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ADOPTING the phrase of our forefathers, with all its force and brevity, we say, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."
If the laws adduced in this book are Nature's laws, they should preserve us in health and strength. And so they do just so far as we truly and fully obey them.
Then are students and teachers of these laws never ill, never run down, "nervous," or prostrated? Yes, they are sometimes ill, sometimes run down and overworked, and suffer the many evil effects ensuing; but the work which has produced these results is much greater and more laborious than would have been possible without the practice of the principles. At the same time their states of illness occur because they only partially obey the laws. In the degree which they obey they will be preserved from the effects of tensity, overstrung nerves, and generally worn-out bodies; and in sickness coming from other causes--mechanical, hereditary, etc.--again, according to their obedience, they will be held in all possible physical and mental peace, so that the disease may wither and drop like the decayed leaf of a plant.
As well might we ask of the wisest clergyman in the land, Do his truths never fail him? Is he always held in harmony and nobility by their power? However great and good the man may be, this state of perfection will never be reached in this world.
In exact parallel to the spiritual laws upon which all universal truth, of all religions, is founded, are the truths of this teaching of physical peace and equilibrium. As religion applies to all the needs of the soul, so this applies to all the needs of the body. As a man may be continually progressing in nobility of thought and action, and yet find himself under peculiar circumstances tried even to the stumbling point,--so may the student of bodily quiet and equilibrium, who appears even to a very careful observer to be in surprising possession of his forces, under a similar test stumble and fall into some form of the evil effects out of which he has had power to lead others.
It is important that this parallelism should be recognized, that the unity of these truths may be finally accomplished in the living; therefore we repeat, Is this any more possible than that the full control of the soul should be at once possessed?
Think of the marvellous construction of the human body,--the exquisite adjustment of its economy. Could a power of control sufficient to apply to its every detail be fully acquired at once, or even in a life-time?
But when one does fall who has made himself even partially at one with Nature's way of living, the power of patient waiting for relief is very different. He separates himself from his ailments in a way which without the preparation would be to him unknown. He has, without drug or other external assistance, an anodyne always within himself which he can use at pleasure. He positively experiences that "underneath are the everlasting arms," and the power to experience this gives him much respite from pain.
Pain is so often prolonged and accentuated by dwelling in its memory, living in a self-pity of the time when it shall come again! The patient who comes to his test with the bodily and mental repose already acquired, cuts off each day from the last, each hour from the last, one might almost say each breath from the last, so strong is his confidence in the renewal of forces possible to those who give themselves quite trustfully into Nature's hands.
It is not that they refuse external aid or precaution. No; indeed the very quiet within makes them feel most keenly when it is orderly to rest and seek the advice of others. Also it makes them faithful in following every direction which will take them back into the rhythm of a healthful life.
But while they do this they do not centre upon it. They take the precautions as a means and not as an end. They centre upon that which they have within themselves, and they know that that possible power being in a state of disorder and chaos no one or all of the outside measures are of any value.
As patients prepared by the work return into normal life, the false exhilaration, which is a sure sign of another stumble, is seen and avoided. They have learned a serious lesson in economy, and they profit by it. Where they were free before, they become more so; and where they were not, they quietly set themselves toward constant gain. They work at lower pressure, steadily gaining in spreading the freedom and quiet deeper into their systems, thus lessening the danger of future falls.
Let us state some of the causes for "breaking down," even while trying well to learn Nature's ways.
First, a trust in one's own capacity for freedom and quiet. "I can do this, now that I know how to relax." When truly considered, the thing is out of reason, and we should say, " Because I know how to relax, I see that I must not do this."
The case is the same with the gymnast who greatly overtaxes his muscle, having foolishly concluded that because he has had some training he can successfully meet the test. There is nothing so truly stupid as self-satisfaction; and these errors, with all others of the same nature, re fruits of our stupidity, and unless shunned surely lead us into trouble.
Some natures, after practice, relax so easily that they are soon met by the dangers of overrelaxation. Let them remember that it is really equilibrium they are seeking, and by balancing their activity and their relaxation, and relaxing only as a means to an end,--the end of greater activity and use later,--they avoid any such ill effect.
As the gymnast can mistake the purpose of his muscular development, putting it in the place of greater things, regarding it as an end instead of a means,--so can he who is training for a better use of his nervous force. In the latter case, the signs of this error are a slackened circulation, a loathing to activity, and various evanescent sensations of peace and satisfaction which bear no test, vanishing as soon as they are brought to the slightest trial.
Unless you take up your work with fresh interest and renewed vigor each time after practice, you may know that all is not as it should be.
To avoid all these mistakes, examine the work of each day and let the next improve upon it.
If you are in great need of relaxing, take more exercise in the fresh air. If unable to exercise, get your balance by using slow and steady breaths, which push the blood vigorously over its path in the body, and give one, to a degree, the effect of exercise.
Do not mistake the disorders which come at first, when turning away from an unnatural and wasteful life of contractions, for the effects of relaxing. Such disorders are no more caused by relaxing than are the disorders which beset a drunkard or an opium-eater, upon refusing to continue in the way of his error, primarily caused by the abandonment of his evil habit, even though the appearance is that he must return to it in order to re-establish his pseudo-equilibrium.
One more cause of trouble, especially in working without a guide, is the habit of going through the form of the exercises without really doing them. The tests needed here have been spoken of before.
Do not separate your way of practising from your way of living, but separate your life entirely from your practice while practising, trying outside of this time always to accomplish the agreement of the two,--that is, live the economy of force that you are practising. You can be just as gay, just as vivacious, but without the fatiguing after-effects.
As you work to gain the ideal equilibrium, if your test comes, do not be staggered nor dismayed. Avoid its increase by at once giving careful consideration to the causes, and dropping them. Keep your life quietly to the form of its usual action, as far as you wisely can. If you have gained even a little appreciation of equilibrium, you will not easily mistake and overdo.
When you find yourself becoming bound to the dismal thought of your test and its terrors, free yourself from it every time, by concentrating upon the weight of your body, or the slowness of the slowest breaths you can draw. Keep yourself truly free, and these feelings of discouragement and all other mental distortions will steadily lose power, until for you they are no more. If they last longer than you think they should, persist in every endeavor, knowing that the after-result, in increased capacity to help yourself and others, will be in exact ratio to your power of persistency without succumbing.
The only way to keep truly free, and therefore ready to profit by the help Nature always has at hand, is to avoid thought of your form of illness as far as possible. The man with indigestion gives the stomach the first place in his mind; he is a mass of detailed and subdued activity, revolving about a monstrous stomach,--his brain, heart, lungs, and other organs, however orderly they may be, are of no consideration, and are slowly made the degraded slaves of himself and his stomach.
The man who does not sleep, worships sleep until all life seems sleep, and no life any importance without it. He fixes his mind on not sleeping, rushes for his watch with feverish intensity if a nap does come, to gloat over its brevity or duration, and then wonders that each night brings him no more sleep.
There is nothing more contracting to mind and body than such idol-worship. Neither blood nor nervous fluid can flow as it should.
Let us be sincere in our work, and having gained even one step toward a true equilibrium, hold fast to it, never minding how severely we are tempted.
We see the work of quiet and economy, the lack of strain and of false purpose, in fine old Nature herself; let us constantly try to do our part to make the picture as evident, as clear and distinct, in God's greater creation,--Human Nature.
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