.  Remember 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:

Do not let a great joy pass without giving thanks internally. 

Do not let a great sadness pass without calling into your interior for the joy that you have saved there.

Silo, The Path

A valid action, is unitive, is aimed at improving the well-being of others and feels like something you want to repeat again and again. 

Coming up:

Next week we’ll look at how the principle of timely action might apply to situations we imagine happening in the future. 

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.


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:


To Be Continued…

Illustration by Rafael Edwards