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Power Through Repose by Annie Payson Call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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