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´╗┐Title: Power Through Repose
Author: Call, Annie Payson, 1853-1940
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Power Through Repose" ***

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New Edition with Additions

_Personality binds--universality expands._


When the body is perfectly adjusted, perfectly supplied with force,
perfectly free and works with the greatest economy of expenditure,
it is fitted to be a perfect instrument alike of impression,
experience, and expression.




THE literature relating to the care of the human body is already
very extensive. Much has been written about the body's proper food,
the air it should breathe, the clothing by which it should be
protected, the best methods of its development. That literature
needs but little added to it, until we, as rational beings, come
nearer to obeying the laws which it discloses, and to feeling daily
the help which comes from that obedience.

It is of the better use, the truer guidance of this machine, that I
wish especially to write. Although attention is constantly called to
the fact of its misuse,--as in neglected rest and in
over-strain,--in all the unlimited variety which the perverted
ingenuity of a clever people has devised, it seems never to have
come to any one's mind that this strain in all things, small and
great, is something that can be and should be studiously abandoned,
with as regular a process of training, from the first simple steps
to those more complex, as is required in the work for the
development of muscular strength. When a perversion of Nature's laws
has continued from generation to generation, we, of the ninth or
tenth generation, can by no possibility jump back into the place
where the laws can work normally through us, even though our eyes
have been opened to a full recognition of such perversion. We must
climb back to an orderly life, step by step, and the compensation is
large in the constantly growing realization of the greatness of the
laws we have been disobeying. The appreciation of the power of a
natural law, as it works through us, is one of the keenest pleasures
that can come to man in this life.

The general impression seems to be that common-sense should lead us
to a better use of our machines at once. Whereas, common-sense will
not bring a true power of guiding the muscles, any more than it will
cause the muscles' development, unless having the common-sense to
see the need, we realize with it the necessity for cutting a path
and walking in it. For the muscles' development, several paths have
been cut, and many who are in need are walking in them, but, to the
average man, the road to the best kind of muscular development still
remains closed. The only training now in use is followed by
sleight-of-hand performers, acrobats, or other jugglers, and that is
limited to the professional needs of its followers.

Again, as the muscles are guided by means of the nerves, a training
for the guidance of the muscles means, so far as the physique is
concerned, first, a training for the better use of the nervous
force. The nervous system is so wonderful in its present power for
good or ill, so wonderful in its possible power either way, and so
much more wonderful as we realize what we do not know about it, that
it is not surprising that it is looked upon with awe. Neither is it
strange that it seems to many, especially the ignorant, a subject to
be shunned. It is not uncommon for a mother, whose daughter is
suffering, and may be on the verge of nervous prostration because of
her misused nerves, to say, "I do not want my daughter to know that
she has nerves." The poor child knows it already in the wrong way.
It is certainly better that she should know her nerves by learning a
wholesome, natural use of them. The mother's remark is common with
many men and women when speaking of themselves,--common with
teachers when talking to or of their pupils. It is of course quite
natural that it should be a prevailing idea, because hitherto the
mention of nerves by man or woman has generally meant perverted
nerves, and to dwell on our perversions, except long enough to shun
them, is certainly unwholesome in the extreme.



SO evident are the various, the numberless perversions of our powers
in the misuse of the machine, that it seems almost unnecessary to
write of them. And yet, from another point of view, it is very
necessary; for superabundant as they are, thrusting their evil
results upon us every day in painful ways, still we have eyes and
see not, ears and hear not, and for want of a fuller realization of
these most grievous mistakes, we are in danger of plunging more and
more deeply into the snarls to which they bring us. From nervous
prostration to melancholia, or other forms of insanity, is not so
long a step.

It is of course a natural sequence that the decadence of an entire
country must follow the waning powers of the individual citizens.
Although that seems very much to hint, it cannot be too much when we
consider even briefly the results that have already come to us
through this very misuse of our own voluntary powers. The
advertisements of nerve medicines alone speak loudly to one who
studies in the least degree the physical tendencies of the nation.
Nothing proves better the artificial state of man, than the
artificial means he uses to try to adjust himself to Nature's
laws,--means which, in most cases, serve to assist him to keep up a
little longer the appearance of natural life. For any simulation of
that which is natural must sooner or later lead to nothing, or worse
than nothing. Even the rest-cures, the most simple and harmless of
the nerve restorers, serve a mistaken end. Patients go with nerves
tired and worn out with misuse,--commonly called over-work. Through
rest, Nature, with the warm, motherly help she is ever ready to
bring us, restores the worn body to a normal state; but its owner
has not learned to work the machine any better,--to drive his horses
more naturally, or with a gentler hand. He knows he must take life
more easily, but even with a passably good realization of that
necessity, he can practise it only to a certain extent; and most
occupants of rest-cures find themselves driven back more than once
for another "rest."

Nervous disorders, resulting from overwork are all about us. Extreme
nervous prostration is most prevalent. A thoughtful study of the
faces around us, and a better understanding of their lives, brings
to light many who are living, one might almost say, in a chronic
state of nervous prostration, which lasts for years before the break
comes. And because of the want of thought, the want of study for a
better, more natural use of the machine, few of us appreciate our
own possible powers. When with study the appreciation grows, it is a
daily surprise, a constantly increasing delight.

Extreme nervous tension seems to be so peculiarly American, that a
German physician coming to this country to practise became puzzled
by the variety of nervous disorders he was called upon to help, and
finally announced his discovery of a new disease which he chose to
call "Americanitis." And now we suffer from "Americanitis" in all
its unlimited varieties. Doctors study it; nerve medicines arise on
every side; nervine hospitals establish themselves; and rest-cures
innumerable spring up in all directions,--but the root of the matter
is so comparatively simple that in general it is overlooked

When illnesses are caused by disobedience to the perfect laws of
Nature, a steady, careful obedience to these laws will bring us to a
healthful state again.

Nature is so wonderfully kind that if we go one-tenth of the way,
she will help us the other nine-tenths. Indeed she seems to be
watching and hoping for a place to get in, so quickly does she take
possession of us, if we do but turn toward her ever so little. But
instead of adopting her simple laws and following quietly her
perfect way, we try by every artificial means to gain a rapid
transit back to her dominion, and succeed only in getting farther
away from her. Where is the use of taking medicines to give us new
strength, while at the same time we are steadily disobeying the very
laws from the observance of which alone the strength can come? No
medicine can work in a man's-body while the man's habits are
constantly counteracting it. More harm than good is done in the end.
Where is the use of all the quieting medicines, if we only quiet our
nerves in order that we may continue to misuse them without their
crying out? They will cry out sooner or later; for Nature, who is so
quick to help us to the true way of living, loses patience at last,
and her punishments are justly severe. Or, we might better say, a
law is fixed and immovable, and if we disobey and continue to
disobey it, we suffer the consequences.



HOW do we misuse our nervous force? First, let us consider, When
should the body be completely at rest? The longest and most perfect
rest should be during sleep at night. In sleep we can accomplish
nothing in the way of voluntary activity either of mind or body. Any
nervous or muscular effort during sleep is not only useless but
worse,--it is pure waste of fuel, and results in direct and
irreparable harm. Realizing fully that sleep is meant for rest, that
the only gain is rest, and that new power for use comes as a
consequence,--how absurd it seems that we do not abandon ourselves
completely to gaining all that Nature would give us through sleep.

Suppose, instead of eating our dinner, we should throw the food out
of the window, give it to the dogs, do anything with it but what
Nature meant we should, and then wonder why we were not nourished,
and why we suffered from faintness and want of strength. It would be
no more senseless than the way in which most of us try to sleep now,
and then wonder why we are not better rested from eight hours in
bed. Only this matter of fatiguing sleep has crept upon us so slowly
that we are blind to it. We disobey mechanically all the laws of
Nature in sleep, simple as they are, and are so blinded by our own
immediate and personal interests, that the habit of not resting when
we sleep has grown to such an extent that to return to natural
sleep, we must think, study, and practise.

Few who pretend to rest give up entirely to the bed, a dead
weight,--letting the bed hold them, instead of trying to hold
themselves on the bed. Watch, and unless you are an exceptional case
(of which happily there are a few), you will be surprised to see how
you are holding yourself on the bed, with tense muscles, if not all
over, so nearly all over that a little more tension would hardly
increase the fatigue with which you are working yourself to sleep.

The spine seems to be the central point of tension--it does not
_give_ to the bed and rest there easily from end to end; it touches
at each end and just so far along from each end as the man or woman
who is holding it will permit. The knees are drawn up, the muscles
of the legs tense, the hands and arms contracted, and the fingers
clinched, either holding the pillow or themselves.

The head, instead of letting the pillow have its full weight, holds
itself onto the pillow. The tongue cleaves to the roof of the mouth,
the throat muscles are contracted, and the muscles of the face drawn
up in one way or another.

This seems like a list of horrors, somewhat exaggerated when we
realize that it is of sleep, "Tired Nature's sweet restorer," that
we are speaking; but indeed it is only too true.

Of course cases are not in the majority where the being supposed to
enjoy repose is using _all_ these numerous possibilities of
contraction. But there are very few who have not, unconsciously,
some one or two or half-dozen nervous and muscular strains; and even
after they become conscious of the useless contractions, it takes
time and watchfulness and patience to relax out of them, the habit
so grows upon us. One would think that even though we go to sleep in
a tense way, after being once soundly off Nature could gain the
advantage over us, and relax the muscles in spite of ourselves; but
the habits of inheritance and of years are too much for her.
Although she is so constantly gracious and kind, she cannot go out
of her way, and we cannot ask her to do so.

How simple it seems to sleep in the right way; and how wholesome it
is even to think about it, in contrast to the wrong way into which
so many of us have fallen. If we once see clearly the great
compensation in getting back to the only way of gaining restful
sleep, the process is very simple, although because we were so far
out of the right path it often seems slow. But once gained, or even
partially gained, one great enemy to healthful, natural nerves is
conquered, and has no possibility of power.

Of course the mind and its rapid and misdirected working is a strong
preventive of free nerves, relaxed muscles, and natural sleep. "If I
could only stop myself from thinking" is a complaint often heard,
and reason or philosophy does not seem to touch it. Even the certain
knowledge that nothing is gained by this rapid thought at the wrong
time, that very much is lost, makes no impression on the overwrought
mind,--often even excites it more, which proves that the trouble, if
originally mental, has now gained such a hold upon the physique that
it must be attacked there first. The nerves should be trained to
enable the body to be an obedient servant to a healthy mind, and the
mind in giving its attention to such training gains in normal power
of direction.

If you cannot stop thinking, do not try; let your thoughts steam
ahead if they will. Only relax your muscles, and as the attention is
more and more fixed on the interesting process of letting-go of the
muscles (interesting, simply because the end is so well worth
gaining), the imps of thought find less and less to take hold of,
and the machinery in the head must stop its senseless working,
because the mind which allowed it to work has applied itself to
something worth accomplishing.

The body should also be at rest in necessary reclining in the day,
where of course all the laws of sleep apply. Five minutes of
complete rest in that way means greater gain than an hour or three
hours taken in the usual manner. I remember watching a woman
"resting" on a lounge, propped up with the downiest of pillows,
holding her head perfectly erect and in a strained position, when it
not only would have been easier to let it fall back on the pillow,
but it seemed impossible that she should not let it go; and yet
there it was, held erect with an evident strain. Hers is not an
unusual case, on the contrary quite a common one. Can we wonder that
the German doctor thought he had discovered a new disease? And must
he not be already surprised and shocked at the precocious growth of
the infant monster which he found and named? "So prone are mortals
to their own damnation, it seems as though a devil's use were gone."

There is no better way of learning to overcome these perversions in
sleep and similar forms of rest, than to study with careful thought
the sleep of a wholesome little child. Having gained the physical
freedom necessary to give perfect repose to the body, the quiet,
simple dropping of all thought and care can be made more easily
possible. So we can approach again the natural sleep and enjoy
consciously the refreshment which through our own babyhood was the
unconscious means of giving us daily strength and power for growth.

To take the regular process, first let go of the muscles,--that will
enable us more easily to drop disturbing thoughts; and as we refuse,
without resistance, admittance to the thoughts, the freedom from
care for the time will follow, and the rest gained will enable us to
awaken with new life for cares to come. This, however, is a habit to
be established and thoughtfully cultivated; it cannot be acquired at
once. More will be said in future chapters as to the process of
gaining the habit.



DO you hold yourself on the chair, or does the chair hold you? When
you are subject to the laws of gravitation give up to them, and feel
their strength. Do not resist these laws, as a thousand and one of
us do when instead of yielding gently and letting ourselves sink
into a chair, we _put_ our bodies rigidly on and then hold them
there as if fearing the chair would break if we gave our full weight
to it. It is not only unnatural and unrestful, but most awkward. So
in a railroad car. Much, indeed most of the fatigue from a long
journey by rail is quite unnecessary, and comes from an unconscious
officious effort of trying to carry the train, instead of allowing
the train to carry us, or of resisting the motion, instead of
relaxing and yielding to it. There is a pleasant rhythm in the
motion of the rapidly moving cars which is often restful rather than
fatiguing, if we will only let go and abandon ourselves to it. This
was strikingly proved by a woman who, having just learned the first
principles of relaxation, started on a journey overstrained from
mental anxiety. The first effect of the motion was that most
disagreeable, faint feeling known as car-sickness. Understanding the
cause, she began at once to drop the unnecessary tension, and the
faintness left her. Then she commenced an interesting novel, and as
she became excited by the plot her muscles were contracted in
sympathy (so-called), and the faintness returned in full force, so
that she had to drop the book and relax again; and this process was
repeated half-a-dozen times before she could place her body so under
control of natural laws that it was possible to read without the
artificial tension asserting itself and the car-sickness returning
in consequence.

The same law is illustrated in driving. "I cannot drive, it tires me
so," is a common complaint. Why does it tire you? Because instead of
yielding entirely and freely to the seat of the carriage first, and
then to its motion, you try to help the horses, or to hold yourself
still while the carriage is moving. A man should become one with a
carriage in driving, as much as one with his horse in riding. Notice
the condition in any place where there is excuse for some
anxiety,--while going rather sharply round a corner, or nearing a
railroad track. If your feet are not pressed forcibly against the
floor of the carriage, the tension will be somewhere else. You are
using nervous force to no earthly purpose, and to great earthly
loss. Where any tension is necessary to make things better, it will
assert itself naturally and more truly as we learn to drop all
useless and harmful tension. Take a patient suffering from nervous
prostration for a long drive, and you will bring him back more
nervously prostrated; even the fresh air will not counteract the
strain that comes from not knowing how to relax to the motion of the

A large amount of nervous energy is expended unnecessarily while
waiting. If we are obliged to wait for any length of time, it does
not hurry the minutes or bring that for which we wait to keep
nervously strained with impatience; and it does use vital force, and
so helps greatly toward "Americanitis." The strain which comes from
an hour's nervous waiting, when simply to let yourself alone and
keep still would answer much better, is often equal to a day's
labor. It must be left to individuals to discover how this applies
in their own especial cases, and it will be surprising to see not
only how great and how common such strain is, but how comparatively
easy it is to drop it. There are of course exceptional times and
states when only constant trying and thoughtful watchfulness will
bring any marked result.

We have taken a few examples where there is nothing to do but keep
quiet, body and brain, from what should be the absolute rest of
sleep to the enforced rest of waiting. Just one word more in
connection with waiting and driving. You must catch a certain train.
Not having time to trust to your legs or the cars, you hastily take
a cab. You will in your anxiety keep up exactly the same strain that
you would have had in walking,--as if you could help the carriage
along, or as if reaching the station in time depended upon your
keeping a rigid spine and tense muscles. You have hired the carriage
to take you, and any activity on your part is quite unnecessary
until you reach the station; why not keep quiet and let the horses
do the work, and the driver attend to his business?

It would be easy to fill a small volume with examples of the way in
which we are walking directly into nervous prostration; examples
only of this one variety of disobedience,--namely, of the laws of_
rest._ And to give illustrations of all the varieties of
disobedience to Nature's laws in _activity_ would fill not one small
book, but several large ones; and then, unless we improve, a
year-book of new examples of nervous strain could be published. But
fortunately, if we are nervous and short-sighted, we have a good
share of brain and commonsense when it is once appealed to, and a
few examples will open our eyes and set us thinking, to real and
practical results.



LET us now consider instances where the brain alone is used, and the
other parts of the body have nothing to do but keep quiet and let
the brain do its work. Take thinking, for instance. Most of us think
with the throat so contracted that it is surprising there is room
enough to let the breath through, the tongue held firmly, and the
jaw muscles set as if suffering from an acute attack of lockjaw.
Each has his own favorite tension in the act of meditation, although
we are most generous in the force given to the jaw and throat. The
same superfluous tension may be observed in one engaged in silent
reading; and the force of the strain increases in proportion to the
interest or profundity of the matter read. It is certainly clear,
without a knowledge of anatomy or physiology, that for pure,
unadulterated thinking, only the brain is needed; and if vital force
is given to other parts of the body to hold them in unnatural
contraction; we not only expend it extravagantly, but we rob the
brain of its own. When, for purely mental work, all the activity is
given to the brain, and the body left free and passive, the
concentration is better, conclusions are reached with more
satisfaction, and the reaction, after the work is over, is healthy
and refreshing.

This whole machine can be understood perhaps more clearly by
comparing it to a community of people. In any community,--Church,
State, institution, or household,--just so far as each member minds
his own business, does his own individual work for himself and for
those about him, and does not officiously interfere with the
business of others, the community is quiet, orderly, and successful.
Imagine the state of a deliberative assembly during the delivery of
a speech, if half-a-dozen of the listeners were to attempt to help
the speaker by rising and talking at the same time; and yet this is
the absurd action of the human body when a dozen or more parts, that
are not needed, contract "in sympathy" with those that have the work
to do. It is an unnecessary brace that means loss of power and
useless fatigue. One would think that the human machine having only
one mind, and the community many thousands, the former would be in a
more orderly state than the latter.

In listening attentively, only the brain and ears are needed; but
watch the individuals at an entertaining lecture, or in church with
a stirring preacher. They are listening with their spines, their
shoulders, the muscles of their faces. I do not refer to the look of
interest and attention, or to any of the various expressions which
are the natural and true reflection of the state of the mind, but to
the strained attention which draws the facial muscles, not at all in
sympathy with the speaker, but as a consequence of the tense nerves
and contracted muscles of the listener. "I do not understand why I
have this peculiar sort of asthma every Sunday afternoon," a lady
said to me. She was in the habit of hearing, Sunday morning, a
preacher, exceedingly interesting, but with a very rapid utterance,
and whose mind travelled so fast that the words embodying his
thoughts often tumbled over one another. She listened with all her
nerves, as well as with those needed, held her breath when he
stumbled, to assist him in finding his verbal legs, reflected every
action with twice the force the preacher himself gave,--and then
wondered why on Sunday afternoon, and at no other time, she had this
nervous catching of the breath. She saw as soon as her attention was
drawn to the general principles of Nature, how she had disobeyed
this one, and why she had trouble on Sunday afternoon. This case is
very amusing, even laughable, but it is a fair example of many
similar nervous attacks, greater or less; and how easy it is to see
that a whole series of these, day after day, doing their work
unconsciously to the victim, will sooner or later bring some form of
nervous prostration.

The same attitudes and the same effects often attend listening to
music. It is a common experience to be completely fagged after two
hours of delightful music. There is no exaggeration in saying that
we should be _rested_ after a good concert, if it is not too long.
And yet so upside-down are we in our ways of living, and, through
the mistakes of our ancestors, so accustomed have we become to
disobeying Nature's laws, that the general impression seems to be
that music cannot be fully enjoyed without a strained attitude of
mind and body; whereas, in reality, it is much more exquisitely
appreciated and enjoyed in Nature's way. If the nerves are perfectly
free, they will catch the rhythm of the music, and so be helped back
to the true rhythm of Nature, they will respond to the harmony and
melody with all the vibratory power that God gave them, and how can
the result be anything else than rest and refreshment,--unless
having allowed them to vibrate in one direction too long, we have
disobeyed a law in another way.

Our bodies cannot by any possibility be _free,_ so long as they are
strained by our own personal effort. So long as our nervous force is
misdirected in personal strain, we can no more give full and
responsive attention to the music, than a piano can sound the
harmonies of a sonata if some one is drawing his hands at the same
time backwards and forwards over the strings. But, alas! a
contracted personality is so much the order of the day that many of
us carry the chronic contractions of years constantly with us, and
can no more free ourselves for a concert at a day's or a week's
notice, than we can gain freedom to receive all the grand universal
truths that are so steadily helpful. It is only by daily patience
and thought and care that we can cease to be an obstruction to the
best power for giving and receiving.

There are, scattered here and there, people who have not lost the
natural way of listening to music,--people who are musicians through
and through so that the moment they hear a fine strain they are one
with it. Singularly enough the majority of these are fine animals,
most perfectly and normally developed in their senses. When the
intellect begins to assert itself to any extent, then the nervous
strain comes. So noticeable is this, in many cases, that nervous
excitement seems often to be from misdirected intellect; and people
under the control of their misdirected nervous force often appear
wanting in quick intellectual power,--illustrating the law that a
stream spreading in all directions over a meadow loses the force
that the same amount of water would have if concentrated and flowing
in one channel. There are also many cases where the strained nerves
bring an abnormal intellectual action. Fortunately for the saving of
the nation, there are people who from a physical standpoint live
naturally. These are refreshing to see; but they are apt to take
life too easily, to have no right care or thought, and to be
sublimely selfish.

Another way in which the brain is constantly used is through the
eyes. What deadly fatigue comes from time spent in picture
galleries! There the strain is necessarily greater than in
listening, because all the pictures and all the colors are before us
at once, with no appreciable interval between forms and subjects
that differ widely. But as the strain is greater, so should the care
to relieve it increase. We should not go out too far to meet the
pictures, but be quiet, and let the pictures come to us. The fatigue
can be prevented if we know when to stop, and pleasure at the time
and in the memory afterwards will be surprisingly increased. So is
it in watching a landscape from the car window, and in all interests
which come from looking. I am not for one instant condemning the
_natural_ expression of pleasure, neither do I mean that there
should be any apparent nonchalance or want of interest; on the
contrary, the real interest and its true expression increase as we
learn to shun the shams.

But will not the discovery of all this superfluous tension make one
self-conscious? Certainly it will for a time, and it must do so. You
must be conscious of a smooch on your face in order to wash it off,
and when the face is clean you think no more of it. So you must see
an evil before you can shun it. All these physical evils you must be
vividly conscious of, and when you are so annoyed as to feel the
necessity of moving from under them self-consciousness decreases in
equal ratio with the success of your efforts.

Whenever the brain alone is used in thinking, or in receiving and
taking note of impressions through either of the senses, new power
comes as we gain freedom from all misdirected force, and with
muscles in repose leave the brain to quietly do its work without
useless strain of any kind. It is of course evident that this
freedom cannot be gained without, first, a consciousness of its
necessity. The perfect freedom, however, when reached, means freedom
from self-consciousness as well as from the strain which made
self-consciousness for a time essential.



WE come now to the brain and its direction of other parts of the

What tremendous and unnecessary force is used in talking,--from the
aimless motion of the hands, the shoulders, the feet, the entire
body, to a certain rigidity of carriage, which tells as powerfully
in the wear and tear of the nervous system as superfluous motion. It
is a curious discovery when we find often how we are holding our
shoulders in place, and in the wrong place. A woman receiving a
visitor not only talks all over herself, but reflects the visitor's
talking all over, and so at the end of the visit is doubly fatigued.
"It tires me so to see people" is heard often, not only from those
who are under the full influence of "Americanitis," but from many
who are simply hovering about its borders. "Of course it tires you
to see people, you see them with, so much superfluous effort," can
almost without exception be a true answer. A very little simple
teaching will free a woman from that unnecessary fatigue. If she is
sensible, once having had her attention brought and made keenly
alive to the fact that she talks all over, she will through
constant correction gain the power of talking as Nature meant she
should, with her vocal apparatus only, and with such easy motions as
may be needed to illustrate her words. In this change, so far from
losing animation, she gains it, and gains true expressive power; for
all unnecessary motion of the body in talking simply raises a dust,
so to speak, and really blurs the true thought of the mind and
feeling of the heart.

The American voice--especially the female voice--is a target which
has been hit hard many times, and very justly. A ladies' luncheon
can often be truly and aptly compared to a poultry-yard, the shrill
cackle being even more unpleasant than that of a large concourse of
hens. If we had once become truly appreciative of the natural mellow
tones possible to every woman, these shrill voices would no more be
tolerated than a fashionable luncheon would be served in the

A beautiful voice has been compared to corn, oil, and wine. We lack
almost entirely the corn and the oil; and the wine in our voices is
far more inclined to the sharp, unpleasant taste of very poor
currant wine, than to the rich, spicy flavor of fine wine from the
grape. It is not in the province of this book to consider the
physiology of the voice, which would be necessary in order to show
clearly how its natural laws are constantly disobeyed. We can now
speak of it only with regard to the tension which is the immediate
cause of the trouble. The effort to propel the voice from the
throat, and use force in those most delicate muscles when it should
come from the stronger muscles of the diaphragm, is like trying to
make one man do the work of ten; the result must eventually be the
utter collapse of the one man from over-activity, and loss of power
in the ten men because of muscles unused. Clergyman's sore throat is
almost always explainable in this way; and there are many laymen
with constant trouble in the throat from no cause except the misuse
of its muscles in talking. "The old philosopher said the seat of the
soul was in the diaphragm. However that may be, the word begins
there, soul and body; but you squeeze the life out of it in your
throat, and so your words are born dead!" was the most expressive
exclamation of an able trainer of the voice.

Few of us feel that we can take the time or exercise the care for
the proper training of our voices; and such training is not made a
prominent feature, as it should be, in all American schools. Indeed,
if it were, we would have to begin with the teachers; for the
typical teacher's voice, especially in our public schools, coming
from unnecessary nervous strain is something frightful. In a large
school-room a teacher can be heard, and more impressively heard, in
common conversational tones; for then it is her mind that is felt
more than her body. But the teacher's voice mounts the scale of
shrillness and force just in proportion as her nervous fatigue
increases; and often a true enthusiasm expresses itself--or, more
correctly, hides itself--in a sharp, loud voice, when it would be
far more effective in its power with the pupils if the voice were
kept quiet. If we cannot give time or money to the best development
of our voices, we can grow sensitive to the shrill, unpleasant
tones, and by a constant preaching of "lower your voices," "speak
more quietly," from the teacher to herself, and then to her pupils,
from mother to child, and from every woman to her own voice, the
standard American voice would change, greatly to the national

I never shall forget the restful pleasure of hearing a teacher call
the roll in a large schoolroom as quietly as she would speak to a
child in a closet, and every girl answering in the same soft and
pleasant way. The effect even of that daily roll-call could not have
been small in its counteracting influence on the shrill American

Watch two people in an argument, as the excitement increases the
voice rises. In such a case one of the best and surest ways to
govern your temper is to lower your voice. Indeed the nervous system
and the voice are in such exquisite sympathy that they constantly
act and react on each other. It is always easier to relax
superfluous tension after lowering the voice.

"Take the bone and flesh sound from your voice" is a simple and
interesting direction. It means do not push so hard with your body
and so interfere with the expression of your soul. Thumping on a
piano, or hard scraping on a violin, will keep all possible
expression from the music, and in just the same proportion will
unnecessary physical force hide the soul in a voice. Indeed with the
voice--because the instrument is finer--the contrast between
Nature's way and man's perversion is far greater.

One of the first cares with a nervous invalid, or with any one who
suffers at all from overstrained nerves, should be for a quiet,
mellow voice. It is not an invariable truth that women with poorly
balanced nerves have shrill, strained voices. There is also a rigid
tone in a nervously low voice, which, though not unpleasant to the
general ear, is expressive to one who is in the habit of noticing
nervous people, and is much more difficult to relax than the high
pitched voices. There is also a forced calm which is tremendous in
its nervous strain, the more so as its owner takes pride in what she
considers remarkable self-control.

Another common cause of fatigue with women is the useless strain in
sewing. "I get so tired in the back of my neck" is a frequent
complaint. "It is because you sew with the back of your neck" is
generally the correct explanation. And it is because you sew with
the muscles of your waist that they feel so strangely fatigued, and
the same with the muscles of your legs or your chest. Wherever the
tired feeling comes it is because of unnatural and officious
tension, which, as soon as the woman becomes sensible of it, can be
stopped entirely by taking two or three minutes now and then to let
go of these wrongly sympathetic muscles and so teach them to mind
their own business, and sew with only the muscles that are needed. A
very simple cause of over-fatigue in sewing is the cramped, strained
position of the lungs; this can be prevented without even stopping
in the work, by taking long, quiet, easy breaths. Here there must be
_no exertion whatever_ in the chest muscles. The lungs must seem to
expand from the pressure of the air alone, as independently as a
rubber ball will expand when external pressure is removed, and they
must be allowed to expel the air with the same independence. In this
way the growth of breathing power will be slow, but it will be sure
and delightfully restful. Frequent, full, quiet breaths might be the
means of relief to many sufferers, if only they would take the
trouble to practise them faithfully,--a very slight effort compared
with the result which will surely ensue. And so it is with the
fatigue from sewing. I fear I do not exaggerate, when I say that in
nine cases out of ten a woman would rather sew with a pain in her
neck than stop for the few moments it would take to relax it and
teach it truer habits, so that in the end the pain might be avoided
entirely. Then, when the inevitable nervous exhaustion follows, and
all the kindred troubles that grow out of it she pities herself and
is pitied by others, and wonders why God thought best to afflict her
with suffering and illness. "Thought best!" God never thought best
to give any one pain. He made His laws, and they are wholesome and
perfect and true, and if we disobey them we must suffer the
consequences! I knock my head hard against a stone and then wonder
why God thought best to give me the headache. There would be as much
sense in that as there is in much of the so-called Christian
resignation to be found in the world to-day. To be sure there are
inherited illnesses and pains, physical and mental, but the laws are
so made that the compensation of clear-sightedness and power for use
gained by working our way rightly out of all inheritances and
suffering brought by others, fully equalizes any apparent loss.

In writing there is much unnecessary nervous fatigue. The same
cramped attitude of the lungs that accompanies sewing can be
counteracted in the same way, although in neither case should a
cramped attitude be allowed at all Still the relief of a long breath
is always helpful and even necessary where one must sit in one
position for any length of time. Almost any even moderately nervous
man or woman will hold a pen as if some unseen force were trying to
pull it away, and will write with firmly set jaw, contracted throat,
and a powerful tension in the muscles of the tongue, or whatever
happens to be the most officious part of this especial individual
community. To swing the pendulum to another extreme seems not to
enter people's minds when trying to find a happy medium. Writer's
paralysis, or even the ache that comes from holding the hand so long
in a more or less cramped attitude, is easily obviated by stopping
once in an hour or half hour, stretching the fingers wide and
letting the muscles slowly relax of their own accord. Repeat this
half-a-dozen times, and after each exercise try to hold the pen or
pencil with natural lightness; it will not take many days to change
the habit of tension to one of ease, although if you are a steady
writer the stretching exercise will always be necessary, but much
less often than at first.

In lifting a heavyweight, as in nursing the sick, the relief is
immediate from all straining in the back, by pressing hard with the
feet on the floor and _thinking_ the power of lifting in the legs.
There is true economy of nervous force here, and a sensitive spine
is freed from a burden of strain which might undoubtedly be the
origin of nervous prostration. I have made nurses practise lifting,
while impressing the fact forcibly upon them by repetition before
they lift, and during the process of raising a body and lowering it,
that they must use entirely the muscles of the legs. When once their
minds have full comprehension of the new way, the surprise with
which they discover the comparative ease of lifting is very
pleasant. The whole secret in this and all similar efforts is to use
muscular instead of nervous force. Direct with the directing power;
work with the working power.



LIFTING brings us to the use of the entire body, which is considered
simply in the most common of all its movements,--that of walking.

The rhythm of a perfect walk is not only delightful, but restful; so
that having once gained a natural walk there is no pleasanter way to
rest from brain fatigue than by means of this muscle fatigue. And
yet we are constantly contradicting and interfering with Nature in
walking. Women--perhaps partly owing to their unfortunate style of
dress--seem to hold themselves together as if fearing that having
once given their muscles free play, they would fall to pieces
entirely. Rather than move easily forward, and for fear they might
tumble to pieces, they shake their shoulders and hips from side to
side, hold their arms perfectly rigid from the shoulders down, and
instead of the easy, natural swing that the motion of walking would
give the arms, they go forward and back with no regularity, but are
in a chronic state of jerk. The very force used in holding an arm as
stiff as the ordinary woman holds it, would be enough to give her an
extra mile in every five-mile walk. Then again, the muscles of the
throat must help, and more than anywhere else is force unnecessarily
expended in the waist muscles. They can be very soon felt, pushing
with all their might--and it is not a small might--officiously
trying to assist in the action of the legs; whereas if they would
only let go, mind their own business, and let the legs swing easily
as if from the shoulders, they might reflect the rhythmic motion,
and gain in a true freedom and power. Of course all this waste of
force comes from nervous strain and is nervous strain, and a long
walk in the open air, when so much of the new life gained is wrongly
expended, does not begin to do the good work that might be
accomplished. To walk with your muscles and not use superfluous
nervous force is the first thing to be learned, and after or at the
same time to direct your muscles as Nature meant they should be
directed,--indeed we might almost say to let Nature direct them
herself, without our interference. Hurry with your muscles and not
with your nerves. This tells especially in hurrying for a train,
where the nervous anxiety in the fear of losing it wakes all
possible unnecessary tension and often impedes the motion instead of
assisting it. The same law applies here that was mentioned before
with regard to the carriage,--only instead of being quiet and
letting the carriage take you, be quiet and let your walking machine
do its work. So in all hurrying, and the warning can hardly be given
too many times, we must use our nerves only as transmitters--calm,
well-balanced transmitters--that our muscles may be more efficient
and more able servants.

The same mistakes of unnecessary tension will be found in running,
and, indeed, in all bodily motion, where the machine is not trained
to do its work with only the nerves and muscles needed for the
purpose. We shall have opportunity to consider these motions in a
new light when we come to the directions for gaining a power of
natural motion; now we are dealing only with mistakes.



THERE is no way in which superfluous and dangerous tension is so
rapidly increased as in the bearing of pain. The general impression
seems to be that one should brace up to a pain; and very great
strength of will is often shown in the effort made and the success
achieved in bearing severe pain by means of this bracing process.
But alas, the reaction after the pain is over--that alone would show
the very sad misuse which had been made of a strong will. Not that
there need be no reaction; but it follows naturally that the more
strain brought to bear upon the nervous system in endurance, the
greater must be the reaction when the load is lifted. Indeed, so
well is this known in the medical profession, that it is a surgical
axiom that the patient who most completely controls his expression
of pain will be the greatest sufferer from the subsequent reaction.
While there is so much pain to be endured in this world, a study of
how best to bear it certainly is not out of place, especially when
decided practical effects can be quickly shown as the result of such
study. So prevalent is the idea that a pain is better borne by
clinching the fists and tightening all other muscles in the body
correspondingly, that I know the possibility of a better or more
natural mode of endurance will be laughed at by many, and others
will say, "That is all very well for those who can relax to a
pain,--let them gain from it, I cannot; it is natural for me to set
my teeth and bear it." There is a distinct difference between what
is natural to us and natural to Nature, although the first term is
of course misused.

Pain comes from an abnormal state of some part of the nervous
system. The more the nerves are strained to bear pain, the more
sensitive they become; and of course those affected immediately feel
most keenly the increased sensitiveness, and so the pain grows
worse. Reverse that action, and through the force of our own
inhibitory power let a new pain be a reminder to us to _let go,_
instead of to hold on, and by decreasing the strain we decrease the
possibility of more pain. Whatever reaction may follow pain then,
will be reaction from the pain itself, not from the abnormal tension
which has been held for the purpose of bearing it.

But--it will be objected--is not the very effort of the brain to
relax the tension a nervous strain? Yes, it is,--not so great,
however, as the continued tension all over the body, and it grows
less and less as the habit is acquired of bearing the pain easily.
The strain decreases more rapidly with those who having undertaken
to relax, perceive the immediate effects; for, of course, as the
path clears and new light comes they are encouraged to walk more
steadily in the easier way.

I know there are pains that are better borne and even helped by a
certain amount of _bracing,_ but if the idea of bearing such pain
quietly, easily, naturally, takes a strong hold of the mind, all
bracing will be with a true equilibrium of the muscles, and will
have the required effect without superfluous tension.

One of the most simple instances of bearing pain more easily by
relaxing to it occurs while sitting in the dentist's chair. Most of
us clutch the arms, push with our feet, and hold ourselves off the
chair to the best of our ability. Every nerve is alive with the
expectation of being hurt.

The fatigue which results from an hour or more of this dentist
tension is too well known to need description. Most of the nervous
fatigue suffered from the dentist's work is in consequence of the
unnecessary strain of expecting a hurt and not from any actual pain
inflicted. The result obtained by insisting upon making yourself a
dead weight in the chair, if you succeed only partially, will prove
this. It will also be a preliminary means of getting well rid of the
dentist fright,--that peculiar dread which is so well known to most
of us. The effect of fright is nervous strain, which again contracts
the muscles. If we drop the muscular tension, and so the nervous
strain, thus working our way into the cause by means of the effect,
there will be no nerves or muscles to hold the fright, which then so
far as the physique is concerned cannot exist. _So far as the
physique is concerned,--_that is emphatic; for as we work inward
from the effect to the cause we must be met by the true philosophy
inside, to accomplish the whole work. I might relax my body out of
the nervous strain of fright all day; if my mind insisted upon being
frightened it would simply be a process of freeing my nerves and
muscles that they might be made more effectually tense by an
unbalanced, miserably controlled mind. In training to bring body and
mind to a more normal state, the teacher must often begin with the
body only, and use his own mind to gently lead the pupil to clearer
sight. Then when the pupil can strike the equilibrium between mind
and body,--he must be left to acquire the habit for himself.

The same principles by which bearing the work of the dentist is made
easier, are applicable in all pain, and especially helpful when pain
is nervously exaggerated. It would be useless and impossible to
follow the list of various pains which we attempt to bear by means
of additional strain.

Each of us has his own personal temptation in the way of pain,--from
the dentist's chair to the most severe suffering, or the most
painful operation,--and each can apply for himself the better way of
bearing it. And it is not perhaps out of place here to speak of the
taking of ether or any anaesthetic before an operation. The power of
relaxing to the process easily and quietly brings a quicker and
pleasanter effect with less disagreeable results. One must take
ether easily in mind and body. It a man forces himself to be quiet
externally, and is frightened and excited mentally, as soon as he
has become unconscious enough to lose control of his voluntary
muscles, the impression of fright made upon the brain asserts
itself, and he struggles and resists in proportion.

These same principles of repose should be applied in illness when it
comes in other forms than that of pain. We can easily increase
whatever illness may attack us by the nervous strain which comes
from fright, anxiety, or annoyance. I have seen a woman retain a
severe cold for days more than was necessary, simply because of the
chronic state of strain she kept herself in by fretting about it;
and in another unpleasantly amusing case the sufferer's constantly
expressed annoyance took the form of working almost without
intermission to find remedies for herself. Without using patience
enough to wait for the result of one remedy, she would rush to
another until she became--so to speak--twisted and snarled in the
meshes of a cold which it took weeks thoroughly to cure. This is not
uncommon, and not confined merely to a cold in the head.

We can increase the suffering of friends through "sympathy" given in
the same mistaken way by which we increase our own pain, or keep
ourselves longer than necessary in an uncomfortable illness.



THE most intense suffering which follows a misuse of the nervous
power comes from exaggerated, unnecessary, or sham emotions. We each
have our own emotional microscope, and the strength of its lens
increases in proportion to the supersensitiveness of our nervous
system. If we are a little tired, an emotion which in itself might
hardly be noticed, so slight is the cause and so small the result,
will be magnified many times. If we are very tired, the magnifying
process goes on until often we have made ourselves ill through
various sufferings, all of our own manufacture.

This increase of emotion has not always nervous fatigue as an
excuse. Many people have inherited emotional magnifying glasses, and
carry them through the world, getting and giving unnecessary pain,
and losing more than half of the delight of life in failing to get
an unprejudiced view of it. If the tired man or woman would have the
good sense to stop for one minute and use the power which is given
us all of understanding and appreciating our own perverted states
and so move on to better, how easy it would be to recognize that a
feeling is exaggerated because of fatigue, and wait until we have
gained the power to drop our emotional microscopes and save all the
evil results of allowing nervous excitement to control us. We are
even permitted to see clearly an inherited tendency to magnify
emotions and to overcome it to such an extent that life seems new to
us. This must be done by the individual himself, through a personal
appreciation of his own mistakes and active steps to free himself
from them. No amount of talking, persuading, or teaching will be of
the slightest service until that personal recognition comes. This
has been painfully proved too often by those who see a friend
suffering unnecessarily, and in the short-sighted attempt to wrench
the emotional microscope from his hand, simply cause the hold to
tighten and the magnifying power to increase. A careful, steady
training of the physique opens the way for a better practice of the
wholesome philosophy, and the microscope drops with the relaxation
of the external tension which has helped to hold it.

Emotions are often not even exaggerated but are from the beginning
imaginary; and there are no more industrious imps of evil than these
sham feelings. The imps have no better field for their destructive
work than in various forms of morbid, personal attachment, and in
what is commonly called religion,--but which has no more to do with
genuine religion than the abnormal personal likings have to do with

It is a fact worthy of notice that the two powers most helpful, most
strengthening, when sincerely felt and realized, are the ones
oftenest perverted and shammed, through morbid states and abnormal
nervous excitement. The sham is often so perfect an image of the
reality that even the shammer is deceived.

To tell one of these pseudo-religious women that the whole attitude
of her externally sanctified life is a sham emotion, would rouse
anything but a saintly spirit, and surprise her beyond measure. Yet
the contrast between the true, healthful, religious feeling and the
sham is perfectly marked, even though both classes follow the same
forms and belong to the same charitable societies. With the one,
religion seems to be an accomplishment, with a rivalry as to who can
carry it to the finest point; with the other, it is a steadily
growing power of wholesome use.

This nervous strain from sham emotions, it must be confessed, is
more common to the feminine nature. So dangerously prevalent is it
that in every girls' school a true repression of the sham and a
development of real feeling should be the thoughtful, silent effort
of all the teachers. Any one who knows young girls feels deeply the
terrible harm which comes to them in the weakening of their
delicate, nervous systems through morbid, emotional excitement. The
emotions are vividly real to the girls, but entirely sham in
themselves. Great care must be taken to respect the sense of reality
which a young girl has in these mistakes, until she can be led out
so far that she herself recognizes the sham; then will come a
hearty, wholesome desire to be free from it.

A school governed by a woman with strong "magnetism," and an equally
strong love of admiration and devotion, can be kept in a chronic
state of hysteria by the emotional affection of the girls for their
teacher. When they cannot reach the teacher they will transfer the
feeling to one another. Where this is allowed to pervade the
atmosphere of a girls' school, those who escape floods of tears or
other acute hysterical symptoms are the dull, phlegmatic

Often a girt will go from one of these morbid attachments to
another, until she seems to have lost the power for a good,
wholesome affection. Strange as it may seem, the process is a steady
hardening of the heart. The same result comes to man or woman who
has followed a series of emotional flirtations,--the perceptions are
dulled, and the whole tone of the system, mental and physical, is
weakened. The effect is in exact correspondence in another degree
with the result which follows an habitual use of stimulants.

Most abnormal emotional states are seen in women--and sometimes in
men--who believe themselves in love. The suffering is to them very
real. It seems cruel to say, "My dear, you are not in the least in
love with that man; you are in love with your own emotions. If some
one more attractive should appear, you could at once transfer your
emotional tortures to the seemingly more worthy object." Such ideas
need not be flung in so many words at a woman, but she may be gently
led until she sees clearly for herself the mistake, and will even
laugh at the morbid sensations that before seemed to her terribly

How many foolish, almost insane actions of men and women come from
sham emotions and the nervous excitement generated by them, or from
nervous excitement and the sham emotions that result in consequence!

Care should be taken first to change the course of the nervous power
that is expressing itself morbidly, to open for it a healthy outlet,
to guide it into that more wholesome channel, and then help the
owner to a better control and a clearer understanding, that she may
gain a healthy use of her wonderful nervous power. A gallop on
horseback, a good swim, fresh air taken with any form of wholesome
fun and exercise is the way to begin if possible. A woman who has
had all the fresh air and interesting exercise she needs, will shake
off the first sign of morbid emotions as she would shake off a rat
or any other vermin.

To one who is interested to study the possible results of
misdirected nervous power, nothing could illustrate it with more
painful force than the story by Rudyard Kipling, "In the Matter of a

Real emotions, whether painful or delightful, leave one eventually
with a new supply of strength; the sham, without exception, leave
their victim weaker, physically and mentally, unless they are
recognized as sham, and voluntarily dismissed by the owner of the
nerves that have been rasped by them. It is an inexpressibly sad
sight to see a woman broken, down and an invalid, for no reason
whatever but the unnecessary nervous excitement of weeks and months
of sham emotion. Hardly too strong an appeal can be made to mothers
and teachers for a careful watchfulness of their girls, that their
emotions be kept steadily wholesome, so that they may grow and
develop into that great power for use and healthful sympathy which
always belongs to a woman of fine feeling.

There is a term used in college which describes most expressively an
intense nervous excitement and want of control,--namely, "dry
drunk." It has often seemed to me that sham emotions are a woman's
form of getting drunk, and nervous prostration is its delirium
tremens. Not the least of the suffering caused by emotional
excitement comes from mistaken sympathy with others. Certain people
seem to live on the principle that if a friend is in a swamp, it is
necessary to plunge in with him; and that if the other man is up to
his waist, the sympathizer shows his friendliness by allowing the
mud to come up to his neck. Whereas, it is evident that the deeper
my friend is immersed in a swamp, the more sure I must be to keep on
firm ground that I may help him out; and sometimes I cannot even
give my hand, but must use a long pole, the more surely to relieve
him from danger. It is the same with a mental or moral swamp, or
most of all with a nervous swamp, and yet so little do people
appreciate the use of this long pole that if I do not cry when my
friend cries, moan when my friend moans, and persistently refuse to
plunge into the same grief that I may be of more real use in helping
him out of it, I am accused by my friend and my friend's friend of
coldness and want of sympathy. People have been known to refuse the
other end of your pole because you will not leave it and come into
the swamp with them.

It is easy to see why this mistaken sympathy is the cause of great
unnecessary nervous strain. The head nurse of a hospital in one of
our large cities was interrupted while at dinner by the deep
interest taken by the other nurses in seeing an accident case
brought in. When the man was put out of sight the nurses lost their
appetite from sympathy; and the forcible way with which their
superior officer informed them that if they had any real sympathy
for the man they would eat to gain strength to serve him, gave a
lesson by which many nervous sympathizers could greatly profit.

Of course it is possible to become so hardened that you "eat your
dinner" from a want of feeling, and to be consumed only with
sympathy for yourself; but it is an easy matter to make the
distinction between a strong, wholesome sympathy and selfish want of
feeling, and easier to distinguish between the sham sympathy and the
real. The first causes you to lose nervous strength, the second
gives you new power for wholesome use to others.

In all the various forms of nervous strain, which we study to avoid,
let us realize and turn from false sympathy as one to be especially
and entirely shunned.

Sham emotions are, of course, always misdirected force; but it is
not unusual to see a woman suffering from nervous prostration caused
by nervous power lying idle. This form of invalidism comes to women
who have not enough to fill their lives in necessary interest and
work, and have not thought of turning or been willing to turn their
attention to some needed charity or work for others. A woman in this
state is like a steam-engine with the fire in full blast, and the
boiler shaking with the power of steam not allowed to escape in
motive force.

A somewhat unusual example of this is a young woman who had been
brought up as a nervous invalid, had been through nervous
prostration once, and was about preparing for another attack, when
she began to work for a better control of her nervous force. After
gaining a better use of her machine, she at once applied its power
to work,--gradually at first and then more and more, until she found
herself able to endure what others had to give up as beyond their

The help for these, and indeed for all cases, is to make the life
objective instead of subjective. "Look out, not in; look up, not
down; lend a hand," is the motto that must be followed gently and
gradually, but _surely,_ to cure or to prevent a case of

But again, good sense and care must be taken to preserve the
equilibrium; for nervous tension and all the suffering that it
brings come more often from mistaken devotion to others than from a
want of care for them. Too many of us are trying to make special
Providences of ourselves for our friends. To say that this
short-sighted martyrdom is not only foolish but selfish seems hard,
but a little thought will show it to be so.

A woman sacrifices her health in over-exertion for a friend. If she
does not distress the object of her devotion entirely out of
proportion to the use she performs, she at least unfits herself, by
over-working, for many other uses, and causes more suffering than
she saves. So are the great ends sacrificed to the smaller.

"If you only knew how hard I am trying to do right" comes with a
strained face and nervous voice from many and many a woman. If she
could only learn in this case, as in others, of "vaulting ambition
that o'er-leaps itself and falls upon the other side;" if she could
only realize that the very strained effort with which she tries,
makes it impossible for her to gain,--if she would only "relax" to
whatever she has to do, and then try, the gain would be

The most intense sufferers from nervous excitement are those who
suppress any sign of their feeling. The effort to "hold in"
increases the nervous strain immensely. As in the case of one
etherized, who has suppressed fright which he feels very keenly, as
soon as the voluntary muscles are relaxed the impression on the
brain shows itself with all the vehemence of the feeling,--so when
the muscles are consciously relaxed the nervous excitement bursts
forth like the eruption of a small volcano, and for a time is a
surprise to the man or woman who has been in a constant effort of

The contrast between true self-control and that which is merely
repressed feeling, is, like all contrast between the natural and the
artificial, immeasurable; and the steadily increasing power to be
gained by true self-control cannot be conveyed in words, but must be
experienced in actual use.

Many of us know with what intense force a temper masters us when,
having held in for some time, some spring is touched which makes
silence impossible, and the sense of relief which follows a volley
of indignant words. To say that we can get a far greater and more
lasting relief without a word, but simply through relaxing our
muscles and freeing our excited nerves, seems tame; but it is
practically true, and is indeed the only way from a physical
standpoint that one may be sure of controlling a high temper. In
that way, also, we keep the spirit, the power, the strength, from
which the temper comes, and so far from being tame, life has more
for us. We do not tire ourselves and lose nervous force through the
wear and tear of losing our temper. To speak expressively, if not
scientifically, Let go, and let the temper slip over your nerves and
off,--you do not lose it then, for you know where it is, and you
keep all the nervous force that would have been used in suppression
or expression for better work.

That, the reader will say, is not so easy as it sounds. Granted,
there must be the desire to get a true control of the temper; but
most of us have that desire, and while we cannot expect immediate
success, steady practice will bring startling results sooner than we
realize. There must be a clear, intelligent understanding of what we
are aiming at, and how to gain it; but that is not difficult, and
once recognized grows steadily as we gain practical results. Let the
first feeling of anger be a reminder to "let go." But you will say,
"I do not want to let go,"--only because your various grandfathers
and grandmothers were unaccustomed to relieving themselves in that
manner. When we give way to anger and let it out in a volley of
words, there is often a sense of relief, but more often a reaction
which is most unpleasant, and is greatly increased by the pain given
to others. The relief is certain if we "relax;" and not only is
there then no painful reaction, but we gain a clear head to
recognize the justice or injustice of our indignation, and to see
what can be done about its cause.

Petty irritability can be met in the same way. As with nervous pain
it seems at first impossible to "relax to it;" but the Rubicon once
crossed, we cannot long be irritable,--it is so much simpler not to
be, and so much more comfortable.

If when we are tempted to fly into a rage or to snap irritably at
others we could go through a short process of relaxing motions, the
effect would be delightful. But that would be ridiculous; and we
must do our relaxing in the privacy of the closet and recall it when
needed outside, that we may relax without observation except in its
happy results. I know people will say that anything to divert the
mind will cure a high temper or irritability. That is only so to a
limited extent; and so far as it is so, simply proves the best
process of control. Diversion relieves the nervous excitement,
turning the attention in another direction,--and so is relaxing so
far as it goes.

Much quicker and easier than self-control is the control which
allows us to meet the irritability of others without echoing it. The
temptation to echo a bad temper or an irritable disposition in
others, we all know; but the relief which comes to ourselves and to
the sufferer as we quietly relax and refuse to reflect it, is a
sensation that many of us have yet to experience. One keeps a clear
head in that way, not to mention a charitable heart; saves any
quantity of nervous strain, and keeps off just so much tendency to
nervous prostration.

Practically the way is opened to this better control through a
physical training which gives us the power of relaxing at will, and
so of maintaining a natural, wholesome equilibrium of nerves and

Personal sensitiveness is, to a great degree, a form of nervous
tension. An individual case of the relief of this sensitiveness,
although laughable in the means of cure, is so perfectly
illustrative of it that it is worth telling. A lady who suffered
very much from having her feelings hurt came to me for advice. I
told her whenever anything was said to wound her, at once to imagine
her legs heavy,--that relaxed her muscles, freed her nerves, and
relieved the tension caused by her sensitive feelings. The cure
seemed to her wonderful. It would not have done for her to think a
table heavy, or a chair, or to have diverted her mind in any other
way, for it was the effect of relaxation in her own body that she
wanted, which came from persistently thinking her legs heavy.
Neither could her sensitiveness have taken a very deep hold, or mere
outside relaxation would not have reached it; but that outside
process had the effect of greatly assisting in the power to use a
higher philosophy with the mind.

Self-consciousness and all the personal annoyances that come with or
follow it are to so great an extent nervous tension, that the ease
with which they may be helped seems sometimes like a miracle to
those who study for a better guidance of their bodies.

Of worries, from the big worries with a real foundation to the
miserable, petty, nagging worries that wear a woman's nervous system
more than any amount of steady work, there is so much to be said
that it would prove tedious, and indeed unnecessary to recount them.
A few words will suggest enough toward their remedy to those who are
looking in the right direction, and to others many words would be of
no avail.

The petty worries are the most wearing, and they fortunately are the
most easily helped. By relaxing the muscular contractions invariably
accompanying them we seem to make an open channel, and they slip
through,--which expression I am well aware is not scientific. The
common saying, "Cares roll off her like water off a duck's back,"
means the same thing. Some human ducks are made with backs eminently
fitted for cares to slip from; but those whose backs seem to be made
to hold the cares can remould themselves to the right proportions,
and there is great compensation in their appreciation of the

Never resist a worry. It is increased many times by the effort to
overcome it. The strain of the effort makes it constantly more
difficult to drop the strain of the worry. When we quietly go to
work to relax the muscles and so quiet the nerves, ignoring a worry,
the way in which it disappears is surprising. Then is the time to
meet it with a broad philosophizing on the uselessness of worry,
etc., and "clinch" our freedom, so to speak.

It is not at the first attempt to relax, or the second, or the
ninth, that the worry will disappear for many of us, and especially
for worriers. It takes many hours to learn what relaxing is; but
having once learned, its helpful power is too evident for us not to
keep at it, if we really desire to gain our freedom.

To give the same direction to a worrier that was so effective with
the woman whose feelings were easily hurt, may seem equally
ridiculous; but in many cases it will certainly prove most useful.
When you begin to worry, think your legs heavy. Your friends will
appreciate the relief more than you do, and will gain as you gain.

A recital of all the emotional disturbances which seem to have so
strong a hold on us, and which are merely misdirected nervous force,
might easily fill a volume; but a few of the most common troubles,
such as have been given, will perhaps suffice to help each
individual to understand his own especial temptations in that
direction,--and if I have made even partially clear the ease with
which they may be relieved through careful physical training, it is
all I can hope for.

The body must be trained to obey the mind; the mind must be trained
to give the body commands worth obeying.

The real feelings of life are too exquisite and strengthening in
their depth and power to be crowded out by those gross forms of
nervous excitement which I can find no better name for than sham
emotions. If we could only realize this more broadly, and bring up
the children with a wholesome dread of morbid feeling what a marked
change would there be in the state of the entire race!

All physicians agree that in most cases it is not overwork, it is
not mental strain, that causes the greater number of cases of
nervous disturbance, but that they are more often brought on by
emotional strain.

The deepest grief, as well as the greatest joy, can be met in a way
to give new strength and new power for use if we have a sound
philosophy and a well-guided, wholesome body to meet it. But these
last are the work of years; and neither the philosophy nor the
physical strength can be brought to bear at short notice, although
we can do much toward a better equilibrium even late in life.

Various forms of egotism, if not exactly sham emotions, are the
causes of great nervous strain. Every physician knows the intense
egotism which often comes with nervous prostration. Some one has
very aptly said that insanity is only egotism gone to seed. It often
seems so, especially when it begins with nervous prostration. We
cannot be too careful to shun this nervous over-care for self.

We inherit so strongly the subjective way of living rather than the
objective, that it impresses itself upon our very nerves; and they,
instead of being open channels for the power always at our command
to pass freely to the use for which it is intended, stop the way by
means of the attention which is so uselessly turned back on
ourselves, our narrow personal interests, and our own welfare. How
often we see cases where by means of the nervous tension all this
has increased to a disease, and the tiresome _Ego_ is a monster in
the way of its owner and all his would-be friends. "I cannot bear
this." "I shall take cold." "If you only knew how I suffered." Why
should we know, unless through knowing we can give you some relief?
And so it goes, I--I--I--forever, and the more the more nervous

Keep still, that all which is good may come to you, and live out to
others that your life may broaden for use. In this way we can take
all that Nature is ready to give us, and will constantly give us,
and use it as hers and for her purposes, which are always the truest
and best Then we live as a little child would live,--only with more



NATURE is not only our one guide in the matter of physical training,
she is the chief engineer who will keep us in order and control the
machine, if we aim to fulfil her conditions and shun every personal
interference with the wholesome working of her laws.

Here is where the exquisite sense of growing power comes. In
studying Nature, we not only realize the strength that comes from
following her lead, but we discover her in ourselves gently moving
us onward.

We all believe we look to Nature, if we think at all; and it is a
surprise to find how mistaken we are. The time would not be wasted
if we whose duties do not lead us to any direct study of natural
life for personal reasons, would take fifteen minutes every day
simply to think of Nature and her methods of working, and to see at
the same time where, so far as we individually are concerned, we
constantly interfere with the best use of her powers. With all
reverence I say it, this should be the first form of prayer; and our
ability to pray sincerely to God and live in accordance with His
laws would grow in proportion to our power of sincere sympathy with
the workings of those laws in Nature.

Try to realize the quiet power of all natural growth and movement,
from a blade of grass, through a tree, a forest of trees, the entire
vegetable growth on the earth, the movement of the planets, to the
growth and involuntary vital operations of our own bodies.

No words can bring so full a realization of the quiet power in the
progress of Nature as will the simple process of following the
growth of a tree in imagination from the working of its sap in the
root up to the tips of the leaves, the blossoms, and the fruit. Or
beginning lower, follow the growth of a blade of grass or a flower,
then a tree, and so on to the movement of the earth, and then of all
the planets in the universe. Let your imagination picture so vividly
all natural movements, little by little, that you seem to be really
at one with each and all. Study the orderly working of your own
bodily functions; and having this clearly in mind, notice where you,
in all movements that are or might be under the control of your
will, are disobeying Nature's laws.

Nature shows us constantly that at the back of every action there
should be a great repose. This holds good from the minutest growth
to the most powerful tornado. It should be so with us not only in
the simple daily duties, but in all things up to the most intense
activity possible to man. And this study and realization of Nature's
method which I am pleading for brings a vivid sense of our own want
of repose. The compensation is fortunately great, or the
discouragement might be more than could be borne. We must appreciate
a need to have it supplied; we must see a mistake in order to shun

How can we expect repose of mind when we have not even repose of
muscle? When the most external of the machine is not at our command,
surely the spirit that animates the whole cannot find its highest
plane of action. Or how can we possibly expect to know the repose
that should be at our command for every emergency, or hope to
realize the great repose behind every action, when we have not even
learned the repose in rest?

Think of Nature's resting times, and see how painful would be the
result of a digression.

Our side of the earth never turns suddenly toward the sun at night,
giving us flashes of day in the darkness. When it is night, it is
night steadily, quietly, until the time comes for day. A tree in
winter, its time for rest, never starts out with a little bud here
and there, only to be frost bitten, and so when spring-time comes,
to result in an uneven looking, imperfectly developed tree. It rests
entirely in its time for rest; and when its time for blooming comes,
its action is full and true and perfect. The grass never pushes
itself up in little, untimely blades through the winter, thus
leaving our lawns and fields full of bare patches in the warmer
season. The flowers that close at night do not half close, folding
some petals and letting others stay wide open. Indeed, so perfectly
does Nature rest when it is her time for resting, that even the
suggestion of these abnormal actions seems absolutely ridiculous.
The less we allow ourselves to be controlled by Nature's laws, the
more we ignore their wonderful beauty; and yet there is that in us
which must constantly respond to Nature unconsciously, else how
could we at once feel the absurdity of any disobedience to her laws,
everywhere except with man? And man, who is not only free to obey,
but has exquisite and increasing power to realize and enjoy them in
all their fulness, lives so far out of harmony with these laws as
ever to be blind to his own steady disobedience.

Think of the perfect power for rest in all animals. Lift a cat when
she is quiet, and see how perfectly relaxed she is in every muscle.
That is not only the way she sleeps, but the way she rests; and no
matter how great or how rapid the activity, she drops all tension at
once when she stops. So it is with all animals, except in rare cases
where man has tampered with them in a way to interfere with the true
order of their lives.

Watch a healthy baby sleeping; lift its arm, its leg, or its head
carefully, and you will find each perfectly relaxed and free. You
can even hold it on your outspread hands, and the whole little
weight, full of life and gaining new power through the perfect rest,
will give itself entirely to your hands, without one particle of
tension. The sleep that we get in babyhood is the saving health of
many. But, alas! at a very early age useless tension begins, and
goes on increasing; and if it does not steadily lead to acute
"Americanitis," it prevents the perfect use of all our powers.
Mothers, watch your children with a care which will be all the more
effective because they will be unconscious of it; for a child's
attention should seldom be drawn to its own body. Lead them toward
the laws of Nature, that they may grow in harmony with them, and so
be saved the useless suffering, strain, and trouble that comes to us
Americans. If we do not take care, the children will more and more
inherit this fearful misuse of the nervous force, and the
inheritance will be so strong that at best we can have only little
invalids. How great the necessity seems for the effort to get back
into Nature's ways when we reflect upon the possibilities of a
continued disobedience!

To be sure, Nature has Repose itself and does not have to work for
it. Man is left free to take it or not as he chooses. But before he
is able to receive it he has personal tendencies to restlessness to
overcome. And more than that, there are the inherited nervous habits
of generations of ancestors to be recognized and shunned. But repose
is an inmost law of our being, and the quiet of Nature is at our
command much sooner than we realize, if we want it enough to work
for it steadily day by day. Nothing will increase our realization of
the need more than a little daily thought of the quiet in the
workings of Nature and the consequent appreciation of our own lack.
Ruskin tells the story with his own expressive power when he says,
"Are not the elements of ease on the face of all the greatest works
of creation? Do they not say, not there has been a great _effort
_here, but there has been a great power here?"

The greatest act, the only action which we know to be power in
itself, is the act of Creation. Behind that action there lies a
great Repose. We are part of Creation, we should be moved by its
laws. Let us shun everything we see to be in the way of our own best
power of action in muscle, nerve, senses, mind, and heart. Who knows
the new perception and strength, the increased power for use that is
open to us if we will but cease to be an obstruction?

Freedom within the limits of Nature's laws, and indeed there is no
freedom without those limits, is best studied and realized in the
growth of all plants,--in the openness of the branch of a vine to
receive the sap from the main stem, in the free circulation of the
sap in a tree and in all vegetable organisms.

Imagine the branch of a vine endowed with the power to grow
according to the laws which govern it, or to ignore and disobey
those laws. Imagine the same branch having made up its vegetable
mind that it could live its own life apart from the vine, twisting
its various fibres into all kinds of knots and snarls, according to
its own idea of living, so that the sap from the main stem could
only reach it in a minimum quantity. What a dearth of leaf, flower,
and fruit would appear in the branch! Yet the figure is perfectly
illustrative of the way in which most of us are interfering with the
best use of the life that is ours.

Freedom is obedience to law. A bridge can be built to stand, only in
obedience to the laws of mechanics. Electricity can be made a useful
power only in exact obedience to the laws that govern it, otherwise
it is most destructive. Has man the privilege of disobeying natural
laws, only in the use of his own individual powers? Clearly not. And
why is it that while recognizing and endeavoring to obey the laws of
physics, of mechanics, and all other laws of Nature in his work in
the world, he so generally defies the same laws in their application
to his own being?

The freedom of an animal's body in obeying the animal instincts is
beautiful to watch. The grace and power expressed in the freedom of
a tiger are wonderful. The freedom in the body of a baby to respond
to every motion and expression is exquisite to study. But before
most children have been in the world three years their inherited
personal contractions begin, and unless the little bodies can be
watched and trained out of each unnecessary contraction as it
appears, and so kept in their own freedom, there comes a time later,
when to live to the greatest power for use they must spend hours in
learning to be babies all over again, and then gain a new freedom
and natural movement.

The law which perhaps appeals to us most strongly when trying to
identify ourselves with Nature is the law of rhythm: action,
re-action; action, re-action; action, re-action,--and the two must
balance, so that equilibrium is always the result. There is no
similar thought that can give us keener pleasure than when we rouse
all our imagination, and realize all our power of identifying
ourselves with the workings of a great law, and follow this rhythmic
movement till we find rhythm within rhythm,--from the rhythmic
motion of the planets to the delicate vibrations of heat and light.
It is helpful to think of rhythmic growth and motion, and not to
allow the thought of a new rhythm to pass without identifying
ourselves with it as fully as our imagination will allow.

We have the rhythm of the seasons, of day and night, of the tides,
and of vegetable and animal life,--as the various rhythmic motions
in the flying of birds. The list will be endless, of course, for the
great law rules everything in Nature, and our appreciation of it
grows as we identify ourselves with its various modes of action.

One hair's variation in the rhythm of the universe would bring
destruction, and yet we little individual microcosms are knocking
ourselves into chronic states of chaos because we feel that we can
be gods, and direct our own lives so much better than the God who
made us. We are left in freedom to go according to His laws, or
against them; and we are generally so convinced that our own stupid,
short-sighted way is the best, that it is only because Nature
tenderly holds to some parts of us and keeps them in the rhythm,
that we do not hurl ourselves to pieces. _This law of rhythm--or of
equilibrium in motion and in rest--is the end, aim, and effect of
all true physical training for the development and guidance of the
body._ Its ruling power is proved in the very construction of the
body,--the two sides; the circulation of the blood, veins and
arteries; the muscles, extensor and flexor; the nerves, sensory and

When the long rest of a body balances the long activity, in day and
night; when the shorter rests balance the shorter activity, as in
the various opportunities offered through the day for entire rest,
if only a minute at a time; when the sensory and motor nerves are
clear for impression and expression; when the muscles in parts of
the body not needed are entirely quiet, allowing those needed for a
certain action to do their perfect work; when the co-ordination of
the muscles in use is so established that the force for a movement
is evenly divided; when the flexor rests while its antagonizing
muscle works, and _vice versa,--_ when all this which is merely a
_natural power for action and rest _is automatically established,
then the body is ready to obey and will obey the lightest touch of
its owner, going in whatever direction it may be sent, artistic,
scientific, or domestic. As this exquisite sense of ease in a
natural movement grows upon us, no one can describe the feeling of
new power or of positive comfort which comes with it; and yet it is
no miracle, it is only natural. The beasts have the same freedom;
but they have not the mind to put it to higher uses, or the sense to
enjoy its exquisite power.

Often it seems that the care and trouble to get back into Nature's
way is more than compensated for in the new appreciation of her laws
and their uses. But the body, after all, is merely a servant; and,
however perfect its training may have been, if the man, the master,
puts his natural power to mean or low uses, sooner or later the
power will be lost. Self-conscious pride will establish its own
contractions. The use of a natural power for evil ends will limit
itself sooner or later. The love for unwholesome surroundings will
eventually put a check on a perfectly free body, although sometimes
the wonder is that the check is so long in coming. If we have once
trained ourselves into natural ways, so akin are the laws of Nature
and spirit, both must be obeyed; and to rise to our greatest power
means always to rise to our greatest power for use. "A man's life is
God's love for the use for which he was made;" a man's power lies in
the best direction of that use. This is a truth as practical as the
necessity for walking on the feet with the head up.



WHILE the path of progress in the gaining of repose could not be
traced thus far without reference to the freedom of a baby, a fuller
consideration of what we may learn from this source must be of great
use to us.

The peace and freshness of a little baby are truly beautiful, but
are rarely appreciated. Few of us have peace enough in ourselves to
respond to these charms. It is like playing the softest melody upon
a harp to those whose ears have long been closed.

Let us halt, and watch, and listen, and see what we shall gain!

Throughout the muscular system of a normal, new-born baby it is
impossible to find any waste of force. An apparent waste will, upon
examination, prove itself otherwise. Its cry will at first seem to
cause contractions of the face; but the absolute removal of all
traces of contraction as the cry ceases, and a careful watching of
the act itself, show it to be merely an exaggeration of muscular
action, not a permanent contraction. Each muscle is balanced by an
opposing one; in fact, the whole thing is only a very even
stretching of the face, and, undoubtedly, has a purpose to

Examine a baby's bed, and see how distinctly it bears the impression
of an absolute giving up of weight and power. They actually _do_
that which we only theorize about, and from them we may learn it
all, if we will.

A babe in its bath gives us another fine opportunity for learning to
be simple and free. It yields to the soft pressure of the water with
a repose which is deeply expressive of gratitude; while we, in our
clumsy departures from Nature's state, often resist with such
intensity as not to know--in circumstances just as simply useful to
us--that we have anything for which to be grateful.

In each new experience we find it the same, the healthy baby yields,
_lets himself go,_ with an case which must double his chances for
comfort. Could we but learn to do so, our lives would lengthen, and
our joys and usefulness strengthen in exact proportion.

All through the age of unconsciousness, this physical freedom is
maintained even where the mental attitude is not free. Baby wrath is
as free and economical of physical force as are the winsome moods,
and this until the personality has developed to some extent,--that
is, _until the child reflects the contractions of those around him._
It expends itself in well-balanced muscular exercise, one set of
muscles resting fully in their moment of non-use, while another set
takes up the battle. At times it will seem that all wage war
together; if so, the rest is equal to the action.

It is not the purpose of this chapter to recommend anger, even of
the most approved sort; but if we will express the emotion at all,
let us do it as well as we did in our infancy!

Channels so free as this would necessitate, would lessen our
temptations to such expression; we, with mature intellects, would
see it for what it is, and the next generation of babies would less
often exercise their wonderfully balanced little bodies in such an
unlovely waste.

Note the perfect openness of a baby throat as the child coos out his
expression of happiness. Could anything be more free, more like the
song of a bird in its obedience to natural laws? Alas, for how much
must we answer that these throats are so soon contracted, the tones
changed to so high a pitch, the voice becoming so shrill and harsh!
Can we not open our throats and become as these little children?

The same _openness_ in the infant organism is the child's protection
in many dangers. Falls that would result in breaks, strains, or
sprains in us, leave the baby entirely whole save in its "feelings,"
and often there, too, if the child has been kept in the true state

Watch a baby take its food, and contrast it with our own ways of
eating. The baby draws it in slowly and evenly, with a quiet rhythm
which is in exact accord with the rhythmic action of its digestive
organs. You feel each swallow taken in the best way for repair, and
for this reason it seems sometimes as if one could see a baby grow
while feeding. There cannot be a lovelier glimpse of innocent
physical repose than the little respites from the fatigue of feeding
which a baby often takes. His face moist, with open pores, serene
and satisfied, he views the hurry about him as an interesting phase
of harmless madness. He is entirely outside of it until
self-consciousness is quite developed.

The sleep of a little child is another opportunity for us to learn
what we need. Every muscle free, every burden dropped, each breath
carries away the waste, and fills its place with the needed
substance of increasing growth and power.

In play, we find the same freedom. When one idea is being executed,
every other is excluded. They do not think _dolls_ while they roll

They do not think of work while they play. Examine and see how we do
both. The baby of one year, sitting on the shore burying his fat
hand in the soft warm sand, is for the time being alive _only_ to
its warmth and softness, with a dim consciousness of the air and
color about him. If we could engross ourselves as fully and with as
simple a pleasure, we should know far more of the possible power of
our minds for both work and rest.

It is interesting to watch normal children in these concentrations,
because from their habits we may learn so much which may improve our
own sadly different manner of living. It is also interesting but
pathetic to see the child gradually leaving them as he approaches
boyhood, and to trace our part in leading him away from the true

The baby's perfect placidity, caused by mental and bodily freedom,
is disturbed at a very early age by those who should be his true
guides. It would be impossible to say when the first wrong
impression is made, but it is so early that a true statement of the
time could only be accepted from scientific men. For mothers and
fathers have often so dulled their own sensitiveness, that they are
powerless to recognize the needs of their children, and their
impressions are, in consequence, untrustworthy.

At the time the pangs of teething begin, it is the same. The healthy
child left to itself would wince occasionally at the slight pricking
pain, and then turn its entire attention elsewhere, and thus become
refreshed for the next trial. But under the adult influence the
agony of the first little prick is often magnified until the result
is a cross, tired baby, already removed several degrees from the
beautiful state of peace and freedom in which Nature placed him
under our care.

The bodily freedom of little children is the foundation of a most
beautiful mental freedom, which cannot be wholly destroyed by us.
This is plainly shown by the childlike trust which they display in
all the affairs of life, and also in their exquisite responsiveness
to the spiritual truths which are taught to them. The very
expression of face of a little child as it is led by the hand is a
lesson to us upon which pages might be written.

Had we the same spirit dwelling in us, we more often should feel
ourselves led "beside the still waters," and made "to lie down in
green pastures." We should grow faster spiritually, because we
should not make conflicts for ourselves, but should meet with the
Lord's quiet strength whatever we had to pass through.

Let us learn of these little ones, and help them to hold fast to
that which they teach us. Let us remember that the natural and the
ideal are truly one, and endeavor to reach the latter by means of
the former.

When through hereditary tendency our little child is not
ideal,--that is, natural,--let us with all the more earnestness
learn to be quiet ourselves that we may lead him to it, and thus
open the channels of health and strength.



BUT how shall we gain a natural repose? It is absurd to emphasize
the need without giving the remedy. "I should be so glad to relax,
but I do not know how," is the sincere lament of many a nervously
strained being.

There is a regular training which acts upon the nervous force and
teaches its proper use, as the gymnasium develops the muscles. This,
as will be easily seen, is at first just the reverse of vigorous
exercise, and no woman should do powerful muscular work without
learning at the same time to guide her body with true economy of
force. It is appalling to watch the faces of women in a gymnasium,
to see them using five, ten, twenty times the nervous force
necessary for every exercise. The more excited they get, the more
nervous force they use; and the hollows under their eyes increase,
the strained expression comes, and then they wonder that after such
fascinating exercise they feel so tired. A common sight in gymnasium
work, especially among women, is the nervous straining of the
muscles of the arms and hands, while exercises meant for the legs
alone are taken. This same muscular tension is evident in the arm
that should be at rest while the other arm is acting; and if this
want of equilibrium in exercise is so strikingly noticeable in the
limbs themselves, how much worse it must be all through the less
prominent muscles! To guide the body in trapeze work, every
well-trained acrobat knows he must have a quiet mind, a clear head,
and obedient muscles. I recall a woman who stands high in gymnastic
work, whose agility on the triple bars is excellent, but the nervous
strain shown in the drawn lines of her face before she begins,
leaves one who studies her carefully always in doubt as to whether
she will not get confused before her difficult performance is over,
and break her neck in consequence. A realization also of the
unnecessary nervous force she is using, detracts greatly from the
pleasure in watching her performance.

If we were more generally sensitive to misdirected nervous power,
this interesting gymnast, with many others, would lose no time in
learning a more quiet and naturally economical guidance of her
muscles, and gymnasium work would not be, as Dr. Checkley very
justly calls it, "more often a straining than a training."

To aim a gun and hit the mark, a quiet control of the muscles is
necessary. If the purpose of our actions were as well defined as the
bull's eye of a target, what wonderful power in the use of our
muscles we might very soon obtain! But the precision and ease in an
average motion comes so far short of its possibility, that if the
same carelessness were taken as a matter of course in shooting
practice, the side of a barn should be an average target.

Gymnasium work for women would be grand in its wholesome influence,
if only they might learn the proper _use_ of the body while they are
working for its development. And no gymnasium will be complete and
satisfactory in its results until the leader arranges separate
classes for training in economy of force and rhythmic motion. In
order to establish a true physical balance the training of the
nerves should receive as much attention as the training of the
muscles. The more we misuse our nervous force, the worse the
expenditure will be as muscular power increases; I cannot waste so
much force on a poorly developed muscle as on one that is well
developed. This does not by any means argue against the development
of muscle; it argues for its proper use. Where is the good of an
exquisitely formed machine, if it is to be shattered for want of
control of the motive power?

It would of course be equally harmful to train the guiding power
while neglecting entirely flabby, undeveloped muscles. The only
difference is that in the motions for this training and for the
perfect co-ordinate use of the muscles, there must be a certain
amount of even, muscular development; whereas although the vigorous
exercise for the growth of the muscles often helps toward a healthy
nervous system, it more often, where the nervous force is misused,
exaggerates greatly the tension.

In every case it is equilibrium we are working for, and a one-sided
view of physical training is to be deplored and avoided, whether the
balance is lost on the side of the nerves or the muscles.

Take a little child early enough, and watch it carefully through a
course of natural rhythmic exercises, and there will be no need for
the careful training necessary to older people. But help for us who
have gone too far in this tension comes only through patient study.

So far as I can, I will give directions for gaining the true
relaxation. But because written directions are apt to be
misunderstood, and so bring discouragement and failure, I will
purposely omit all but the most simple means of help; but these I am
sure will bring very pleasant effects if followed exactly and with
the utmost patience.

The first care should be to realize how far you are from the ability
to let go of your muscles when they are not needed; how far you are
from the natural state of a cat when she is quiet, or better still
from the perfect freedom of a sleeping baby; consequently how
impossible it is for you ever to rest thoroughly. Almost all of us
are constantly exerting ourselves to hold our own heads on. This is
easily proved by our inability to let go of them. The muscles are so
well balanced that Nature holds our heads on much more perfectly
than we by any possibility can. So it is with all our muscles; and
to teach them better habits we must lie flat on our backs, and try
to give our whole weight to the floor or the bed. The floor is
better, for that does not yield in the least to us, and the bed
does. Once on the floor, give way to it as far as possible. Every
day you will become more sensitive to tension, and every day you
will be better able to drop it. While you are flat on your backs, if
you can find some one to "prove" your relaxation, so much the
better. Let your friend lift an arm, bending it at the different
joints, and then carefully lay it down. See if you can give its
weight entirely to the other person, so that it seems to be no part
of you, but as separate as if it were three bags of sand, fastened
loosely at the wrist, the elbow, and the shoulder; it will then be
full of life without tension. You will find probably, either that
you try to assist in raising the arm in your anxiety to make it
heavy, or you will resist so that it is not heavy with its own
weight but with I your personal effort. In some cases the nervous
force is so active that the arm reminds one of a lively eel.

Then have your legs treated in the same way. It is good even to have
some one throw your arm or your leg up and catch it; also to let it
go unexpectedly. Unnecessary tension is proved when the limb,
instead of dropping by the pure force of gravity, sticks fast
wherever it was left. The remark when the extended limb is brought
to the attention of its owner is, "Well, what did you want me to do?
You did not say you wanted me to drop it,"--which shows the habitual
attitude of tension so vividly as to be almost ridiculous; the very
idea being, of course, that you are not wanted to do anything but
_let go,_ when the arm would drop of its own accord. If the person
holding your arm says, "Now I will let go, and it must drop as if a
dead weight," almost invariably it will not be the force of gravity
that takes it, but your own effort to make it a dead weight; and it
will come down with a thump which shows evident muscular effort, or
so slowly and actively as to prove that you cannot let it alone.
Constant and repeated trial, with right thought from the pupil, will
be certain to bring good results, so that at least he or she can be
sure of better power for rest in the limbs. Unfortunately this first
gain will not last. Unless the work goes on, the legs and arms will
soon be "all tightened up" again, and it will seem harder to let go
than ever.

The next care must be with the head. That cannot be treated as
roughly as the limbs. It can be tossed, if the tosser will surely
catch it on his open hand. Never let it drop with its full weight on
the floor, for the jar of the fall, if you are perfectly relaxed, is
unpleasant; if you are tense, it is dangerous. At first move it
slowly up and down. As with the arms, there will be either
resistance or attempted assistance. It seems at times as though it
were and always would be impossible to let go of your own head. Of
course, if you cannot give up and let go for a friend to move it
quietly up and down, you cannot let go and give way entirely to the
restful power of sleep. The head must be moved up and down, from
side to side, and round and round in opposite ways, gently and until
its owner can let go so completely that it seems like a big ball in
the hands that move it. Of course care must be taken to move it
gently and never to extremes, and it will not do to trust an
unintelligent person to "prove" a body in any way. Ladies' maids
have been taught to do it very well, but they had in all cases to be
carefully watched at first.

The example of a woman who had for years been an invalid is
exceedingly interesting as showing how persistently people "hold
on." Although the greater part of her time had been spent in a
reclining attitude, she had not learned the very rudiments of
relaxation, and could not let go of her own muscles any more easily
than others who have always been in active life. Think of holding
yourself on to the bed for ten years! Her maid learned to move her
in the way that has been described, and after repeated practice, by
the time she had reached the last movement the patient would often
be sleeping like a baby. It did not cure her, of course; that was
not expected. But it taught her to "relax" to a pain instead of
bracing up and fighting it, and to live in a natural way so far as
an organic disease and sixty years of misused and over-used force
would allow.

Having relaxed the legs and arms and head, next the spine and all
the muscles of the chest must be helped to relax. This is more
difficult, and requires not only care but greater muscular strength
in the lifter. If the one who is lifting will only remember to press
hard on the floor with the feet, and put all the effort of lifting
in the legs, the strain will be greatly lessened.

Take hold of the hands and lift the patient or pupil to a sitting
attitude. Here, of course, if the muscles that hold the head are
perfectly relaxed, the head will drop back from its own weight.
Then, in letting the body back again, of course, keep hold of the
hands,--_never_ let go; and after it is down, if the neck has
remained relaxed, the head will be back in a most uncomfortable
attitude, and must be lifted and placed in the right position. It is
some time before relaxation is so complete as that. At first the
head and spine will come up like a ramrod, perfectly rigid and
stiff. There will be the same effort either to assist or resist; the
same disinclination to give up; often the same remark, "If you will
tell me what you want me to do, I will do it;" the same inability to
realize that the remark, and the feeling that prompts it, are
entirely opposed to the principle that you are _wanted to do
nothing, and to do nothing with an effort is impossible._ In
lowering the body it must "give" like a bag of bones fastened
loosely together and well padded. Sometimes when it is nearly down,
one arm can be dropped, and the body let down the rest of the way by
the other. Then it is simply giving way completely to the laws of
gravity, it will fall over on the side that is not held, and only
roll on its back as the other arm is dropped. Care must always be
taken to arrange the head comfortably after the body is resting on
the ground. Sometimes great help is given toward relaxing the
muscles of the chest and spine by pushing the body up as if to roll
it over, first one side and then the other, and letting it roll back
from its own weight. It is always good, after helping the separate
parts to a restful state, to take the body as a whole and roll it
over and over, carefully, and see if the owner can let you do so
without the slightest effort to assist you. It will be easily seen
that the power, once gained, of remaining perfectly passive while
another moves you, means a steadily increasing ability to relax at
all times when the body should be given to perfect rest. This power
to "let go" causes an increasing sensitiveness to all tension,
which, unpleasant as it always is to find mistakes of any kind in
ourselves, brings a very happy result in the end; for we can never
shun evils, physical or spiritual, until we have recognized them
fully, and every mistaken way of using our machine, when studiously
avoided, brings us nearer to that beautiful unconscious use of it
which makes it possible for us to forget it entirely in giving it
the more truly to its highest use.

After having been helped in some degree by another, and often
without that preliminary help, come the motions by which we are
enabled to free ourselves; and it is interesting to see how much
more easily the body will move after following this course of
exercises. Take the same attitude on the floor, giving up entirely
in every part to the force of gravity, and keep your eyes closed
through the whole process. Then stop and imagine yourself heavy.
First think one leg heavy, then the other, then each arm, and both
arms, being sure to keep the same weight in the legs; then your body
and head. Use your imagination to the full extent of its power, and
think the whole machine heavy; wonder how the floor can hold such a
weight. Begin then to take a deep breath. Inhale through the nose
quietly and easily. Let it seem as if the lungs expanded themselves
with, out voluntary effort on your part. Fill first the lower lungs
and then the upper. Let go, and exhale the air with a sense of
relief. As the air leaves your lungs, try to let your body rest back
on the floor more heavily, as a rubber bag would if the air were
allowed to escape from it. Repeat this breathing exercise several
times; then inhale and exhale rhythmically, with breaths long enough
to give about six to a minute, for ten times, increasing the number
every day until you reach fifty. This eventually will establish the
habit of longer breaths in the regular unconscious movement of our
lungs, which is most helpful to a wholesome physical state. The
directions for deep breathing should be carefully followed in the
deep breaths taken after each motion. After the deep breathing, drag
your leg up slowly, very slowly, trying to have no effort except in
the hip joint, allowing the knee to bend, and dragging the heel
heavily along the floor, until it is up so far that the sole of the
foot touches without effort on your part. Stop occasionally in the
motion and let the weight come into the heel, then drag the foot
with less effort than before,--so will the strain of movement be
steadily decreased. Let the leg slip slowly down, and when it is
nearly flat on the floor again, let go, so that it gives entirely
and drops from its own weight. If it is perfectly free, there is a
pleasant little spring from the impetus of dropping, which is more
or less according to the healthful state of the body. The same
motion must be repeated with the other leg. Every movement should be
slower each day. It is well to repeat the movements of the legs for
three times, trying each time to move more slowly, with the leg
heavier than the time before. After this, lift the arm slowly from
the shoulder, letting the hand hang over until it is perpendicular
to the floor. Be careful to think the arm heavy, and the motive
power in the shoulder. It helps to relax if you imagine your arm
held to the shoulder by a single hair, and that if you move it with
a force beyond the minimum needed to raise it, it will drop off
entirely. To those who have little or no imagination this will seem
ridiculous; to others who have more, and can direct it usefully,
this and similar ways will be very helpful. After the arm is raised
to a perpendicular position, let the force of gravity have
it,--first the upper arm to the elbow, and then the forearm and
hand, so that it falls by pieces. Follow the same motion with the
other arm, and repeat this three times, trying to improve with each

Next, the head must be moved slowly,--so slowly that it seems as
though it hardly moved at all,--first rolled to the left, then back
and to the right and back again; and this also can be repeated three
times. After each of the above motions there should be two or three
long, quiet breaths. To free the spine, sit up on the floor, and
with heavy arms and legs, head dropped forward, let it go back
slowly and easily, as if the vertebrae were beads on a string, and
first one bead lay flat, then another and another, until the whole
string rests on the floor, and the head falls back with its own
weight. This should be practised over and over before the movement
can be perfectly free; and it is well to begin on the bed, until you
catch the idea and its true application. After, and sometimes
before, the process of slow motions, rolling over loosely on one
side should be practised,--remaining there until the weight all
seems near the floor, and then giving way so that the force of
gravity seems to "flop" it back (I use "flop" advisedly); so again
resting on the other side. But one must go over by regular motions,
raising the leg first heavily and letting it fall with its full
weight over the other leg, so that the ankles are crossed. The arm
on the same side must be raised as high as possible and dropped over
the chest. Then the body can be rolled over, and carried as it were
by the weight of the arm and leg. It must go over heavily and freely
like a bag of loose bones, and it helps greatly to freedom to roll
over and over in this way.

Long breaths, taken deeply and quietly, should be interspersed all
through these exercises for extreme relaxation. They prevent the
possibility of relaxing too far. And as there is a pressure on every
muscle of the body during a deep inspiration, the muscles, being now
relaxed into freedom, are held in place, so to speak, by the
pressure from the breath,--as we blow in the fingers of a glove to
put them in shape.

Remember always that it is equilibrium we are working for, and this
extreme relaxation will bring it, because we have erred so far in
the opposite direction. For instance, there is now no balance at all
between our action and our rest, because we are more or less tense
and consequently active all through the times when we should be
entirely at rest; and we never can be moved by Nature's rhythm until
we learn absolute relaxation for rest, and so gain the true
equilibrium in that way. Then again, since we use so much
unnecessary tension in everything we do, although we cannot remove
it entirely until we learn the normal motion of our muscles, still
after an hour's practice and the consequent gain in extreme
relaxation, it will be impossible to attack our work with the same
amount of unnecessary force, at least for a time; and every day the
time in which we are able to work, or talk, or move with less
tension will increase, and so our bad habits be gradually changed,
if not to good, to better ones. So the true equilibrium comes
gradually more and more into every action of our lives, and we feel
more and more the wholesome harmony of a rhythmic life. We gradually
swing into rhythm with Nature through a child-like obedience to her

Of one thing I must warn all nervous people who mean to try the
relief to be gained from relaxation. The first effects will often be
exceedingly unpleasant. The same results are apt to follow that come
from the reaction after extreme excitement,--all the way from
nervous nausea and giddiness to absolute fainting. This, as must be
clearly seen, is a natural result from the relaxation that comes
after years of habitual tension. The nerves have been held in a
chronic state of excitement over something or nothing; and, of
course, when their owner for the first time lets go, they begin to
feel their real state, and the result of habitual strain must be
unpleasant. The greater the nervous strain at the beginning, the
more slowly the pupil should advance, practising in some cases only
five minutes a day.

And with regard to those people who "live on their nerves," not a
few, indeed very many, are so far out of the normal way of living
that they detest relaxation. A hearty hatred of the relaxing motions
is often met, and even when the mind is convinced of the truth of
the theory, it is only with difficulty that such people can persuade
themselves or be persuaded by others to work steadily at the
practice until the desired result is gained.

"It makes me ten times more nervous than I was before."

"Oh, no, it does not; it only makes you realize your nervousness ten
times more."

"Well, then, I do not care to realize my nervousness, it is very

"But, unfortunately, if you do not realize it now and relax into
Nature's ways, she will knock you hard against one of her stone
walls, and you will rebound with a more unpleasant realization of
nervousness than is possible now."

The locomotive engine only utilizes nineteen per cent of the amount
of fuel it burns, and inventors are hard at work in all directions
to make an engine that will burn only the fuel needed to run it.
Here is a much more valuable machine--the human engine--burning
perhaps eighty-one per cent more than is needed to accomplish its
ends, not through the mistake of its Divine Maker, but through the
stupid, short-sighted thoughtlessness of the engineer.

Is not the economy of our vital forces of much greater importance
than mechanical or business economy?

It is painful to see a man--thin and pale from the excessive nervous
force he has used, and from a whole series of attacks of nervous
prostration--speak with contempt of "this method of relaxation." It
is not a method in any sense except that in which all the laws of
Nature are methods. No one invented it, no one planned it; every one
can see, who will look, that it is Nature's way and the only true
way of living. To call it a new idea or method is as absurd as it
would be, had we carried our tension so far as to forget sleep
entirely, for some one to come with a "new method" of sleep to bring
us into a normal state again; and then the people suffering most
intensely from want of "tired Nature's sweet restorer" would be the
most scornful in their irritation at this new idea of "sleep."

Again, there are many, especially women, who insist that they prefer
the nervously excited state, and would not lose it. This is like a
man's preferring to be chronically drunk. But all these abnormal
states are to be expected in abnormal people, and must be quietly
met by Nature's principles in order to lead the sufferers back to
Nature's ways. Our minds are far enough beyond our bodies to lead us
to help ourselves out of mistaken opinions; although often the
sincere help of others takes us more rapidly over hard ground and
prevents many a stumble.

Great nervous excitement is possible, every one knows, without
muscular tension; therefore in all these motions for gaining freedom
and a better physical equilibrium in nerve and muscle, the warning
cannot be given too often to take every exercise easily. Do not work
at it, go so far even as not to care especially whether you do it
right or not, but simply do what is to be done without straining
mind or body by effort. It is quite possible to make so desperate an
effort to relax, that more harm than good is done. Particularly
harmful is the intensity with which an effort to gain physical
freedom is made by so many highly strung natures. The additional
mental excitement is quite out of proportion to the gain that may
come from muscular freedom. For this reason it is never advisable
for one who feels the need of gaining a more natural control of
nervous power to undertake the training without a teacher. If a
teacher is out of the question, ten minutes practice a day is all
that should be tried for several weeks.



"IN every new movement, in every unknown attitude needed in
difficult exercises, the nerve centres have to exercise a kind of
selection of the muscles, bringing into action those which favor the
movement, and suppressing those which oppose it." This very evident
truth Dr. Lagrange gives us in his valuable book on the Physiology
of Exercise. At first, every new movement is unknown; and, owing to
inherited and personal contractions, almost from the earliest
movement in a child's learning to walk to the most complicated
action of our daily lives, the nerve centres exercise a mistaken
selection of muscles,--not only selecting more muscles than are
needed for perfect co-ordination of movement, but throwing more
force than necessary into the muscles selected. To a gradually
increasing extent, the contracting force, instead of being withdrawn
when the muscle is inactive, remains; and, as we have already seen,
an arm or leg that should be passive is lifted, and the muscles are
found to be contracted as if for severe action. To the surprise of
the owner the contraction cannot be at once removed. Help for this
habitual contraction is given in the preceding chapter. Further on
Dr. Lagrange tells us that "Besides the apprenticeship of movements
which are unknown, there is the improvement of already known
movements." When the work of mistaken selection of muscles has gone
on for years, the "improvement of already known movements," from the
simplest domestic action to the accomplishment of very great
purposes, is a study in itself. One must learn first to be a grown
baby, and, as we have already seen, gain the exquisite passiveness
of a baby; then one must learn to walk and to move by a natural
process of selection, which, thanks to the contractions of his
various ancestors, was not the process used for his original
movements. This learning to live all over again is neither so
frightful nor so difficult as it sounds. Having gained the passive
state described in the last chapter, one is vastly more sensitive to
unnecessary tension; and it seems often as though the child in us
asserted itself, rising with alacrity to claim its right of natural
movement, and with a new sense of freedom in the power gained to
shun inherited and personal contractions. Certainly it is a fact
that freedom of movement is gained through shunning the
contractions. And this should always be kept in mind to avoid the
self-consciousness and harm which come from a studied movement, not
to mention the very disagreeable impression such movements give to
all who appreciate their artificiality.

Motion in the human body, as well as music, is an art. An artist has
very aptly said that we should so move that if every muscle struck a
note, only harmony would result. Were it so the harmony would be
most exquisite, for the instrument is Nature's own. We see how far
we are from a realization of natural movement when we watch
carefully and note the muscular discords evident to our eyes at all
times. Even the average ballet dancing, which is supposed to be the
perfection of artistic movement, is merely a series of pirouettes
and gymnastic contortions, with the theatrical smile of a pretty
woman to throw the glare of a calcium light over the imperfections
and dazzle us. The average ballet girl is not adequately trained,
from the natural and artistic standpoint. If this is the case in
what should be the quintessence of natural, and so of artistic
movement, it is to a great degree owing to the absolute carelessness
in the selection of the muscles to be used in every movement of
daily life.

Many exercises which lead to the freedom of the body are well known
in the letter--not in the spirit--through the so-called "Delsarte
system." if they had been followed with a broad appreciation of what
they were meant for and what they could lead to, before now students
would have realized to a far greater extent what power is possible
to the human body. But so much that is good and helpful in the
"Delsarte system" has been misused, and so much of what is
thoroughly artificial and unhealthy has been mixed with the useful,
that one hesitates now to mention Delsarte. Either he was a
wonderful genius whose thoughts and discoveries have been sadly
perverted, or the inconsistencies of his teachings were great enough
to limit the true power which certainly can be found in much that he
has left us.

Besides the exercises already described there are many others,
suited to individual needs, for gaining the freedom of each part of
the body and of the body as a whole.

It is not possible to describe them clearly enough to allow them to
be followed without a teacher, and to secure the desired result.
Indeed, there would be danger of unpleasant results from
misunderstanding. The object is so to stand that our muscles hold
us, with the natural balance given them, instead of trying, as most
of us do, to hold our muscles. In moving to gain this natural
equilibrium we allow our muscles to carry us forward, and when they
have contracted as far as is possible for one set, the antagonizing
muscles carry us back. So it is with the side-to-side poising from
the ankles, and the circular motion, which is a natural swinging of
the muscles to find their centre of equilibrium, having once been
started out of it. To stand for a moment and _think_ the feet heavy
is a great help in gaining the natural poising motions, but care
should always be taken to hold the chest well up. Indeed, we need
have no sense of effort in standing, except in raising the
chest,--and that must be as if it were pulled up outside by a button
in its centre, but there must be no strain in the effort.

The result of the exercises taken to free the head is shown in the
power to toss the head lightly and easily, with the waist muscles,
from a dropped forward to an erect position. The head shows its
freedom then by the gentle swing of the neck muscles, which is
entirely involuntary and comes from the impetus given them in
tossing the head.

Tension in the muscles of the neck is often very difficult to
overcome; because, among other reasons, the sensations coming from
certain forms of nervous over-strain are very commonly referred to
the region of the base of the brain. It is not unusual to find the
back of the neck rigid in extreme tension, and whether the strain is
very severe or not, great care must be taken to free it by slow
degrees, and the motions should at first be practised only a few
minutes at a time. I can hardly warn readers too often against the
possibility of an unpleasant reaction, if the relaxing is practised
too long, or gained too rapidly.

Then should come exercises for freeing the arms; and these can be
taken sitting. Let the arms hang heavily at the sides; raise one arm
slowly, feeling the weight more and more distinctly, and only
contracting the shoulder muscles. It is well to raise it a few
inches, then drop it heavily and try again,--each time taking force
out of the lower muscles by thinking the arm heavy, and the motive
power in the shoulder. If the arm itself can rest heavily on some
one's hand while you are still raising it from the shoulder, that
proves that you have succeeded in withdrawing the useless tension.
Most arms feel stiff all the way along, when the owners raise them.
Your arm must be raised until high overhead, the hand hanging from
the wrist and dropped into your lap or down at the side, letting the
elbow "give," so that the upper arm drops first, and then the fore
arm and hand,--like three heavy sand-bags sewed together. The arm
can be brought up to the level of the shoulder, and then round in
front and dropped. To prove its freedom, toss it with the shoulder
muscles from the side into the lap. Watch carefully that the arm
itself has no more tension than if it were a sand-bag hung at the
side, and could only be moved by the shoulder. After practising this
two or three times so that the arms are relaxed enough to make you
more sensitive to tension, one hundred times a day you will find
your arms held rigidly, while you are listening or talking or
walking. Every day you will grow more sensitive to the useless
tension, and every day gain new power to drop it. This is wherein
the real practice comes. An hour or two hours a day of relaxing
exercises will amount to nothing if at the same time we are not
careful to use the freedom gained, and to do everything more
naturally. It is often said, "But I cannot waste time watching all
day to see if I am using too much force." There is no need to watch;
having once started in the right direction, if you drop useless
muscular contraction every time you notice it, that is enough. It
will be as natural to do that as for a musician to correct a discord
which he has inadvertently made on the piano.

There are no motions so quieting, so helpful in the general freeing
of the body, as the motions of the spine. There are no motions more
difficult to describe, or which should be more carefully directed.
The habitual rigidity of the spine, as compared with its possible
freedom, is more noticeable in training, of course, than is that of
any other part of the body. Each vertebra should be so distinctly
independent of every other, as to make the spine as smoothly jointed
as the toy snakes, which, when we hold the tip of the tail in our
fingers, curve in all directions. Most of us have spinal columns
that more or less resemble ramrods. It is a surprise and delight to
find what can be accomplished, when the muscles of the spine and
back are free and under control. Of course the natural state of the
spine, as the seat of a great nervous centre, affects many muscles
of the body, and, on the other hand, the freedom of these muscles
reacts favorably upon the spine.

The legs are freed for standing and walking by shaking the foot free
from the ankle with the leg, swinging the fore leg from the upper
leg, and so freeing the muscles at the knee, and by standing on a
footstool and letting one leg hang off the stool a dead weight while
swinging it round from the hip. Greater freedom and ease of movement
can be gained by standing on the floor and swinging the leg from the
hip as high as possible. Be sure that the only effort for motion is
in the muscles of the hip. There are innumerable other motions to
free the legs, and often a great variety must be practised before
the freedom can be gained.

The muscles of the chest and waist are freed through a series of
motions, the result of which is shown in the ability to toss the
body lightly from the hips, as the head is tossed from the waist
muscles; and there follows the same gentle involuntary swing of the
muscles of the waist which surprises one so pleasantly in the neck
muscles after tossing the head, and gives a new realization of what
physical freedom is.

In tossing the body the motion must be successive, like running the
scale with the vertebrae.

In no motion should the muscles work _en masse._ The more perfect
the co-ordination of muscles in any movement, the more truly each
muscle holds its own individuality. This power of freedom in motion
should be worked for after once approaching the natural equilibrium.
If you rest on your left leg, it pushes your left hip a little
farther out, which causes your body to swerve slightly to the
right,--and, to keep the balance true, the head again tips to the
left a little. Now rise slowly and freely from that to standing on
both feet, with body and head erect; then drop on the right foot
with the body to left, and head to right. Here again, as in the
motions with the spine, there is a great difference in the way they
are practised. Their main object is to help the muscles to an
independent individual co-ordination, and there should be a new
sense of ease and freedom every time we practise it. Hold the chest
up, and push yourself erect with the ball of your free foot. The
more the weight is thought into the feet the freer the muscles are
for action, provided the chest is well raised. The forward and back
spinal motion should be taken standing also; and there is a gentle
circular motion of the entire body which proves the freedom of all
the muscles for natural movement, and is most restful in its result.

The study for free movement in the arms and legs should of course be
separate. The law that every part moves from something prior to it,
is illustrated exquisitely in the motion of the fingers from the
wrist. Here also the individuality of the muscles in their perfect
co-ordination is pleasantly illustrated. To gain ease of movement in
the fore arm, its motive power must seem to be in the upper arm; the
motive power for the entire arm must seem to be centred in the
shoulder. When through various exercises a natural co-ordination of
the muscles is gained, the arm can be moved in curves from the
shoulder, which remind one of a graceful snake; and the balance is
so true that the motion seems hardly more than a thought in the
amount of effort it takes. Great care should be given to freeing the
hands and fingers. Because the hand is in such constant
communication with the brain, the tension of the entire body often
seems to be reflected there. Sometimes it is even necessary to train
the hand to some extent in the earliest lessons.

Exercises for movement in the legs are to free the joints, so that
motions may follow one another as in the arm,--the foot from the
ankle; the lower leg from the upper leg; the upper leg from the hip;
and, as--in the arm, the free action of the joints in the leg comes
as we seem to centre the motive power in the hip. There is then the
same grace and ease of movement which we gain in the arm, simply
because the muscles have their natural equilibrium.

Thus the motive power of the body will seem to be gradually drawn to
an imaginary centre in the lower part of the trunk,--which simply
means withdrawing superfluous tension from every part. The exercise
to help establish this equilibrium is graceful, and not difficult if
we take it quietly and easily, using the mind to hold a balance
without effort. Raise the right arm diagonally forward, the left leg
diagonally back,--the arm must be high up, the foot just off the
floor, so that as far as possible you make a direct line from the
wrist to the ankle; in this attitude stretch all muscles across the
body from left to right slowly and steadily, then relax quite as
slowly. Now, be sure your arm and leg are free from all tension, and
swing them very slowly, as if they were one piece, to as nearly a
horizontal position as they can reach; then slowly pivot round until
you bring your arm diagonally back and your leg diagonally forward;
still horizontal, pivot again to the starting point; then bring leg
down and arm up, always keeping them as in a line, until your foot
is again off the floor; then slowly lower your arm and let your foot
rest on the floor so that gradually your whole weight rests on that
leg, and the other is free to swing up and pivot with the opposite
arm. All this must be done slowly and without strain of any kind.
The motions which follow in sets are for the better daily working of
the body, as well as to establish its freedom. The first set is
called the "Big Rhythms," because it takes mainly the rhythmic
movement of the larger muscles of the body, and is meant, through
movements taken on one foot, to give a true balance in the poise of
the body as well as to make habitual the natural co-ordination in
the action of all the larger muscles. It is like practising a series
of big musical chords to accustom our ears to their harmonies. The
second set, named the "Little Rhythms,"--because that is a
convenient way of designating it,--is a series meant to include the
movement of all the smaller muscles as well as the large ones, and
is carried out even to the fingers. The third set is for spring and
rapid motion, especially in joints of arms and legs.

Of course having once found the body's natural freedom, the variety
of motions is as great as the variety of musical sounds and
combinations possible to an instrument which will respond to every
tone in the musical scale. It is in opening the way for this natural
motion that the exquisite possibilities in motion purely artistic
dawn upon us with ever-increasing light. And as in music it is the
sonata, the waltz, or the nocturne we must feel, not the mechanical
process of our own performance,--so in moving, it is the beautiful,
natural harmonies of the muscles, from the big rhythms to all the
smaller ones, that we must feel and make others feel, and not the
mere mechanical grace of our bodies; and we can move a sonata from
the first to the last, changing the time and holding the theme so
that the soul will be touched through the eye, as it is through the
ear now in music. But, according to the present state of the human
body, more than one generation will pass before we reach, or know
the beginning of, the highest artistic power of motion. If art is
Nature illuminated, one must have some slight appreciation and
experience of Nature before attempting her illumination.

The set of motions mentioned can be only very inadequately described
in print. But although they are graceful, because they are natural,
the first idea in practising them is that they are a means to an
end, not an end in themselves. For in the big and little rhythms and
the springing motions, in practising them over and over again we are
establishing the habit of natural motion, and will carry it more and
more into everything we do.

If the work of the brain in muscular exercise were reduced to its
minimum, the consequent benefit from all exercise would greatly

A new movement can be learned with facility in proportion to the
power for dropping at the time all impressions of previous
movements. In training to take every motion easily, after a time the
brain-work is relieved, for we move with ease,--that is, with a
natural co-ordination of muscles, automatically,--in every known
motion; and we lessen very greatly the mental strain, in learning a
new movement, by gaining the power to relax entirely at first, and
then, out of a free body, choose the muscles needed, and so avoid
the nervous strain of useless muscular experiment.

So far as the mere muscular movement goes, the sensation is that of
being well oiled. As for instance, in a natural walk, where the
swinging muscles and the standing muscles act and rest in alternate
rhythmic action, the chest is held high, the side muscles free to
move in, harmony with the legs, and all the spring in the body
brought into play through inclining slightly forward and pushing
with the ball of the back foot, the arms swinging naturally without
tension. Walking with a free body is often one of the best forms of
rest, and in the varying forms of motion arranged for practice we
are enabled to realize, that "perfect harmony of action in the
entire man invigorates every part."



IT will be plainly seen that this training of the body is at the
same time a training of the mind, and indeed it is in essence a
training of the will. For as we think of it carefully and analyze it
to its fundamental principles, we realize that it might almost be
summed up as in itself a training of the will alone. That is
certainly what it leads to, and where it leads from.

Maudsley tells us that "he who is incapable of guiding his muscles,
is incapable of concentrating his mind;" and it would seem to
follow, by a natural sequence, that training for the best use of all
the powers given us should begin with the muscles, and continue
through the nerves and the senses to the mind,--all by means of the
will, which should gradually remove all personal contractions and
obstructions to the wholesome working of the law of cause and

Help a child to use his own ability of gaining free muscles, nerves
clear to take impressions through every sense, a mind open to
recognize them, and a will alive with interest in and love for
finding the best in each new sensation or truth, and what can he not
reach in power of use to others and in his own growth.

The consistency of creation is perfect. The law that applies to the
guidance of the muscles works just as truly in training the senses
and the mind.

A new movement can be learned with facility in proportion to the
power of dropping at the time all impressions of previous movements.
Quickness and keenness of sense are gained only in proportion to the
power of quieting the senses not in use, and erasing previous
impressions upon the sense which is active at the time.

True concentration of mind means the ability to drop every subject
but that centred upon. Tell one man to concentrate his mind on a
difficult problem until he has worked it out,--he will clinch his
fists, tighten his throat, hold his teeth hard together, and
contract nobody knows how many more muscles in his body, burning and
wasting fuel in a hundred or more places where it should be saved.
This is _not_ concentration. Concentration means the focussing of a
force; and when the mathematical faculty of the brain alone should
be at work, the force is not focussed if it is at the same time
flying over all other parts of the body in useless strain of
innumerable muscles. Tell another man, one who works naturally, to
solve the same problem,--he will instinctively and at once "erase
all previous impressions" in muscle and nerve, and with a quiet,
earnest expression, not a face knotted with useless strain, will
concentrate upon his work. The result, so far as the problem itself
is concerned, may be the same in both cases; but the result upon the
physique of the men who have undertaken the work will be vastly

It will be insisted upon by many, and, strange as it may seem, by
many who have a large share of good sense, that they can work better
with this extra tension. "For," the explanation is, "it is natural
to me." That may be, but it is not natural to Nature; and however
difficult it may be at first to drop our own way and adopt Nature's,
the proportionate gain is very great in the end.

Normal exercise often stimulates the brain, and by promoting more
vigorous circulation, and so greater physical activity all over the
body, helps the brain to work more easily. Therefore some men can
think better while walking.

This is quite unlike the superfluous strain of nervous motion,
which, however it may seem to help at the time, eventually and
steadily lessens mental power instead of increasing it. The
distinction between motion which wholesomely increases the brain
activity and that which is simply unnecessary tension, is not
difficult to discern when our eyes are well opened to superfluous
effort. This misdirected force seems to be the secret of much of the
overwork in schools, and the consequent physical break-down of
school children, especially girls. It is not that they have too much
to do, it is that they do not know how to study naturally, and with
the real concentration which learns the lesson most quickly, most
surely, and with the least amount of effort. They study a lesson
with all the muscles of the body when only the brain is needed, with
a running accompaniment of worry for fear it will not be learned.

Girls can be, have been, trained out of worrying about their
lessons. Nervous strain is often extreme in students, from
lesson-worry alone; and indeed in many cases it is the worry that
tires and brings illness, and not the study. Worry is brain tension.
It is partly a vague, unformed sense that work is not being done in
the best way which makes the pressure more than it need be; and
instead of quietly studying to work to better advantage, the worrier
allows herself to get more and more oppressed by her anxieties,--as
we have seen a child grow cross over a snarl of twine which, with
very little patience, might be easily unravelled, but in which, in
the child's nervous annoyance, every knot is pulled tighter. Perhaps
we ought hardly to expect as much from the worried student as from
the child, because the ideas of how to study arc so vague that they
seldom bring a realization of the fact that there might be an
improvement in the way of studying.

This possible improvement may be easily shown. I have taken a girl
inclined to the mistaken way of working, asked her to lie on the
floor where she could give up entirely to the force of
gravity,--then after helping her to a certain amount of passivity,
so that at least she looked quiet, have asked her to give me a list
of her lessons. Before opening her mouth to answer, she moved in
little nervous twitches, apparently every muscle in her body, from
head to foot. I stopped her, took time to bring her again to a quiet
state, and then repeated the question. Again the nervous movement
began, but this time the child exclaimed, "Why, isn't it funny? I
cannot think without moving all over!" Here was the Rubicon crossed.
She had become alive to her own superfluous tension; and after that
to train her not only to think without moving all over, but to
answer questions easily and quietly and so with more expression, and
then to study with greatly decreased effort, was a very pleasant

Every boy and girl should have this training to a greater or less
degree. It is a steady, regular process, and should be so taken. We
have come through too many generations of misused force to get back
into a natural use of our powers in any rapid way; it must come step
by step, as a man is trained to use a complicated machine. It seems
hardly fair to compare such training to the use of a machine,--it
opens to us such extensive and unlimited power. We can only make the
comparison with regard to the first process of development.

A training for concentration of mind should begin with the muscles.
First, learn to withdraw the will from the muscles entirely. Learn,
next, to direct the will over the muscles of one arm while the rest
of the body is perfectly free and relaxed,--first, by stretching the
arm slowly and steadily, and then allowing it to relax; next, by
clinching the fist and drawing the arm up with all the force
possible until the elbow is entirely bent. There is not one person
in ten, hardly one in a hundred, who can command his muscles to that
slight extent. At first some one must lift the arm that should be
free, and drop it several times while the muscles of the other arm
are contracting; that will make the unnecessary tension evident.
There are also ways by which the free arm can be tested without the
help of a second person.

The power of directing the will over various muscles that should be
independent, without the so-called sympathetic contraction of other
muscles, should be gained all over the body. This is the beginning
of concentration in a true sense of the word. The necessity for
returning to an absolute freedom of body before directing the will
to any new part cannot be too often impressed upon the mind. Having
once "sensed" a free body--so to speak--we are not masters until we
gain the power to return to it at a moment's notice. In a second we
can "erase previous impressions" for the time; and that is the
foundation, the rock, upon which our house is built.

Then follows the process of learning to think and to speak in
freedom. First, as to useless muscular contractions. Watch children
work their hands when reciting in class. Tell them to stop, and the
poor things will, with great effort, hold their hands rigidly still,
and suffer from the discomfort and strain of doing so. Help them to
freedom of body, then to the sense that the working of their hands
is not really needed, and they will learn to recite with a feeling
of freedom which is better than they can understand. Sometimes a
child must be put on the floor to learn to think quietly and
directly, and to follow the same directions in this manner of
answering. It would be better if this could always be done with
thoughtful care and watching; but as this would be inappropriate
with large classes, there are quieting and relaxing exercises to be
practised sitting and standing, which will bring children to a
normal freedom, and help them to drop muscular contractions which
interfere with ease and control of thought and expression. Pictures
can be described,--scenes from Shakespeare, for instance,--in the
child's own words, while making quiet motions. Such exercise
increases the sensitiveness to muscular contraction, and unnecessary
muscular contraction, beside something to avoid in itself, obviously
makes thought _indirect._ A child must think quietly, to express his
thought quietly and directly. This exercise, of course, also
cultivates the imagination.

In all this work, as clear channels are opened for impression and
expression, the faculties themselves naturally have a freer growth.
The process of quiet thought and expression must be trained in all
phases,--from the slow description of something seen or imagined or
remembered, to the quick and correct answer required to an example
in mental arithmetic, or any other rapid thinking. This, of course,
means a growth in power of attention,--attention which is real
concentration, not the strained attention habitual to most of us,
and which being abnormal in itself causes abnormal reaction. And
this natural attention is learned in the use of each separate
sense,--to see, to hear, to taste, to smell, to touch with quick and
exact impression and immediate expression, if required, and a in
obedience to the natural law of the conservation of human energy.

With the power of studying freely, comes that of dropping a lesson
when it is once well learned, and finding it ready when needed for
recitation or for any other use. The temptation to take our work
into our play is very great, and often cannot be overcome until we
have learned how to "erase all previous impressions." The
concentration which enables us all through life to be intent upon
the one thing we are doing, whether it is tennis or trigonometry,
and drop what we have in hand at once and entirely at the right
time, free to give out attention fully to the next duty or pleasure,
is our saving health in mind and body. The trouble is we are afraid.
We have no trust. A child is afraid to stop thinking of a lesson
after it is learned,--afraid he will forget it. When he has once
been persuaded to drop it, the surprise when he takes it up again,
to find it more clearly impressed upon his mind, is delightful. One
must trust to the digestion of a lesson, as to that of a good
wholesome dinner. Worry and anxiety interfere with the one as much
as with the other. If you can drop a muscle when you have ceased
using it, that leads to the power of dropping a subject in mind; as
the muscle is fresher for use when you need it, so the subject seems
to have grown in you, and your grasp seems to be stronger when you
recur to it.

The law of rhythm must be carefully followed in this training for
the use of the mind. Do not study too long at a time. It makes a
natural reaction impossible. Arrange the work so that lessons as far
unlike as possible may be studied in immediate succession. We help
to the healthy reaction of one faculty, by exercising another that
is quite different.

This principle should be inculcated in classes, and for that purpose
a regular programme of class work should be followed, calculated to
bring about the best results in all branches of study.

The first care should be to gain quiet, as through repose of mind
and body we cultivate the power to "erase all previous impressions."
In class, quiet, rhythmic breathing, with closed eyes, is most
helpful for a beginning. The eyes must be closed and opened slowly
and gently, not snapped together or apart; and fifty breaths, a
little longer than they would naturally be, are enough to quiet a
class. The breaths must be counted, to keep the mind from wandering,
and the faces must be watched very carefully, for the expression
often shows anything but quiet. For this reason it is necessary, in
initiating a class, to begin with simple relaxing motions; later
these motions will follow the breathing. Then follow exercises for
directing the muscles. The force is directed into one arm with the
rest of the body free, and so in various simple exercises the power
of directing the will only to the muscles needed is cultivated.
After the muscle-work, the pupils are asked to centre their minds
for a minute on one subject,--the subject to be chosen by some
member, with slight help to lead the choice to something that will
be suggestive for a minute's thinking. At first it seems impossible
to hold one subject in mind for a minute; but the power grows
rapidly as we learn the natural way of concentrating, and instead of
trying to hold on to our subject, allow the subject to hold us by
refusing entrance to every other thought. In the latter case one
suggestion follows another with an ease and pleasantness which
reminds one of walking through new paths and seeing on every side
something fresh and unexpected. Then the class is asked to think of
a list of flowers, trees, countries, authors, painters, or whatever
may be suggested, and see who can think of the greatest number in
one minute. At first, the mind will trip and creak and hesitate over
the work, but with practice the list comes steadily and easily. Then
follow exercises for quickness and exactness of sight, then for
hearing, and finally for the memory. All through this process, by
constant help and suggestion, the pupils are brought to the natural
concentration. With regard to the memory, especial care should be
taken, for the harm done by a mechanical training of the memory can
hardly be computed. Repose and the consequent freedom of body and
mind lead to an opening of all the faculties for better use; if that
is so, a teacher must be more than ever alive to lead pupils to the
spirit of all they are to learn, and make the letter in every sense
suggestive of the spirit. First, care should be taken to give
something worth memorizing; secondly, ideas must be memorized before
the words. A word is a symbol, and in so far as we have the habit of
regarding it as such, will each word we hear be more and more
suggestive to us. With this habit well cultivated, one sees more in
a single glance at a poem than many could see in several readings.
Yet the reader who sees the most may be unable to repeat the poem
word for word. In cultivating the memory, the training should be
first for the attention, then for the imagination and the power of
suggestive thought; and from the opening of these faculties a true
memory will grow. The mechanical power of repeating after once
hearing so many words is a thing in itself to be dreaded. Let the
pupil first see in mind a series of pictures as the poem or page is
read, then describe them in his own words, and if the words of the
author are well worth remembering the pupil should be led to them
from the ideas. In the same way a series of interesting or helpful
thoughts can be learned.

Avoidance of mere mechanism cannot be too strongly insisted upon;
for exercise for attaining a wholesome, natural guidance of mind and
body cannot be successful unless it rouses in the mind an
appreciation of the laws of Nature which we are bound to obey. A
conscious experience of the results of such obedience is essential
to growth.



ALTHOUGH so much time and care are given to the various means of
artistic expression, it is a singular fact that comparatively little
attention is given to the use of the very first instrument which
should be under command before any secondary instrument can be made
perfectly expressive.

An old artist who thanked his friend for admiring his pictures
added: "If you could only see the pictures in my brain. But--"
pointing to his brain and then to the ends of his fingers--"the
channels from here to here are so long!" The very sad tone which we
can hear in the wail of the painter expresses strongly the
deficiencies of our age in all its artistic efforts. The channels
are shorter just in proportion to their openness. If the way from
the brain to the ends of the fingers is perfectly clear, the brain
can guide the ends of the fingers to carry out truly its own
aspirations, and the honest expression of the brain will lead always
to higher ideals. But the channels cannot be free, and the artist
will be bound so long as there is superfluous tension in any part of
the body. So absolutely necessary, is it for the best artistic
expression that the body should throughout be only a servant of the
mind, that the more we think of it the more singular it seems that
the training of the body to a childlike state is not regarded as
essential, and taken as a matter of course, even as we take our
regular nourishment.

The artificial is tension in its many trying and disagreeable
phases. Art is freedom, equilibrium, rhythm,--anything and
everything that means wholesome life and growth toward all that is
really the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Art is immeasurably greater than we are. If we are free and quiet,
the poem, the music, the picture will carry us, so that we shall be
surprised at our own expression; and when we have finished, instead
of being personally elated with conceited delight in what we have
done, or exhausted with the superfluous effort used, we shall feel
as if a strong wind had blown through us and cleared us for better
work in the future.

Every genius obeys the true principle. It is because a genius is
involuntarily under the law of his art that he is pervaded by its
power. But we who have only talent must learn the laws of genius,
which are the laws of Nature, and by careful study and steady
practice in shunning all personal obstructions to the laws, bring
ourselves under their sway.

Who would wish to play on a stringed instrument already vibrating
with the touch of some one else, or even with the last touch we
ourselves gave it. What noise, what discord, with no possible
harmonies! So it is with our nerves and muscles. They cannot be used
for artistic purposes to the height of their best powers while they
are tense and vibrating to our own personal states or habits; so
that the first thing is to free them absolutely, and not only keep
them free by constant practice, but so train them that they will
become perfectly free at a moment's notice, and ready to respond
clearly to whatever the heart and the mind want to express.

The finer the instrument, the lighter the touch it will vibrate to.
Indeed it must have a light touch to respond clearly with musical
harmonies; any other touch would blur. With a fine piano or a
violin, whether the effect is to be _piano_ or _fortissimo,_ the
touch should be only with the amount of force needed to give a clear
vibration, and the ease with which a fortissimo effect is thus
produced is astonishing. It is only those with the most delicate
touch who can produce from a fine piano grand and powerful harmonies
without a blur.

The response in a human instrument to a really light touch is far
more wonderful than that from any instrument made by man; and bodily
effort blurs just as much more in proportion. The muscles are all so
exquisitely balanced in their power for co-ordinate movement, that a
muscle pulling one way is almost entirely freed from effort by the
equalizing power of the antagonizing muscle; and at some rare
moments when we have really found the equilibrium and can keep it,
we seem to do no more than _think_ a movement or a tone or a
combination of words, and they come with so slight a physical
exertion that it seems like no effort at all.

So far are we from our possibilities in this lightness of touch in
the use of our bodies, that it is impossible now for most of us to
touch as lightly as would, after training, bring the most powerful
response. One of the best laws for artistic practice is, "Every day
less effort, every day more power." As the art of acting is the only
art where the whole body is used with no subordinate instrument, let
us look at that with regard to the best results to be obtained by
means of relief from superfluous tension. The effects of unnecessary
effort are strongly felt in the exhaustion which follows the
interpretation of a very exciting role. It is a law without
exception, that if I absorb an emotion and allow my own nerves to be
shaken by it, I fail to give it in all its expressive power to the
audience; and not only do I fall far short in my artistic
interpretation, but because of that very failure, come off the stage
with just so much nervous force wasted. Certain as this law is, and
infallible as are its effects, it is not only generally disbelieved,
but it is seldom thought of at all. I must feet Juliet in my heart,
understand her with my mind, and let her vibrate clearly _across_ my
nerves, to the audience. The moment I let my nerves be shaken as
Juliet's nerves were in reality, I am absorbing her myself, misusing
nervous force, preparing to come off the stage thoroughly exhausted,
and keeping her away from the audience. The present low state of the
drama is largely due to this failure to recognize and practise a
natural use of the nervous force. To work up an emotion, a most
pernicious practice followed by young aspirants, means to work your
nerves up to a state of mild or even severe hysteria. This morbid,
inartistic, nervous excitement actually trains men and women to the
loss of all emotional control, and no wonder that their nerves play
the mischief with them, and that the atmosphere of the stage is kept
in its present murkiness. The power to work the nerves up in the
beginning finally carries them to the state where they must be more
artificially urged by stimulants; and when the actor is off the
stage he has no self-control at all. This all means misused and
over-used force. In no schools is the general influence so
absolutely morbid and unwholesome, as in most of the schools of
elocution and acting.

The methods by which the necessity for artificial stimulants can be
overcome are so simple and so pleasant and so immediately effective,
that it is worth taking the time and space to describe them briefly.
Of course, to begin with, the body must be trained to perfect
freedom in repose, and then to freedom in its use. A very simple way
of practising is to take the most relaxed attitude possible, and
then, without changing it, to recite _with all the expression that
belongs to it_ some poem or selection from a play full of emotional
power. You will become sensitive at once to any new tension, and
must stop and drop it. At first, an hour's daily practice will be
merely a beginning over and over,--the nervous tension will be so
evident,--but the final reward is well worth working and waiting

It is well to begin by simply inhaling through the nose, and
exhaling quietly through the mouth several times; then inhale and
exhale an exclamation in every form of feeling you can think of Let
the exclamation come as easily and freely as the breath alone,
without superfluous tension in any part of the body. So much freedom
gained, inhale as before, and exhale brief expressive
sentences,--beginning with very simple expressions, and taking
sentences that express more and more feeling as your freedom is
better established. This practice can be continued until you are
able to recite the potion scene in Juliet, or any of Lady Macbeth's
most powerful speeches, with an case and freedom which is
surprising. This refers only to the voice; the practice which has
been spoken of in a previous chapter brings the same effect in

It will be readily seen that this power once gained, no actor would
find it necessary to skip every other night, in consequence of the
severe fatigue which follows the acting of an emotional role. Not
only is the physical fatigue saved, but the power of expression, the
power for intense acting, so far as it impresses the audience, is
steadily increased.

The inability of young persons to express an emotion which they feel
and appreciate heartily, can be always overcome in this way.
Relaxing frees the channels, and the channels being open the real
poetic or dramatic feeling cannot be held back. The relief is as if
one were let out of prison. Personal faults that come from
self-consciousness and nervous tension may be often cured entirely
without the necessity of drawing attention to them, simply by

Dramatic instinct is a delicate perception of, quick and keen
sympathies for, and ability to express the various phases of human
nature. Deep study and care are necessary for the best development
of these faculties; but the nerves must be left free to be guided to
the true expression,--neither allowed to vibrate to the ecstatic
delight of the impressions, or in mistaken sympathy with them, but
kept clear as conductors of all the heart can feel and the mind
understand in the character or poem to be interpreted.

This may sound cold. It is not; it is merely a process of relieving
superfluous nervous tension in acting, by which obstructions are
removed so that real sympathetic emotions can be stronger and
fuller, and perceptions keener. Those who get no farther than
emotional vibrations of the nerves in acting, know nothing whatever
of the greatness or power of true dramatic instinct.

There are three distinct schools of dramatic art,--one may be called
dramatic hysteria, the second dramatic hypocrisy. The first means
emotional excitement and nervous exhaustion; the second artificial
simulation of a feeling. Dramatic sincerity is the third school, and
the school that seems most truly artistic. What a wonderful training
is that which might,--which ought to be given an actor to help him
rise to the highest possibility of his art!

A free body, exquisitely responsive to every command of the mind, is
absolutely necessary; therefore there should be a perfect physical
training. A quick and keen perception to appreciate noble thoughts,
holding each idea distinctly, and knowing the relations of each idea
to the others, must certainly be cultivated; for in acting, every
idea, every word, should come clearly, each taking its own place in
the thought expressed.

Broad human sympathies, the imaginative power of identifying himself
with all phases of human nature, if he has an ideal in his
profession above the average, an actor cannot lack. This last is
quite impossible without broad human charity; for "to observe truly
you must sympathize with those you observe, and to sympathize with
them you must love them, and to love them you must forget yourself."
And all these requisites--the physical state, the understanding, and
the large heart--seem to centre in the expression of a well-trained
voice,--a voice in which there is the minimum of body and the
maximum of soul.

By training, I always mean a training into Nature. As I have said
before, if art is Nature illuminated, we must find Nature before we
can reach art. The trouble is that in acting, more than in any other
art, the distinction between what is artistic and what is artificial
is neither clearly understood nor appreciated; yet so marked is the
difference when once we see it, that the artificial may well be
called the hell of art, as art itself is heavenly.

Sincerity and simplicity are the foundations of art. A feigning of
either is often necessary to the artificial, but many times
impossible. Although the external effect of this natural training is
a great saving of nervous force in acting, the height of its power
cannot be reached except through a simple aim, from the very heart,
toward sincere artistic expression.

So much for acting. It is a magnificent study, and should be more
truly wholesome in its effects than any other art, because it deals
with the entire body. But, alas I it seems now the most thoroughly
morbid and unwholesome.

All that has been said of acting will apply also to singing,
especially to dramatic singing and study for opera; only with
singing even more care should be taken. No singer realizes the
necessity of a quiet, absolutely free body for the best expression
of a high note, until having gained a certain physical freedom
without singing, she takes a high note and is made sensitive to the
superfluous tension all over the body, and later learns to reach the
same note with the repose which is natural; then the contrast
between the natural and the unnatural methods of singing becomes
most evident,--and not with high notes alone, but with all notes,
and all combinations of notes. I speak of the high note first,
because that is an extreme; for with the majority of singers there
is always more or less fear when a high note is coming lest it may
not be reached easily and with all the clearness that belongs to it.
This fear in itself is tension. For that reason one must learn to
relax to a high note. A free body relieves the singer immensely from
the mechanism of singing. So perfect is the unity of the body that a
voice will not obey perfectly unless the body, as a whole, be free.
Once secure in the freedom of voice and body to obey, the song can
burst forth with all the musical feeling, and all the deep
appreciation of the words of which the singer is capable. Now,
unfortunately, it is not unusual in listening to a public singer, to
feel keenly that he is entirely adsorbed in the mechanism of his

If this freedom is so helpful, indeed so necessary, to reach one's
highest power in singing, it is absolutely essential on the operatic
stage. With it we should have less of the wooden motion so common to
singers in opera. When one is free, physically free, the music seems
to draw out the acting. With a great composer and an interpreter
free to respond, the music and the body of the actor are one in
their power of expressing the emotions. And the songs without words
of the interludes so affect the spirit of the singer that, whether
quiet or in motion, he seems, through being a living embodiment of
the music, to impress the sense of seeing so that it increases the
pleasure of hearing.

I am aware that this standard is ideal; but it is not impossible to
approach it,--to come at least much nearer to it than we do now,
when the physical movements on the stage are such, that one wants to
listen to most operas with closed eyes.

We have considered artistic expression when the human body alone is
the instrument. When the body is merely a means to the use of a
secondary instrument, a primary training of the body itself is
equally necessary.

A pianist practises for hours to command his fingers and gain a
touch which will bring the soul from his music, without in the least
realizing that so long as he is keeping other muscles in his body
tense, and allowing the nervous force to expend itself unnecessarily
in other directions, there never will be clear and open channels
from his brain to his fingers; and as he literally plays with his
brain, and not with his fingers, free channels for a magnetic touch
are indispensable.

To watch a body _give_ to the rhythm of the music in playing is most
fascinating. Although the motion is slight, the contrast between
that and a pianist stiff and rigid with superfluous tension is, very
marked, and the difference in touch when one relaxes to the music
with free channels has been very clearly proved. Beside this, the
freedom in mechanism which follows the exercises for arms and hands
is strikingly noticeable.

With the violin, the same physical equilibrium of motion must be
gained; in fact it is equally necessary in all musical performance,
as the perfect freedom of the body is always necessary before it can
reach its highest power in the use of any secondary instrument.

In painting, the freer a body is the more perfectly the mind can
direct it. How often we can see clearly in our minds a straight line
or a curve or a combination of both, but our hands will not obey the
brain, and the picture fails. It does not by any means follow that
with free bodies we can direct the hand at once to whatever the
brain desires, but simply that by making the body free, and so a
perfect servant of the mind, it can be brought to obey the mind in a
much shorter time and more directly, and so become a truer channel
for whatever the mind wishes to accomplish.

In the highest art, whatever form it may take, the law of simplicity
is perfectly illustrated.

It would be tiresome to go through a list of the various forms of
artistic expression; enough has been said to show the necessity for
a free body, sensitive to respond to, quick to obey, and open to
express the commands of its owner.



ADOPTING the phrase of our forefathers, with all its force and
brevity, we say, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

If the laws adduced in this book are Nature's laws, they should
preserve us in health and strength. And so they do just so far as we
truly and fully obey them.

Then are students and teachers of these laws never ill, never run
down, "nervous," or prostrated? Yes, they are sometimes ill,
sometimes run down and overworked, and suffer the many evil effects
ensuing; but the work which has produced these results is much
greater and more laborious than would have been possible without the
practice of the principles. At the same time their states of illness
occur because they only partially obey the laws. In the degree which
they obey they will be preserved from the effects of tensity,
overstrung nerves, and generally worn-out bodies; and in sickness
coming from other causes--mechanical, hereditary, etc.--again,
according to their obedience, they will be held in all possible
physical and mental peace, so that the disease may wither and drop
like the decayed leaf of a plant.

As well might we ask of the wisest clergyman in the land, Do his
truths _never_ fail him? Is he _always_ held in harmony and nobility
by their power? However great and good the man may be, this state of
perfection will never be reached in this world.

In exact parallel to the spiritual laws upon which all universal
truth, of all religions, is founded, are the truths of this teaching
of physical peace and equilibrium. As religion applies to all the
needs of the soul, so this applies to all the needs of the body. As
a man may be continually progressing in nobility of thought and
action, and yet find himself under peculiar circumstances tried even
to the stumbling point,--so may the student of bodily quiet and
equilibrium, who appears even to a very careful observer to be in
surprising possession of his forces, under a similar test stumble
and fall into some form of the evil effects out of which he has had
power to lead others.

It is important that this parallelism should be recognized, that the
unity of these truths may be finally accomplished in the living;
therefore we repeat, Is this any more possible than that the full
control of the soul should be at once possessed?

Think of the marvellous construction of the human body,--the
exquisite adjustment of its economy. Could a power of control
sufficient to apply to its every detail be fully acquired at once,
or even in a life-time?

But when one does fall who has made himself even partially at one
with Nature's way of living, the power of patient waiting for relief
is very different. He separates himself from his ailments in a way
which without the preparation would be to him unknown. He has,
without drug or other external assistance, an anodyne always within
himself which he can use at pleasure. He positively experiences that
"underneath are the everlasting arms," and the power to experience
this gives him much respite from pain.

Pain is so often prolonged and accentuated _by dwelling in its
memory, _living in a self-pity of the time when it shall come again!
The patient who comes to his test with the bodily and mental repose
already acquired, cuts off each day from the last, each hour from
the last, one might almost say each breath from the last, so strong
is his confidence in the renewal of forces possible to those who
give themselves quite trustfully into Nature's hands.

It is not that they refuse external aid or precaution. No; indeed
the very quiet within makes them feel most keenly when it is orderly
to rest and seek the advice of others. Also it makes them faithful
in following every direction which will take them back into the
rhythm of a healthful life.

But while they do this they do not centre upon it. They take the
precautions as a means and not as an end. They centre upon that
which they have within themselves, and they know that that possible
power being in a state of disorder and chaos no one or all of the
outside measures are of any value.

As patients prepared by the work return into normal life, the false
exhilaration, which is a sure sign of another stumble, is seen and
avoided. They have learned a serious lesson in economy, and they
profit by it. Where they were free before, they become more so; and
where they were not, they quietly set themselves toward constant
gain. They work at lower pressure, steadily gaining in spreading the
freedom and quiet deeper into their systems, thus lessening the
danger of future falls.

Let us state some of the causes for "breaking down," even while
trying well to learn Nature's ways.

First, a trust in one's own capacity for freedom and quiet. "I can
do this, now that I know how to relax." When truly considered, the
thing is out of reason, and we should say, "Because I know how to
relax, I see that I must not do this."

The case is the same with the gymnast who greatly overtaxes his
muscle, having foolishly concluded that because he has had some
training he can successfully meet the test. There is nothing so
truly stupid as self-satisfaction; and these errors, with all others
of the same nature, re fruits of our stupidity, and unless shunned
surely lead us into trouble.

Some natures, after practice, relax so easily that they are soon met
by the dangers of overrelaxation. Let them remember that it is
really equilibrium they are seeking, and by balancing their activity
and their relaxation, and relaxing only as a means to an end,--the
end of greater activity and use later,--they avoid any such ill

As the gymnast can mistake the purpose of his muscular development,
putting it in the place of greater things, regarding it as an end
instead of a means,--so can he who is training for a better use of
his nervous force. In the latter case, the signs of this error are a
slackened circulation, a loathing to activity, and various
evanescent sensations of peace and satisfaction which bear no test,
vanishing as soon as they are brought to the slightest trial.

Unless you take up your work with fresh interest and renewed vigor
each time after practice, you may know that all is not as it should

To avoid all these mistakes, examine the work of each day and let
the next improve upon it.

If you are in great need of relaxing, take more exercise in the
fresh air. If unable to exercise, get your balance by using slow and
steady breaths, which push the blood vigorously over its path in the
body, and give one, to a degree, the effect of exercise.

Do not mistake the disorders which come at first, when turning away
from an unnatural and wasteful life of contractions, for the effects
of relaxing. Such disorders are no more caused by relaxing than are
the disorders which beset a drunkard or an opium-eater, upon
refusing to continue in the way of his error, primarily caused by
the abandonment of his evil habit, even though the appearance is
that he must return to it in order to re-establish his

One more cause of trouble, especially in working without a guide, is
the habit of going through the form of the exercises without really
doing them. The tests needed here have been spoken of before.

Do not separate your way of practising from your way of living, but
separate your life entirely from your practice while practising,
trying outside of this time always to accomplish the agreement of
the two,--that is, live the economy of force that you are
practising. You can be just as gay, just as vivacious, but without
the fatiguing after-effects.

As you work to gain the ideal equilibrium, if your test comes, do
not be staggered nor dismayed. Avoid its increase by at once giving
careful consideration to the causes, and dropping them. Keep your
life quietly to the form of its usual action, as far as you wisely
can. If you have gained even a little appreciation of equilibrium,
you will not easily mistake and overdo.

When you find yourself becoming bound to the dismal thought of your
test and its terrors, free yourself from it every time, by
concentrating upon the weight of your body, or the slowness of the
slowest breaths you can draw. Keep yourself truly free, and these
feelings of discouragement and all other mental distortions will
steadily lose power, until for you they are no more. If they last
longer than you think they should, persist in every endeavor,
knowing that the after-result, in increased capacity to help
yourself and others, will be in exact ratio to your power of
persistency without succumbing.

The only way to keep truly free, and therefore ready to profit by
the help Nature always has at hand, is to avoid thought of your form
of illness as far as possible. The man with indigestion gives the
stomach the first place in his mind; he is a mass of detailed and
subdued activity, revolving about a monstrous stomach,--his brain,
heart, lungs, and other organs, however orderly they may be, are of
no consideration, and are slowly made the degraded slaves of himself
and his stomach.

The man who does not sleep, worships sleep until all life seems
_sleep,_ and no life any importance without it. He fixes his mind on
not sleeping, rushes for his watch with feverish intensity if a nap
does come, to gloat over its brevity or duration, and then wonders
that each night brings him no more sleep.

There is nothing more contracting to mind and body than such
idol-worship. Neither blood nor nervous fluid can flow as it should.

Let us be sincere in our work, and having gained even one step
toward a true equilibrium, hold fast to it, never minding how
severely we are tempted.

We see the work of quiet and economy, the lack of strain and of
false purpose, in fine old Nature herself; let us constantly try to
do our part to make the picture as evident, as clear and distinct,
in God's greater creation,--Human Nature.



A WOMAN who had had some weeks of especially difficult work for mind
and body, and who had finished it feeling fresh and well, when a
friend expressed surprise at her freedom from fatigue, said, with a
smiling face: "Oh! but I took great care of myself all through it: I
always went to bed early, and rested when it was possible. I was
careful to eat only nourishing food, and to have exercise and fresh
air when I could get them. You see I knew that the work must be
accomplished, and that if I were over-tired I could not do it well."
The work, instead of fatiguing, had evidently refreshed her.

If that same woman had insisted, as many have in similar cases, that
she had no time to think of herself; or if such care had seemed to
her selfish, her work could not have been done as well, she would
have ended it tired and jaded, and would have declared to
sympathizing friends that it was "impossible to do a work like that
without being all tired out," and the sympathizing friends would
have agreed and thought her a heroine.

A well-known author, who had to support his wife and family while
working for a start in his literary career, had a commercial
position that occupied him every day from nine to five. He came home
and dined at six, went to bed at seven, slept until three, when he
got up, made himself a cup of coffee, and wrote until he breakfasted
at eight. He got all the exercise he needed in walking to and from
his outside work and was able to keep up this regular routine, with
no loss of health, until he could support his family comfortably on
what he earned from his pen. Then he returned to ordinary hours.

A brain once roused will take a man much farther than his strength;
if this man had come home tired and allowed himself to write far
into the night, and then, after a short sleep, had gone to the
indispensable earning of his bread and butter, the chances are that
his intellectual power would have decreased, until both publishers
and author would have felt quite certain that he had no power at

The complacent words, "I cannot think of myself," or, "It is out of
the question for me to care for myself," or any other of the various
forms in which the same idea is expressed, come often from those who
are steadily thinking of themselves, and, as a natural consequence,
are so blinded that they cannot see the radical difference between
unselfish care for one's self, as a means to an end, and the selfish
care for one's self which has no other object in view.

The wholesome care is necessary to the best of all good work. The
morbid care means steady decay for body and soul.

We should care for our bodies as a violinist cares for his
instrument. It is the music that comes from his violin which he has
in mind, and he is careful of his instrument because of its musical
power. So we, with some sense of the possible power of a healthy
body, should be careful to keep it fully supplied with fresh air; to
keep it exercised and rested; to supply it with the quality and
quantity of nourishment it needs; and to protect it from unnecessary
exposure. When, through mistake or for any other reason, our bodies
get out of order, instead of dwelling on our discomfort, we should
take immediate steps to bring them back to a normal state.

If we learned to do this as a matter of course, as we keep our hands
clean, even though we had to be conscious of our bodies for a short
time while we were gaining the power, the normal care would lead to
a happy unconsciousness. Carlyle says, and very truly, that we are
conscious of no part of our bodies until it is out of order, and it
certainly follows that the habit of keeping our bodies in order
would lead us eventually to a physical freedom which, since our
childhood, few of us have known. In the same way we can take care of
our minds with a wholesome spirit. We can see to it that they are
exercised to apply themselves well, that they are properly diverted,
and know how to change, easily, from one kind of work to another. We
can be careful not to attempt to sleep directly after severe mental
work, but first to refresh our minds by turning our attention into
entirely different channels in the way of exercise or amusement.

We must not allow our minds to be over-fatigued any more than our
bodies, and we must learn how to keep them in a state of quiet
readiness for whatever work or emergency may be before them.

There is also a kind of moral care which is quite in line with the
care of the mind and the body, and which is a very material aid to
these,--a way of refusing to be irritable, of gaining and
maintaining cheerfulness, kindness, and thoughtfulness for others.

It is well known how much the health of any one part of us depends
upon all the others. The theme of one of Howells's novels is the
steady mental, moral, and physical degeneration of a man from eating
a piece of cold mince-pie at midnight, and the sequence of steps by
which he is led down is a very natural process. Indeed, how much
irritability and unkindness might be traced to chronic indigestion,
which originally must have come from some careless disobedience of
simple physical laws.

When the stomach is out of order, it needs more than its share of
vital force to do its work, and necessarily robs the brain; but when
it is in good condition this force may be used for mental work. Then
again, when we are in a condition of mental strain or unhealthy
concentration, this condition affects our circulation and consumes
force that should properly be doing its work elsewhere, and in this
way the normal balance of our bodies is disturbed.

The physical and mental degeneration that follows upon moral
wrong-doing is too well known to dwell upon. It is self-evident in
conspicuous cases, and very real in cases that are too slight to
attract general attention. We might almost say that little ways of
wrongdoing often produce a worse degeneration, for they are more
subtle in their effects, and more difficult to realize, and
therefore to eradicate.

The wise care for one's self is simply steering into the currents of
law and order,--mentally, morally, and physically. When we are once
established in that life and our forces are adjusted to its
currents, then we can forget ourselves, but not before: and no one
can find these currents of law and order and establish himself in
them, unless he is working for some purpose beyond his own health.
For a man may be out of order physically, mentally, or morally
simply for the want of an aim in life beyond his own personal
concerns. No care is to any purpose--indeed, it is injurious--unless
we are determined to work for an end which is not only useful in
itself, but is cultivating in us a living interest in
accomplishment, and leading us on to more usefulness and more
accomplishment. The physical, mental, and moral man are all three
mutually interdependent, but all the care in the world for each and
all of them can only lead to weakness instead of strength, unless
they are all three united in a definite purpose of useful life for
the benefit of others.

Even a hobby re-acts upon itself and eats up the man who follows it,
unless followed to some useful end. A man interested in a hobby for
selfish purposes alone first refuses to look at anything outside of
his hobby, and later turns his back on everything but his own idea
of his hobby. The possible mental contraction which may follow, is
almost unlimited, and such contraction affects the whole man.

It is just as certain a law for an individual that what he gives out
must have a definite relation to what he takes in, as it is for the
best strength of a country that its imports and exports should be in
proper balance. Indeed, this law is much more evident in the case of
the individual, if we look only a little below the surface. A man
can no more expect to live without giving out to others than a
shoemaker can expect to earn his bread and butter by making shoes
and leaving them piled in a closet.

To be sure, there are many men who are well and happy, and yet, so
far as appearances go, are living entirely for themselves, with not
only no thought of giving, but a decided unwillingness to give. But
their comfort and health are dependent on temporary conditions, and
the external well-being they have acquired would vanish, if a
serious demand were made upon their characters.

Happy the man or woman who, through illness of body or soul, or
through stress of circumstances, is aroused to appreciate the
strengthening power of useful work, and develops a wholesome sense
of the usefulness and necessity of a rational care of self!

Try to convince a man that it is better on all accounts that he
should keep his hands clean and he might answer, "Yes, I appreciate
that; but I have never thought of my hands, and to keep them clean
would make me conscious of them." Try to convince an
unselfishly-selfish or selfishly-unselfish person that the right
care for one's self means greater usefulness to others, and you will
have a most difficult task. The man with dirty hands is quite right
in his answer. To keep his hands clean would make him more conscious
of them, but he does not see that, after he had acquired the habit
of cleanliness, he would only be conscious of his hands when they
were dirty, and that this consciousness could be at any time
relieved by soap and water. The selfishly-unselfish person is right:
it is most pernicious to care for one's self in a self-centred
spirit; and if we cannot get a clear sense of wholesome care of
self, it is better not to care at all.

With a perception of the need for such wholesome care, would come a
growing realization of the morbidness of all self-centred care, and
a clearer, more definite standard of unselfishness. For the
self-centred care takes away life, closes the sympathies, and makes
useful service obnoxious to us; whereas the wholesome care, with
useful service as an end, gives renewed life, an open sympathy, and
growing power for further usefulness.

We do not need to study deeply into the laws of health, but simply
to obey those we know. This obedience will lead to our knowing more
laws and knowing them better, and it will in time become a very
simple matter to distinguish the right care from the wrong, and to
get a living sense of how power increases with the one, and
decreases with the other.



EVERY one will admit that our relations to others should be quiet
and clear, in order to give us freedom for our work. Indeed, to make
these relations quiet and happy is the special work that some of us
have to do. There are laws for health, laws for gaining and keeping
normal nerves, laws for honest, kindly action toward others,--but
the obedience to all these is a dead obedience, and does not lead to
vigorous life, unless accompanied by a hearty love for work and play
with those to whom we stand in natural relations,--both young and
old. It is with life as it is with art, what we do must be done with
love, or it will have no force. Without the living spark of love, we
may have the appearance, but never the spirit, of useful work or
quiet content. Stagnation is not peace, and there can be no life,
and so no living peace, without happy relations with those about us.

The more we realize the practical strength of the law which bids us
love our neighbor as ourselves, and the more we act upon it, the
more quickly we gain the habit of pleasant, patient friendliness,
which sooner or later may beget the same friendliness in return. In
this kind of friendly relation there is a savor which so surpasses
the unhealthy snap of disagreement, that any one who truly finds it
will soon feel the fallacy of the belief that "between friends there
must be a little quarrelling, to give spice to friendship."

To be willing that every one should be himself, and work out his
salvation in his own way, seems to be the first principle of the
working plan drawn from the law of loving your neighbor as yourself.
If we drop all selfish resistance to the ways of others, however
wrong or ignorant they may be, we are more free to help them to
better ways when they turn to us for help. It is in pushing and
being pushed that we feel most strain in all human relations.

We wait willingly for the growth of plants, and do not complain, or
try in abnormal ways to force them to do what is entirely contrary
to the laws of nature; and if we paid more attention to the laws of
human nature, we should not stunt the growth of children, relatives,
and friends by resisting their efforts,--or their lack of
effort,--or by trying to force them into ways that we think must be
right for them because we are sure they are right for us.

There is a selfish, restless way of pushing others "for their own
good" and straining to "help" them, and there is a selfish, entirely
thoughtless way of letting them alone; it is difficult to tell which
is the worse, or which does more harm. The first is the attitude of
unconscious hypocrisy; the second is that of selfish indifference.
It is in letting alone, with a loving readiness to help, that we
find strength and peace for ourselves in our relations with others.

All great laws are illustrated most clearly in their simplest forms,
and there is no better way to get a sense of really free and
wholesome relations with others than from the relations of a mother
with her baby. Even healthy reciprocity is there, in all the fulness
of its best beginnings, and the results of wholesome, rational,
maternal care are evident to the delighted observer in the joyous
freedom with which the baby mind develops according to the laws of
its own life.

Heidi is a baby not yet a year old, and is left alone a large part
of the day. Having no amusements imposed upon her, she has formed
the habit of entertaining herself in her own way; she greets you
with the most fascinating little gurgles, and laughs up at you when
you stop and speak to her as if to say, "How do you do? I am having
a _very_ happy time!" Five minutes' smiling and being smiled at by
her gives a friend who stops to talk "a _very_ happy time" too. If
you take her up for a little while, she stays quietly and looks at
you, then at the trees or at something in the room, then at her own
hand. If you say "ah," or "oo," she answers with a vowel too; so the
conversation begins and goes on, with jolly little laughter every
now and then, and when you give her a gentle kiss and put her down,
her good-bye is a very contented one, and her "Thank you; please
come again," is quite as plainly understood as if she had said it.
You leave her, feeling that you have had a very happy visit with one
of your best friends.

Heidi is not officiously interfered with; she has the best of care.
When she cries, every means is taken to find the cause of her
trouble; and when the trouble is remedied, she stops. She is a dear
little friend, and gives and takes, and grows.

Another baby of the same age is Peggy. She is needlessly handled and
caressed. She is kissed a hundred times a day with rough affection,
which is mistaken for tenderness and love. She is "bounced" up and
down and around; and the people about her, who believe themselves
her friends and would be heartbroken if she were taken from them,
talk at her, and not with her; they make her do "cunning little
things," and then laugh and admire; they try over and over to force
her to speak words when her little brain is not ready for the
effort; and when she is awake, she is almost constantly surrounded
by "loving" noise. Peggy is capable of being as good a friend as
Heidi, but she is not allowed to be. Her family are so overwhelmed
by their own feelings of love and admiration that they really only
love themselves in her, for they give her not the slightest
opportunity to be herself. The poor baby has sleepless, crying
nights, and a little irritating illness hanging about her all the
time; the doctor is called, and every one wonders why she should be
ill; every one worries about her; but the caressing and noisy
affection go on. Although much of the difference between these two
babies could probably be accounted for by differences of heredity
and temperament, it nevertheless remains true that it is very
largely the result of a difference between wise and foolish parents.

The real friendship which her mother gave to Heidi, and which
resulted in her happy, placid ways and quickly responsive
intelligence, meets with a like response in older children; and
reciprocal friendship grows in strength and in pleasure both for
child and older friend, as the child grows older. When a child is
permitted the freedom of his own individuality, he can show the best
in himself. When he is tempted to go wrong, he can be rationally
guided in the right way in such a manner that he will accept the
guidance as an act of friendship; and to that friendship he will
feel bound in honor to be true, because he knows that we, his
friends, are obeying the same laws. Of course all this comes to him
from no conscious action of his own mind, but from an unconscious,
contented recognition of the state of mind of his older friends.

A poor woman, who lived in one room with her husband and two
children, said once in a flash of new intelligence, "Now I see: the
more I hollers, the more the children hollers; I am not going to
holler any more." There are various grades of "hollering;" we
"holler" often without a sound, and the child feels it, and
"hollers" with many sounds which are distressing to him and to us.

It is primarily true with babies and young children that "if you
want to have a friend, you must be a friend." If we want courtesy
and kindliness from a child, we must be courteous and kindly to him.
Not in outside ways alone,--a child quickly feels the sham of mere
superficial attention,--but sincerely, with a living interest.

So should we truly, from our inmost selves, meet a child as if he
were of our own age, and as if we were of his age. This sounds like
a paradox, but indeed the one proposition is essential to the other.
If we meet a child only as if he were of our age, our attitude tends
to make him a little prig; if we meet him as if we were as young as
he is, his need for maturer influences produces a lack of balance
which we must both feet; but if we sincerely meet him as if the
exchange of age were mutual, we find common ground and valuable

This mutual understanding is the basis of all true friendship. Only
read, instead of "age," "habit of mind," "character," "state," and
we have the whole. It is aiming for reciprocal relations, from the
best in us to the best in others, and from the best in others to the
best in ourselves. It is the foundation of all that is
strengthening, and quiet, and happy, in all human intercourse with
young and old.

To gain the friendly habit is more difficult with our contemporaries
than it is with children. We have no right to guide older people
unless they want to be guided, and they often want to guide us in
ways we do not like at all. We have no right to try to change their
opinions, unless they ask us for new light; and they often insist
upon trying to change ours whether we ask them or not. There is sure
to be selfish resistance in us when we complain of it in others, and
we must acknowledge it and get free from it before we can give or
find the most helpful sympathy.

A healthy letting people alone, and a good wholesome scouring of
ourselves, will, if it is to come at all, bring open friendliness.
If it is not to come, then the healthy letting people alone should
continue, for it is possible to live in the same house with a wilful
and trying character, and live at peace, if he is lovingly let
alone. If he is unlovingly let alone, the peace will be only on the
outside, and must sooner or later give way to storms, or, what is
much worse, harden into unforgiving selfishness.

Our influence with others depends primarily upon what we are, and
only secondarily upon what we think or upon what we say. It is so
with babies and young children, and more so with our older friends.
If we honestly feel that there is something for us to learn from
another, however wrong or ignorant, in some ways, he may seem, we
are not only more able to find and profit by the best in him, but
also to give to him in return whatever he may be ready to receive.
How little quiet comfort there is in families where useless
resistance to one another is habitual! Members of one family often
live along together with more or less appearance of good fellowship,
but with an inner strain which gives them drawn faces and tired
bodies, or else throws them back upon themselves in the enjoyment of
their own selfishness; and sometimes there is not even the
appearance of good fellowship, but a chronic resistance and
disagreement, all for the want of a little sympathy and common

It is the sensitive people that suffer most, and their sensitiveness
is deplored by the family and by themselves. If they could only know
how great a gift their sensitiveness is! To appreciate this, it must
be used to find and feel the good in others, not to make us
abnormally alive to real or fancied slights. We must use it to
enlarge our sympathies and help us understand the wrong-doing of
others enough to point the way, if possible, to better things, not
merely to criticise and blame them. Only in such ways can we learn
to realize and use the delicate power of sensitiveness. Selfish
sensitiveness is a blessing turned to a curse; but the more lovingly
sensitive we become to the need of moral freedom in our friends, the
Dearer we are led to our own.

There are no human relations that do not illustrate the law which
bids me "love my neighbor as myself;" especially clearly is it
revealed,--in its breach of observance,--in the comparatively
external relations of host and guest in ordinary social life, and in
the happiness that can be given and received when it is readily

A lady once said, "I go into my bedroom and take note of all the
conveniences I have there, and then look about my guest chamber to
see that it is equally well and appropriately furnished." She
succeeds in her object in the guest chamber if she is the kind of
hostess to her guest that she would have her guest be to her; not
that her guest's tastes are necessarily her own, but that she knows
how to find out what they are and how to satisfy them.

It is often difficult to love our neighbor as ourselves because we
do not know how to love ourselves. We are selfish, or stupid, or
aggressive with ourselves, or try too hard for what is right and
good, instead of trusting with inner confidence and reverence to a
power that is above us.

Over-thoughtfulness for others, in little things or great, is
oppressive, and as much an enemy to peace, as the lack of any
thoughtfulness at all. It is like too much attention to the baby,
and comes from the same kind of selfish affection, with--frequently
the added motive of wanting to appear disinterested.

One might give pages of examples showing the right and the wrong way
in all the varied relations of life, but they would all show that
the right way comes from obedience to the law of unselfishness. To
obey this law we must respect our neighbor's rights as we respect
our own; we must gain and keep the clear and quiet atmosphere that
we like to find about our friend; we must shun everything that would
interfere with a loving kindliness toward him, as we would have him
show the same kindliness toward us. We must know that we and our
friends are one, and that, unless a relation is a mutual benefit, it
is no true relation at all. But, first of all, we must remember that
a true appreciation of the wonderful power of this law comes only
with daily, patient working, and waiting for the growth it brings.

In so far as we are truly the friend of one, whether he be baby,
child, or grown man,--shall we be truly the friend of all; in so far
as we are truly the friend of all, shall we be truly the friend of
every one; and, as we find the living peace of this principle, and a
greater freedom from selfishness,--whether of affection or
dislike,--those who truly belong to us will gravitate to our sides,
and we shall gravitate to theirs. Each one of us will understand his
own relation to the rest,--whether remote or close,--for in that
quiet light it will be seen to rest on intelligible law, which only
the fog and confusion of selfishness concealed.



IT is not generally recognized that the will can be trained, little
by little, by as steadily normal a process as the training of a
muscle, and that such training must be through regular daily
exercise, and as slow in its effects as the training of a muscle is
slow. Perhaps we are unconsciously following, as a race, the law
that Froebel has given for the beginnings of individual education,
which bids us lead from the "outer to the inner," from the known to
the unknown. There is so much more to be done to make methods of
muscular training perfect, that we have not yet come to appreciate
the necessity for a systematic training of the will. Every
individual, however, who recognizes the need of such training and
works accordingly, is doing his part to hasten a more intelligent
use of the will by humanity in general.

When muscles are trained abnormally their development weakens,
instead of strengthening, the whole system. Great muscular strength
is often deceptive in the appearance of power that it gives; it
often effectually hides, under a strong exterior, a process of
degeneration which is going on within, and it is not uncommon for an
athlete to die of heart disease or pulmonary consumption.

This is exactly analogous to the frequently deceptive appearance of
great strength of will. The will is trained abnormally when it is
used only in the direction of personal desire, and the undermining
effect upon the character in this case is worse than the weakening
result upon the body in the case of abnormal muscular development. A
person who is persistently strong in having his own way may be found
inconsistently weak when he is thwarted in his own way. This
weakness is seldom evident to the general public, because a man with
a strong will to accomplish his own ends is quick to detect and hide
any appearance of weakness, when he knows that it will interfere
with whatever he means to do. The weakness, however, is none the
less certainly there, and is often oppressively evident to those
from whom he feels that he has nothing to gain.

When the will is truly trained to its best strength, it is trained
to obey; not to obey persons or arbitrary ideas, but to obey laws of
life which are as fixed and true in their orderly power, as the
natural laws which keep the suns and planets in their appointed
spheres. There is no one who, after a little serious reflection, may
not be quite certain of two or three fixed laws, and as we obey the
laws we know, we find that we discover more.

To obey truly we must use our wills to yield as well as to act.
Often the greatest strength is gained through persistent yielding,
for to yield entirely is the most difficult work a strong will can
do, and it is doing the most difficult work that brings the greatest

To take a simple example: a small boy with a strong will is troubled
with stammering. Every time he stammers it makes him angry, and he
pushes and strains and exerts himself with so much effort to speak,
that the stammering, in consequence, increases. If he were told to
do something active and very painful, and to persist in it until his
stammering were cured, he would set his teeth and go through the
work like a soldier, so as to be free from the stammering in the
shortest possible time. But when he is told that he must relax his
body and stop pushing, in order to drop the resistance that causes
his trouble, he fights against the idea with all his little might.
It is all explained to him, and he understands that it is his only
road to smooth speaking; but the inherited tendency to use his will
only in resistance is so strong, that at first it seems impossible
for him to use it in any other way.

The fact that the will sometimes gains its greatest power by
yielding seems such a paradox that it is not strange that it takes
us long to realize it. Indeed, the only possible realization of it
is through practice.

The example of the little stammering boy is an illustration that
applies to many other cases of the same need for giving up

No matter how actively we need to use our wills, it is often,
necessary to drop all self-willed resistance first, before we begin
an action, if we want to succeed with the least possible effort and
the best result.

When we use the will forcibly to resist or to repress, we are simply
straining our nerves and muscles, and are exerting ourselves in a
way which must eventually be weakening, not only to them, but to the
will itself. We are using the will normally when, without repression
or unnecessary effort, we are directing the muscles and nerves in
useful work. We want "training and not straining" as much for the
will as for the body, and only in that way does the will get its

The world admires a man for the strength of his will if he can
control the appearance of anger, whereas the only strength of will
that is not spurious is that which controls the anger itself. We
have had the habit for so long of living in appearances, that it is
only by a slow process that we acquire a strong sense of their
frailty and lack of genuine value. In order to bring the will, by
training, out of the region of appearances into that of realities,
we must learn to find the true causes of weakness and use our wills
little by little to remove them. To remove the external effect does
no permanent good and produces an apparent strength which only hides
an increasing weakness.

Imagine, for instance, a woman with an emotional, excitable nature
who is suffering from jealousy; she does not call it jealousy, she
calls it "sensitive nerves," and the doctors call it "hysteria." She
has severe attacks of "sensitive nerves" or "hysteria" every time
her jealousy is excited. It is not uncommon for such persistent
emotional strain, with its effect upon the circulation and other
functions of the body, to bring on organic disease. In such a case
the love of admiration, and the strength of will resulting from that
selfish desire, makes her show great fortitude, for which she
receives much welcome praise. That is the effect she wants, and in
the pose of a wonderful character she finds it easy to produce more
fortitude--and so win more admiration.

A will that is strong for the wrong, may--if taken in time--become
equally strong for the right. Perversion is not, at first, through
lack of will, but through the want of true perception to light the
way to its intelligent use.

A man sometimes appears to be without power of will who is only
using a strong will in the wrong way, but if he continues in his
wrong course long enough, his weakness becomes real.

If a woman who begins her nervous degeneration by indulging herself
in jealousy--which is really a gross emotion, however she may refine
it in appearance--could be made to see the truth, she would, in many
cases, be glad to use her will in the right direction, and would
become in reality the beautiful character which her friends believe
her to be. This is especially true because this moral and nervous
perversion often attacks the finest natures. But when such
perversion is allowed to continue, the sufferer's strength is always
prominent in external dramatic effects, but disappears oppressively
when she is brought face to face with realities.

Many people who are nervous invalids, and many who are not, are
constantly weakening themselves and making themselves suffer by
using their wills vigorously in every way _but_ that which is
necessary to their moral freedom: by bearing various unhappy effects
with so-called stoicism, or fighting against them with their eyes
tight shut to the real cause of their suffering, and so hiding an
increasing weakness under an appearance of strength.

A ludicrous and gross example of this misuse of the will may be
observed in men or women who follow vigorously and ostentatiously
paths of self-sacrifice which they have marked out for themselves,
while overlooking entirely places where self-denial is not only
needed for their better life, but where it would add greatly to the
happiness and comfort of others.

It is curious a such weakness is common with people who are
apparently very intelligent; and parallel with this are cases of men
who are remarkably strong in the line of their own immediate
careers, and proportionately weak in every other phase of their
lives. We very seldom find a soldier, or a man who is powerful in
politics, who can answer in every principle and action of his life
to Wordsworth's "Character of the Happy Warrior."

Absurd as futile self-sacrifice seems, it is not less well balanced
than the selfish fortitude of a jealous woman or than the apparent
strength of a man who can only work forcibly for selfish ends. The
wisest use of the will can only grow with the decrease of

"Nervous" women are very effective examples of the perversion of a
strong will. There are women who will work themselves into an
illness and seem hopelessly weak when they are not having their own
way, who would feel quite able to give dinner parties at which they
could be prominent in whatever role they might prefer, and would
forget their supposed weakness with astonishing rapidity. When
things do not go to please such women, they are weak and ill; when
they stand out among their friends according to their own ideal of
themselves and are sufficiently flattered, they enter into work
which is far beyond their actual strength, and sooner or later break
down only to be built up on another false basis.

This strong will turned the wrong way is called "hysteria," or
"neurasthenia," or "degeneracy." It may be one of these or all
three, _in its effect,_ but the training of the will to overcome the
cause, which is always to be found in some kind of selfishness,
would cure the hysteric, give the neurasthenic more wholesome
nerves, and start the degenerate on a course of regeneration. At
times it would hardly surprise us to hear that a child with a
stomach-ache crying for more candy was being treated for "hysteria"
and studied as a "degenerate." Degenerate he certainly is, but only
until he can be taught to deny himself candy when it is not good for
him, with quiet and content.

There are many petty self-indulgences which, if continually
practised, can do great and irreparable harm in undermining the
will. Every man or woman knows his own little weaknesses best, but
that which leads to the greatest harm is the excuse, "It is my
temperament; if I were not tardy, or irritable, or untidy,"--or
whatever it may be,--"I would not be myself." Our temperament is
given us as a servant, not as a master; and when we discover that an
inherited perversion of temperament can be trained to its opposite
good, and train it so, we do it not at a loss of individuality, but
at a great gain. This excuse of "temperament" is often given as a
reason for not yielding. The family will is dwelt upon with a pride
which effectually prevents it from keeping its best strength, and
blinds the members of the family to the weakness that is sure to
come, sooner or later, as a result of the misuse of the inheritance
of which they are so proud.

If we train our wills to be passive or active, as the need may be,
in little things, that prepares us for whatever great work may be
before us, just as in the training of a muscle, the daily gentle
exercise prepares it to lift a great weight.

Whether in little ways or in great ways, it is stupid and useless to
expect to gain real strength, unless we are working in obedience to
the laws that govern its development. We have a faculty for
distinguishing order from disorder and harmony from discord, which
grows in delicacy and strength as we use it, and we can only use it
through refusing disorder and choosing order. As our perception
grows, we choose more wisely, and as we choose more wisely, our
perception grows. But our perceptions must work in causes, not at
all in effects, except as they lead us to a knowledge of causes. We
must, above all, train our wills as a means of useful work. It is
impossible to perfect ourselves for the sake of ourselves.

It is a happy thing to have been taught the right use of the will as
a child, but those of us who have not been so taught, can be our own
fathers and our own mothers, and we must be content with a slow
growth. We are like babies learning to walk. The baby tries day
after day, and does not feel any strain, or wake in the morning with
a distressing sense of "Oh! I must practise walking to-day. When
shall I have finished learning?" He works away, time after time
falling down and picking himself up, and some one day finally walks,
without thinking about it any more. So we, in the training of our
wills, need to work patiently day by day; if we fall, we must pick
ourselves up and go on, and just as the laws of balance guide the
baby, so the laws of life will carry us.

When the baby has succeeded in walking, he is not elated at his new
power, but uses it quietly and naturally to accomplish his ends. We
cannot realize too strongly that any elation or personal pride on
our part in a better use of the will, not only obstructs its growth,
but is directly and immediately weakening.

A quiet, intelligent use of the will is at the root of all
character; and unselfish, well-balanced character, with the insight
which it develops, will lead us to well-balanced nerves.


TO sum it all up, the nerves are conductors for impression and
expression. As channels, they should be as free as Emerson's "smooth
hollow tube," for transmission from without in, and from within out.
Thus the impressions will be clear, and the expressions powerful.

The perversions in the way of allowing to the nerves the clear
conducting power which Nature would give them are, so far as the
body is concerned, unnecessary fatigue and strain caused by not
resting entirely when the times come for rest, and by working with
more than the amount of force needed to accomplish our ends,--thus
defying the natural laws of equilibrium and economy. Not only in the
ways mentioned do we defy these most powerful laws, but, because of
carelessness in nourishment and want of normal exercise out of
doors, we make the establishment of such equilibrium impossible.

The nerves can never be open channels while the body wants either
proper nourishment, the stimulus that comes from open air exercise,
perfect rest, or true economy of force in running the human machine.

The physical training should be a steady shunning of personal
perversions until the nervous system is in a natural state, and the
muscles work in direct obedience to the will with the exquisite
co-ordination which is natural to them.

The same equilibrium must be found in the use of the mind. Rest must
be complete when taken, and must balance the effort in work,--rest
meaning often some form of recreation as well as the passive rest of
steep. Economy of effort should be gained through normal
concentration,--that is, the power of erasing all previous
impressions and allowing a subject to hold and carry us, by dropping
every thought or effort that interferes with it, in muscle, nerve,
and mind. The nerves of the senses must be kept clear through this
same ability to drop all previous impressions.

First in importance, and running all through the previous training,
is the use of the will, from which all these servants, mental and
physical, receive their orders,--true or otherwise as the will
itself obeys natural and spiritual laws in giving them. The
perversions in the will to be shunned are misuse of muscles by want
of economy in force and power of direction; abuse of the nervous
system by unwisely dwelling upon pain and illness beyond the
necessary care for the relief of either, or by allowing sham
emotions, irritability, and all other causes of nervous distemper to
overcome us.

The remedy for this is to make a peaceful state possible through a
normal training of the physique; to realize and follow a wholesome
life in all its phases; to recognize daily more fully through
obedience the great laws of life by which we must be governed, as
certainly as an engineer must obey the laws of mechanics if he wants
to build a bridge, that will stand, as certainly as a musician must
obey the laws of harmony if he would write good music, as surely as
a painter must obey the laws of perspective and of color if he
wishes to illuminate Nature by means of his art.

No matter what our work in life, whether scientific, artistic, or
domestic, it is the same body through which the power is
transmitted; and the same freedom in the conductors for impression
and expression is needed, to whatever end the power may be moved,
from the most simple action to the highest scientific or artistic

The quality of power differs greatly; the results are widely
different, but the laws of transmission are the same. So wonderful
is the unity of life and its laws!


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