Today we ask you to meditate on the idea from the Tao Te Ching, that says: “In action, watch the timing.”

There is a strong tendency in humans toward compulsive action, or what you might call “instant gratification.”

You perceive something you desire, and you cannot rest until you have it.  Perhaps you see someone else with this thing, and you experience a terrible sense of envy.

It is like a child, who sees another child playing with a toy, or eating ice cream — and the child goes berserk with desire.  The child cannot rest until he too has the toy, or the ice cream cone.

So-called “adults” are no different.  It is only a matter of scale.  For adults, it is about buying the car, or the house.  Or the better car, or the bigger house.  

If you are single, and your friends are getting married, you too must get married.  And you must have a wedding at least as nice as the one your friend had.  And then, when the friends have babies, you must have one, too.

These compulsions are so potent, so primal, and so much a part of “normal” human existence that you may not perceive them to be compulsions.

And yet they are.

We do not say there is anything wrong with weddings, houses, and babies.

But if you believe that the wedding, house or baby will somehow complete you, and make you happy, and fill a void within you — then, yes, it is a compulsion, and of course you are in for a horrible disappointment.  All the divorces and foreclosures clearly indicate that we are dealing with compulsive behavior.

Compulsive behavior is unconscious behavior.  You are doing something, but you do not know why — you only know that you must do this thing, that you cannot rest until you do this thing or have this thing.

That is the warning sign.  If you cannot rest until you do or possess this thing, that is the warning sign.  You are in the grip of compulsive behavior, and you are in for some unpleasantness.

Conscious behavior feels different.  You are acting deliberately.  There is nothing frenetic or manic about the action.  You can rest.  You can stop thinking about it.  There is no compulsive sense of “I must have this now!”  It does not arise out of envy.  Nor is there a sense that getting this thing will make you happy and solve your problems.

Conscious behavior is quiet, steady, and unhurried.  There’s no rush.  It can wait, if need be.  There is a sense of stillness and peace around it, instead of frustrated agitation.  There is a sense of well-being in you now.  You are complete now.  Attaining the desire will not add to you.  It will not and cannot give you anything that you do not already have right now.

Actions taken consciously generally do not backfire in the way that compulsive actions do.

So just be aware.  Be conscious.  What is the feeling tone around your desires?  Is it agitated and frenetic?  Is there a sense of desperate yearning and urgency?  Is there a sense that fulfilling the desire will complete you or solve your problems?

Or do you feel basically peaceful.  You are going about your business.  You are steady.  There is no rush, no mania, no obsession.  If it happens, good.  If it does not happen, good.  

Ultimately, it is your choice.  Perhaps you believe that you only accomplish things in life when you are in the grip of compulsive behavior.

Even though this may not be true.

Look back on your life.  When you acted compulsively, did the outcome fulfill your expectations — even when you got what you thought you wanted?  

There is a purely selfish reason for acting consciously, instead of compulsively.  Generally speaking, the process of conscious attainment is far more peaceful, and the outcome far more satisfying.