Part 3 out of 4
manage her father.
This example is not unique. Many of us see friends managing other
friends in that same way. The only thing which can interfere with
such astute management is the difficulty that a man may have in
concealing his own will in order to accomplish what he desires.
Wilfulness is such an impulsive quantity that it will rush ahead in
spite of us and spoil everything when we feel that there is danger
of our not getting our own way. Or, if we have succeeded in getting
our own way by what might be called the "contrary method," we may be
led into an expression of satisfaction which will throw light on the
falseness of our previous attitude and destroy the confidence of the
friend whom we were tactfully influencing.
To work the "contrary method" to perfection requires a careful
control up to the finish and beyond it. In order never to be found
out, we have to be so consistent in our behavior that we gradually
get trained into nothing but a common every-day hypocrite, and the
process which goes on behind hypocrisy must necessarily be a process
of decay. Beside that, the keenest hypocrite that ever lived can
only deceive others up to a certain limit.
But what is one to do when a friend can only be reached by the
"contrary method"? What is one to do when if, for instance, you want
a friend to read a book, you know that the way to prevent his
reading it is to mention your desire? If you want a friend to see a
play and in a forgetful mood mention the fact that you feel sure the
play would delight him, you know as soon as the words are out of
your mouth you have put the chance of his seeing the play entirely
out of the question? What is one to do when something needs mending
in the house, and you know that to mention the need to the man of
the house would be to delay the repair just so much longer? How are
our contrary-minded friends to be met if we cannot pretend we do not
want what we do want in order to get their cooperation and consent?
No one could deliberately plan to be a hypocrite understanding what
a hypocrite really is. A hypocrite is a sham--a sham has nothing
solid to stand on. No one really respects a sham, and the most
intelligent, the most tactful hypocrite that ever lived is nothing
but a sham,--_false_ and a sham!
Beside, no one can manage another by the process of sham and
hypocrisy without sooner or later being found out, and when he is
found out, all his power is gone.
The trouble with the contrary-minded is they have an established
habit of resistance. Sometimes the habit is entirely inherited, and
has never been seen or acknowledged. Sometimes it has an inherited
foundation, with a cultivated superstructure.
Either way it is a problem for those who have to deal with
it,--until they understand. The "contrary method" does not solve the
problem; it is only a makeshift; it never does any real work, or
accomplishes any real end. It is not even lastingly intelligent.
The first necessity in dealing truly with these people is _not to be
afraid o f their resistances._ The second necessity, which is so
near the first that the two really belong side by side, is _never to
meet their resistances with resistances o f our own._
If we combat another man's resistance, it only increases his
tension. No matter how wrong he may be, and how right we are,
meeting resistance with resistance only breeds trouble. Two minds
can act and react upon one another in that way until they come to a
lock which not only makes lasting enemies of those who should have
been and could be always friends, but the contention locks up strain
in each man's brain which can never be removed without pain, and a
new awakening to the common sense of human intercourse.
If we want a friend to read a book, to go a journey, or to do
something which is more important for his own good than either, and
we know that to suggest our desire would be to rouse his resistance,
the only way is to catch him in the best mood we can, say what we
have to say, give our own preference, and at the same time feel and
express a willingness to be refused. Every man is a free agent, and
we have no right not to respect his freedom, even if he uses that
freedom to stand in his own light or in ours. If he is standing in
our light and refuses to move, we can move out of his shadow, even
though we may have to give up our most cherished desire in order to
If he is standing in his own light, and refuses to move, we can
suggest or advise and do whatever in us lies to make the common
sense of our opinion clear; but if he still persists in standing in
his own light, it is his business, not ours.
It requires the cultivation of a strong will to put a request before
a friend which we know will be resisted, and to yield to that
resistance so that it meets no antagonism in us. But when it is
done, and done thoroughly, consistently, and intelligently, the
other man's resistance reacts back upon himself, and he finds
himself out as he never could in any other way. Having found himself
out, unless his mulishness is almost past sanity, he begins to
reject his habit of resistance of his own accord.
In dealing with the contrary minded, the "contrary method" works so
long as it is not discovered; and the danger of its being discovered
is always imminent. The upright, direct method is according to the
honorable laws of human intercourse, and brings always better
results in the end, even though there may be some immediate failures
in the process.
To adjust ourselves rightly to another nature and go with it to a
good end, along the lines of least resistance, is of course the best
means of a real acquaintance, but to allow ourselves to manage a
fellow-being is an indignity to the man and worse than an indignity
to the mind who is willing to do the managing.
Our humanity is in our freedom. Our freedom is in our humanity. When
one, man tries to manage another, he is putting that other in the
attitude of a beast. The man who is allowing himself to be managed
is classing himself with the beasts.
Although this is a fact so evident on the base of it that it needs
neither explanation nor enlargement, there is hardly a day passes
that some one does not say to some one, "You cannot manage me in
that way," and the answer should be, "Why should you want to be
managed in any way; and why should I want to insult you by trying to
manage you at all?"
The girl and her father might have been intelligent friends by this
time, if the practice of the "contrary method" had not tainted the
girl with habitual hypocrisy, and cultivated in the father the
warped mind which results from the habit of resistance, and blind
weakness which comes from the false idea that he is always having
his own way.
If we want an open brain and a good, freely working nervous system,
we must respect our own freedom and the freedom of other
people,--for only as individuals stand alone can they really
influence one another to any good end.
It is curious to see how the men of habitual resistance pride
themselves on being in bondage to no one, not knowing that the fear
of such bondage is what makes them resist, and the fear of being
influenced by another is one of the most painful forms of bondage in
which a man can be.
The men who are slaves to this fear do not stop even to consider the
question. They resist and refuse a request at once, for fear that
pausing for consideration would open them to the danger of appearing
to yield to the will of another.
When we are quite as willing to yield to another as to refuse him,
then we are free, and can give any question that is placed before us
intelligent consideration, and decide according to our best
judgment. No amount of willfulness can force a man to any action or
attitude of mind if he is willing to yield to the willful pressure
if it seems to him best.
The worse bondage of man to man is the bondage of fear.
_How to Sew Easily_
IT is a common saying that we should let our heads save our heels,
but few of us know the depth of it or the freedom and health that
can come from obedience to it.
For one thing we get into ruts. If a woman grows tired sewing she
takes it for granted that she must always be tired. Sometimes she
frets and complains, which only adds to her fatigue.
Sometimes she goes on living in a dogged state of overtiredness
until there comes a "last straw" which brings on some organic
disease, and still another "straw" which kills her altogether.
We, none of us, seem to realize that our heads can save not only our
heels, but our hearts, and our lungs, our spines and our
brains--indeed our whole nervous systems.
Men and women sometimes seem to prefer to go on working--chronically
tired--getting no joy from life whatever, rather than to take the
trouble to think enough to gain the habit of working restfully.
Sometimes, to be sure, they are so tired that the little extra
exertion of the brain required to learn to get rid of the fatigue
seems too much for them.
It seems easier to work in a rut of strain and discomfort than to
make the effort to get out of the rut--even though they know that by
doing so they will not only be better themselves, but will do their
Now really the action of the brain which is needed to help one to
work restfully is quite distinct from the action which does the
work, and a little effort of the brain in a new direction rests and
refreshes the part of the brain which is drudging along day after
day, and not only that, but when one has gained the habit of working
more easily life is happier and more worth while. If once we could
become convinced of that fact it would be a simple matter for the
head to learn to save the heels and for the whole body to be more
vigorous in consequence.
Take sewing, for instance: If a woman must sew all day long without
cessation and she can appreciate that ten or fifteen minutes taken
out of the day once in the morning and once in the afternoon is
going to save fatigue and help her to do her sewing better, doesn't
it seem simply a lack of common sense if she is not willing to take
that half hour and use it for its right purpose? Or, if she is
employed with others, is it not a lack of common sense combined with
cruelty in her employer if he will not permit the use of fifteen
minutes twice a day to help his employees to do their work better
and to keep more healthy in the process of working?
It seems to me that all most of us need is to have our attention
drawn to the facts in such cases as this and then we shall be
willing and anxious to correct the mistakes.
First, we do not know, and, secondly, we do not think,
intelligently. It is within our reach to do both.
Let me put the facts about healthy sewing in numerical order:--
First--A woman should never sew nor be allowed to sew in bad air.
The more or less cramped attitude of the chest in sewing makes it
especially necessary that the lungs should be well supplied with
oxygen, else the blood will lose vitality, the appetite will go and
the nerves will be straining to bring the muscles up to work which
they could do quite easily if they were receiving the right amount
of nourishment from air and food.
Second--When our work gives our muscles a tendency steadily in one
direction we must aim to counteract that tendency by using exercises
with a will to pull them in the opposite way.
If a man writes constantly, to stop writing half a dozen times a day
and stretch the fingers of his hand wide apart and let them relax
back slowly will help him so that he need not be afraid of writer's
Now a woman's tendency in sewing is to have her chest contracted and
settled down on her stomach, and her head bent forward. Let her stop
even twice a day, lift her chest off her stomach, see that the
lifting of her chest takes her shoulders back, let her head gently
fall back, take a long quiet breath in that attitude, then bring the
head up slowly, take some long quiet breaths like gentle sighs,
gradually let the lungs settle back into their habitual state of
breathing, and then try the exercise again.
If this exercise is repeated three times in succession with quiet
care, its effect will be very evident in the refreshment felt when a
woman begins sewing again.
At the very most it can only take two minutes to go through the
whole exercise and be ready to repeat it.
That will mean six minutes for the three successive times.
Six minutes can easily be made up by the renewed vigor that comes
from the long breath and change of attitude. Stopping for the
exercise three times a day will only take eighteen--or at the most
twenty-minutes out of the day's work and it will put much more than
that into the work in new power.
Third--We must remember that we need not sew in a badly cramped
position. Of course the, exercises will help us out of the
habitually cramped attitude, but we cannot expect them to help us so
much unless we make an effort while sewing to be as little cramped
The exercises give us a new standard of erectness, and that new
standard will make us sensitive to the wrong attitude.
We will constantly notice when our chests get cramped and settled
down on our stomachs and by expanding them and lifting them, even as
we sew, the healthy attitude will get to be second nature.
Fourth--We must sew with our hands and our arms, not with our
spines, the backs of our necks, or our legs. The unnecessary strain
she puts into her sewing makes a woman more tired than anything
else. To avoid this she must get sensitive to the strain, and every
time she perceives it drop it; consciously, with a decided use of
her will, until she has established the habit of working without
strain. The gentle raising of the head to the erect position after
the breathing exercise will let out a great deal of strain, and so
make us more sensitive to its return when we begin to sew, and the
more sensitive we get to it the sooner we can drop it.
I think I hear a woman say, "I have neither the time nor the
strength to attend to all this." My answer is, such exercise will
save time and strength in the end.
_Do not Hurry_
HOW can any one do anything well while in a constant state of rush?
How can any one see anything clearly while in a constant state of
rush? How can any one expect to keep healthy and strong while in a
constant state of rush?
But most of my readers may say, "I am not in a constant state of
rush--I only hurry now and then when I need to hurry."
The answer to that is "Prove it, prove it." Study yourself a little,
and see whether you find yourself chronically in a hurry or not.
If you will observe yourself carefully with a desire to find the
hurry tendency, and to find it thoroughly, in order to eliminate it,
you will be surprised to see how much of it there is in you.
The trouble is that all our standards are low, and to raise our
standards we must drop that which interferes with the most wholesome
way of living.
As we get rid of all the grosser forms of hurry we find in ourselves
other hurry habits that are finer and more subtle, and gradually our
standards of quiet, deliberate ways get higher; we become more
sensitive to hurry, and a hurried way of doing things grows more and
more disagreeable to us.
Watch the women coming out of a factory in the dinner hour or at six
o'clock. They are almost tumbling over each other in their hurry to
get away. They are putting on their jackets, pushing in their
hatpins, and running along as if their dinner were running away from
Something akin to that same attitude of rush we can see in any large
city when the clerks come out of the shops, for their luncheon hour,
or when the work of the day is over.
If we were to calculate in round numbers the amount of time saved by
this rush to get away from the shop, we should find three minutes,
probably the maximum--and if we balance that against the loss to
body and mind which is incurred, we should find the three minutes'
gain quite overweighted by the loss of many hours, perhaps days,
because of the illness which must be the result of such habitual
It is safe to predict when we see a woman rushing away from factory
or shop that she is not going to "let up" on that rate of speed
until she is back again at work. Indeed, having once started brain
and body with such an exaggerated impetus, it is not possible to
quiet down without a direct and decided use of the will, and how is
that decided action to be taken if the brain is so befogged with the
habit of hurry that it knows no better standard?
One of the girls from a large factory came rushing up to the kind,
motherly head of the boarding house the other day saying:--
"It is abominable that I should be kept waiting so long for my
dinner. I have had my first course and here I have been waiting
twenty minutes for my dessert."
The woman addressed looked up quietly to the clock and saw that it
was ten minutes past twelve.
" What time did you come in?" she said. "At twelve o'clock."
"And you have had your first course?"
"And waited twenty minutes for your dessert?"
"How can that be when you came in at twelve o'clock, and it is now
only ten minutes past?"
Of course there was nothing to say in answer, but whether the girl
took it to heart and so raised her standard of quiet one little bit,
I do not know.
One can deposit a fearful amount of strain in the brain with only a
few moments' impatience.
I use the word "fearful" advisedly, for when the strain is once
deposited it is not easily removed, especially when every day and
every moment of every day is adding to the strain.
The strain of hurry makes contractions in brain and body with which
it is impossible to work freely and easily or to accomplish as much
as might be done without such contractions.
The strain of hurry befogs the brain so that it is impossible for it
to expand to an unprejudiced point of view.
The strain of hurry so contracts the whole nervous and muscular
systems that the body can take neither the nourishment of food nor
of fresh air as it should.
There are many women who work for a living, and women who do not
work for a living, who feel hurried from morning until they go to
bed at night, and they must, perforce, hurry to sleep and hurry
Often the day seems so full, and one is so pressed for time that it
is impossible to get in all there is to do, and yet a little quiet
thinking will show that the important things can be easily put into
two thirds of the day, and the remaining third is free for rest, or
play, or both.
Then again, there is real delight in quietly fitting one thing in
after another when the day must be full, and the result at the end
of the day is only healthy fatigue from which a good night's rest
will refresh us entirely.
There is one thing that is very evident--a feeling of hurry retards
our work, it does not hasten it, and the more quietly we can do what
is before us, the more quickly and vigorously we do it.
The first necessity is to find ourselves out--to find out for a fact
when we do hurry, and how we hurry, and how we have the sense of
hurry with us all the time. Having willingly, and gladly, found
ourselves out, the remedy is straight before us.
Nature is on the side of leisure and will come to our aid with
higher standards of quiet, the possibilities of which are always in
every one's brain, if we only look to find them.
To sit five minutes quietly taking long breaths to get a sense of
leisure every day will be of very great help--and then when we find
ourselves hurrying, let us stop and recall the best quiet we
know--that need only take a few seconds, and the gain is sure to
_Festina lente_ (hasten slowly) should be in the back of our brains
all day and every day.
"'T is haste makes waste, the sage avers,
And instances are far too plenty;
Whene'er the hasty impulse stirs,
Put on the brake, Festina Lente."
_The Care of an Invalid_
TO take really good care of one who is ill requires not only
knowledge but intelligent patience and immeasurable tact.
A little knowledge will go a great way, and we do not need to be
trained nurses in order to help our friends to bear their illnesses
patiently and quietly and to adjust things about them so that they
are enabled to get well faster because of the care we give them.
Sometimes if we have only fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen
minutes at night to be with a sick friend, we can so arrange things
for the day and for the night that we will have left behind us a
directly curative influence because our invalid feels cared for in
the best way, and has confidence enough to follow the suggestions we
More depends upon the spirit with which we approach an invalid than
A trained nurse who has graduated at the head of her class and has
executive ability, who knows exactly what to do and when to do it,
may yet bring such a spirit of self-importance and bustle that
everything she does for the invalid's ease, comfort, and
recuperation is counteracted by the unrestful "professional" spirit
with which the work is done.
On the other hand, a woman who has only a slight knowledge of
nursing can bring so restful and unobtrusive an atmosphere with her
that the invalid gains from her very presence.
Overwhelming kindness is not only tiresome and often annoying, but a
serious drag on one who is ill.
People who are so busy doing kindnesses seldom consult the invalid's
preferences at all. They are too full of their own selfish
kindliness and self-importance.
I remember a woman who was suffering intensely from neuralgia in her
face. A friend, proud of the idea of caring for her and giving up
her own pleasure to stay in the darkened room and keep the
sufferer's face bathed in hot water, made such a rustling back and
forth with her skirts in getting the water that the strain of the
constant noise and movement not only counteracted any relief that
might have come from the heat, but it increased the pain and made
the nervous condition of the patient much worse.
So it is with a hundred and one little "kindnesses" that people try
to do for others when they are ill.
They talk to amuse them when the invalids would give all in their
power to have a little quiet.
They sit like lumps and say nothing when a little light, easy
chatting might divert the invalid's attention and so start up a
gentle circulation which would tend directly toward health.
Or, they talk and are entertaining for a while in a very helpful
way, but not knowing when to stop, finally make the patient so tired
that they undo all the good of the first fifteen minutes.
They flood the room with light, "to make it look pleasant," when the
invalid longs for the rest of a darkened room; or they draw the
shades when the patient longs for the cheerfulness of sunlight.
They fuss and move about to do this or that and the other "kindness"
when the sick person longs for absolute quiet.
They shower attentions when the first thing that is desired is to be
let alone. One secret of the whole trouble in this oppressive care
of the sick is that this sort of caretaker is interested more to
please herself and feel the satisfaction of her own benefactions
than she is to really please the friend for whom she is caring.
Another trouble is common ignorance. Some women would gladly
sacrifice anything to help a friend to get well; they would give
their time and their strength gladly and count it as nothing, but
they do not know how to care for the sick. Often such people are
sadly discouraged because they see that they are only bringing
discomfort where, with all their hearts, they desire to bring
comfort. The first necessity in the right care for the sick is to be
quiet and cheerful. The next is to aim, without disturbing the
invalid, to get as true an idea as possible of the condition
necessary to help the patient to get well. The third is to bring
about those conditions with the least possible amount of friction.
Find out what the invalid likes and how she likes it by observation
and not by questions.
Sometimes, of course, a question must be asked. If we receive a
snappish answer, let us not resent it, but blame the illness and be
grateful if, along with the snappishness, we find out what suits our
If we see her increasing her pain by contracting and giving all her
attention to complaining, we cannot help her by telling her that
that sort of thing is not going to make her well. But we can soothe
her in a way that will enable her to see it for herself.
Often the right suggestion, no matter how good it is, will only
annoy the patient and send her farther on in the wrong path; but if
given in some gentle roundabout way, so that she feels that she has
discovered for herself what you have been trying to tell her, it
will work wonders toward her recovery.
If you want to care for the sick in a way that will truly help them
toward recovery, you must observe and study,--study and observe, and
never resent their irritability.
See that they have the right amount of air; that they have the right
nourishment at the right intervals. Let them have things their own
way, and done in their own way so far as is possible without
interfering with what is necessary to their health.
Remember that there are times when it is better to risk deferring
recovery a little rather than force upon an invalid what is not
wanted, especially when it is evident that resistance will be
Quiet, cheerfulness, light, air, nourishment, orderly surroundings,
and to be let judiciously alone; those are the conditions which the
amateur nurse must further, according to her own judgment and, her
knowledge of the friend she is nursing.
For this purpose she must, as I have said, study and observe, and
observe and study.
I do not mean necessarily to do all this when she is "off duty," but
to so concentrate when she is attending to the wants of her friend
that every moment and every thought will be used to the best gain of
the patient herself, and not toward our ideas of her best gain.
A little careful effort of this kind will open a new and interesting
vista to the nurse as well as the patient.
_The Habit of Illness_
IT is surprising how many invalids there are who have got well and
do not know it! When you feel ill and days drag on with one ill
feeling following another, it is not a pleasant thing to be told
that you are quite well. Who could be expected to believe it? I
should like to know how many men and women there are who will read
this article, who are well and do not know it; and how many of such
men and women will take the hint I want to give them and turn
honestly toward finding themselves out in a way that will enable
them to discover and acknowledge the truth?
Nerves form habits. They actually form habits in themselves. If a
woman has had an organic trouble which has caused certain forms of
nervous discomfort, when the organic trouble is cured the nerves are
apt to go on for a time with the same uncomfortable feelings because
during the period of illness they had formed the habit of such
discomfort. Then is the time when the will must be used to overcome
such habits. The trouble is that when the doctor tells these victims
of nervous habit that they are really well they will not believe
him. "How can I be well," they say, "when I suffer just as I did
while I was ill?" If then the doctor is fortunate enough to convince
them of the fact that it is only the nervous habit formed from their
illness which causes them to suffer, and that they can rouse their
wills to overcome intelligently this habit, then they can be well in
a few weeks when they might have been apparently ill for many
months--or perhaps even years.
Nerves form the habit of being tired. A woman can get very much
overfatigued at one time and have the impression of the fatigue so
strongly on her nerves that the next time she is only a little tired
she will believe she is very tired, and so her life will go until
the habit of being tired has been formed in her nerves and she
believes that she is tired all the time--whereas if the truth were
known she might easily feel rested all the time.
It is often very difficult to overcome the habit which the nerves
form as a result of an attack of nervous prostration. It is equally
hard to convince any one getting out of such an illness that the
habit of his nerves tries to make him believe he cannot do a little
more every day--when he really can, and would be better for it. Many
cases of nervous prostration which last for years might be cured in
as many months if the truth about nerve habits were recognized and
Nerves can form bad habits and they can form good habits, but of all
the bad habits formed by nerves perhaps the very worst is the habit
of being ill. These bad habits of illness engender an unwillingness
to let go of them. They seem so real. "I do not want to suffer like
this," I hear an invalid say; "if it were merely a habit don't you
think I would throw it off in a minute?"
I knew a young physician who had made somewhat of a local reputation
in the care of nerves, and a man living in a far-distant country,
who had been for some time a chronic invalid, happened by accident
to hear of him. My friend was surprised to receive a letter from
this man, offering to pay him the full amount of all fees he would
earn in one month and as much more as he might ask if he would spend
that time in the house with him and attempt his cure.
Always interested in new phases of nerves, and having no serious
case on hand himself at the time, he assented and went with great
interest on this long journey to, as he hoped, cure one man. When he
arrived he found his patient most charming. He listened attentively
to the account of his years of illness, inquired of others in the
house with him, and then went to bed and to sleep. In the morning he
woke with a sense of unexplained depression. In searching about for
the cause he went over his interviews of the day before and found a
doubt in his mind which he would hardly acknowledge; but by the end
of the next day he said to himself: "What a fool I was to come so
far without a more complete knowledge of what I was coming to! This
man has been well for years and does not know it. It is the old
habit of his illness that is on him; the illness itself must have
left him ten years ago."
The next day--the first thing after breakfast--he took a long walk
in order to make up his mind what to do, and finally decided that he
had engaged to stay one month and must keep to his promise. It would
not do to tell the invalid the truth--the poor man would not believe
it. He was self-willed and self-centered, and his pains and
discomforts, which came simply from old habits of illness, were as
real to him as if they had been genuine. Several physicians had
emphasized his belief that he was ill. One doctor--so my friend was
told--who saw clearly the truth of the case, ventured to hint at it
and was at once discharged. My friend knew all these difficulties
and, when he made up his mind that the only right thing for him to
do was to stay, he found himself intensely interested in trying to
approach his patient with so much delicacy that he could finally
convince him of the truth; and I am happy to say that his efforts
were to a great degree successful. The patient was awakened to the
fact that, if he tried, he could be a well man. He never got so far
as to see that he really was a well man who was allowing old habits
to keep him ill; but he got enough of a new and healthy point of
view to improve greatly and to feel a hearty sense of gratitude
toward the man who had enlightened him. The long habit of illness
had dulled his brain too much for him to appreciate the whole truth
The only way that such an invalid's brain can be enlightened is by
going to work very gently and leading him to the light--never by
combating. This young physician whom I mention was successful only
through making friends with his patient and leading him gradually to
appear to discover for himself the fact which all the time the
physician was really telling him. The only way to help others is to
help them to help themselves, and this is especially the truth with
If you, my friend, are so fortunate as to find out that your illness
is more a habit of illness than illness itself, do not expect to
break the habit at once. Go about it slowly and with common sense. A
habit can be broken sooner than it can be formed, but even then it
cannot be broken immediately. First recognize that your
uncomfortable feelings whether of eyes, nose, stomach, back of neck,
top of head, or whatever it may be, are mere habits, and then go
about gradually but steadily ignoring them. When once you find that
your own healthy self can assert itself and realize that you are
stronger than your habits, these habits of illness will weaken and
finally disappear altogether.
The moment an illness gets hold of one, the illness has the floor,
so to speak, and the temptation is to consider it the master of the
situation--and yielding to this temptation is the most effectual way
of beginning to establish the habits which the illness has started,
and makes it more difficult to know when one is well. On the other
hand it is clearly possible to yield completely to an illness and
let Nature take its course, and at the same time to take a mental
attitude of wholesomeness toward it which will deprive the illness
of much of its power. Nature always tends toward health; so we have
the working of natural law entirely on our side. If the attitude of
a man's mind is healthy, when he gets well he is well. He is not
bothered long with the habits of his illness, for he has never
allowed them to gain any hold upon him. He has neutralized the
effect of the wouldbe habits in the beginning so that they could not
get a firm hold. We can counteract bad habits with good ones any
time that we want to if we only go to work in the right way and are
It would be funny if it were not sad to hear a man say, "Well, you
know I had such and such an illness years ago and I never really
recovered from the effects of it," and to know at the same time that
he had kept himself in the effects of it, or rather the habits of
his nerves had kept him there, and he had been either ignorant or
unwilling to use his will to throw off those habits and gain the
habits of health which were ready and waiting.
People who cheerfully turn their hearts and minds toward health have
so much, so very much, in their favor.
Of course, there are laws of health to be learned and carefully
followed in the work of throwing off habits of illness. We must
rest; take food that is nourishing, exercise, plenty of sleep and
fresh air--yet always with the sense that the illness is only
something to get rid of, and our own healthy attitude toward the
illness is of the greatest importance.
Sometimes a man can go right ahead with his work, allow an illness
to run its course, and get well without interrupting his work in the
least, because of his strong aim toward health which keeps his
illness subordinate. But this is not often the case. An illness,
even though it be treated as subordinate, must be respected more or
less according to its nature. But when that is done normally no bad
habits will be left behind.
I know a young girl who was ill with strained nerves that showed
themselves in weak eyes and a contracted stomach. She is well
now--entirely well--but whenever she gets a little tired the old
habits of eyes and stomach assert themselves, and she holds firmly
on to them, whereas each time of getting overtired might be an
opportunity to break up these evil habits by a right amount of rest
and a healthy amount of ignoring.
This matter of habit is a very painful thing when it is supported by
inherited tendencies. If a young person overdoes and gets pulled
down with fatigue the fatigue expresses itself in the weakest part
of his body. It may be in the stomach and consequently appear as
indigestion; it may be in the head and so bring about severe
headaches, and it may be in both stomach and head.
If it is known that such tendencies are inherited the first thought
that almost inevitably comes to the mind is: "My father always had
headaches and my grandfather, too. Of course, I must expect them now
for the rest of my life." That thought interpreted rightly is: "My
grandfather formed the headache habit, my father inherited the habit
and clinched it--now, of course, I must expect to inherit it, and I
will do my best to see if I cannot hold on to the habit as well as
they did--even better, because I can add my own hold to that which I
have inherited from both my ancestors."
Now, of course, a habit of illness, whether it be of the head,
stomach, or of both, is much more difficult to discard when it is
inherited than when it is first acquired in a personal illness of
our own; but, because it is difficult, it is none the less possible
to discard it, and when the work has been accomplished the strength
gained from the steady, intelligent effort fully compensates for the
difficulty of the task.
One must not get impatient with a bad habit in one's self; it has a
certain power while it lasts, and can acquire a very strong hold.
Little by little it must be dealt with--patiently and steadily.
Sometimes it seems almost as if such habits had intelligence--for
the more you ignore them the more rampant they become, and there is
a Rubicon to cross, in the process of ignoring which, when once
passed, makes the work of gaining freedom easier; for when the
backbone of the habit is broken it weakens and seems to fade away of
itself, and we awaken some fine morning and it has gone--really
Many persons are in a prison of bad habits simply because they do
not know how to get out--not because they do not want to get out. If
we want to help a friend out of the habit of illness it is most
important first to be sure that it is a habit, and then to remember
that a suggestion is seldom responded to unless it is given with
generous sympathy and love. Indeed, when a suggestion is given with
lack of sympathy or with contempt the tendency is to make the
invalid turn painfully away from the speaker and hug her bad habits
more closely to herself. What we can do, however, is to throw out a
suggestion here and there which may lead such a one to discover the
truth for herself; then, if she comes to you with sincere interest
in her discovery, don't say: "Yes, I have thought so for some time."
Keep yourself out of it, except in so far as you can give aid which
is really wanted, and accepted and used.
Beware of saying or doing anything to or for any one which will only
rouse resentment and serve to push deeper into the brain an
impression already made by a mistaken conviction. More than half of
the functional and nervous illnesses in the world are caused by bad
habit, either formed or inherited.
Happy are those who discover the fact for themselves and, with the
intelligence born from such discovery, work with patient insight
until they have freed themselves from bondage. Happy are those who
feel willing to change any mistaken conviction or prejudice and to
recognize it as a sin against the truth.
_What is It that Makes Me so Nervous?_
THE two main reasons why women are nervous are, first, that they do
not take intelligent care of their bodies, and secondly, that they
do not govern their emotions.
I know a woman who prefers to make herself genuinely miserable
rather than take food normally, to eat it normally, and to exercise
in the fresh air.
"Everybody is against me," she says; and if you answer her, "My
dear, you are acting against yourself by keeping your stomach on a
steady strain with too much unmasticated, unhealthy, undigested
food," she turns a woe-begone face on you and asks how you can be
"so material." "Nobody loves me; nobody is kind to me. Everybody
neglects me," she says.
And when you answer, "How can any one love you when you are always
whining and complaining? How can any one be kind to you when you
resent and resist every friendly attention because it does not suit
your especial taste? Indeed, how can you expect anything from any
one when you are giving nothing yourself?" She replies,
"But I am so nervous. I suffer. Why don't they sympathize?"
"My dear child, would you sympathize with a woman who went down into
the cellar and cried because she was so cold, when fresh air and
warm sunshine were waiting for her outside?"
This very woman herself. is cold all the time. She piles covers over
herself at night so that the weight alone would be enough to make
her ill. She sleeps with the heat turned on in her room. She
complains all day of cold when not complaining of other things. She
puts such a strain on her stomach that it takes all of her vitality
to look after her food; therefore she has no vitality left with
which to resist the cold. Of course she resists the idea of a good
brisk walk in the fresh air, and yet, if she took the walk and
enjoyed it, it would start up her circulation, give her blood more
oxygen, and help her stomach to go through all its useless labor
When a woman disobeys all the laws of nervous health how can she
expect not to have her nerves rebel? Nerves in themselves are
exquisitely sensitive--with a direct tendency toward health.
"Don't give me such unnecessary work," the stomach cries. "Don't
stuff me full of the wrong things. Don't put a bulk of food into me,
but chew your food, so that I shall not have to do my own work and
yours, too, when the food gets down here."
And there is the poor stomach, a big nervous centre in close
communication with the brain, protesting and protesting, and its
owner interprets all these protestations into: "I am so unhappy. I
have to work so much harder than I ought. Nobody loves me. Oh, why
am I so nervous?"
The blood also cries out: "Give me more oxygen. I cannot help the
lungs or the stomach or the brain to do their work properly unless
you take exercise in the fresh air that will feed me truly and send
me over the body with good, wholesome vigor."
Now there is another thing that is sadly evident about the young
woman who will not take fresh air, nor eat the right food, nor
masticate properly the food that she does eat. When she goes out for
a walk she seems to fight the fresh air; she walks along full of
resistance and contraction, and tightens all her muscles so that she
moves as if she were tied together with ropes. The expression of her
face is one of miserable strain and endurance; the tone of her voice
is full of complaint. In eating either she takes her food with the
appearance of hungry grabbing, or she refuses it with a fastidious
scorn. Any nervous woman who really wants to find herself out, in
order to get well and strong, and contented and happy, will see in
this description a reflection of herself, even though it may be an
Did you ever see a tired, hungry baby fight his food? His mother
tries to put the bottle to his mouth, and the baby cries and cries,
and turns his head away, and brandishes his little arms about, as if
his mother were offering him something bitter. Then, finally, when
his mother succeeds in getting him to open his mouth and take the
food it makes you smile all over to see the contrast: he looks so
quiet and contented, and you can see his whole little body expand
It is just the same inherited tendency in a nervous woman that makes
her either consciously or unconsciously fight exercise and fresh
air, fight good food and eating it rightly, fight everything that is
wholesome and strengthening and quieting to her nerves, and cling
with painful tenacity to everything that is contracting and
weakening, and productive of chronic strain.
There is another thing that a woman fights: she fights rest. Who has
not seen a tired woman work harder and harder, when she was tired,
until she has worn herself to a state of nervous irritability and
finally has to succumb for want of strength? Who has not seen this
same tired woman, the moment she gets back a little grain of
strength, use it up again at once instead of waiting until she had
paid back her principal and could use only the interest of her
strength while keeping a good balance in reserve?
"I wish my mother would not do so many unnecessary things," said an
A few days after this the mother came in tired, and, with a fagged
look on her face and a fagged tone in her voice, said: "Before I sit
down I must go and see poor Mrs. Robinson. I have just heard that
she has been taken ill with nervous prostration. Poor thing! Why
couldn't she have taken care of herself?"
"But, mother," her daughter answered, "I have been to see Mrs.
Robinson, and taken her some flowers, and told her how sorry you
would be to hear that she was ill."
"My dear," said the fagged mother with a slight tone of irritation
in her voice, "that was very good of you, but of course that was not
my going, and if I should let to-day pass without going to see her,
when I have just heard of her illness, it would be unfriendly and
unneighborly and I should not forgive myself."
"But, mother, you are tired; you do need to rest so much."
"My dear," said the mother with an air of conscious virtue, "I am
never too tired to do a neighborly kindness."
When she left the house her daughter burst into tears and let out
the strain which had been accumulating for weeks.
Finally, when she had let down enough to feel a relief, a funny
little smile came through the tears.
"There is one nervously worn-out woman gone to comfort and lift up
another nervously worn-out woman--if that is not the blind leading
the blind then I don't know. I wonder how long it will be before
mamma, too, is in the ditch?"
This same story could be reversed with the mother in the daughter's
place, and the daughter in the mother's. And, indeed, we see slight
illustrations of it, in one way or the other, in many families and
among many friends.
This, then, is the first answer to any woman's question, "Why am I
so nervous?" Because you do not use common sense in taking exercise,
fresh air, nourishment, and rest.
Nature tends toward health. Your whole physical organism tends
toward health. If you once find yourself out and begin to be
sensible you will find a great, vigorous power carrying you along,
and you will be surprised to see how fast you gain. It may be some
time before Nature gets her own way with you entirely, because when
one has been off the track for long it must take time to readjust;
but when we begin to go with the laws of health, instead of against
them, we get into a healthy current and gain faster than would have
seemed possible when we were outside of it, habitually trying to
oppose the stream.
The second reason why women are nervous is that they do not govern
their emotions. Very often it is the strain of unpleasant emotions
that keeps women nervous, and when we come really to understand we
find that the strain is there because the woman does not get her own
way. She has not money enough.
She has to live with some one she dislikes. She feels that people do
not like her and are neglectful of her. She believes that she has
too much work to do. She wishes that she had more beauty in her
Sometimes a woman is entirely conscious of when or why she fails to
get her own way; then she knows what she is fretting about, and she
may even know that the fretting is a strain that keeps her tired and
nervously irritated. Sometimes a woman is entirely unconscious of
what it is that is keeping her in a chronic state of nervous
irritability. I have seen a woman express herself as entirely
resigned to the very circumstance or person that she was
unconsciously resisting so fiercely that her resistance kept her ill
half of the time. In such cases the strain is double. First, there
is the strain of the person or circumstance chronically resisted and
secondly, there is the strain of the pose of saintly resignation. It
is bad enough to pose to other people, but when we pose to other
people and to ourselves too the strain is twice as bad.
Imagine a nerve specialist saying to his patient, "My dear madam,
you really must stop being a hypocrite. You have not the nervous
strength to spare for it." In most cases, I fear, the woman would
turn on him indignantly and go home to be more of a hypocrite than
ever, and so more nervously ill.
I have seen a woman cry and make no end of trouble because she had
to have a certain relative live in the house with her, simply
because her relative "got on her nerves." Then, after the relative
had left the house, this same woman cried and still kept on making
no end of trouble because she thought she had done wrong in sending
"Cousin Sophia" away; and the poor, innocent, uncomplaining victim
was brought back again. Yet it never seemed to occur to the nervous
woman that "Cousin Sophia" was harmless, and that her trouble came
entirely from the way in which she constantly resented and resisted
little unpolished ways.
I do not know how many times "Cousin Sophia" may be sent off and
brought back again; nor how many times other things in my nervous
friend's life may have to be pulled to pieces and then put together
again, for she has not yet discovered that the cause of the nervous
trouble is entirely in herself, and that if she would stop resisting
"Cousin Sophia's" innocent peculiarities, stop resisting other
various phases of her life that do not suit her, and begin to use
her will to yield where she has always resisted, her load would be
steadily and happily lifted.
The nervous strain of doing right is very painful; especially so
because most women who are under this strain do not really care
about doing right at all. I have seen a woman quibble and talk and
worry about what she believed to be a matter of right and wrong in a
few cents, and then neglect for months to pay a poor man a certain
large amount of money which he had honestly earned, and which she
knew he needed.
The nervous conscience is really no conscience at all. I have seen a
woman worry over what she owed to a certain other woman in the way
of kindness, and go to a great deal of trouble to make her kindness
complete; and then, on the same day, show such hard, unfeeling
cruelty toward another friend that she wounded her deeply, and that
without a regret.
A nervous woman's emotions are constantly side-tracking her away
from the main cause of her difficulty, and so keeping her nervous. A
nervous woman's desire to get her own way--and strained rebellion at
not getting her own way--bedazzles or befogs her brain so that her
nerves twist off into all sorts of emotions which have nothing
whatever to do with the main cause. The woman with the troublesome
relative wants to be considered good and kind and generous. The
woman with the nervous money conscience wants to be considered
upright and just in her dealings with others. All women with various
expressions of nervous conscience want to ease their consciences for
the sake of their own comfort--not in the least for the sake of
I write first of the nervous hypocrite because in her case the
nervous strain is deeper in and more difficult to find. To watch
such a woman is like seeing her in a terrible nightmare, which she
steadily "sugar-coats" by her complacent belief in her own goodness.
If, among a thousand nervous "saints" who may read these words, one
is thereby enabled to find herself out, they are worth the pains of
writing many times over. The nervous hypocrites who do not find
themselves out get sicker and sicker, until finally they seem to be
of no use except to discipline those who have the care of them.
The greatest trouble comes through the befogging emotions. A woman
begins to feel a nervous strain, and that strain results in exciting
emotions; these emotions again breed more emotions until she becomes
a simmering mass of exciting and painful emotions which can be
aroused to a boiling point at any moment by anything or any one who
may touch a sensitive point. When a woman's emotions are aroused,
and she is allowing herself to be governed by them, reason is out of
the question, and any one who imagines that a woman can be made to
understand common sense in a state like that will find himself
The only cure is for the woman herself to learn first how entirely
impervious to common sense she is when she is in the midst of an
emotional nerve storm, so that she will say, "Don't try to talk to
me now; I am not reasonable, wait until I get quiet." Then, if she
will go off by herself and drop her emotions, and also the strain
behind her emotions, she will often come to a good, clear judgment
without outside help; or, if not, she will come to the point where
she will be ready and grateful to receive help from a clearer mind
than her own.
"For goodness' sake, don't tell that to Alice," a young fellow said
of his sister. "She will have fits first, and then indigestion and
insomnia for six weeks." The lad was not a nerve specialist; neither
was he interested in nerves--except to get away from them; but he
spoke truly from common sense and his own experience with his
The point is, to drop the emotions and face the facts. If nervous
women would see the necessity for that, and would practice it, it
would be surprising to see how their nerves would improve.
I once knew a woman who discovered that her emotions were running
away with her and making her nervously ill. She at once went to work
with a will, and every time something happened to rouse this great
emotional wave she would deliberately force herself to relax and
relax until the wave had passed over her and she could see things in
a sensible light. When she was unable to go off by herself and lie
down to relax, she would walk with her mind bent on making her feet
feel heavy. When you drop the tension of the emotion, the emotion
has nothing to hold on to and it must go.
I knew another woman who did not know how to relax; so, to get free
from this emotional excitement, she would turn her attention at once
to figures, to her personal accounts or even to saying the
multiplication table. The steady concentration of her mind on dry
figures and on "getting her sums right" left the rest of her brain
free to drop its excitement and get into a normal state again.
Again it is sometimes owing to the pleasant emotions which some
women indulge in to such an extreme that they are made ill. How many
times have we heard of women who were "worn to a shred" by the
delight of an opera, or a concert, or an exciting play? If these
women only knew it, their pleasure would be far keener if they would
let the enjoyment pass through them, instead of tightening up in
their nerves and trying to hold on to it.
Nature in us always tends toward health, and toward pleasant
sensations. If we relax out of painful emotions we find good
judgment and happy instincts behind them. If we relax so that
pleasant emotions can pass over our nerves they leave a deposit of
happy sensation behind, which only adds to the store that Nature has
provided for us.
To sum up: The two main reasons why women are nervous are that they
do not take intelligent care of their bodies, and that they do not
govern their emotions; but back of these reasons is the fact that
they want their own way altogether too much. Even if a woman's own
way is right, she has no business to push for it selfishly. If any
woman thinks, "I could take intelligent care of my own body if I did
not have to work so hard, or have this or that interference," let
her go to work with her mind well armed to do what she can, and she
will soon find that there are many ways in which she can improve in
the normal care of her body, in spite of all the work and all the
To adapt an old saying, the women who are overworked and clogged
with real interferences should aim to be healthy; and, if they
cannot be healthy, then they should be as healthy as they can.
_Positive and Negative Effort_
DID you ever have the grip? If you ever have you may know how truly
it is named and how it does actually grip you so that it seems as if
there were nothing else in the world at the time--it appears to
entirely possess you. As the Irishman says, the grip is "the disease
that lasts fur a week and it takes yer six weeks ter get over it."
That is because it has possessed you so thoroughly that it must be
routed out of every little fiber in your body before you are
yourself again, and there are hidden corners where it lurks and
hides, and it often has to be actually pulled out of them. Now it
has been already recognized that if we relax and do not resist a
severe cold it leaves us open so that our natural circulation
carries away the cold much more quickly than if we allowed ourselves
to be full of resistance to the discomfort and the consequent
physical contraction that impeded the circulation and holds the cold
in our system.
My point is this--that it is comparatively easy to relax out of a
cold. We can do it with only a negative effort, but to relax so that
nature in her steady and unswerving tendency toward health can lift
us out of the grip is quite another matter. When we feel ourselves
entirely in the power of such a monster as that is at its worst, it
is only by a very strong and positive effort of the will that we can
yield so that nature can guide us into health, and we do not need
the six weeks of getting well.
In order to gain this positive sense of yielding away from the
disease rather than of letting it hold us, we must do what seems at
the time the impossible--we must refuse to give our attention to the
pain or discomfort and insist upon giving our attention entirely to
yielding out of the contractions which the painful discomforts
cause. In other words, we must give up resisting the grip. It is the
same with any other disease or any pain. If we have the toothache
and give all our attention to the toothache, it inevitably makes it
worse; but if we give our attention to yielding out of the toothache
contractions, it eases the pain even though it may be that only the
dentist can stop it. Once I had an ulcerated tooth which lasted for
a week. I had to yield so steadily to do my work during the day and
to be able to sleep at all at night that it not only made the pain
bearable, but when the tooth got well I was surprised to find how
many habitual contractions I had dropped and how much more freedom
of action I had before my tooth began to ulcerate. I should not wish
to have another ulcerated tooth in order that I might gain more
freedom, but I should wish to take every pain of body and mind so
truly that when the pain was over I should have gained greater
freedom than I had before it began.
You see it is the same with every pain and with every disease.
Nature tends toward health and if we make the disease simply a
reminder to yield--and to yield more deeply--and to put our positive
effort there, we are opening the way for nature to do her best work.
If our entire attention is given to yielding and we give no
attention whatever to the pain, except as a reminder to yield, the
result seems wonderful. It seems wonderful because so few of us have
the habit of giving our entire attention to gaining our real
With most of us, the disease or discomfort is positive, and our
effort against it is negative or no effort at all. A negative effort
probably protects us from worse evil, but that is all; it does not
seem to me that it can ever take us ahead, whereas a positive
effort, while sometimes we seem to move upward in very slow stages,
often takes us in great strides out of the enemy's country.
If we have the measles, the whooping cough, scarlet fever--even more
serious diseases--and make the disease negative and our effort to
free ourselves from it positive, the result is one thousand times
worth while. And where the children have the measles and the
whooping cough, and do not know how to help nature, the mothers can
be positive for the children and make their measles and whooping
cough negative. The positive attitude of a mother toward her sick
child puts impatience or despair out of the question.
Do not think that I believe one can be positive all at once. We must
work hard and insist over and over again before we can attain the
positive attitude and having attained it, we have to lose it and
gain it again, lose it and gain it again, many times before we get
the habit of making all difficulties of mind and body negative, and
our healthy attitude toward conquering them positive.
I said "difficulties of mind and body." I might better have said
"difficulties of body, mind and character," or even character alone,
for, after all, when you come to sift things down, it is the
character that is at the root of all human life.
I know a woman who is contantly complaining. Every morning she has a
series of pains to tell of, and her complaints spout out of her in a
half-irritated, whining tone as naturally as she breathes. Over and
over you think when you listen to her how useful all those pains of
hers would be if she took them as a reminder to yield and in
yielding to do her work better. But if one should venture to suggest
such a possibility, it would only increase the complaints by one
more--that of having unsympathetic friends and being misunderstood.
"Nobody understands me--nobody understands me." How often we hear
that complaint. How often in hearing it we make the mental question,
"Do you understand yourself?"
You see the greatest impediment to our understanding ourselves is
our unwillingness to see what is not good in ourselves. It is easy
enough in a self-righteous attitude of what we believe to be
humility to find fault with ourselves, but quite another thing when
others find fault with us. When we are giving our attention to
discomforts and pains in a way to give them positive power, and some
one suggests that we might change our aim, then the resistance and
resentment that are roused in us are very indicative of just where
we are in our character.
Another strong indication of allowing our weaknesses and faults to
be positive and our effort against them negative is the destructive
habit of giving excuses. If fault is found with us and there is
justice in it, it does not make the slightest difference how many
things we have done that are good, or how much better we do than
some one else does--the positive way is to say "thank you" in spirit
and in words, and to aim directly toward freeing ourselves from the
fault. How ridiculous it would seem if when we were told that we had
a smooch on our left cheek, we were to insist vehemently upon the
cleanliness of our right cheek, or our forehead, or our hands,
instead of being grateful that our attention should be called to the
smooch and taking soap and water and at once washing it off. Or how
equally absurd it would be if we went into long explanations as to
how the smooch would not have been there if it had not been for so
and so, and so and so, or so and so,--and then with all our excuses
and explanations and protestations, we let the smooch stay--and
never really wash it off.
And yet this is not an exaggeration of what most of us do when our
attention is called to defects of character. When we excuse and
explain and tell how clean the other side of our face is, we are
putting ourselves positively on the side of the smooch. So we are
putting ourselves entirely on the side of the illness or the pain or
the oppression of difficult circumstances when we give excuses or
resist or pretend not to see fault in ourselves, or when we confess
faults and are contented about them, or when we give all our
attention to what is disagreeable and no attention to the normal way
of gaining our health or our freedom.
Then all these expressions of self or of illness are to us positive,
and our efforts against them only negative. In such cases, of
course, the self possesses us as surely as the grip possesses us
when we succumb entirely to all its horrors and make no positive
effort to yield out of it. And the possession of the self is much
worse, much deeper, much more subtle. When possessed with
selfishness, we are laying up in our subconsciousness any number of
self-seeking motives which come to the surface disguised and compel
us to make impulsive and often foolish efforts to gain our own ends.
The self is every day proving to be the enemy of the man or woman
whom it possesses.
God leaves us free to obey Him or to choose our own selfish way, and
in His infinite Providence He is constantly showing us that our own
selfish way leads to death and obedience to Him leads to life. That
is, that only in obedience to Him do we find our real freedom. He is
constantly showering us with a tender generosity and kindness that
seems inconceivable, and sometimes it seems as if more often than
not we were refusing to see. Indeed we blind ourselves by making all
pains of body and faults of soul positive and our efforts against
If we had a disagreeable habit which we wanted to conquer and asked
a friend to remind us with a pinch every time he saw the habit,
wouldn't it seem very strange if when he pinched us, according to
agreement, we jumped and turned on him, rubbing our arm with
indignation that he should have pinched? Or would it not be even
funnier if we made the pinch merely a reminder to go on with the
The Lord is pinching us in that way all the time, and we respond by
being indignant at or complaining at our fate, or reply by going
more deeply into our weaknesses of character by allowing them to be
positive and the pinches only to emphasize them to us.
One trouble is that we do not recognize that there is an agreement
between us and the Lord, or that we recognize and then forget it;
and yet there should be--there is--more than an agreement, there is
a covenant. And the Lord is steadily, unswervingly doing His part,
and we are constantly failing in ours. The Lord in His loving
kindness pinches--that is, reminds us--and we in our stupid
selfishness do not use His reminders.
As an example of making our faults positive and our effort to
conquer them negative, one very common form is found in a woman I
know, who has times of informing her friends quite seriously and
with apparent regret of her very wrong attitudes of mind. She tells
how selfish she is and she gives examples of the absolute
selfishness of her thoughts when she is appearing to do unselfish
things. She tells of her efforts to do better and confesses what she
believes to be the absolute futility of her effort. At first I was
quite taken in by these confessions, and attracted by what seemed to
be a clear understanding of herself and her own motives, but after a
little longer acquaintance with her, made the discovery, which was
at first surprising to me, that her confessions of evil came just as
much from conceit as if she had been standing at the mirror admiring
her own beauty. Selfish satisfaction is often found quite as much in
mental attitudes of grief as in sensations of joy. Finally this
woman has recognized for herself the conceit in her contemplation of
her faults, and that she has not only allowed them to be positive
while her attitude against them is negative; she has actually nursed
them and been positive herself with their positiveness. Her attitude
against them was therefore more than ordinarily negative.
The more common way of being negative while we allow our various
forms of selfishness to positively govern us is, first in bewailing
a weakness seriously, but constantly looking at it and weeping over
it, and in that way suggesting it over and over to our brains so
that we are really hypnotizing ourselves with the fault and
enforcing its expression when we think we are in the effort to
conquer it. Such is our negative attitude.
Now if we are convinced that evil in ourselves has no power unless
we give it power, that is the first step toward making our efforts
positive and so negativing the evil. If we are convinced that evil
in ourselves has not only no power but no importance unless we give
it power, that is a step still farther in advance. The next step is
to refuse to submit to it and refuse to resist it. That means a
positive yielding away from it and a positive attention to doing our
work as well as we can do it, whatever that work may be.
There is one way in which people suffer intensely through being
negative and allowing their temptations to be positive, and that is
in the question of inherited evil. "How can I ever amount to
anything with such inheritances? If you could see my father and what
he is, and know that I am his daughter, you would easily appreciate
why I have no hope for myself," said a young woman, and she was
perfectly sincere in believing that because of her inherited
temptations her life must be worthless. It took time and gentle,
intelligent reasoning to convince her that not only are no inherited
forms of selfishness ours unless by indulging we make them ours, but
that. through knowing our inheritances, we are forewarned and
forearmed, and the strength we gain from positive effort to free
ourselves fully compensates us for what we have suffered in
oppression from them. Such is the loving kindness of our Creator.
This woman of whom I am writing awoke to the true meaning of the
story of the man who asked, before he went with the Lord Jesus
Christ, first to go back and bury his father. The Lord answered,
"Let the dead bury their dead, and come thou and follow me." When we
feel that we must be bound down by our inheritances, we are surely
not letting the dead bury their dead.
And so let us study the whole question more carefully and learn the
necessity of letting all that is sickness and all that is evil be
negative to us and our efforts to conquer it be positive; in that
way the illness and the evil become less than negative,--they
gradually are removed and disappear.
Why, in the mere matter of being tired, if we refuse to let the
impression of the fatigue be positive to us, and insist upon being
positive ourselves in giving attention to the fact that now we are
going to rest, we get rested in half the time,--in much less than
half the time. Some people carry chronic fatigue with them because
of their steady attention to fatigue.
"I am tired, yes, but _I am going to get rested!"_ That is the
sensible attitude of mind.
Nature tends toward health. As we realize that and give our
attention to it positively, we come to admire and love the healthy
working of the laws of nature, and to feel the vigor of interest in
trying to obey them intelligently. Nature's laws are God's laws, and
God's laws tend toward the health of the spirit in all matters of
the spirit as surely as they tend toward health of body in all
natural things. That is a truth that as we work to obey we grow to
see and to love with deepening reverence, and then indeed we find
that God's laws are all positive, and that the workings of self are
WHEN we face the matter squarely and give it careful thought, it
seems to appear very plainly that the one thing most flagrantly in
the way of the people of to-day living according to plain common
sense--spiritual common sense as well as materia--is the fact that
we are all living in a chronic state of excitement. It is easy to
prove this fact by seeing how soon most of us suffer from ennui when
"there is not anything going on." It seems now as if the average man
or woman whom we see would find it quite impossible to stop and do
nothing--for an hour or more. "But," some one will say, "why should
I stop and do nothing when I am as busy as I can be all day long,
and have my time very happily full?" Or some one else may say, "How
can I stop and do nothing when I am nearly crazy with work and must
feel that it is being accomplished?"
Now the answer to that is, "Certainly you should not stop and do
nothing when you are busy and happily busy;" or, "Although your
work will go better if you do not get 'crazy' about it, there is no
need of interrupting it or delaying it by stopping to do
nothing--but _you should be able to stop and do nothing,_ and to do
it quietly and contentedly at. any time when it might be required of
No man, woman, or child knows the power, the very great power, for
work and play--there is with one who has in the background always
the ability to stop and do nothing.
If we observe enough, carefully enough, and quietly enough, to get
sensitive to it, we can see how every one about us is living in
excitement. I have seen women with nothing important to do come down
to breakfast in excitement, give their orders for the day as if they
were about running for a fire; and the standard of all those about
them is so low that no one notices what a human dust is stirred up
by all this flutter over nothing.
A man told me not long ago that he got tired out for the day in
walking to his office with a friend, because they both talked so
intensely. And that is not an unusual experience. This chronic state
of strain and excitement in everyday matters makes a mental
atmosphere which is akin to what the material atmosphere would be if
we were persistently kicking up a dust in the road every step we
took. Every one seems to be stirring up his own especial and
peculiar dust and adding it to every one else's especial and
We are all mentally, morally and spiritually sneezing or choking
with our own dust and the dust of other people. How is it possible
for us to get any clear, all-round view of life so long as the dust
stirring habit is on us? So far from being able to enlarge our
horizon, we can get no horizon at all, and so no perspective until
this human dust is laid. And there is just this one thing about it,
that is a delight to think of: When we know how to live so that our
own dust is laid, that very habit of life keeps us clear from the
dust of other people. Not only that, but when we are free from dust
ourselves, the dust that the other men are stirring up about us does
not interfere with our view of them. We see the men through their
dust and we see how the dust with which they are surrounding
themselves befogs them and impedes their progress. From the place of
no dust you can distinguish dust and see through it. From the place
of dust you cannot distinguish anything clearly. Therefore, if one
wishes to learn the standards of living according to plain common
sense, for body, mind, and spirit, and to apply the principles of
such standards practically to their every-day life, the first
absolute necessity is to get quiet and to stay quiet long enough to
lay the dust.
You may know the laws of right eating, of right breathing, of
exercise, and rest--but in this dust of excitement in daily life
such knowledge helps one very little. You constantly forget, and
forget, and forget. Or, if in a moment of forced acknowledgment to
the need of better living, you make up your mind that you will live
according to sensible laws of hygiene, you go along pretty well for
a few weeks, perhaps even months, and then as you feel better
physically, you get whirled off into the excitement again, and
before you know it you are in the dust with the rest of the world,
and all because you had no background for your good resolutions. You
never had found and you did not understand quiet.
Did you ever see a wise mother come into a noisy nursery where
perhaps her own children were playing excitedly with several little
companions, who had been invited in to spend a rainy afternoon? The
mother sees all the children in a great state of excitement over
their play, and two or three of them disagreeing over some foolish
little matter, with their brains in such a state that the nursery is
thick with infantile human dust. What does the wise mother do? Add
dust of her own by scolding and fretting and fuming over the noise
that the children are making? No--no indeed. She first gets all the
children's attention in any happy way she can, one or two at a time,
and then when she has their individual attention to a small degree,
she gets their united attention by inviting their interest in being
so quiet that they "can hear a pin drop." The children get keenly
interested in listening. The first time they do not hear the pin
drop because Johnnie or Mollie moved a little. Mother talks with
interest of what a very delightful thing it is to be for a little
while so quiet that we can hear a pin drop. The second time
something interferes, and the third time the children have become so
well focused on listening that the little delicate sound is heard
distinctly, and they beg mother to try and see if they cannot hear
it again. By this time the dust is laid in the nursery, and by
changing the games a little, or telling them a story first, the
mother is able to leave a nursery full of quiet, happy children.
Now if we, who would like to live happily and keep well, according
to plain common sense, can put ourselves with intelligent humility
in the place of these little children and study to be quiet, we will
be working for that background which is never failing in its
possibilities of increasing light and warmth and the expanse of
First with regard to a quiet body. Indigestion makes us unquiet,
therefore we must eat only wholesome food, and not too much of it,
and we must eat it quietly. Poor breathing and poor blood makes us
unquiet, therefore we should learn to expand our lungs to their full
extent in the fresh air and give the blood plenty of oxygen.
Breathing also has a direct effect on the circulation and the brain,
and when we breathe quietly and rhythmically, we are quieting the
movement of our blood as well as opening the channels so that it can
flow without interruption. We are also quieting our brain and so our
whole nervous system.
Lack of exercise makes us unquiet, because exercise supplies the
blood more fully with oxygen and prevents it from flowing
sluggishly, a sluggish circulation straining the nervous system. It
is therefore important to take regular exercise.
Want of rest especially makes us unquiet; therefore we should attend
to it that we get--as far as possible--what rest we need, and take
all the rest we get in the best way. We cannot expect to fulfill
these conditions all at once, but we can aim steadily to do so, and
by getting every day a stronger focus and a steadier aim we can gain
so greatly in fulfilling the standards of a healthy mind in a
healthy body, and so much of our individual dust will be laid, that
I may fairly promise a happy astonishment at the view of life which
will open before us, and the power for use and enjoyment that will
Let us see now how we would begin practically, having made up our
minds to do all in our power to lay the dust and get a quiet
background. We must begin in what may seem a very small way. It
seems to be always the small beginnings that lead to large and
solidly lasting results. Not only that, but when we begin in the
small way and the right way to reach any goal, we can find no short
cuts and no seven-league boots.
We must take every step and take it decidedly in order to really get
there. We must place one brick and then another, exactly, and place
every brick--to make a house that will stand.
But now for our first step toward laying the dust. Let us take half
an hour every day and do nothing in it. For the first ten minutes we
will probably be wretched, for the next ten minutes we may be more
wretched, but for the last five minutes we will get a sense of quiet
and at first the dust, although not laid, will cease to whirl. And
then--an interesting fact--what seems to us quiet in the beginning
of our attempt, will seem like noise and whirlwinds, after we have
gone further along. Some one may easily say that it is absurd to
take half an hour a day to do nothing in. Or that "Nature abhors a
vacuum, and how is it possible to do nothing? Our minds will be
thinking of or working on something."
In answer to this, I might say with the Irishman, "Be aisy, but if
you can't be aisy, be as aisy as you can!" Do nothing as well as you
can. When you begin thinking of anything, drop it. When you feel
restless and as if you could not keep still another minute, relax
and make yourself keep still. I should take many days of this
insistence upon doing nothing and dropping everything from my mind
before taking the next step. For to drop everything from one's mind,
for half an hour is not by any means an easy matter. Our minds are
full of interests, full of resistances. With some of us, our minds
are full of resentment. And what we have to promise ourselves to do
is for that one-half hour a day to take nothing into consideration.
If something comes up that we are worrying about, refuse to consider
it. If some resentment to a person or a circumstance comes to mind,
refuse to consider it.
I know all this is easier to say than to do, but remember, please,
that it is only for half an hour every day-only half an hour. Refuse
to consider anything for half an hour. Having learned to sit still,
or lie still, and think of nothing with a moderate degree of
success, and with most people the success can only be moderate at
best, the next step is to think quietly of taking long, gentle, easy
breaths for half an hour. A long breath and then a rest, two long
breaths and then a rest. One can quiet and soothe oneself inside
quite wonderfully with the study of long gentle breaths. But it must
be a study. We must study to begin inhaling gently, to change to the
exhalation with equal delicacy, and to keep the same gentle,
delicate pressure throughout, each time trying to make the breath a
After we have had many days of the gentle, long breaths at intervals
for half an hour, then we can breathe rhythmically (inhale counting
five or ten, exhale counting five or ten), steadily for half an
hour, trying all the time to have the breath more quiet, gentle and
steady, drawing it in and letting it out with always decreasing
effort. It is wonderful when we discover how little effort we really
need to take a full and vigorous breath. This half hour's breathing
exercise every day will help us to the habit of breathing
rhythmically all the time, and a steady rhythmic breath is a great
physical help toward a quiet mind.
We can mingle with the deep breathing simple exercises of lifting
each arm slowly and heavily from the shoulder, and then letting it
drop a dead weight, and pausing while we feel conscious of our arms
resting without tension in the lap or on the couch.
But all this has been with relation to the body, and it is the
mental and moral dust of which I am writing. The physical work for
quiet is only helpful as it makes the body a better instrument for
the mind and for the will. A quiet body is of no use if it contains
an unquiet mind which is going to pull it out of shape or start it
up in agitation at the least provocation. In such a case, the quiet
body in its passive state is only a more responsive instrument to
the mind that wants to raise a dust. One--and the most helpful way
of quieting the mind--is through a steady effort at concentration.
One can concentrate; on doing nothing--that is, on sitting quietly
in a chair or lying quietly on the bed or the floor. Be quiet, keep
quiet, be quiet, keep quiet. That is the form of concentration, that
is the way of learning to do nothing to advantage. Then we
concentrate on the quiet breathing, to have it gentle, steady, and
without strain. In the beginning we must take care to concentrate
without strain, and without emotion, use our minds quietly, as one
might watch a bird who was very near, to see what it will do next,
and with care not to frighten it away.
These are the great secrets of true strengthening concentration. The
first is dropping everything that interferes. The second is working
to concentrate easily without emotion. They are really one and the
same. If we work to drop everything that interferes, we are so
constantly relaxing in order to concentrate that the very process
drops strain bit by bit, little by little.
An unquiet mind, however, full of worries, anxieties, resistances,
resentments, and full of all varieties of agitation, going over and
over things to try to work out problems that are not in human hands,
or complaining and fretting and puzzling because help seems to be
out of human power, such a mind which is befogged and begrimed by
the agitation of its own dust is not a cause in itself--it is an
effect. The cause is the reaching and grasping, the unreasonable
insistence on its own way of kicking, dust-raising self-will at the
back of the mind.
A quiet will, a will that can remain quiet through all emergencies,
is not a self-will. It is the self that raises the dust--the self
that wants, and strains to get its own way, and turns and twists and
writhes if it does not get its own way.
God's will is quiet. We see it in the growth of the trees and the
flowers. We see it in the movement of the planets of the Universe.
We see God's mind in the wonderful laws of natural science. Most of
all we see and feel, when we get quiet ourselves, God's love in
every thing and every one.
If we want the dust laid, we must work to get our bodies quiet. We
must drop all that interferes with quiet in our minds, and we must
give up wanting our own way. We must believe that God's way is
immeasurably beyond us and that if we work quietly to obey Him, He
will reveal to us His way in so far as we need to know it, and will
prepare us for and guide us to His uses.
The most perfect example we have of a quiet mind in a quiet body,
guided by the Divine Will, is in the character of the Lord Jesus
Christ. As we study His words and His works, we realize the power
and the delicacy of His human life, and we realize--as far as we are
capable of realizing--the absolute clearness of the atmosphere about
Him. We see and feel that atmosphere to be full of quiet--Divine
There is no suffering, no temptation, that any man or woman ever had
or ever will have that He did not meet in Himself and conquer.
Therefore, if we mean to begin the work in ourselves of finding the
quiet which will lay our own dust from the very first, if we have
the end in our minds of truer obedience and loving trust, we can,
even in the simple beginning of learning to do nothing quietly, find
an essence of life which eventually we will learn always to
recognize and to love, and to know that it is not ourselves, but it
is from the Heavenly Father of ourselves.
Some of us cannot get that motive to begin with; some of us will, if
we begin at all, work only for relief, or because we recognize that
there is more power without dust than with it, but no one of us is
ever safe from clouds of dust unless at the back of all our work
there is the desire to give up all self-will for the sake of obeying
and of trusting the Divine Will more and more perfectly as time goes
on. If we are content to work thoroughly and to gain slowly, not to
be pulled down by mistakes or discouragements, but to learn from
them, we are sure to be grateful for the new light and warmth and
power for use that will come to us, increasing day by day.
_Plain Every-day Common Sense_
PLAIN common sense! When we come to sift everything down which will
enable us to live wholesome, steady, every-day, interesting lives,
plain common sense seems to be the first and the simplest need. In
the working out of any problem, whether it be in science or in art
or in plain everyday living, we are told to go from the
circumference to the center, from the known to the unknown, from
simplest facts to those which would otherwise seem complex. And
whether the life we are living is quiet and commonplace, or whether
it is full of change and adventure, to be of the greatest and most
permanent use, a life must have as its habitual background plain
every-day common sense.
When we stop and think a while, the lack of this important quality
is quite glaring, and every one who has his attention called to it
and recognizes that lack enough to be interested to supply it in his
own life, is doing more good toward bringing plain common sense into
the world at large than we can well appreciate. For instance, it is
only a fact of plain common sense that we should keep rested, and
yet how many of us do? How many readers of this article will smile
or sneer, or be irritated when they read the above, and say, "It is
all very well to talk of keeping rested. How is it possible with all
I have to do? or with all the care I have? or with all I have to
Now that is just the point--the answer to that question, "How is it
possible?" So very few of us know how to do it, and if "how to keep
rested though busy" were regularly taught in all schools in this
country, so far from making the children self-conscious and
over-careful of themselves, it would lay up in their brains ideas of
plain common sense which would be stocked safely there for use when,
as their lives grew more maturely busy, they would find the right
habits formed, enabling them to keep busy and at the same time to
keep quiet and rested. What a wonderful difference it would
eventually make in the wholesomeness of the manners and customs of
this entire nation. And that difference would come from giving the
children now a half hour's instruction in the plain common sense of
keeping well rested, and in seeing that such instruction was
entirely and only practical.
It has often seemed to me that the tendency of education in the
present day is more toward giving information than it is in
preparing the mind to receive and use interesting and useful
information of all kinds: that is, in helping the mind to attract
what it needs; to absorb what it attracts, and digest what it
absorbs as thoroughly as any good healthy stomach ever digested the
food it needed to supply the body with strength. The root of such
cultivation, it seems to me, is in teaching the practical use and
application of all that is studied. To be sure, there is much more
of that than there was fifty years ago, but you have only to put to
the test the minds of young graduates to see how much more of such
work is needed, and how much more intelligent the training of the
young mind may be, even now.
Take, for instance, the subject of ethics. How many boys and girls
go home and are more useful in their families, more thoughtful and
considerate for all about them, for their study of ethics in school?
And yet the study of ethics has no other use than this. If the mind
absorbed and digested the true principles of ethics, so that the
heart felt moved to use them, it might--it probably would--make a
great change in the lives of the boys and girls who studied it--a
change that would surprise and delight their parents and friends.
If the science of keeping rested were given in schools in the way
that, in most cases, the science of ethics seems to be given now,
the idea of rest would lie in an indigestible lump on the minds of
the students, and instead of being absorbed, digested and carried
out in their daily lives, would be evaporated little by little into
the air, or vomited off the mind in various jokes about it, and
other expressions that would prove the children knew nothing of what
they were being taught.
But again, I am glad to repeat--if instruction, _practical_
instruction, were given every day in the schools on how to form the
habit of keeping rested, it would have a wonderful effect upon the
whole country, not to mention where in many individual cases it
would actually prevent the breaking out of hereditary disease.
Nature always tends toward health; so strongly, so habitually does
nature tend toward health that it seems at times as if the working
of natural laws pushed some people into health in spite of chronic
antagonism they seem to have against health--one might even say in
spite of the wilful refusal of health.
When one's body is kept rested, nature is constantly throwing off
germs of disease, constantly working, and working most actively, to
protect the body from anything that would interfere with its perfect
health. When one's body is not rested, nature works just as hard,
but the tired body--through its various forms of tension that impede
the circulation, prevent the healthy absorption of food and oxygen,
and clog the way so that impurities cannot be carried
off--interferes with nature's work and thus makes it impossible for
her to keep the machine well oiled. When we are tired, the very fact
of being tired makes us more tired, unless we rest properly.
A great deal--it seems to me more than one-half--of the fatigue in
the world comes from the need of an intelligent understanding of how
to keep rested. The more that lack of intelligence is allowed to
grow, the worse it is going to be for the health of the nation. We
have less of that plain common sense than our grandfathers and
grandmothers. They had less than their fathers and mothers. We need
more than our ancestors, because life is more complicated now, than
it was then. We can get more if we will, because there is more real
understanding of the science of hygiene than our fathers and mothers
had before us. Our need now is to use _practically_ the information
which a few individuals are able to give us, and especially to teach
such practical use to our children.
Let us find out how we would actually go to work to keep rested, and
take the information of plain common sense and use it.
To keep rested we must not overwork our body inside or outside. We
must keep it in an equilibrium of action and rest.
We overwork our body inside when we eat the wrong food and when we
eat too much or not enough of the right food, for then the stomach
has more than its share of work to do, and as the effort to do it
well robs the brain and the whole nervous system, so, of course, the
rest of the body has not its rightful supply of energy and the
natural result is great fatigue.
We overwork our body inside when we do not give it its due amount of
fresh air. The blood needs the oxygen to supply itself and the
nerves and muscles with power to do their work. When the oxygen is
not supplied to the blood, the machinery of the body has to work
with so much less power than really belongs to it, that there is
great strain in the effort to do its work properly, and the effect
is, of course, fatigue.
In either of the above cases, both with an overworked stomach and an
overworked heart and lungs, the complaint is very apt to be, "Why am
I so tired when I have done nothing to get tired?" The answer is,
"No, you have done nothing outside with your muscles, but the heart
and lungs and the stomach are delicate and exquisite instruments.
You have overworked them all, and such overwork is the more
fatiguing in proportion to what is done than any other form, except
overwork of the brain." And the overtired stomach and heart and
lungs tire the brain, of course.
Of the work that is given to the brain itself to overtire it we must
speak later. So much now for that which prevents the body from
keeping rested inside, in the finer working of its machinery.
It is easy to find out what and how to eat. A very little careful
thought will show us that. It is only the plain common sense of
eating we need. It is easy to see that we must not eat on a tired
stomach, and if we have to do so, we must eat much less than we
ordinarily would, and eat it more slowly. So much good advice is
already given about what and how to eat, I need say nothing here,
and even without that advice, which in itself is so truly valuable,
most of us could have plain common sense about our own food if we
would use our minds intelligently about it, and eat only what we
know to be nourishing to us. That can be done without fussing.
Fussing about food contracts the stomach, and prevents free
digestion almost as much as eating indigestible food.
Then again, if we deny ourselves that which we want and know is bad
for us, and eat only that which we know to be nourishing, it
increases the delicacy of our relish. We do not lose relish by
refusing to eat too much candy. We gain it. Human pigs lose their
most delicate relish entirely, and they lose much--very much
Unfortunately with most people, there is not the relish for fresh
air that there is for food. Very few people want fresh air
selfishly; the selfish tendency of most people is to cut it off for
fear of taking cold. And yet the difference felt in health, in
keeping rested, in ease of mind, is as great between no fresh air
and plenty of fresh air as it is between the wrong kind of food and
enough (and not too much) of the right kind of food.
Why does not the comfort of the body appeal to us as strongly
through the supply of air given to the lungs as through that of food
given to the stomach? The right supply of fresh air has such
wonderful power to keep us rested!
Practical teaching to the children here would, among other things,
give them training which would open their lungs and enable them to
take in with every breath the full amount of oxygen needed toward
keeping them rested. There are so many cells in the lungs of most
people, made to receive oxygen, which never receive one bit of the
food they are hungry for.
There is much more, of course, very much more, to say about the
working of the machinery of the inside of the body and about the
plain common sense needed to keep it well and rested, but I have
said enough for now to start a thoughtful mind to work.
Now for keeping the body well rested from the outside. It is all so
well arranged for us--the night given us to sleep in, a good long
day of work and a long night of rest; so the time for rest and the
time for work are equalized and it is so happily arranged that out
of the twenty-four hours in the day, when we are well, we need only
eight hours' sleep. So well does nature work and so truly that she
can make up for us in eight hours' sleep what fuel we lose in
sixteen hours of activity.
Only one-third of the time do we need to sleep, and we have the
other two-thirds for work and play. This regular sleep is a strong
force in our aim to keep rested. Therefore, the plain common sense
of that is to find out how to go to sleep naturally, how to get all
the rest out of sleep that nature would give us, and so to wake
refreshed and ready for the day.
To go to sleep naturally we must learn how to drop all the tension
of the day and literally _drop_ to sleep like a baby. _Let go into
sleep_--there is a host of meaning in that expression. When we do
that, nature can revive and refresh and renew us. Renew our
vitality, bring us so much more brain power for the day, all that we
need for our work and our play; or almost all--for there are many
little rests during the day, little openings for rest that we need
to take, and that we can teach ourselves to take as a matter of
course. We can sit restfully at each one of our three meals. Eat
restfully and quietly, and so make each meal not only a means of
getting nourishment, but of getting rest as well. There is all the
difference of illness and health in taking a meal with strain and a
sense of rush and pressure of work, and in taking it as if to eat
that one meal were the only thing we had to do in the day. Better to
eat a little nourishing food and eat it quietly and at leisure than
a large meal of the same food with a sense of rush. This is a very
important factor in keeping rested.
Then there are the many expected and unexpected times in the day
when we can take rest and so _keep rested._ If we have to wait we
can sit quietly. Whatever we are doing we can make use of the
between times to rest. Each man can find his own "between times." If
we make real use of them, intelligent use, they not only help us to
keep rested, they help us to do our work better, if we will but
watch for them and use them.
Now the body is only a servant. and in all I have. written above, I
have only written of the servant. How can a servant keep well and
rested if the master drives him to such an extent that he is brought
into a state, not where he won't go, but where he can't go, and must
therefore drop? It is the intelligent master, who is a true disciple
of plain common sense, who will train his servant, the body, in the
way of resting, eating and breathing, in order to fit it for the
maximum of work at the minimum of energy. But if you obey every
external law for the health and strength of the body, and obey it