Power Through Repose
Annie Payson Call

Part 1 out of 3

Created by: Steve Solomon ssolomon@soilandhealth.org




New Edition with Additions

_Personality binds--universality expands._


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




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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then have your legs treated in the same way. It is good even to have
some one throw your arm or your leg up and catch it; also to let it


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