Infomotions, Inc.The Freedom of Life / Call, Annie Payson, 1853-1940



Author: Call, Annie Payson, 1853-1940
Title: The Freedom of Life
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Title: The Freedom of Life

Author: Annie Payson Call

Release Date: August, 2003 [Etext# 4338]
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Created by: Steve Solomon ssolomon@soilandhealth.org




THE FREEDOM OF LIFE 

BY 

ANNIE PAYSON CALL 

_Author of "Power Through Repose," 

"As a Matter of Course," etc._ 







_FREEDOM_ 





_LORD GOD of Israel,--
Where Thou art we are free! 
Call out Thy people, Lord, we pray, 
From Egypt unto Thee. 
Open our eyes that we may see 
Our bondage in the past,--
Oh, help us, Lord, to keep Thy law, 
And make us free at last!_ 

_Lord God of Israel,--
Where Thou art we are free! 
Freed from the rule of alien minds, 
We turn our hearts to Thee. 
The alien hand weighs heavily, 
And heavy is our sin,--
Thy children cry to Thee, O Lord,--
Their God,--to take them in._

_Lord God of Israel,--
Where Thou 'art we are free 
Cast down our idols from on high, 
That we may worship Thee. 
In freedom we will live Thy Love 
Out from our inmost parts; 
Upon our foreheads bind Thy Law,--
Engrave it on our hearts!_ 

_Amen._ 






CONTENTS 





INTRODUCTION 

THE FREEDOM OF LIFE 

HOW TO SLEEP RESTFULLY

RESISTANCE

HURRY, WORRY, AND IRRITABILITY

NERVOUS FEARS

SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS

THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE

OTHER PEOPLE 

HUMAN SYMPATHY 

PERSONAL INDEPENDENCE

SELF-CONTROL

THE RELIGION OF IT

ABOUT CHRISTMAS

TO MOTHERS 






_INTRODUCTION_ 





INTERIOR freedom rests upon the principle of non-resistance to
all the things which seem evil or painful to our natural love of
self. But non-resistance alone can accomplish nothing good unless,
behind it, there is a strong love for righteousness and truth. By
refusing to resist the ill will of others, or the stress of
circumstances, for the sake of greater usefulness and a clearer
point of view, we deepen our conviction of righteousness as the
fundamental law of fife, and broaden our horizon so as to appreciate
varying and opposite points of view. The only non-resistance that
brings this power is the kind which yields mere personal and selfish
considerations for the sake of principles. Selfish and weak yielding
must always do harm. Unselfish yielding, on the other hand,
strengthens the will and increases strength of purpose as the petty
obstacles of mere self-love are removed. Concentration alone cannot
long remain wholesome, for it needs the light of growing
self-knowledge to prevent its becoming self-centred. Yielding alone
is of no avail, for in itself it has no constructive power. But if
we try to look at ourselves as we really are, we shall find great
strength in yielding where only our small and private interests are
concerned, and concentrating upon living the broad principles of
righteousness which must directly or indirectly affect all those
with whom we come into contact. 






I

_The Freedom of Life_ 





I AM so tired I must give up work," said a young woman with a very
strained and tearful face; and it seemed to her a desperate state,
for she was dependent upon work for her bread and butter. If she
gave up work she gave up bread and butter, and that meant
starvation. When she was asked why she did not keep at work and
learn to do it without getting so tired, that seemed to her absurd,
and she would have laughed if laughing had been possible. 

"I tell you the work has tired me so that I cannot stand it, and you
ask me to go back and get rest out of it when I am ready to die of
fatigue. Why don't you ask me to burn myself, on a piece of ice, or
freeze myself with a red-hot poker?" 

"But," the answer was, "it is not the work that tires you at all, it
is the way you do it;" and, after a little soothing talk which
quieted the overexcited nerves, she began to feel a dawning
intelligence, which showed her that, after all, there might be life
in the work which she had come to look upon as nothing but slow and
painful death. She came to understand that she might do her work as
if she were working very lazily, going from one thing to another
with a feeling as near to entire indifference as she could
cultivate, and, at the same time, do it well. She was shown by
illustrations how she might walk across the room and take a book off
the table as if her life depended upon it, racing and pushing over
the floor, grabbing the book and clutching it until she got back to
her seat, or, how she might move with exaggerated laziness take the
book up loosely, and drag herself back again. This illustration
represents two extremes, and one, in itself, is as bad as the other;
but, when the habit has been one of unnecessary strain and effort,
the lazy way, practised for a time, will not only be very restful,
but will eventually lead to movement which is quick as well. 

To take another example, you may write holding the pen with much
more force than is needful, tightening your throat and tongue at the
same time, or you may drag your pen along the paper and relieve the
tendency to tension in your throat and tongue by opening your mouth
slightly and letting your jaw hang loosely. These again are two
extremes, but, if the habit has been one of tension, a persistent
practice of the extreme of looseness will lead to a quiet mode of
writing in which ten pages can be finished with the effort it
formerly took to write one. 

Sometimes the habit of needless strain has taken such a strong hold
that the very effort to work quietly seems so unnatural as to cause
much nervous suffering. To turn the corner from a bad habit into a
true and wholesome one is often very painful, but, the first pain
worked through, the right habit grows more and more easy, until
finally the better way carries us along and we take it
involuntarily. 

For the young woman who felt she had come to the end of her powers,
it was work or die; therefore, when she had become rested enough to
see and understand at all, she welcomed the idea that it was not her
work that tired her, but the way in which she did it, and she
listened eagerly to the directions that should teach her to do it
with less fatigue, and, as an experiment, offered to go back and try
the "lazy way" for a week. At the end of a week she reported that
the "lazy way" had rested her remarkably, but she did not do her
work so well. Then she had to learn that she could keep more quietly
and steadily concentrated upon her work, doing it accurately and
well, without in the least interfering with the "lazy way." Indeed,
the better concentrated we are, the more easily and restfully we can
work, for concentration does not mean straining every nerve and
muscle toward our work,--it means _dropping everything that
interferes,_ and strained nerves and muscles constitute a very
bondage of interference. 

The young woman went back to her work for another week's experiment,
and this time returned with a smiling face, better color, and a new
and more quiet life in her eyes. She had made the "lazy way" work,
and found a better power of concentration at the same time. She knew
that it was only a beginning, but she felt secure now in the certain
knowledge that it was not her work that had been killing her, but
the way in which she had done it; and she felt confident of her
power to do it restfully and, at the same time, better than before.
Moreover, in addition to practising the new way of working, she
planned to get regular exercise in the open air, even if it had to
come in the evening, and to eat only nourishing food. She has been
at work now for several years, and, at last accounts, was still
busy, with no temptation to stop because of overfatigue. 

If any reader is conscious of suffering now from the strain of his
work and would like to get relief, the first thing to do is to
notice that it is less the work that tires him than his way of doing
it, and the attitude of his mind toward it. Beginning with that
conviction, there comes at first an interest in the process of
dropping strain and then a new interest in the work itself, and a
healthy concentration in doing the merest drudgery as well as it can
be done, makes the drudgery attractive and relieves one from the
oppressive fatigue of uninteresting monotony. 

If you have to move your whole body in your daily work, the first
care should be to move the feet and legs heavily. Feel as if each
foot weighed a ton, and each hand also; and while you work take
long, quiet breaths,--breaths such as you see a man taking when he
is very quietly and soundly sleeping. 

If the work is sedentary, it is a help before starting in the
morning to drop your head forward very loosely, slowly and heavily,
and raise it very slowly, then take a long, quiet breath. Repeat
this several times until you begin to feel a sense of weight in your
head. If there is not time in the morning, do it at night and recall
the feeling while you are dressing or while you are going to work,
and then, during your work, stop occasionally just to feel your head
heavy and then go on. Very soon you become sensitive to the tension
in the back of your neck and drop it without stopping work at all. 

Long, quiet breaths while you work are always helpful. If you are
working in bad air, and cannot change the air, it is better to try
to have the breaths only quiet and gentle, and take long, full
breaths whenever you are out-of-doors and before going to sleep at
night. 

Of course, a strained way of working is only one cause of nervous
fatigue; there are others, and even more important ones, that need
to be understood in order that we may be freed from the bondage of
nervous strain which keeps so many of us from our best use and
happiness. 

Many people are in bondage because of doing wrong, but many more
because of doing right in the wrong way. Real freedom is only found
through obedience to law, and when, because of daily strain, a man
finds himself getting overtired and irritable, the temptation is to
think it easier to go on working in the wrong way than to make the
effort to learn how to work in the right way. At first the effort
seems only to result in extra strain, but, if persisted in quietly,
it soon becomes apparent that it is leading to less and less strain,
and finally to restful work. 

There are laws for rest, laws for work, and laws for play, which, if
we find and follow them, lead us to quiet, useful lines of life,
which would be impossible without them. They are the laws of our own
being, and should carry us as naturally as the instincts of the
animals carry them, and so enable us to do right in the right way,
and make us so sure of the manner in which we do our work that we
can give all our attention to the work itself; and when we have the
right habit of working, the work itself must necessarily gain,
because we can put the best of ourselves into it. 

It is helpful to think of the instincts of the beasts, how true and
orderly they are, on their own plane, and how they are only
perverted when the animals have come under the influence of man.
Imagine Baloo, the bear in Mr. Kipling's "Jungle Book," being asked
how he managed to keep so well and rested. He would look a little
surprised and say: "Why, I follow the laws of my being. How could I
do differently?" Now that is just the difference between man and
beast. Man can do differently. And man has done differently now for
so many generations that not one in ten thousand really recognizes
what the laws of his being are, except in ways so gross that it
seems as if we had sunken to the necessity of being guided by a
crowbar, instead of steadily following the delicate instinct which
is ours by right, and so voluntarily accepting the guidance of the
Power who made us, which is the only possible way to freedom. 

Of course the laws of a man's being are infinitely above the laws of
a beast's. The laws of a man's being are spiritual, and the animal
in man is meant to be the servant of his soul. Man's true guiding
instincts are in his soul,--he can obey them or not, as he chooses;
but the beast's instincts are in his body, and he has no choice but
to obey. Man can, so to speak, get up and look down on himself. He
can be his own father and his own mother. From his true instinct he
can say to himself, "you must do this" or "You must not do that." He
can see and understand his tendency to disobedience, and _he can
force himself to obey._ Man can see the good and wholesome animal
instincts in himself that lead to lasting health and strength, and
he can make them all the good servants of his soul. He can see the
tendency to overindulgence, and how it leads to disease and to evil,
and he can refuse to permit that wrong tendency to rule him. 

Every man has his own power of distinguishing between right and
wrong, and his own power of choosing which way he shall follow. He
is left free to choose God's way or to choose his own. Through past
and present perversions, of natural habit he has lost the delicate
power of distinguishing the normal from the abnormal, and needs to
be educated back to it. The benefit of this education is an
intelligent consciousness of the laws of life, which not only adds
to his own strength of mind and body, but increases immeasurably his
power of use to others. Many customs of to-day fix and perpetuate
abnormal habits to such an extent that, combined with our own
selfish inheritances and personal perversions, they dim the light of
our minds so that many of us are working all the time in a fog, more
or less dense, of ignorance and bondage. When a man chooses the
right and refuses the wrong, in so far as he sees it, he becomes
wise from within and from without, his power for distinguishing
gradually improves, the fog lifts, and he finds within himself a
sure and delicate instinct which was formerly atrophied for want of
use. 

The first thing to understand without the shadow of a doubt, is
that, man is not in freedom when he is following his own selfish
instincts. He is only in the appearance of freedom, and the
appearance of freedom, without the reality, leads invariably to the
worst bondage. A man who loves drink feels that he is free if he can
drink as much as he wants, but that leads to degradation and
delirium tremens. A man who has an inherited tendency toward the
disobedience of any law feels that he is free if he has the
opportunity to disobey it whenever he wants to. But whatever the law
may be, the results have only to be carried to their logical
conclusion to make clear the bondage to which the disobedience
leads. All this disobedience to law leads to an inevitable,
inflexible, unsurmountable limit in the end, whereas steady effort
toward obedience to law is unlimited in its development of strength
and power for use to others. Man must understand his selfish
tendencies in order to subdue and control them, until they become
subject to his own unselfish tendencies, which are the spiritual
laws within him. Thus he gradually becomes free,--soul and
body,--with no desire to disobey, and with steadily increasing joy
in his work and life. So much for the bondage of doing wrong, and
the freedom of doing right, which it seems necessary to touch upon,
in order to show clearly the bondage of doing right in the wrong
way, and the freedom of doing right in the right way. 

It is right to work for our daily bread, and for the sake of use to
others, in whatever form it may present itself. The wrong way of
doing it makes unnecessary strain, overfatigue and illness. The
right way of working gives, as we have said before, new power and
joy in the work; it often turns even drudgery into pleasure, for
there is a special delight in learning to apply one's self in a true
spirit to "drudgery." The process of learning such true application
of one's powers often reveals new possibilities in work. 

It is right for most people to sleep eight hours every night. The
wrong way of doing it is to go to sleep all doubled up, and to
continue to work all night in our sleep, instead of giving up and
resting entirely. The right way gives us the fullest possible amount
of rest and refreshment. 

It is right to take our three meals a day, and all the nourishing
food we need. The wrong way of doing it, is to eat very fast,
without chewing our food carefully, and to give our stomachs no
restful opportunity of preparation to receive its food, or to take
good care of it after it is received. The right way gives us the
opportunity to assimilate the food entirely, so that every bit of
fuel we put into our bodies is burnt to some good purpose, and makes
us more truly ready to receive more. 

It is right to play and amuse ourselves for rest and recreation. We
play in the wrong way when we use ourselves up in the strain of
playing, in the anxiety lest we should not win in a game, or when we
play in bad air. When we play in the right way, there is no strain,
no anxiety, only good fun and refreshment and rest. 

We might go through the narrative of an average life in showing
briefly the wonderful difference between doing right in the right
way, and doing right in the wrong way. It is not too much to say
that the difference in tendency is as great as that between life and
death. 

It is one thing to read about orderly living and to acknowledge that
the ways described are good and true, and quite another to have
one's eyes opened and to act from the new knowledge, day by day,
until a normal mode of life is firmly established. It requires
quiet, steady force of will to get one's self out of bad, and well
established in good habits. After the first interest and relief
there often has to be steady plodding before the new way becomes
easy; but if we do not allow ourselves to get discouraged, we are
sure to gain our end, for we are opening ourselves to the influence
of the true laws within us, and in finding and obeying these we are
approaching the only possible Freedom of Life. 






II 

_How to Sleep Restfully_ 





IT would seem that at least one might be perfectly free in sleep.
But the habits of cleaving to mistaken ways of living cannot be
thrown off at night and taken up again in the morning. They go to
sleep with us and they wake with us. 

If, however, we learn better habits of sleeping, that helps us in
our life through the day. And learning better habits through the day
helps us to get more rest from our sleep. At the end of a good day
we can settle down more quickly to get ready for sleep, and, when we
wake in the morning, find ourselves more ready to begin the day to
come. 

There are three things that prevent sleep,--overfatigue, material
disturbances from the outside, and mental disturbances from, within.

It is not uncommon to hear people say, "I was too tired to sleep"
--but it is not generally known how great a help it is at such times
not to try to sleep, but to go to work deliberately to get I rested
in preparation for it. In nine cases out of ten it is the
unwillingness to lie awake that keeps us awake. We wonder why we do
not sleep. We toss and turn and wish we could sleep. We fret, and
fume, and worry, because we do not sleep. We think of all we have to
do on the following day, and are oppressed with the thought that we
cannot do it if we do not sleep. First, we try one experiment to see
if it will not make us sleep, and when it fails, we try another, and
perhaps another. In each experiment we, are watching to see if it
will work. There are many things to do, any one of which might help
us to sleep, but the _watching to see if they will work keeps us
awake._ 

When we are kept awake from our fatigue, the first thing to do is to
say over and over to ourselves that we do not care whether we sleep
or not, in order to imbue ourselves with a healthy indifference
about it. It will help toward gaining this wholesome indifference to
say "I am too tired to sleep, and therefore, the first thing for me
to do is to get rested in order to prepare for sleep. When my brain
is well rested, it will go to sleep; it cannot help it. When it is
well rested, it will sleep just as naturally as my lungs breathe, or
as my heart beats." 

In order to rest our brains we want to lie quietly, relaxing all our
muscles, and taking even, quiet breaths. It is good when we can take
long, full breaths, but sometimes that is too fatiguing; and then we
must not only take moderately long, breaths, but be careful to have
them gentle, quiet, and rhythmic. To make a plan of breathing and
follow it keeps the mind steadily concentrated on the breathing, and
gives the rest of the brain, which has been working on other things,
a chance to relax and find its own freedom and rest. It is helpful
to inhale while we count seven, exhale while we count seven, then
rest and breathe naturally while we count seven, and to repeat the
series of three for seven times; but to be strict with ourselves and
see that we only do it seven times, not once more nor once less.
Then we should wait a little and try it again,--and so keep on for a
number of times, repeating the same series; and we should always be
sure to have the air in our bedrooms as fresh as possible. If the
breathing is steady and rhythmical it helps very much, and to inhale
and exhale over and over for half an hour has a very pleasant,
quieting effect--sometimes such exercises make us nervous at first,
and, if we are very tired, that often happens; but, if we keep
steadily at work, the nervousness disappears and restful quiet
follows which very often brings restoring and refreshing sleep. 

Another thing to remember--and it is very important--is that an
overtired brain needs more than the usual nourishment. If you have
been awake for an hour, and it is three hours after your last meal,
take half a cup, or a cup of hot milk. If you are awake for another
two hours take half a cup more, and so, at intervals of about two.
hours, so long as you are awake throughout the night. Hot milk is
nourishing and a sedative. It is not inconvenient to have milk by
the side of one's bed, and a little saucepan and spirit lamp, so
that the milk can be heated without getting up, and the quiet simple
occupation of heating it is sometimes restful in itself. 

There are five things to remember to help rest an overtired brain:
1. A healthy indifference to wakefulness. 2. Concentration of the
mind on simple things. 3. Relaxation of the body. 4. Gentle rhythmic
breathing of fresh air. 5. Regular nourishment. If we do not lose
courage, but keep on steadily night after night, with a healthy
persistence in remembering and practising these five things, we
shall often find that what might have been a very long period of
sleeplessness may be materially shortened and that the sleep which
follows the practice of the exercises is better, sounder, and more
refreshing, than the sleep that came before. In many cases a long or
short period of insomnia can be absolutely prevented by just these
simple means. 

Here is perhaps the place to say that all narcotics are in such
cases, absolutely pernicious. 

They may bring sleep at the time, but eventually they lose their
effect, and leave the nervous system in a state of strain which
cannot be helped by anything but time, through much suffering that
might have been avoided. 

When we are not necessarily overtired but perhaps only a little
tired from the day's work, it is not uncommon to be kept awake by a
flapping curtain or a swinging door, by unusual noises in the
streets, or by people talking. How often we hear it said, "It did
seem hard when I went to bed tired last night that I should have
been kept awake by a noise like that--and now this morning, I am
more tired than when I went to bed." 

The head nurse in a large hospital said once in distress: "I wish
the nurses could be taught to step lightly over my head, so that
they would not keep me awake at night." It would have been a
surprise to her if she had been told that her head could be taught
to yield to the steps of the nurses, so that their walking would not
keep her awake. 

It is resistance that keeps us awake in all such cases. The curtain
flaps, and we resist it; the door swings to over and over again, and
we resist it, and keep ourselves awake by wondering why it does not
stop; we hear noises in the street that we am unused to, especially
if we are accustomed to sleeping in the stillness of the country,
and we toss and turn and wish we were in a quiet place. All the
trouble comes from our own resistance to the noise, and resistance
is nothing but unwillingness to submit to our conditions. 

If we are willing that the curtain should go on flapping, the door
go on slamming, or the noise in the street continue steadily on, our
brains yield to the conditions and so sleep naturally, because the
noise goes through us, so to speak, and does not run hard against
our unwillingness to hear it. 

There are three facts which may help to remove the resistance which
naturally arises at any unusual sound when we are tired and want to
get rest. 

One is that in almost every sound there is a certain rhythm. If we
yield to the sound enough to become sensitive to its rhythm, that,
in itself, is soothing. and what before was keeping us awake now
_helps us to go to sleep._ This pleasant effect of finding the
rhythm in sound is especially helpful if one is inclined to lie
awake while travelling in sleeping cars. The rhythm of sound and
motion in sleeping cars and steamers is, in itself, soothing. If you
have the habit of feeling as if you could never get refreshing sleep
in a sleeping car, first be sure that you have as much fresh air as
possible, and then make up your mind that you will spend the whole
night, if necessary, in noticing the rhythm of the motion and sound
of the cars. If you keep your mind steadily on it, you will probably
be asleep in less than an hour, and, when the car stops, you will
wake only enough to settle comfortably into the sense of motion when
it starts again. It is pleasant to notice the gentleness with which
a good engineer starts his train at night. Of course there is a
difference in engineers, and some are much more gentle in starting
their engines than others, but the delicacy with which the engine is
started by the most expert is delightful to feel, and gives us many
a lesson on the use of gentle beginnings, with other things besides
locomotive engines, and especially in our dealings with each other. 

The second fact with regard to yielding, instead of resisting, in
order to get to sleep is that listening alone, apart from rhythm,
tends to make one sleepy, and this leads us at once to the third
fact, that getting to sleep is nothing but a healthy form of
concentration. 

If true concentration is dropping everything that interferes with
fixing our attention upon some wholesome object, it means merely
bringing the brain into a normal state which induces sleep when
sleep is needed. First we drop everything that interferes with the
one simple subject, and then we drop that, and are unconscious. 

Of course it may take some time to make ourselves willing to submit
to an unusual noise if we have the habit of feeling that we must
necessarily be disturbed by it, and, if we can stop the noise, it is
better to stop it than to give ourselves unnecessary tasks in
non-resistance. 

Then again, if we are overtired, our brains are sometimes so
sensitive that the effect of any noise is like that of being struck
in a sore spot, and then it is much more difficult to bear it, and
we can only make the suffering a little less by yielding and being
willing that it should go on. I cannot go to sleep while some one is
knocking my lame arm, nor can I go to sleep while a noise is hitting
my tired brain; but in such cases we can give up expecting to go to
sleep, and get a great deal of rest by using our wills steadily not
to resist; and sometimes, even then, sleep will come upon us
unexpectedly. 

With regard to the use of the will, perhaps the most dangerous
pitfall to be avoided is the use of drugs. It is not too much to say
that they never should be used at all for cases of pure
sleeplessness, for with time their power to bring sleep gradually
becomes exhausted, and then the patient finds himself worse off than
before, for the reactionary effect of the drugs leaves him with
exhausted nerves and a weakened will. All the strengthening, moral
effect which can be gained from overcoming sleeplessness in
wholesome ways is lost by a recourse to drugs, and character is
weakened instead of strengthened. 

When one has been in the habit of sleeping in the city, where the
noise of the street is incessant, a change to the perfect silence of
the country will often keep sleep off quite as persistently as
noise. So with a man who has been in the habit of sleeping under
other abnormal conditions, the change to normal conditions will
sometimes keep him awake until he has adjusted himself to them, and
it is not uncommon for people to be so abnormal that they resist
rhythm itself, such as is heard in the rolling of the sea, or the
rushing of a river. 

The re-adjustment from abnormal to normal conditions of sleeping may
be made surely if we set about it with a will, for we have all
nature on our side. Silence is orderly for the night's rest, and
rhythm only emphasizes and enhances the silence, when it is the
rhythm of nature. 

The habit of resistance cannot be changed in a single day--it must
take time; but if the meaning, the help, and the normal power of
non-resistance is clearly understood, and the effort to gain it is
persistent, not only the power to sleep, but a new sense of freedom
may be acquired which is quite beyond the conception of those who
are in the daily habit of resistance. 

When we lie down at night and become conscious that our arms and our
legs and our whole bodies are resting heavily upon the bed, we are
letting go all the resistance which has been left stored in our
muscles from the activities of the day. 

A cat, when she lies down, lets go all resistance at once, because
she moves with the least possible effort; but there are very few men
who do that, and so men go to their rest with more or less
resistance stored in their bodies, and they must go through a
conscious process of dropping it before they can settle to sleep as
a normal child does, without having to think about how it is done.
The conscious process, however, brings a quiet, conscious joy in the
rest, which opens the mind to soothing influences, and brings a more
profound refreshment than is given even to the child--and with the
refreshment new power for work. 

One word more about outside disturbances before we turn to those
interior ones which are by far the most common preventatives of
refreshing sleep. The reader will say: "How can I be willing that
the noise should go on when I am not willing?" The answer is, "If
you can see clearly that if you were willing, the noises would not
interfere with your sleep, then you can find the ability within you
to make yourself willing." 

It is wonderful to realize the power we gain by compelling and
controlling our desires or aversions through the intelligent use of
the will, and it is easier to compel ourselves to do right against
temptation than to force ourselves to do wrong against a true
conviction. Indeed it is most difficult, if not impossible, to force
ourselves to do wrong against a strong sense of right. Behind an our
desires, aversions, and inclinations each one of us possesses a
capacity for a higher will, the exercise of which, on the side of
order and righteousness, brings into being the greatest power in
human life. The power of character is always in harmony with the
laws of truth and order, and although we must sometimes make a great
effort of the will to do right against our inclinations the ease of
such effort increases as the power of character increases, and
strength of will grows steadily by use, because it receives its life
from the eternal will and is finding its way to harmony with that. 

It is the lower, selfish will that often keeps us awake by causing
interior disturbances. 

An actor may have a difficult part to play, and feel that a great
deal depends upon his success. He stays awake with anxiety, and this
anxiety is nothing but resistance to the possibility of failure. The
first thing for him to do is to teach himself to be willing to fail.
If he becomes willing to fail, then all his anxiety will go, and he
will be able to sleep and get the rest and new life which he needs
in order to play the part well. If he is willing to fail, then all
the nervous force which before was being wasted in anxiety is set
free for use in the exercise of his art. 

Looking forward to what is going to happen on the next day, or
within a few days, may cause so much anxiety as to keep us awake;
but if we have a good, clear sense of the futility of resistance,
whether our expected success or failure depends on ourselves or on
others, we can compel ourselves to a quiet willingness which will
make our brains quiet and receptive to restful sleep, and so enable
us to wake with new power for whatever task or pleasure may lie
before us. 

Of course we are often kept awake by the sense of having done wrong.
In such cases the first thing to do is to make a free acknowledgment
to ourselves of the wrong we have done, and then to make up our
minds to do the right thing at once. That, if the wrong done is not
too serious, will put us to sleep; and if the next day we go about
our work remembering the lesson we have learned, we probably will
have little trouble in sleeping. 

If Macbeth had had the truth and courage to tell Lady Macbeth that
both he and she were wicked plotters and murderers, and that he
intended, for his part, to stop being a scoundrel, and, if he had
persisted in carrying out his good intentions, he would never have
"murdered sleep." 






III 

_Resistance_ 





A MAN once grasped a very hot poker with his hand, and although he
cried out with pain, held on to the poker. His friend called out to
him to drop it, whereupon the man indignantly cried out the more. 

"Drop it? How can you expect me to think of dropping it with pain
like this? I tell you when a man is suffering, as I am, he can think
of nothing but the pain." 

And the more indignant he was, the tighter he held on to the poker,
and the more he cried out with pain. 

This story in itself is ridiculous, but it is startlingly true as an
illustration of what people are doing every day. 

There is an instinct in us to drop every hot poker at once; and
probably we should be able to drop any other form of unnecessary
disagreeable sensation as soon as possible, if we had not lost that
wholesome instinct through want of use. As it is, we must learn to
re-acquire the lost faculty by the deliberate use of our
intelligence and will. 

It is as if we had lost our freedom and needed to be shown the way
back to it, step by step. The process is slow but very interesting,
if we are in earnest; and when, after wandering in the bypaths, we
finally strike the true road, we find our lost faculty waiting for
us, and all that we have learned in reaching it is so much added
power. 

But at present we are dealing in the main with a world which has no
suspicion of such instincts or faculties as these, and is suffering
along in blind helplessness. A man will drop a hot poker as soon as
he feels it burn, but he will tighten his muscles and hold on to a
cold in his head so persistently that he only gets rid of it at all
because nature is stronger than he is, and carries it off in spite
of him. 

How common it is to see a woman entirely wrapped up, with a
handkerchief held to her nose,--the whole body as tense as it can
be,--wondering "Why does it take so long to get rid of this cold?"
To get free from a severe cold there should be open and clear
circulation throughout the whole body. The more the circulation is
impeded, the longer the cold will last. To begin with, the cold
itself impedes the circulation; and if, in addition, we offer
resistance to the very idea of having a cold, we tighten our nerves
and our bodies and thereby impede our circulation still further. It
is curious that the more we resist a cold the more we hold on to it,
but it is a very evident fact; and so is its logical corollary, that
the less we resist it the sooner it leaves us. 

It would seem absurd to people who do not understand, to say:--

"I have caught cold, I must relax and let it go through me." 

But the literal truth is that when we relax, we open the channels of
circulation in our bodies, and so allow the cold to be carried off.
In addition to the relaxing, long, quiet breaths help the
circulation still more, and so help the cold to go off sooner. 

In the same way people resist pain and hold on to it; when they are
attacked with severe pain, they at once devote their entire
attention to the sensation of pain, instead of devoting it to the
best means of getting relief. They double themselves up tight, and
hold on to the place that hurts. Then all the nervous force tends
toward the sore place and the tension retards the circulation and
makes it difficult for nature to cure the pain, as she would
spontaneously if she were only allowed to have her own way. 

I once knew a little girl who, whenever she hit one elbow, would at
once deliberately rub the other. She said that she had discovered
that it took her mind away from the elbow that hurt, and so stopped
its hurting sooner. The use of a counterirritant is not uncommon
with good physicians, but the counter-irritant only does what is
much more effectually accomplished when the patient uses his will
and intelligence to remove the original irritant by ceasing to
resist it. 

A man who was troubled with spasmodic contraction of the throat once
went to a doctor in alarm and distress. The doctor told him that, in
any case, nothing worse than fainting could happen to him, and that,
if he fainted away, his throat would be relieved, because the
fainting would relax the muscles of the throat, and the only trouble
with it was contraction. Singularly, it did not seem to occur to the
doctor that the man might be taught to relax his throat by the use
of his own will, instead of having to faint away in order that
nature might do it for him. Nature would be just as ready to help us
if we were intelligent, as when she has to knock us down, in order
that she may do for us what we do not know enough to do for
ourselves. 

There is no illness that could not be much helped by quiet relaxing
on the part of the patient, so as to allow nature and remedial
agencies to do their work more easily. 

That which keeps relief away in the case of the cold, of pain, and
of many illnesses, is the contraction of the nerves and muscles of
the body, which impedes the curative power of its healing forces.
The contraction of the nerves and muscles of the body is caused by
resistance in the mind, and resistance in the mind is unwillingness:
unwillingness to endure the distress of the cold, the pain, or the
illness, whatever it may be; and the more unwilling we are to suffer
from illness, the more we are hindering nature from bringing about a
cure. 

One of the greatest difficulties in life is illness when the hands
are full of work, and of business requiring attention. In many eases
the strain and anxiety, which causes resistance to the illness, is
even more severe, and makes more trouble than the illness itself. 

Suppose, for instance, that a man is taken down with the measles,
when he feels that he ought to be at his office, and that his
absence may result in serious loss to himself and others. If he
begins by letting go, in his body and in his mind, and realizing
that the illness is beyond his own power, it will soon occur to him
that he might as well turn his illness to account by getting a good
rest out of it. In this frame of mind his chances of early recovery
will be increased, and he may even get up from his illness with so
much new life and with his mind so much refreshed as to make up, in
part, for his temporary absence from business. But, on the other
hand, if he resists, worries, complains and gets irritable, he
irritates his nervous system and, by so doing is likely to bring on
any. one of the disagreeable troubles that are known to follow
measles; and thus he may keep himself housed for weeks, perhaps
months, instead of days. 

Another advantage in dropping all resistance to illness, is that the
relaxation encourages a restful attitude of mind, which enables us
to take the right amount of time for recovery, and so prevents
either a possible relapse, or our feeling only half well for a long
time, when we might have felt wholly well from the time we first
began to take up our life again. Indeed the advantages of
nonresistance in such cases are innumerable, and there are no
advantages whatever in resistance and unwillingness. 

Clear as these things must be to any intelligent person whose
attention is turned in the right direction, it seems most singular
that not in one case in a thousand are they deliberately practised.
People seem to have lost their common sense with regard to them,
because for generations the desire for having our own way has held
us in bondage, and confused our standard of freedom; more than that,
it has befogged our sense of natural law, and the result is that we
painfully fight to make water run up hill when, if we were to give
one quiet look, we should see that better things could be
accomplished, and our own sense of freedom become keener, by being
content to let the water quietly run down and find its own level. 

It is not normal to be ill and to be kept from our everyday use, but
it is still less normal for a healthy, intelligent mind to keep its
body ill longer than is necessary by resisting the fact of illness.
Every disease, though it is abnormal in itself, may frequently be
kept within bounds by a certain normal course of conduct, and, if
our suffering from the disease itself is unavoidable, by far our
wisest course is to stand aside, so to speak, and let it take its
own course, using all necessary remedies and precautions in order
that the attack may be as mild as possible. 

Many readers, although they see the common sense of such
non-resistance, will find it difficult to practise it, because of
their inheritances and personal habits. 

The man who held the hot poker only needed to drop it with his
fingers; the man who is taken ill only needs to be willing with his
mind and to relax with his nerves in order to hasten his recovery. 

A very useful practice is to talk to ourselves so quietly and
earnestly as to convince our brains of the true helpfulness of being
willing and of the impediment of our unwillingness. Tell the truth
to yourself over and over, quietly and without emotion, and steadily
and firmly contradict every temptation to think that it is
impossible not to resist. If men could once be convinced of the very
real and wonderful power they have of teaching their own brains, and
exacting obedience from them, the resulting new life and ability for
use would make the world much happier and stronger. 

This power of separating the clear, quiet common sense in ourselves
from the turbulent, willful rebellion and resistance, and so
quieting our selfish natures and compelling them to normal behavior,
is truly latent in us all. It may be difficult at first to use it,
especially in cases of strong, perverted natures and fixed habits,
because in such cases our resistances are harder and more interior,
but if we keep steadily on, aiming in the right direction,--if we
persist in the practice of keeping ourselves separate from our
unproductive turbulences, and of teaching our brains what we _know_
to be the truth, we shall finally find ourselves walking on level
ground, instead of climbing painfully up hill. Then we shall be only
grateful for all the hard work which was the means of bringing us
into the clear air of freedom. 

There could not be a better opportunity to begin our training in
non-resistance than that which illness affords. 






IV 

_Hurry, Worry, and Irritability_ 





PROBABLY most people have had the experience of hurrying to a train
with the feeling that something held them back, but not many have
observed that their muscles, under such conditions, actually _do_
pull them back. 

If any one wants to prove the correctness of this observation let
him watch himself, especially if it is necessary for him to go
downstairs to get to the station, while he is walking down the
steps. The drawing back or contracting of the muscles, as if they
were intelligently trying to prevent us from reaching the train on
time, is most remarkable. Of course all that impeding contraction
comes from resistance, and it seems at first sight very strange that
we should resist the accomplishment of the very thing we want to do.
Why should I resist the idea of catching a train, when at the same
time I am most anxious to do so? Why should my muscles reflect that
resistance by contracting, so that they directly impede my progress?
It seems a most singular case of a house divided against itself for
me to want to take a train, and for my own muscles, which are given
me for my command, to refuse to take me there, so that I move toward
the train with an involuntary effort away from it. But when the
truth is recognized, all this muscular contraction is easily
explained. What we are resisting is not the fact of taking the
train, but the possibility of losing it. That resistance reflects
itself upon our muscles and causes them to contract. Although this
is a practical truth, it takes us some time to realize that the fear
of losing the train is often the only thing that prevents our
catching it. If we could once learn this fact thoroughly, and live
from our clearer knowledge, it would be one of the greatest helps
toward taking all things in life quietly and without necessary
strain. For the fact holds good in all hurry. It is the fear of not
accomplishing what is before us in time that holds us back from its
accomplishment. 

This is so helpful and so useful a truth that I feel it necessary to
repeat it in many ways. Fear brings resistance, resistance impedes
our progress. Our faculties are paralyzed by lack of confidence, and
confidence is the result of a true consciousness of our powers when
in harmony with law. Often the fear of not accomplishing what is
before us is the _only_ thing that stands in our way. 

If we put all hurry, whether it be an immediate hurry to catch a
train, or the hurry of years toward the accomplishment of the main
objects of our lives,--if we put it all under. the clear light of
this truth, it will eventually relieve us of a strain which is
robbing our vitality to no end. 

First, the times that we _must_ hurry should be minimized. In nine
cases out of ten the necessity for hurry comes only from our own
attitude of mind, and from no real need whatever. In the tenth case
we must learn to hurry with our muscles, and not with our nerves,
or, I might better say, we must hurry without excitement. To hurry
quietly is to most people an unknown thing, but when hurry is a
necessity, the process of successive effort in it should be pleasant
and refreshing. 

If in the act of needful hurry we are constantly teaching ourselves
to stop resistance by saying over and over, through whatever we may
be doing, "I am perfectly willing to lose that train, I am willing
to lose it, I am willing to lose it," that will help to remove the
resistance, and so help us to learn how to make haste quietly. 

But the reader will say, "How can I make myself willing when I am
not willing?" 

The answer is that if you know that your unwillingness to lose the
train is preventing you from catching it, you certainly will see the
efficacy of being willing, and you will do all in your power toward
yielding to common sense. Unwillingness is resistance,--resistance
in the mind contracts the muscles, and such contraction prevents our
using the muscles freely and easily. Therefore let us be willing. 

Of course there, is. a lazy, selfish indifference to catching a
train, or accomplishing anything else, which leaves the tendency to
hurry out of some temperaments altogether, but with that kind of a
person we are not dealing now. And such indifference is the absolute
opposite of the wholesome indifference in which there is no touch of
laziness or selfishness. 

If we want to avoid hurry we must get the habit of hurry out of our
brains, and cut ourselves off, patiently and kindly, from the
atmosphere of hurry about us. The habit gets so strong a hold of the
nerves, and is impressed upon them so forcibly as a steady tendency,
that it can be detected by a close observer even in a person who is
lying on a lounge in the full belief that he is resting. It shows
itself especially in the breathing. A wise athlete has said that our
normal breathing should consist of six breaths to one minute. If the
reader will try this rate of breathing, the slowness of it will
surprise him. Six breaths to one minute seem to make the breathing
unnecessarily slow, and just double that seems about the right
number for ordinary people; and the habit of breathing at this
slower rate is a great help, from a physical standpoint, toward
erasing the tendency to hurry. 

One of the most restful exercises any one can take is to lie at full
length on a bed or lounge and to inhale and exhale, at a perfectly
even, slow rate, for half an hour. It makes the exercise more
restful if another person counts for the breathing, say, ten slowly
and quickly to inhale, and ten to exhale, with a little pause to
give time for a quiet change from one breath to another. 

Resistance, which is the mental source of hurry, is equally at the
root of that most harmful emotion--the habit of worrying. And the
same truths which must be learned and practised to free ourselves of
the one habit are applicable to the other. 

Take the simple example of a child who worries over his lessons.
Children illustrate the principle especially well, because they are
so responsive that, if you meet them quietly with the truth in
difficulties of this kind they recognize its value and apply it very
quickly, and it takes them, comparatively, a very little time to get
free. 

If you think of telling a child that the moment he finds himself
worrying about his lesson he should close his book and say: 

"I do not care whether I get this lesson or not." 

And then, when he has actually persuaded himself that he does not
care, that he should open his book and study,--it would seem, at
first sight, that he would find it difficult to understand you; but,
on the contrary, a child understands more quickly than older people,
for the child has not had time to establish himself so firmly in the
evil habit. 

I have in mind a little girl in whom the habit had begun of worrying
lest she should fail in her lessons, especially in her Latin. Her
mother sent her to be taught how not to worry. The teacher, after
giving her some idea of the common sense of not worrying, taught her
quieting exercises which she practised every day; and when one day,
in the midst of one of her lessons, Margaret seemed very quiet and
restful, the teacher asked:--

"Margaret, could you worry about your Latin now if you tried?" 

"Yes," said Margaret, "I am afraid I could." 

Nothing more was said, but she went on with her lessons, and several
days after, during the same restful quiet time, the teacher ventured
again. 

"Now, Margaret, could you worry about your Latin if you tried?" 

Then came the emphatic answer, _"No, I could not."_ 

After that the little girl would say: 

"With the part of me that worries, I do not care whether I get my
Latin or not; with the part of me that does not worry, I want to get
my Latin very much; therefore I will stay in the part of me that
does not worry, and get my Latin." 

A childish argument, and one that may be entirely incomprehensible
to many minds, but to those who do comprehend, it represents a very
real and practical help. 

It is, in most cases, a grave mistake to, reason with a worry. We
must first drop the worry, and then do our reasoning. If to drop the
worry seems impossible, we can separate ourselves from it enough to
prevent it from interfering with our reasoning, very much as if it
were neuralgia. There is never any real reason for a worry, because,
as we all know, worry never helps us to gain, and often is the cause
of our losing, the things which we so much desire. 

Sometimes we worry because we are tired, and in that case, if we can
recognize the real cause, we should use our wills to withdraw our
attention from the object of worry, and to get all possible rest at
once, in the confident belief that rest will make things clear, or
at least more clear than they were when we were tired. It would be
hard to compute the harm that has been done by kindly disposed
people in reasoning with the worry of a friend, when the anxiety is
increased by fatigue or illness. To reason with one who is tired or
ill and worried, only increases the mental strain, and every effort
that is made to reason him out of it aggravates the strain; until,
finally, the poor brain, through kindly meant effort, has been
worked into an extreme state of irritation or even inflammation. For
the same reason, a worried mind should not be laughed at. Worries
that are aroused by fatigue or illness are often most absurd, but
they are not absurd to the mind that is suffering from them, and to
make fun of them only brings more pain, and more worry. Gentle,
loving attention, with kindly, truthful answers, will always help.
By such attention we are really giving no importance to the worry,
but only to our friend, with the hope of soothing and quieting him
out of his worries, and when he is rested he may see the truth for
himself. 

We should deal with ourselves, in such cases, as gently as we would
with a friend, excepting that we can tell the truth to ourselves
more plainly than we can to most friends. 

Worrying is resistance, resistance is unwillingness. Unwillingness
interferes with whatever we may want to accomplish. To be willing
that this, that, or the other should happen seems most difficult,
when to our minds, this, that, or the other would bring disaster.
And yet if we can once see clearly that worrying resistance tends
toward disaster rather than away from it, or, at the very least,
takes away our strength and endurance, it is only a matter of time
before we become able to drop our resistance altogether. But it is a
matter of time; and, when once we are faced toward freedom, we must
be patient and steady, and not expect to gain very rapidly. Theirs
is indeed a hard lot who have acquired this habit of worry, and
persist in doing nothing to gain their freedom. 

"Now I have got something to worry about for the rest of my life,"
remarked a poor woman once. Her face was set toward worrying;
nothing but her own will could have turned it the other way, and yet
she deliberately chose not to use it, and so she was fixed and
settled in prison for the rest of her life. 

To worry is wicked; it is wickedness of a kind that people often do
not recognize as such, and they are not fully responsible until they
do; but to prove it to be wicked is an easy matter, when once we are
faced toward freedom; and, to get over it, as I have said, is a
matter of steady, persistent patience. 

As for irritability, that is also resistance; but there are two
kinds of irritability,--physical and moral. 

There is an irritability that comes when we are hungry, if we have
eaten something that disagrees with us, if we are cold or tired or
uncomfortable from some other physical cause. When we feel that kind
of irritability we should ignore it, as we would ignore a little
snapping dog across the street, while at the same time removing its
cause as quickly as we can. There is nothing that delights the devil
more than to scratch a man with the irritability of hunger, and have
him respond to it at once by being ugly and rude to a friend; for
then the irritation immediately becomes moral, and every bit of
selfishness rushes up to join it, and to arouse whatever there may
be of evil in the man. It is simple to recognize this merely
physical form of irritability, and we should no more allow ourselves
to speak, or act, or even _think_ from it, than we should allow
ourselves to walk directly into foul air, when the good fresh air is
close to us on the other side. 

But moral irritability is more serious; that comes from the soul,
and is the result of our wanting our own way. The immediate cause
may be some physical disturbance, such as noise, or it may be
aroused by other petty annoyances, like that of being obliged to
wait for some one who is unpunctual, or by disagreement in an
argument. There are very many causes for irritability, and we each
have our own individual sensitiveness or antipathy, but, whatever
the secondary cause, the primary cause is always the
same,--resistance or unwillingness to accept our circumstances. 

If we are fully willing to be disturbed, we cease to be troubled by
the disturbance; if we are willing to wait, we are not annoyed by
being kept waiting, and we are in a better, more quiet humor to help
our friend to the habit of promptness. if we are willing that
another should differ from us in opinion, we can see more clearly
either to convince our friend, if he is wrong,--or to admit that he
is right, and that we are wrong. The essential condition of good
argument is freedom from personal feeling, with the desire only for
the truth,--whether it comes from one party or the other. 

Hurry, worry, and irritability all come from selfish resistance to
the facts of life, and the only permanent cure for the waste of
force and the exhausting distress which they entail, is a
willingness to accept those facts, whatever they may be, in a spirit
of cheerful and reverent obedience to law. 






V 

_Nervous Fears_ 





TO argue with nervous anxiety, either in ourselves or in others, is
never helpful. Indeed it is never helpful to argue with "nerves" at
all. Arguing with nervous excitement of any kind is like rubbing a
sore. It only irritates it. It does not take long to argue excited
or tired nerves into inflammation, but it is a long and difficult
process to allay the inflammation when it has once been aroused. It
is a sad fact that many people have been argued into long nervous
illnesses by would-be kind friends whose only intention was to argue
them out of illness. Even the kindest and most disinterested friends
are apt to lose patience when they argue, and that, to the tired
brain which they are trying to relieve, is a greater irritant than
they realize. The radical cure for nervous fears is to drop
resistance to painful circumstances or conditions. Resistance is
unwillingness to endure, and to drop the resistance is to be
strongly willing. This vigorous "willingness" is so absolutely
certain in its happy effect, and is so impossible that it should
fail, that the resistant impulses seem to oppose themselves to it
with extreme energy. It is as if the resistances were conscious
imps, and as if their certainty of defeat--in the case of their
victim's entire "willingness "--roused them to do their worst, and
to hold on to their only possible means of power with all the more
determination. Indeed, when a man is working through a hard state,
in gaining his freedom from nervous fears, these imps seem to hold
councils of war, and to devise new plans of attack in order to take
him by surprise and overwhelm him in an emergency. But every sharp
attack, if met with quiet "willingness," brings a defeat for the
assailants, until finally the resistant imps are conquered and
disappear. Occasionally a stray imp will return, and try to arouse
resistance on what he feels is old familiar ground, but he is
quickly driven off, and the experience only makes a man more quietly
vigilant and more persistently "willing." 

Perhaps one of the most prevalent and one of the hardest fears to
meet, is that of insanity,--especially when it is known to be a
probable or possible inheritance. When such fear is oppressing a
man,--to tell him that he not only can get free from the fear, but
free from any possibility of insanity, through a perfect willingness
to be insane, must seem to him at first a monstrous mockery; and, if
you cannot persuade him of the truth, but find that you are only
frightening him more, there is nothing to do then but to be willing
that he should not be persuaded, and to wait for a better
opportunity. You can show him that no such inheritance can become an
actuality, unless we permit it, and that the very knowledge of an
hereditary tendency, when wholesomely used, makes it possible for us
to take every precaution and to use every true safeguard against it.
The presence of danger is a source of strength to the brave; and the
source of abiding courage is not in the nerves, but in the spirit
and the will behind them. It is the clear statement of this fact
that will persuade him The fact may have to be stated many times,
but it should never be argued. And the more quietly and gently and
earnestly it is stated, the sooner it will convince, for it is the
truth that makes us free. 

Fear keeps the brain in a state of excitement. Even when it is not
consciously felt, it is felt sub-consciously, and we ought to be
glad to have it aroused, in order that we may see it and free
ourselves, not only from the particular fear for the time being, but
from the subconscious impression of fear in general. 

Is seems curious to speak of grappling with the fear of insanity,
and conquering it by being perfectly willing to be insane, but it is
no more curious than the relation of the centrifugal and the
centripetal forces to each other. We need our utmost power of
concentration to enable us to yield truly, and to be fully willing
to submit to whatever the law of our being may require. Fear
contracts the brain and the nerves, and interrupts the circulation,
and want of free circulation is a breeder of disease. Dropping
resistance relaxes the tension of the brain and nerves, and opens
the channels for free circulation, and free circulation helps to
carry off the tendency to disease. If a man is wholesomely willing
to be insane, should such an affliction overtake him, he has dropped
all resistance to the idea of insanity, and thus also to all the
mental and physical contractions that would foster insanity. He has
dropped a strain which was draining his brain of its proper
strength, and the result is new vigor to mind and body. To drop an
inherited strain produces a great and wonderful change, and all we
need to bring it about is to thoroughly understand how possible and
how beneficial it is. If we once realize the benefit of dropping the
strain, our will is there to accomplish the rest, as surely as it is
there to take our hand out of the fire when it burns. 

Then there is the fear of contagion. Some people are haunted with
the fear of catching disease, and the contraction which such
resistance brings induces a physical state most favorable to
contagion. There was once a little child whose parents were so full
of anxious fears that they attempted to protect him from disease in
ways that were extreme and ridiculous. All his toys were boiled,
everything he ate or drank was sterilized, and many other
precautions were taken,--but along with all the precautions, the
parents were in constant fear; and it is not unreasonable to feel
that the reflection upon the child of the chronic resistance to
possible danger with which he was surrounded, had something to do
with the fact that the dreaded disease was finally caught, and that,
moreover, the child did not recover. If reasonably healthy
conditions had been insisted upon, and the parents had felt a
wholesome trust in the general order of things, it would have been
likely to make the child more vigorous, and would have tended to
increase his capacity for throwing off contagion. 

Children are very sensitive, and it is not unusual to see a child
crying because its mother is out of humor, even though she may not
have spoken a cross word. It is not unusual to see a child contract
its little brain and body in response to the fears and contractions
of its parents, and such contraction keeps the child in a state in
which it may be more difficult to throw off disease. 

If you hold your fist as tight as you can hold it for fifteen
minutes, the fatigue you will feel when it relaxes is a clear proof
of the energy you have been wasting. The waste of nervous energy
would be much increased if the fist were held tightly for hours; and
if the waste is so great in the useless tightening of a fist, it is
still greater in the extended and continuous contraction of brain
and nerves in useless fears; and the energy saved through dropping
the fears and their accompanying tension can bring in the same
proportion a vigor unknown before, and at the same time afford
protection against the very things we feared. 

The fear of taking cold is so strong in many people that a draught
of fresh air becomes a bugaboo to their contracted, sensitive
nerves. Draughts are imagined as existing everywhere, and the
contraction which immediately follows the sensation of a draught is
the best means of preparing to catch a cold. 

Fear of accident keeps one in a constant state of unnecessary
terror. To be willing that an accident should happen does not make
it more likely to happen, but it prevents our wasting energy by
resistance, and keeps us quiet and free, so that if an emergency of
any kind arises, we are prepared to act promptly and calmly for the
best. If the amount of human energy wasted in the strain of nervous
fear could be measured in pounds of pressure, the figures would be
astonishing. Many people who have the habit of nervous fear in one
form or another do not throw it off merely because they do not know
how. There are big and little nervous fears, and each and all can be
met and conquered,--thus bringing a freedom of life which cannot
even be imagined by those carrying the burden of fear, more or less,
throughout their lives. 

The fear of what people will think of us is a very common cause of
slavery, and the nervous anxiety as to whether we do or do not
please is a strain which wastes the energy of the greater part of
mankind. It seems curious to measure the force wasted in
sensitiveness to public opinion as you would measure the waste of
power in an engine, and yet it is a wholesome and impersonal way to
think of it,--until we find a better way. It relieves us of the
morbid element in the sensitiveness to say, "I cannot mind what
so-and-so thinks of me, for I have not the nervous energy to spare."
It relieves us still more of the tendency to morbid feeling, if we
are wholesomely interested in what others think of us, in order to
profit by it, and do better. There is nothing morbid or nervous
about our sensitiveness to opinion, when it is derived from a love
of criticism for the sake of its usefulness. Such a rightful and
wise regard for the opinion of others results in a saving of energy,
for on the one hand, it saves us from the mistakes of false and
shallow independence, and, on the other, from the wasteful strain of
servile fear. 

The little nervous fears are countless. The fear of not being exact.
The fear of not having turned off the gas entirely. The fear of not
having done a little daily duty which we find again and again we
have done. These fears are often increased, and sometimes are
aroused, by our being tired, and it is well to realize that, and to
attend at once carefully to whatever our particular duty may be, and
then, when the fear of not having done it attacks us, we should
think of it as if it were a physical pain, and turn our attention
quietly to something else. In this way such little nagging fears are
relieved; whereas, if we allowed ourselves to be driven by them, we
might bring on nervous states that would take weeks or months to
overcome. These nervous fears attack us again and again in subtle
ways, if we allow ourselves to be influenced by them. They are all
forms of unwillingness or resistance, and may all be removed by
dropping the resistance and yielding,--not to the fear, but to a
willingness that the fear should be there. 

One of the small fears that often makes life seem unbearable is the
fear of a dentist. A woman who had suffered from this fear for a
lifetime, and who had been learning to drop resistances in other
ways, was once brought face to face with the necessity for going to
the dentist, and the old fear was at once aroused,--something like
the feeling one might have in preparing for the guillotine,--and
she suffered from it a day or two before she remembered her new
principles. Then, when the new ideas came back to her mind, she at
once applied them and said, "Yes, I _am afraid,_ I _am awfully
afraid._ I am _perfectly willing to be afraid," _and the ease with
which the fear disappeared was a surprise,--even to herself. 

Another woman who was suffering intensely from fear as to the
after-effects of an operation, had begun to tremble with great
nervous intensity. The trembling itself frightened her, and when a
friend told her quietly to be willing to tremble, her quick,
intelligence responded at once. "Yes," she said, "I will, I will
make myself tremble," and, by not only being willing to tremble, but
by making herself tremble, she got quiet mental relief in a very
short time, and the trembling disappeared. 

The fear of death is, with its derivatives, of course, the greatest
of all; and to remove our resistance to the idea of death, by being
perfectly willingly to die is to remove the foundation of all the
physical cowardice in life, and to open the way for the growth of a
courage which is strength and freedom itself. He who yields gladly
to the ordinary facts of life, will also yield gladly to the supreme
fact of physical death, for a brave and happy willingness is the
characteristic habit of his heart:--

Under the wide and starry sky, 
Dig the grave and let me lie. 
Glad did I live and gladly die, 
And I laid me down with a will." 

There is a legend of the Arabs in which a man puts his head out of
his tent and says, "I will loose my camel and commit him to God,"
and a neighbor who hears him says, in his turn, "I will tie my camel
and commit him to God." The true helpfulness from non-resistance
does not come from neglecting to take proper precautions against the
objects of fear, but from yielding with entire willingness to the
necessary facts of life, and a sane confidence that, whatever comes,
we shall be provided with the means of meeting it. This confidence
is, in itself, one of the greatest sources of intelligent endurance.






VI 

_Self-Consciousness_ 





SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS may be truly defined as a person's inability to
get out of his own way. There are, however, some people who are so
entirely and absolutely self-conscious that everything they do, even
though it may appear spontaneous and ingenuous, is observed and
admired and approved of by themselves,--indeed they are supported
and sustained by their self-consciousness. They are so completely in
bondage to themselves that they have no glimpse of the possibility
of freedom, and therefore this bondage is pleasant to them. 

With these people we have, at present, nothing to do; it is only
those who have begun to realize their bondage as such, or who suffer
from it, that can take any steps toward freedom. The self-satisfied
slaves must stay in prison until they see where they are--and it is
curious and sad to see them rejoicing in bondage and miscalling it
freedom. It makes one long to see them struck by an emergency,
bringing a flash of inner light which is often the beginning of an
entire change of state. Sometimes the enlightenment comes through
one kind of circumstance, sometimes through another; but, if the
glimpse of clearer sight it brings is taken advantage of, it will be
followed by a time of groping in the dark, and always by more or
less suffering. When, however, we know that we are in the dark,
there is hope of our coming to the light; and suffering is nothing
whatever after it is over and has brought its good results. 

If we were to take away the prop of self-approval entirely and
immediately from any one of the habitually self-satisfied people,
the probable result would be an entire nervous collapse, or even a
painful form of insanity; and, in all changes of state from bondage
to freedom, the process is and must be exceedingly slow. No one ever
strengthened his character with a wrench of impatience, although we
are often given the opportunity for a firm and immediate use of the
will which leaves lasting strength behind it. For the main growth of
our lives, however, we must be steadily patient, content to aim in
the true direction day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. If we
fall, we must pick ourselves up and go right on,--not stop to be
discouraged for one instant after we have recognized our state as a
temptation. Whatever the stone may be that we have tripped over, we
have learned that it is there, and, while we may trip over the same
stone many times, if we learn our lesson each time, it decreases the
possible number of stumbles, and smooths our paths more than we
know. 

There is no exception to the necessity for this patient, steady
plodding in the work required to gain our freedom from
self-consciousness. It is when we are aware of our bondage that our
opportunity to gain our freedom from it really begins. This bondage
brings very real suffering, and we may often, without exaggeration,
call it torture. It is sometimes even extreme torture, but may have
to be endured for a lifetime unless the sufferer has the clear light
by which to find his freedom; and, unfortunately, many who might
have the light will not use it because they are unwilling to
recognize the selfishness that is at the root of their trouble. Some
women like to call it "shyness," because the name sounds well, and
seems to exonerate them from any responsibility with regard to their
defect. Men will rarely speak of their self-consciousness, but, when
they do, they are apt to speak of it with more or less indignation
and self-pity, as if they were in the clutches of something
extraneous to themselves, and over which they can never gain
control. If, when a man is complaining of self-consciousness and of
its interference with his work in life, you tell him in all
kindness that all his suffering has its root in downright
selfishness, he will, in most cases, appear not to hear, or he will
beg the question, and, having avoided acknowledging the truth, will
continue to complain and ask for help, and perhaps wonder whether
hypnotism may not help him, or some other form of "cure." Anything
rather than look the truth in the face and do the work in himself
which, is the only possible road to lasting, freedom. Self-pity, and
what may be called spiritual laziness, is at the root of most of the
self-torment in the world. 

How ridiculous it would seem if a man tried to produce an electric
burner according to laws of his own devising, and then sat down and
pitied himself because the light would not burn, instead of
searching about until he had found the true laws of electricity
whose application would make the light shine successfully. How
ridiculous it would seem if a man tried to make water run up hill
without providing that it should do so by reaching its own level,
and then got indignant because he did not succeed, and wondered if
there were not some "cure" by means of which his object might be
accomplished. And yet it is no more strange for a man to disobey
habitually the laws of character, and then to suffer for his
disobedience, and wonder why he suffers. 

There is an external necessity for obeying social laws which must be
respected, or society would go to pieces; and there is just as great
an internal necessity for obeying spiritual laws to gain our proper
self-control and power for use; but we do not recognize that
necessity because, while disrregarding the laws of character, we can
still live without the appearance of doing harm to the community.
Social laws can be respected in the letter but not in the spirit,
whereas spiritual laws must be accepted by the individual heart and
practiced by the individual will in order to produce any useful
result. Each one of us must do the required work in himself. There
is no "cure," no help from outside which can bring one to a lasting
freedom. 

If self-consciousness makes us blush, the more we are troubled the
more it increases, until the blushing may become so unbearable that
we are tempted to keep away from people altogether; and thus life,
so far as human fellowship goes, would become more and more limited.
But, when such a limitation is allowed to remain within us, and we
make no effort of our own to find its root and to exterminate it, it
warps us through and through. If self-consciousness excites us to
talk, and we talk on and on to no end, simply allowing the selfish
suffering to goad us, the habit weakens our brains so that in time
they lose the power of strong consecutive thought and helpful
brevity. 

If self-consciousness causes us to wriggle, and strain, and stammer,
and we do not recognize the root of the trouble and shun it, and
learn to yield and quietly relax our nerves and muscles, of course
the strain becomes worse. Then, rather than suffer from it any
longer, we keep away from people, just as the blushing man is
tempted to do. In that case, the strain is still in us, in the back
of our brains, so to speak--because we have not faced and overcome
it. 

Stage fright is an intense form of self-consciousness, but the man
who is incapable of stage fright lacks the sensitive temperament
required to achieve great power as an artist. The man who overcomes
stage fright by getting out of his own way, and by letting the
character he is playing, or the music he is interpreting, work
through him as a clear, unselfish channel receives new power for his
work in the proportion that he shuns his own interfering
selfishness. 

But it is with the self-consciousness of everyday life that we have
especially to do now, and with the practical wisdom necessary to
gain freedom from all its various discomforts; and, even more than
that, to gain the new power for useful service which comes from the
possession of that freedom. 

The remedy is to be found in obedience to the law of unselfishness,
carried out into the field of nervous suffering. 

Whatever one may think, however one may try to dodge the truth by
this excuse or that, the conditions to be fulfilled in order to gain
freedom from self-consciousness are _absolutely within the
indidivual who suffers._ When we once understand this, and are faced
toward the truth, we are sure to find our way out, with more or less
rapidity, according to the strength with which we use our wills in
true obedience. 

First, we must be willing to accept the effects of
self-consciousness. The more we resist these effects the more they
force themselves upon us, and the more we suffer from them. We must
be willing to blush, be willing to realize that we have talked too
much, and perhaps made ourselves ridiculous. We must be willing to
feel the discomforts of self-consciousness in whatever form they may
appear. Then--the central point of all--we must know and
understand, and not dodge in the very least the truth that the _root
of self-consciousness is selfishly caring what other people think of
us,--and wanting to appear well before them._ 

Many readers of this article who suffer from self-consciousness will
want to deny this; others will acknowledge it, but will declare
their inability to live according to the truth; some,--perhaps more
than a few,--will recognize the truth and set to work with a will to
obey it, and how happily we may look forward to the freedom which
will eventually be theirs! 

A wise man has said that when people do not think well of us, the
first thing to do is to look and see whether they are right. In most
cases, even though they way have unkind feelings mingled with their
criticism, there is an element of truth in it from which we may
profit. In such cases we are much indebted to our critics, for, by
taking their suggestions, we are helped toward strength of character
and power for use. If there is no truth in the criticism, we need
not think of it at all, but live steadily on, knowing that the truth
will take care of itself. 

We should be willing that any one should think _anything_ of us, so
long as we have the strength of a good conscience. We should be
willing to appear in any light if that appearance will enhance our
use, or is a necessity of growth. If an awkward appearance is
necessary in the process of our journey toward freedom, we must not
resist the fact of its existence, and should only dwell on it long
enough to shun its cause in so far as we can, and gain the good
result of the greater freedom which will follow. 

It is because the suffering from self-consciousness is often so
intense that freedom from it brings, by contrast, so happy and so
strong a sense of power. 

There is a school for the treatment of stammerers in this country in
which the pupils are initiated into the process of cure by being
required to keep silence for a week. This would be a most helpful
beginning in a training to overcome self-consciousness. We should
recognize first that we must be willing to endure the effects of
self-consciousness without resistance. Secondly, we should admit
that the root of self-consciousness lies entirely in a selfish
desire to appear well before others. If, while recognizing these two
essential truths and confirming them until they are thoroughly
implanted in our brains, we should quietly persist in going among
people, the practice of silent attention to others would be of the
greatest value in gaining real freedom. The practice of attentive
and sympathetic silence might well be followed by people in general
far more than it is. The protection of a loving, unselfish silence
is very great: a silence which is the result of shunning all
selfish, self-assertive, vain, or affected speech; a silence which
is never broken for the sake of "making conversation," "showing
off," or covering selfish embarrassment; a silence which is full of
sympathy and interest,--the power of such a silence cannot be
overestimated. 

If we have the evil habit of talking for the sake of winning
approval, we should practise this silence; or if we talk for the
sake of calling attention to ourselves, for the sake of winning
sympathy for our selfish pains and sorrows, or for the sake of
indulging in selfish emotions, nothing can help us more than the
habit of loving and attentive silence. 

Only when we know how to practise this--in an impersonal, free and
quiet spirit, one which is not due to outward repression of any
kind--are we able to talk with quiet, loving, helpful speech. Then
may we tell the clean truth without giving unnecessary offence, and
then may we soothe and rest, as well as stimulate in, wholesome ways;
then, also, will our minds open to receive the good that may come to
us through the words and actions of others. 






VII 

_The Circumstances of Life_ 





IT is not the circumstances of life that trouble or weigh upon us,
it is the way we take them. If a man is playing a difficult game of
chess, the more intricate the moves the more thoughtfully he looks
over his own and his opponent's men, and the more fully he is
aroused to make the right move toward a checkmate. If, when the game
became difficult, the player stopped to be depressed and
disheartened, his opponent would probably always checkmate him;
whereas, in most cases, the more difficult the game the more
thoroughly the players are aroused to do their best, and a difficult
game is invariably a good one,--the winner and the loser both feel
it to be so,--even though the loser may regret his loss. But--the
reader will say--a game of chess is a game only,--neither one's
bread and butter nor one's life depend upon winning or losing it.
If, however, we need to be cool and quiet and trustful for a game,
which is merely an amusement, and if we play the game better for
being cool and quiet and trustful, why is not a quiet steadiness in
wrestling with the circumstances of life itself just as necessary,
not only that we may meet the particular problem of the moment
truly, but that we may gain all the experience which may be helpful
in meeting other difficult circumstances as they present themselves.

We must first convince ourselves thoroughly of the truth that
CIRCUMSTANCES, HOWEVER DIFFICULT, ARE ALWAYS--WITHOUT EXCEPTION,
OPPORTUNITIES, AND NOT LIMITATIONS. 

They are not by any means opportunities for taking us in the
direction that our own selfishness would have us go; they are
opportunities which are meant to guide us in the direction we most
need to follow,--in the ways that will lead us to the greatest
strength in the end. 

The most unbelieving of us will admit that "there is a destiny which
shapes our ends, rough hew them as we may," and it is in the stupid
resistance to having our ends shaped for us that we stop and groan
at what we call the limitations of circumstances. 

If we were quickly alert to see where circumstances had placed the
gate of opportunity, and then steadily persisted in going through
it, it would save the loss of energy and happiness which results
from obstinately beating our heads against a stone wall where there
is no gate, and where there never can be a gate. 

Probably there is hardly a reader who will not recall a number of
cases in which circumstances appear to have been only limitations to
him or to his friends; but if he will try with a willing mind to
find the gate of opportunity which was not used, he will be
surprised to learn that it was wide open all the time, and might
have led him into a new and better country. 

The other day a little urchin playing in the street got in the way
of a horse, and just saved himself from being run over by a quick
jump; he threw up his arms and in a most cheerful voice called out,
"It's all right, only different!" If the horse had run over him, he
might have said the same thing and found his opportunity to more
that was good and useful in life through steady patience on his bed.
The trouble is that we are not willing to call it _"all right"_
unless it is _the same,_--the same in this case meaning whatever may
be identical with our own personal ideas of what is "all right."
That expressive little bit of slang is full of humor and full of
common sense. 

If, for instance, when we expect something and are disappointed, we
could at once yield out of our resistance and heartily exclaim, "it
is all right, only different," how much sooner we should discover
the good use in its being different, and how soon we should settle
into the sense of its being "all right!" When a circumstance that
has seemed to us _all wrong_ can be made, through our quiet way of
meeting it, to appear all right, only different, it very soon leads
to a wholesome content in the new state of affairs or to a change of
circumstances to which we can more readily and happily adjust
ourselves. 

A strong sense of something's being "all right" means a strong sense
of willingness that it should be just as it is. With that clear
willingness in our hearts in general, we can adjust ourselves to
anything in particular,--even to very sudden and unexpected
changes. It is carrying along with us a background of powerful
non-resistance which we can bring to the front and use actively at a
moment's notice. 

It seems odd to think of actively using non-resistance, and yet the
expression is not as contradictory as it would appear, for the
strength of will it takes to attain an habitual attitude of
wholesome non-resistance is far beyond the strength of will required
to resist unwholesomely. The stronger, the more fixed and immovable
the centre, the more free and adaptable are the circumferences of
action; and, even though our central principle is fixed and
immovable, it must be elastic enough to enable us to change our
point of view whenever we find that by so doing we can gain a
broader outlook and greater power for use. 

To acquire the strength of will for this habitual non-resistance is
sometimes a matter of years of practice. We have to compel ourselves
to be "willing," over and over again, at each new opportunity;
sometimes the opportunities seem to throng us; and this, truly
considered, is only a cause for gratitude. 

In life the truest winning often comes first under the guise of
failure, and it is willingness to accept failure, and intelligence
in understanding its causes, and using the acquired knowledge as a
means to a higher end, that ultimately brings true success. If we
choose, a failure can always be used as a means to an end rather
than as a result in itself. 

How often do we hear the complaint, "I could do so well if it were
not for my circumstances." How many people are held down for a
lifetime by the habitual belief in circumstances as limitations, and
by ignoring the opportunities which they afford. 

"So long as I must live with these people I can never amount to
anything." If this complaint could be changed to the resolve: "I
will live with these people until I have so adjusted myself to them
as to be contented," a source of weakness would be changed into a
source of strength. The quiet activity of mind required to adjust
ourselves to difficult surroundings gives a zest and interest to
life which we can find in no other way, and adds a certain strength
to the character which cannot be found elsewhere. It is interesting
to observe, too, how often it happens that, when we have adjusted
ourselves to difficult circumstances, we are removed to other
circumstances which are more in sympathy with our own, thoughts and
ways: and sometimes to circumstances which are more difficult still,
and require all the strength and wisdom which our previous
discipline has taught us. 

If we are alive to our own true freedom, we should have an active
interest in the necessary warfare of life. For life is a
warfare--not of persons, but of principles--and every man who loves
his freedom loves to be in the midst of the battle. Our tendencies
to selfish discontent are constantly warring against our love of
usefulness and service, and he who wishes to enjoy the full
activity of freedom must learn to fight and to destroy the
tendencies within himself which stand in the way of his own
obedience to law. But he needs, for this, the truthful and open
spirit which leads to wise self-knowledge; a quiet and a willing
spirit, to make the necessary sacrifice of selfish pride. His quiet
earnestness will give him the strength to carry out what his clear
vision will reveal to him in the light of truth He will keep his
head lifted up above his enemies round about him, so that he may
steadily watch and clearly see how best to act. After periods of
hard fighting the intervals of rest will be full of refreshment, and
will always bring new strength for further activity. If, in the
battle with difficult circumstances, we are thrown down, we must
pick ourselves up with quick decision, and not waste a moment in
complaint or discouragement. We should emphasize to ourselves the
necessity for picking ourselves up immediately, and going directly
on, over and over again,--both for our own benefit, and the benefit
of those whom we have the privilege of helping 

In the Japanese training of "Jiu Jitsu," the idea seems to be to
drop all subjective resistance, and to continue to drop it, until,
through the calmness and clearness of sight that comes from quiet
nerves and a free mind, the wrestler can see where to make the fatal
stroke. When the right time has arrived, the only effort which is
necessary is quick, sharp and conclusive. This wonderful principle
is often misused for selfish ends, and in such cases it leads
eventually to bondage because, by the successful satisfaction of
selfish motives, it strengthens the hold of our selfishness upon us;
but, when used in an unselfish spirit, it is an ever-increasing
source of strength. In the case of difficult circumstances,--if we
cease to resist,--if we accept the facts of life,--if we are willing
to be poor, or ill, or disappointed, or to live with people we do
not like,--we gain a quietness of nerve and a freedom of mind which
clears off the mists around us, so that our eyes may see and
recognize the gate of opportunity,--open before us. 

It is the law of concentration and relaxation. If we concentrate on
being willing, on relaxing until we have dropped every bit of
resistance to the circumstances about us, that brings us to a quiet
and well-balanced point of view, whence we can see clearly how to
take firm and decided action. From such action the re-action is only
renewed strength,--never painful and contracting weakness. If we
could give up all our selfish desires and resistances,
circumstances, however difficult, would have no power whatever to
trouble us. To reach such absolute willingness is a long journey,
but there is a straight path leading nearer and nearer to the happy
freedom which is our goal. 

Self-pity is one of the states that interferes most effectually with
making the right use of circumstances. To pity one's self is
destruction to all possible freedom. If the reader finds himself in
the throes of this weakness and is helped through these words to
recognize the fact, let him hasten to shun it as he would shun
poison, for it is progressively weakening to soul and body. It will
take only slight difficulties of any kind to overthrow us, if we are
overcome by this temptation. 

Imagine a man in the planet Mars wanting to try his fortunes on
another planet, and an angel appearing to him with permission to
transfer him to the earth. 

"But," the angel says, "of course you can have no idea of what the
life is upon the new planet unless you are placed in the midst of
various circumstances which are more or less common to its
inhabitants." 

"Certainly," the Martian answers, "I recognize that, and I want to
have my experience on this new planet as complete as possible;
therefore the more characteristic and difficult my circumstances are
the better." Then imagine the interest that man would have, from the
moment he was placed on the earth, in working, his way through, and
observing his experience as he worked. 

His interest would be alive vivid, and strong, from the beginning
until he found himself, with earthly experience completed, ready to
return to his friends in Mars. He would never lose courage or be in
any way disheartened. The more difficult his earthly problem was,
the more it would arouse his interest and vigor to solve it. So many
people prefer a difficult problem in geometry to an easy one, then
why not in life? The difference is that in mathematics the head
alone is exercised, and in life the head and the heart are both
brought into play, and the first difficulty is to persuade the head
and heart to work together. In the visitor from Mars, of course, the
heart would be working with the head, and so the whole man would be
centred on getting creditably through his experience and home again.
If our hearts and heads were together equally concentrated on
getting through our experience for the sake of the greater power of
use it would bring,--and, if we could trustfully believe in getting
home again, that is, in getting established in the current of
ordinary spiritual and natural action, then life would be really
alive for us, then we should actually get the scent of our true
freedom, and, having once had a taste of it, we should have a fresh
incentive in achieving it entirely. 

There is one important thing to remember in an effort to be free
from the bondage of circumstances which will save us from much
unnecessary suffering. This has to do with the painful associations
which arise from circumstances which are past and over. 

A woman, for example, suffered for a year from nervous exhaustion in
her head, which was brought on, among other things, by
over-excitement in private theatricals. She apparently recovered her
health, and, because she was fond of acting, her first activities
were turned in that direction. She accepted a part in a play; but as
soon as she began to study all her old head symptoms returned, and
she was thoroughly frightened, thinking that she might never be able
to use her head again. Upon being convinced, however, that all her
discomfort came from her own imagination, through the painful
associations connected with the study of her part, she returned to
her work resolved to ignore them, and the consequence was that the
symptoms rapidly disappeared. 

Not uncommonly we hear that a person of our acquaintance cannot go
to some particular place because of the painful events which
occurred there. If the sufferer could only be persuaded that, when
such associations are once bravely faced, it takes a very short time
for the painful effects to disappear entirely, much unnecessary and
prolonged discomfort would be saved. 

People have been kept ill for weeks, months and years, through.
holding on to the brain impression of some painful event. 

Whether the painful circumstances are little or great, the law of
association is the same and, in any case, the brain impression can
be dropped entirely, although it may take time and patience to do
it. We must often talk to our brains as if we were talking to
another person to eliminate the impressions from old associations.
Tell your brain in so many words, without emotion, that the place or
the circumstance is nothing, nothing whatever,--it is only your idea
about it, and the false association can be changed to a true one. 

So must we yield our selfish resistances and be ready to accept
every opportunity for growth that circumstances offer; and, at the
same time, when the good result is gained, throw off the impression
of the pain of the process entirely and forever. Thus may we both
live and observe for our own good and that of others; and he who is
practising this principle in his daily life can say from his
heart:--"Now shall my head be lifted up above mine enemies round
about me." 






VIII 

_Other People_ 





HOWEVER disagreeable other people may be,--however unjust they may
be, however true it may be that the wrong is all on their side and
not at all on ours,--whatever we may suffer at their hands,--we can
only remedy the difficulty by looking first solely to ourselves and
our own conduct; and, not until we are entirely free from resentment
or resistance of any kind, and not until we are quiet in our own
minds with regard to those who may be oppressing or annoying us,
should we make any effort to set them right. 

This philosophy is sound and absolutely practical,--it never fails;
any apparent failure will be due to our own delinquency in applying
it; and, if the reader will think of this truth carefully until he
feels able to accept it, he will see what true freedom there is in
it,--although it may be a long time before he is fully able to carry
it out. 

How can I remain in any slightest bondage to another when I feel
sure that, however wrong he may be, the true cause of my discomfort
and oppression is in myself? I am in bondage to myself, and it is to
myself that I must look to gain my freedom. If a friend is rude and
unkind to me, and I resent the rudeness and resist the unkindness,
it is the resentment and resistance that cause me to suffer. I am
not suffering for my friend, I am suffering for myself; and I can
only gain my freedom by shunning the resentment and resistance as
sin against all that is good and true in friendship. When I am free
from these things in myself,--when, as far as I am concerned, I am
perfectly and entirely willing that my friend should be rude or
unjust, then only am I free from him. It is impossible that he
should oppress me, if I am willing that he should be unjust or
unkind; and the freedom that comes from such strong and willing
non-resistance is like the fresh air upon a mountain. Such freedom
brings with it also a new understanding of one's friend, and a new
ability to serve him. 

Unless we live a life of seclusion, most of us have more than one
friend, or acquaintance, or enemy, with whom we are brought into
constant or occasional contact, and by whom we are made to suffer;
not to mention the frequent irritations that may come from people we
see only once in our lives. Imagine the joy of being free from all
this irritability and oppression; imagine the saving of nervous
energy which would accompany such freedom; imagine the possibility
of use to others which would be its most helpful result! 

If we once catch even the least glimpse of this quiet freedom, we
shall not mind if it takes some time to accomplish so desirable a
result, and the process of achieving it is deeply interesting. 

The difficulty at first is to believe that so far as we are
concerned, the cause Of the trouble is entirely within, ourselves.
The temptation is to think:--

"How can I help resenting behavior like that! Such selfishness and
lack of consideration would be resented by any one." 

So any one might resent it, but that is no reason why we should. We
are not to make other people's standards our own unless we see that
their standards are higher than ours; only then should we
change,--not to win the favor of the other people, but because we
have recognized the superior value of their standards and are glad
to put away what is inferior for what is better. Therefore we can
never excuse ourselves for resentment or resistance because other
people resent or resist. There can be no possible excuse for
resistance to the behavior of others, and it is safe to say that we
must _never pit our wills against the wills of other people._ If we
want to do right and the other man wants us to do wrong, we must
pass by his will, pass under it or over it, but never on any account
resist it. There has been more loss of energy, more real harm done,
through this futile engagement of two personal wills than can ever
be computed, and the freedom consequent upon refusing such contact
is great in proportion. Obedience to this law of not pitting our
wills against the wills of other people leads to new freedom in all
sorts of ways,--in connection with little, everyday questions, as to
whether a thing is one color or another, as well as in the great and
serious problems of life. If, in an argument, we feel confident that
all we want is the truth,--that we do not care whether we or our
opponents are in the right, as long as we. find the right
itself,--then we are free, so far as personal feeling is concerned;
especially if, in addition, we are perfectly willing that our
opponents should not be convinced, even though the right should
ultimately prove to be on our side. 

With regard to learning how always to look first to ourselves,--
first we must become conscious of our own resentment and resistance,
then we must acknowledge it heartily and fully, and then we must go
to work firmly and steadily to refuse to harbor it. We must relax
out of the tension of our resistance with both soul and body; for of
course, the resistance contracts the nerves of our bodies, and, if
we relax from the contractions in our bodies, it helps us to gain
freedom from resistance in our hearts and minds. The same resistance
to the same person or the same ideas may return, in different forms,
many times over; but all we have to do is to persist in dropping it
as often as it returns, even if it be thousands of times. 

No one need be afraid of losing all backbone and becoming a "mush of
concession" through the process of dropping useless resistance, for
the strength of will required to free ourselves from the habit of
pitting one's own will against that of another is much greater than
the strength we use when we indulge the habit. The two kinds of
strength can no more be compared than the power of natural law can
be compared to the lawless efforts of human waywardness. For the
will that is pitted against the will of another degenerates into
obstinacy, and weakens the character; whereas the will that is used
truly to refuse useless resistance increases steadily in strength,
and develops power and beauty of character. Again, the man who
insists upon pitting his will against that of another is constantly
blinded as to the true qualities of his opponent. He sees neither
his virtues nor his vices clearly; whereas he who declines the
merely personal contest becomes constantly clarified in his views,
and so helped toward a loving charity for his opponent,--whatever
his faults or difficulties may be,--and to an understanding and love
of the good in him, which does not identify him with his faults. 

When we resent and resist, and are personally wilful, there is a
great big beam in our eye, which we cannot see through, or under, or
over,--but, as we gain our freedom from all such resistance, the
beam is removed, and we are permitted to see things as they really
are, and with a truer sense of proportion, our power of use
increases. 

When a person is arguing with all the force of personal wilfulness,
it is both pleasant and surprising to observe the effect upon him if
he begins to feel your perfect willingness that he should believe in
his own way, and your willingness to go with him, too, if his way
should prove to be right. His violence melts to quietness because
you give him nothing to resist. The same happy effect comes from
facing any one in anger, without resistance, but with a quiet mind
and a loving heart. If the anger does not melt--as it often does--it
is modified and weakened, and--as far as we are concerned--it cannot
touch or hurt us. 

We must remember always that it is not the repression or concealment
of resentment and resistance, and forbearing to express them, that
can free us from bondage to others; it is overcoming any trace of
resentment or resistance within our own hearts and minds. If the
resistance is in us, we are just as much in bondage as if we
expressed it in our words and actions. If it is in us at all, it
must express itself in one way or another,--either in ill-health, or
in unhappy states of mind, or in the tension of our bodies. We must
also remember that, when we are on the way to freedom from such
habits of resistance, we may suffer from them for a long time after
we have ceased to act from them. When we are turning steadily away
from them, the uncomfortable effects of past resistance may linger
for a long while before every vestige of them disappears. It is like
the peeling after scarlet fever,--the dead skin stays on until the
new, tender skin is strong underneath, and after we think we have
peeled entirely, we discover new places with which we must be
patient. So, with the old habits of resistance, we must, although
turning away from them firmly, be steadily patient while waiting for
the pain from them to disappear. It must take time if the work is to
be done thoroughly,--but the freedom to be gained is well. worth
waiting for. 

One of the most prevalent forms of bondage is caring too much in the
wrong way what people think of us. If a man criticises me I must
first look to see whether he is right. He may be partly right, and
not entirely,--but, whatever truth there is in his criticism, I want
to know it in order that I may see the fault clearly myself and
remedy it. If his criticism is ill-natured it is not necessarily any
the less true, and I must not let the truth be obscured by his
ill-nature. All, that I have to do with the ill-nature is to be
sorry, on my friend's account, and help him out of it if he is
willing; and there is nothing that is so likely to make him willing
as my recognizing the justice of what he says and acting upon it,
while, at the same time, I neither resent nor resist his ill-nature.
If the man is both ill-natured and unjust,--if there is no touch of
what is true in his criticism,--then all I have to do is to cease
resenting it. I should be perfectly willing that he should think
anything he pleases, while I, so far as I can see, go on and do what
is right 

_The trouble is that we care more to appear right than to be right._
This undue regard for appearances is very deep-seated, for it comes
from long habit and inheritance; but we must recognize it and
acknowledge it in ourselves, in order to take the true path toward
freedom. So long as we are working for appearances we are not
working for realities. When we love to _be_ right first, then we
will regard appearances only enough to protect what is good and true
from needless misunderstanding and disrespect. Sometimes we cannot
even do that without sacrificing the truth to appearances, and in
such cases we must be true to realities first, and know that
appearances must harmonize with them in the end. If causes are
right, effects must be orderly, even though at times they may not
seem so to the superficial observer. Fear of not being approved of
is the cause of great nervous strain and waste of energy; for fear
is resistance, and we can counteract that terrified resistance only
by being perfectly willing that any one should think anything he
likes. When moving in obedience to law--natural and spiritual--a
man's power cannot be overestimated; but in order to learn genuine
obedience to law, we must be willing to accept our limitations and
wait for them to be gradually removed as we gain in true freedom.
Let us not forget that if we are overpleased--selfishly pleased--at
the approval of others, we are just as much in bondage to them as if
we were angry at their disapproval. Both approval and disapproval
are helpful if we accept them for the use they can be to us, but are
equally injurious if we take them to feed our vanity or annoyance. 

It is hard to believe, until our new standard is firmly established,
that only from this true freedom do we get the most vital sense of
loving human intercourse and companionship, for then we find
ourselves working hand in hand with those who are united to us in
the love of principles, and we are ready to recognize and to draw
out the best in every one of those about us. 

If this law of freedom from others--which so greatly increases our
power of use to them and their power of use to us--had not been
proved absolutely practical, it would not be a law at all. It is
only as we find it practical in every detail, and as obedience to it
is proved to be the only sure road to established freedom that we
are bound to accept it. To learn to live in such obedience we must
be steady, persistent and patient,--teaching ourselves the same
truths many times, until a new habit of freedom is established
within us by the experience of our daily lives. We must learn and
grow in power from every failure; and we must not dwell with pride
and complacency on good results, but always move steadily and
quietly forward. 






IX 

_Human Sympathy_ 





A NURSE who had been only a few weeks in the hospital
training-school, once saw--from her seat at the dinner-table--a man
brought into the house who was suffering intensely from a very
severe accident. The young woman started up to be of what service
she could, and when she returned to the table, had lost her appetite
entirely, because of her sympathy for the suffering man. She had
hardly begun her dinner, and would have gone without it if it had
not been for a sharp reprimand from the superintendent. 

"If you really sympathize with that man," she said, "you will eat
your dinner to get strength to take care of him. Here is a man who
will need constant, steady, _healthy_ attention for some days to
come,--and special care all this afternoon and night, and it will be
your duty to look out for him. Your 'sympathy' is already pulling
you down and taking away your strength, and you are doing what you
can to lose more strength by refusing to eat your dinner. Such
sympathy as that is poor stuff; I call it weak sentimentality." 

The reprimand was purposely sharp, and, by arousing the anger and
indignation of the nurse, it served as a counter-irritant which
restored her appetite. After her anger had subsided, she thanked the
superintendent with all her heart, and from that day she began to
learn the difference between true and false sympathy. It took her
some time, however, to get thoroughly established in the habit of
healthy sympathy. The tendency to unwholesome sympathy was part of
her natural inheritance, along with many other evil tendencies which
frequently have to be overcome before a person with a very sensitive
nervous system can find his own true strength. But as she watched
the useless suffering which resulted in all cases in which people
allowed themselves to be weakened by the pain of others, she learned
to understand more and more intelligently the practice of wholesome
sympathy, and worked until it had become her second nature.
Especially did she do this after having proved many times, by
practical experience, the strength which comes through the power of
wholesome sympathy to those in pain. 

Unwholesome sympathy incapacitates one for serving others, whether
the need be physical, mental, or moral. Wholesome sympathy not only
gives us power to serve, but clears our understanding; and, because
of our growing ability to appreciate rightly the point of view of
other people, our service can be more and more intelligent. 

In contrast to this unwholesome sympathy, which is the cause of more
trouble in the world than people generally suppose, is the
unwholesome lack of sympathy, or hardening process, which is
deliberately cultivated by many people, and which another story will
serve to illustrate. 

A poor negro was once brought to the hospital very ill; he had
suffered so keenly in the process of getting there that the
resulting weakness, together with the intense fright at the idea of
being in a hospital, which is so common to many of his class, added
to the effects of his disease itself, were too much for him, and he
died before he had been in bed fifteen minutes. The nurse in charge
looked at him and said, in a cold, steady tone:--

"It was hardly worth while to make up the bed." 

She had hardened herself because she could not endure the suffering
of unwholesome sympathy, and yet "must do her work." No one had
taught her the freedom and power of true sympathy. Her finer senses
were dulled and atrophied,--she did not know the difference between
one human soul and another. She only knew that this was a case of
typhoid fever, that a case of pneumonia, and another a case of
delirium tremens. They were all one to her, so far as the human
beings went. She knew the diagnosis and the care of the physical
disease,--and that was all. She did the material work very well, but
she must have brought torture to the sensitive mind in many a poor,
sick body. 

Another form of false sympathy is what may be called professional
sympathy. Some people never find that out, but admire and get
comfort from the professional sympathy of a doctor or a nurse, or
any other person whose profession it is to care for those who are
suffering. It takes a keen perception or a quick emergency to bring
out the false ring of professional sympathy. But the hardening
process that goes on in the professional sympathizer is even greater
than in the case of those who do not put on a sympathetic veneer. It
seems as if there must be great tension in the more delicate parts
of the nervous system in people who have hardened themselves, with
or without the veneer,--akin to what there would be in the muscles
if a man went about his work with both fists tightly clenched all
day, and slept with them clenched all night. If that tension of hard
indifference could be reached and relaxed, the result would probably
be a nervous collapse, before true, wholesome habits could be
established. but unfortunately it often becomes so rigid that a
healthy relaxation is out of the question. Professional sympathy is
of the same quality as the selfish sympathy which we see constantly
about us in men or women who sympathize because the emotion attracts
admiration and wins the favor of others. 

When people sympathize in their selfishness instead of sympathizing
in their efforts to get free, the force of selfishness is increased,
and the world is kept down to a lower standard by just so much. 

A thief, for instance, fails in a well-planned attempt to get a
large sum of money, and confides his attempt and failure to a
brother thief, who expresses admiration for the sneaking keenness of
the plan, and hearty sympathy in the regret for his failure. The
first thief immediately pronounces the second thief "a good fellow."
But, at the same time, if either of these apparently friendly
thieves could get more money by cheating the other the next day he
would not hesitate to do so. 

To be truly sympathetic, we should be able so to identify ourselves
with the interests of others that we can have a thorough
appreciation of their point of view, and can understand their lives
clearly, as they appear to themselves; but this we can never do if
we are immersed in the fog,--either of their personal selfishness or
our own. By understanding others clearly, we can talk in ways that
are, and seem to them, rational, and gradually lead them to a higher
standard. 

If a woman is in the depths of despair because a dress does not fit,
I should not help her by telling her the truth about her character,
and lecturing her upon her folly in wasting grief upon trifles, when
there are so many serious troubles in the world. From her point of
view, the fact that her dress does not fit _is_ a grief. But if I
keep quiet, and let her see that I understand her disappointment,
and at the same time hold my own standard, she will be led much more
easily and more truly to see for herself the smallness of her
attitude. First, perhaps, she will be proud that she has learned not
to worry about such a little thing as a new dress; and, if so, I
must remember her point of view, and be willing that she should be
proud. Then, perhaps, she will come to wonder how she ever could
have wasted anxiety on a dress or a hat, and later she may perhaps
forget that she ever did. 

It is like leading a child. We give loving sympathy to a child when
it breaks its doll, although we know there is nothing real to grieve
about There is something for the child to grieve about, something
very real _to her;_ but we can only sympathize helpfully with her
point of view by keeping ourselves clearly in the light of our own
more mature point of view. 

From the top of a mountain you can see into the valley round
about,--your horizon is very broad, and you can distinguish the
details that it encompasses; but, from the valley, you cannot see
the top of the mountain, and your horizon is limited. 

This illustrates truly the breadth and power of wholesome human
sympathy. With a real love for human nature, if a man has a clear,
high standard of his own,--a standard which he does not attribute to
his own intelligence--his understanding of the lower standards of
other men will also be very clear, and he will take all sorts and
conditions of men into the region within the horizon of his mind.
Not only that, but he will recognize the fact When the standard of
another man is higher than his own, and will be ready to ascend at
once when he becomes aware of a higher point of view. On the other
hand, when selfishness is sympathizing with selfishness, there is no
ascent possible, but only the one little low place limited by the
personal, selfish interests of those concerned. 

Nobody else's trouble seems worth considering to those who are
immersed in their own, or in their selfish sympathy with a friend
whom they have chosen to champion. This is especially felt among
conventional people, when something happens which disturbs their
external habits and standards of life. Sympathy is at once thrown
out on the side of conventionality, without any rational inquiry as
to the real rights of the case. Selfish respectability is most
unwholesome in its unhealthy sympathy with selfish respectability. 

The wholesome sympathy of living human hearts sympathizes first with
what is wholesome,--especially in those who suffer,--whether it be
wholesomeness of soul or body; and true sympathy often knows and
recognizes that wholesomeness better than the sufferer himself. Only
in a secondary way, and as a means to a higher end, does it
sympathize with the painful circumstances or conditions. By keeping
our sympathies steadily fixed on the health of a brother or friend,
when he is immersed in and overcome by his own pain, we may show him
the way out of his pain more truly and more quickly. By keeping our
sympathies fixed on the health of a friend's soul, we may lead him
out of selfishness which otherwise might gradually destroy him. In
both cases our loving care should be truly felt,--and felt as real
understanding of the pain or grief suffered in the steps by the way,
with an intelligent sense of their true relation to the best
interests of the sufferer himself Such wholesome sympathy is alert
in all its perceptions to appreciate different. points of view, and
takes care to speak only in language which is intelligible, and
therefore useful. It is full of loving patience, and never forces or
persuades, but waits and watches to give help at the right time and
in the right place. It is more often helpful with silence than with
words. It stimulates one to imagine what friendship might be if it
were alive and wholesome to the very core. For, in such friendship
as this, a true friend to one man has the capacity of being a true
friend to all men, and one who has a thoroughly wholesome sympathy
for one human being will have it for all. His general attitude must
always be the same--modified only by the relative distance which
comes from variety in temperaments. 

In order to sympathize with the best possibilities in others, our
own standards must be high and clear, and we must be steadily true
to them. Such sympathy is freedom itself,--it is warm and
glowing,--while the sympathy which adds its weight to the pain or
selfishness of others can really be only bondage, however good it
may appear. 






X 

_Personal Independence_ 





IN proportion as every organ of the human body is free to perform
its own functions, unimpeded by any other, the body is perfectly
healthy and vigorous; and, in proportion as every organ of the body
is receiving its proper support from every other, the body as a
whole is vigorous, and in the full use of its powers. 

These are two self-evident axioms, and, if we think of them quietly
for a little while, they will lead us to a clear realization of true
personal independence. 

The lungs cannot do the work of the heart, but must do their own
work, independently and freely; and yet, if the lungs should
suddenly say to themselves: 

"This is all nonsense,--our depending upon the heart in this way; we
must be independent! It is weak to depend upon the other organs of
the body!" And if they should repel the blood which the heart pumped
into them, with the idea that they could manage the body by
themselves, and were not going to be weakly dependent upon the
heart, the stomach, or any other organ,--if the lungs should insist
upon taking this independent stand, they would very soon stop
breathing, the heart would stop beating, the stomach would stop
digesting, and the body would die. Or, suppose that the heart should
refuse to supply the lungs with the blood necessary to provide
oxygen; the same fatal result would of course follow. Or, even let
us imagine all the organs of the body agreeing that it is weak to be
dependent, and asserting their independence of each other. At the
very instant that such an agreement was carried into effect, the
body would perish. 

Then, on the other hand,--to reverse the illustration,--if the lungs
should feel that they could help the heart's work by attending to
the circulation of the blood, if the heart should insist that it
could inhale and exhale better than the lungs, and should neglect
its own work in order to advise and assist the lungs in the
breathing, the machinery of the body would be in sad confusion for a
time, and would very soon cease altogether. 

This imaginary want of real independence in the working of the
different organs of the body can be illustrated by the actual action
of the muscles. How often we see a man working with his mouth while
writing, when he should be only using his hands; or, working
uselessly with his left hand, when what he has to do only needs the
right! How often we see people trying to listen with their arms and
shoulders! Such illustrations might be multiplied indefinitely, and,
in all cases, the false sympathy of contraction in the parts of the
body which are not needed for the work in hand comes from a wrong
dependence,--from the fact that the pats of the body that are not
needed, are officiously dependent upon those that are properly
active, instead of minding their own affairs and saving energy for
their own work. 

The wholesome working of the human organism, is so perfect in its
analogy to the healthy relations of members of a community, that no
reader should pass it by without very careful thought. 

John says:--

"I am not going to be dependent upon any man. I am going to live my
own life, in my own way, as I expect other men to live theirs. If
they will leave me alone, I will leave them alone," and John
flatters himself that he is asserting his own strength of
personality, that he is emphasizing his individuality. The truth is
that John is warping himself every day by his weak dependence upon
his own prejudices. He is unwilling to look fairly at another main's
opinion for fear of being dependent upon it. He is not only warping
himself by his "independence," which is puffed up with the false
appearance of strength, but he is robbing his fellow-men; for he
cannot refuse to receive from others without putting it out of his
own power to give to others. Real giving and receiving must be
reciprocal in spirit, and absolutely dependent upon each other. 

It is a curious and a sad study to watch the growing slavery of such
"independent" people. 

James, on the other hand, thinks he cannot do anything without
asking another man's advice or getting another man's help; sometimes
it is always the same man, sometimes it is one of twenty different
men. And so, James is steadily losing the power of looking life in
the face, and of judging for himself whether or not to take the
advice of others from a rational principle, and of his own free
will, and he is gradually becoming a parasite,--an animal which
finally loses all its organs from lack of use, so that only its
stomach remains,--and has, of course, no intelligence at all. The
examples of such men as James are much more numerous than might be
supposed. We seldom see them in such flabby dependence upon the will
of an individual as would make them conspicuous; but they are about
us every day, and in large numbers, in their weak dependence upon
public opinion,--their bondage to the desire that other men should
think well of them. The human parasites that are daily feeding on
social recognition are unconsciously in the process of losing their
individuality and their intelligence; and it would be a sad surprise
to them if they could see themselves clearly as they really are. 

Public opinion is a necessary and true protection to the world as it
is, because if it were not for public opinion, many men and women
would dare to be more wicked than they are. But that is no reason
why intelligent men should order their lives on certain lines just
because their neighbors do,--just because it is the custom. If the
custom is a good custom, it can be followed intelligently, and
because we recognize it as good, but it should not be followed only
because our neighbors follow it. Then, if our neighbors follow the
custom for the same intelligent reason, it will bring us and them
into free and happy sympathy. 

Neither should a man hesitate to do right, positively and
fearlessly, in the face of the public assertion that he is doing
wrong. He should, of course, look himself over many times to be sure
that he is doing right, according to his own best light, and he
should be willing to change his course of action just as fearlessly
if he finds he has made a mistake; but, having once decided, he will
respect public opinion much more truly by acting quietly against it
with an open mind, than he would if he refused to do right, because
he was afraid of what others would think of him. To defy carelessly
the opinion of others is false independence, and has in it the
elements of fear, however fearless it may seem; but to respectfully
ignore it for the sake of what is true, and good, and useful, is
sure to enlarge the public heart and to help, it eventually to a
clearer charity. Individual dependence and individual independence
are absolutely necessary to a well-adjusted balance. It is just as
necessary to the individual men of a community as to the individual
organs of the body. 

It is not uncommon for a person to say:--

"I must give up So-and-so; I must not see so much of him,--I am
getting so dependent upon him." 

If the apparent dependence on a friend is due to the fact that he
has valuable principles to teach which may take time to learn, but
which lead in the end to greater freedom, then to give up such
companionship, out of regard for the criticism of others would, of
course, be weakness and folly itself. It is often our lot to incur
the severest blame for the very weaknesses which we have most
entirely overcome. 

Many people will say:--

"I should rather be independently wrong than dependently right," and
others will admire them for the assertion. But the truth is, that
whenever one is wrong, one is necessarily dependent, either upon man
or devil; but it is impossible to be dependently right, excepting
for the comparatively short time that we may need for a definite,
useful purpose. If a man is right in his mental and moral attitude
merely because his friend is right, and not because he wants the
right himself, it will only be a matter of time before his prop is
taken away, and he will fall back into his own moral weakness. Of
course, a man can begin to be right because his friend is
right;--but it is because there is something in him which responds
to the good in his friend. Strong men are true to their friendships
and convictions, in spite of appearances and the clamor of their
critics. 

True independence is never afraid of appearing dependent, and true
dependence leads always to the most perfect independence. 

We cannot, really enjoy our own freedom without the growing desire
and power to help other people to theirs. Our own love of
independence will bring with it an equal love for the independence
of our neighbor; and our own love of true dependence--that is, of
receiving wise help from any one through whom it may be sent--will
give us an equal love for giving help wherever it will be welcome.
Our respect for our own independence will make it impossible that we
should insist upon trying to give help to others where it is not
wanted; and our own respect for true dependence will give us a
loving charity, a true respect for those who are necessarily and
temporarily dependent, and teach us to help them to their true
balance. 

We should learn to keep a margin of reserve for ourselves, and to
give the same margin to others. Not to come too near, but to be far
enough away from every one to give us a true perspective. There is a
sort of familiarity that arises sometimes between friends, or even
mere acquaintances, which closes the door to true friendship or to
real acquaintance. It does not bring people near to one another, but
keeps them apart. It is as if men thought that they could be better
friends by bumping their heads together. 

Our freedom comes in realizing that all the energy of life should
come primarily from a love of principles and not of persons,
excepting as persons relate to principles. If one man finds another
living on principles that are higher than his own, it means strength
and freedom for him to cling to his friend until he has learned to
understand and live on those principles himself. Then if he finds
his own power for usefulness and his own enjoyment of life increased
by his friendship, it would indeed be weak of him to refuse such
companionship from fear of being dependent. The surest and strongest
basis of freedom in friendship is a common devotion to the same
fundamental principles of life; and this insures reciprocal
usefulness as well as personal independence. We must remember that
the very worst and weakest dependence is not a dependence upon
persons, but upon a sin,--whether the sin be fear of public opinion
or some other more or less serious form of bondage. 

The only true independence is in obedience to law, and if, to gain
the habit of such obedience, we need a helping hand, it is truly
independent for us to take it. 

_We all came into the world alone, and we must go out of the world
alone, and yet we are exquisitely and beautifully dependent upon one
another._ 

A great German philosopher has said that there should be as much
space between the atoms of the body, in relation to its size, as
there is between the stars in relation to the size of the
universe,--and yet every star is dependent upon every other
star,--as every atom in the body is dependent upon every other atom
for its true life and action. This principle of balance in the
macrocosm and the microcosm is equally applicable to any community
of people, whether large or small. The quiet study and appreciation
of it will enable us to realize the strength of free dependence and
dependent freedom in the relation of persons to one another. The
more truly we can help one another in freedom toward the dependence
upon law, which is the axis of the universe, the more wholesome and
perfect will be all our human relations. 






XI 

_Self-control_ 





TO most people self-control means the control of appearances and not
the control of realities. This is a radical mistake, and must be
corrected, if we are to get a clear idea of self-control, and if we
are to make a fair start in acquiring it as a permanent habit. 

I am what I am by virtue of my own motives of thought and action, by
virtue of what my mind is, what my will is, and what I am in the
resultant combination of my mind and will; I am not necessarily what
I appear from the outside. 

If a man is ugly to me, and I want to knock him down, and refrain
from doing so simply because it would not appear well, and is not
the habit of the people about me, my desire to knock him down is
still a part of myself, and I have not controlled myself until I am
absolutely free from that interior desire. So long as I am in hatred
to another, I am in bondage to my hatred; and if, for the sake of
appearances, I do not act or speak from it, I am none the less at
its mercy, and it will find an outlet wherever it can do so without
debasing me in the eyes of other men more than I am willing to be
debased. The control of appearances is merely outward repression,
and a very common instance of this may be observed in the effort to
control a laugh. If we repress it, it is apt to assert itself in
spite of our best efforts; whereas, if we relax our muscles, and let
the sensation go through us, we can control our desire to laugh and
so get free from it. When we repress a laugh, we are really holding
on to it, in our minds, but, when we control it by relaxing the
tension that comes from the desire to laugh, it is as if the
sensation passed over and away from us. 

It is a well-known fact among surgeons that, if a man who is badly
frightened, takes ether, no matter how well he controls his outward
behavior, no matter how quiet he appears while the ether is being
administered, as soon as he loses control of his voluntary muscles,
the fear that has been repressed rushes out in the form of
excitement. This is a practical illustration of the fact that
control of appearances is merely control of the muscles, and that,
even so far as our nervous system goes, it is only repression, and
self-repression is not self-control. 

If I repress the expression of irritability, anger, hatred, or any
other form of evil, it is there, in my brain, just the same; and, in
one form or another, I am in bondage to it. Sometimes it expresses
itself in little meannesses; sometimes it affects my body and makes
me ill; often it keeps me from being entirely well. Of one thing we
may be sure,--it makes me the instrument of evil, in one way or
another. Repressed evil is not going to lie dormant in us forever;
it will rise in active ferment, sooner or later. Its ultimate action
is just as certain as that a serious impurity of the blood is
certain to lead to physical disease, if it is not counteracted. 

Knowing this to be true, we can no longer say of certain people
"So-and-so has remarkable self-control." We can only say, "So-and-so
represses his feelings remarkably well: what a good actor he is I"
The men who have real self-control do exist, and they are the leaven
that saves the race. It is good to know that this habitual
repression comes, in many cases, from want of knowledge of the fact
that self-repression is not self-control. 

But the reader may say, "what am I to do, if I feel angry, and want
to hit a man in the face; I am not supposed to hit him am I, rather
than to repress my feelings?" 

No, not at all, but you are supposed to use your will to get in
behind the desire to hit him, and, by relaxing in mind and body, and
stopping all resistance to his action, to remove that desire in
yourself entirely. If once you persistently refuse to resist by
dropping the anger of your mind and the tension of your body, you
have gained an opportunity of helping your brother, if he is willing
to be helped; you have cleared the atmosphere of your own mind
entirely, so that you can understand his point of view, and give him
the benefit of reasonable consideration; or, at the very least, you
have yourself ceased to be ruled by his evils, for you can no longer
be roused to personal retaliation. It is interesting and
enlightening to recognize the fact that we are in bondage to any man
to the extent that we permit ourselves to be roused to anger or
resentment by his words or actions. 

When a man's brain is befogged by the fumes of anger and
irritability it can work neither clearly nor quietly, and, when that
is the case, it is impossible for him to serve himself or his
neighbor to his full ability. If another person has the power to
rouse my anger or my irritability, and I allow the anger or the
irritability to control me, I am, of course, subservient to my own
bad state, and at the mercy of the person who has the power to
excite those evil states just in so far as such excitement confuses
my brain. 

Every one has in him certain inherited and personal tendencies which
are obstacles to his freedom of mind and body, and his freedom is
limited just in so far as he allows those tendencies to control him.
If he controls them by external repression, they are then working
havoc within him, no matter how thoroughly he may appear to be
master of himself. If he acknowledges his mistaken tendencies fully
and willingly and then refuses to act, speak, or think from them, he
is taking a straight path toward freedom of life and action. 

One great difficulty in the way of self-control is that we do not
want to get free from our anger. In such cases we can only want to
want to, and if we use the strength of will that is given us to drop
our resistance in spite of our desire to be angry we shall be
working toward our freedom and our real self-control. 

There is always a capacity for unselfish will, the will of the
better self, behind the personal selfish will, ready and waiting for
us to use it, and it grows with use until finally it overrules the
personal selfish will with a higher quality of power. It is only
false strength that supports the personal will,--a false appearance
of strength which might be called wilfulness and which leads
ultimately to the destruction of its owner. Any true observer of
human nature will recognize the weakness of mere selfish wilfulness
in another, and will keep entirely free from its trammels by
refusing to meet it in a spirit of resentment or retaliation. 

Real self-control, as compared to repression, is delightful in its
physical results, when we have any difficult experience to
anticipate or to go through. Take, for instance, a surgical
operation. If I control myself by yielding, by relaxing the nervous
tension which is the result of MY fear, true self-control then
becomes possible, and brings a helpful freedom from, reaction after
the trouble is over. Or the same principle can be applied if I have
to go through a hard trial with a friend and must control myself for
his sake,--dropping resistance in my mind and in my body, dropping
resistance to his suffering, yielding my will to the necessities of
the situation,--this attitude will leave me much more clear to help
him, will show him how to help himself, and will relieve him from
the reaction that inevitably follows severe nervous strain. The
power of use to others is increased immeasurably when we control
ourselves interiorly, and do not merely outwardly repress. 

It often happens that a drunkard who is supposed to be "cured,"
returns to his habit, simply because he has wanted his drink all the
time, and has only been taught to repress his appetite; if he had
been steadily and carefully taught real self-control, he would have
learnt to control and drop his interior _desire,_ and thus keep
permanently free. How often we see intemperance which had shown
itself in drink simply turned into another channel, another form of
selfish indulgence, and yet the victim will complacently boast of
his self-control. An extreme illustration of this truth is shown in
the case of a well-known lecturer on temperance. He had given up
drink, but he ate like a glutton, and his thirst for applause was so
extreme as to make him appear almost ridiculous when he did not
receive it. 

The opportunities for self-control are, of course, innumerable;
indeed they constitute pretty much the whole of life. We are living
in freedom and use, real living use, in proportion as we are in
actual control of our selfish selves, and led by our love of useful
service. In proportion as we have through true self-control brought
ourselves into daily and hourly obedience to law, are we in the
freedom that properly belongs to our lives and their true uses. 

When once we have won our freedom from resistance, we must use that
freedom in action, and put it directly to use. Sometimes it will
result in a small action, sometimes in a great one; but, whatever it
is, it must be _done._ If we drop the resistance, and do not use the
freedom gained thereby for active service, we shall simply react
into further bondage, from which it will be still more difficult to
escape. Having dropped my antagonism to my most bitter enemy, I must
do something to serve him, if I can. If I find that it is impossible
to serve him, I can at least be of service to someone else; and this
action, if carried out in the true spirit of unselfish service, will
go far toward the permanent establishment of my freedom. 

If a circumstance which is atrociously wrong in itself makes us
indignant, the first thing to do is to drop the resistance of our
indignation, and then to do whatever may be within our power to
prevent the continuance of such wrong. Many people weaken their
powers of service by their own indignation, when, if they would
cease their excited resistance, they would see clearly how to remedy
the wrong that arouses their antagonism. Action, when accompanied by
personal resistance, however effective it may seem, does not begin
to have the power that can come from action, without such
resistance. As, for instance, when we have to train a child with a
perverse will, if we quietly assert what is right to the child, and
insist upon obedience without the slightest antagonistic feeling to
the child's naughtiness, we accomplish much more toward
strengthening the character of the child than if we try to enforce
our idea by the use of our personal will, which is filled with
resistance toward the child's obstinacy. In the latter case, it is
just pitting our will against the will of the child, which is always
destructive, however it may appear that we have succeeded in
enforcing the child's obedience. The same thing holds true in
relation to an older person, with the exception that, with him or
her, we cannot even attempt to require obedience. In that case we
must,--when it is necessary that we should speak at all,--assert the
right without antagonism to what we believe to be their wrong, and
without the slightest personal resistance to it. If we follow this
course, in most cases our friend will come to the right point of
view,--sometimes the result seems almost miraculous,--or, as is
often the case, we, because we are wholesomely open-minded, will
recognize any mistake in our own point of view, and will gladly
modify it to agree with that of our friend. 

The trouble is that very few of us feel like working to remedy a
wrong merely for the sake of the right, and therefore we must have
an impetus of personal feeling to carry us on toward the work of
reformation. If we could once be strongly started in obedience to
the law from love of the law itself, we should find in that
impersonal love a clear light and power for effective action both in
the larger and in the smaller questions of life. 

There is a popular cry against introspection and an insistence that
it is necessarily morbid, which works in direct opposition to true
self-control. Introspection for its own sake is self-centred and
morbid, but we might as well assert that it is right to have dirty
hands so long as we wear gloves, and that it is morbid to want to be
sure that our hands are clean under our gloves, as to assert that
introspection for the sake of our true spiritual freedom is morbid.
If I cannot look at my selfish motives, how am I going to get free
from them? It is my selfish motives that prevent true self-control.
It is my selfish motives that prompt me to the false control of
repression, which is counterfeit and for the sake of appearances
alone. We must see these motives, recognize and turn away from them,
in order to control ourselves interiorly into line with law. We
cannot possibly see them unless we look for them. If we look into
ourselves for the sake of freedom, for the sake of our greater power
for use, for the sake of our true self-control, what can be more
wholesome or what can lead us to a more healthy habit of looking out
from ourselves into the lives and interests of others? The farther
we get established in motives that are truly unselfish, the sooner
we shall get out of our own light, and the wider our horizon will
be; and the wider our horizon, the greater our power for use. 

There must, of course, be a certain period of self-consciousness in
the process of finding our true self-control, but it is for the sake
of an end which brings us more and more fully into a state of happy,
quiet spontaneity. If we are working carefully for true self-control
we shall welcome an unexpected searchlight from another mind. If the
searchlight brings into prominence a bit of irritation that we did
not know was there, so much the better. How could we free ourselves
from it without knowing that it was there? But as soon as we
discover it we can control and cast it off. A healthy introspection
is merely the use of a searchlight which every one who loves the
truth has the privilege of using for the sake of his own growth and
wilfulness, and circumstances often turn it full upon us, greatly to
our advantage, if we do not wince but act upon the knowledge that it
brings. It is possible to acquire an introspective habit which is
wholesome and true, and brings us every day a better sense of pro.
portion and a clearer outlook. 

With regard to the true control of the Pleasurable emotions, the
same principle applies. 

People often grow intensely excited in listening to music,--letting
their emotions run rampant and suffering in consequence a painful
reaction of fatigue. If they would learn to yield so that the music
could pass over their nerves as it passes over the strings of a
musical instrument, and then, with the new life and vigor derived
from the enjoyment, would turn to some useful work, they would find
a great expansion in the enjoyment of the music as well as a new
pleasure in their work. 

Real self-control is the subjugation of selfishness in whatever form
it may exist, and its entire subordination to spiritual and natural
law. Real self-control is not self-centred. In so far as we become
established in this true self-control, we are upheld by law and
guided by the power behind it to the perfect freedom and joy of a
useful life. 






XII 

_The Religion of It_ 





THE religion of it is the whole of it. "All religion has relation to
life and the life of religion is to do good." If religion does not
teach us to do good in the very best way, in the way that is most
truly useful to ourselves and to other people, religion is
absolutely useless and had better be ignored altogether. We must
beware, however, of identifying the idea of religion with the men
and the women who pervert it. If an electrician came to us to light
our house, and the lights would not burn, we would not immediately
condemn all electric lighting as bosh and nonsense, or as
sentimental theory; we should know, of course, that this especial
electrician did not understand his business, and would at once look
about to find a man who did, and get him to put our lights in order.
If no electrician really seemed to know his business, and we wanted
our lights very much, the next thing to do would be to look into
the, laws of electricity ourselves, and find out exactly where the
trouble was, and so keep at work until we had made our own lights
burn, and always felt able, if at any time they failed to burn, to
discover and remedy the difficulty ourselves. There is not a man or
woman who does not feel, at some time, the need of an inner light to
make the path clear in the circumstances of life, and especially in
dealing with others. Many men and women feel that need all the time,
and happy are those who are not satisfied until the need is supplied
and they are working steadily in daily practical life, guided by a
light that they know is higher than theory. When the light is once
found, and we know the direction in which we wish to travel, the
path is not by any means always clear and smooth, it is often, full
of hard, rough Places, and there are sometimes miles to go over
where our light seems dim; but if we have proved our direction to be
right, and keep steadily and strongly moving forward, we are always
sure to come into open resting places where we can be quiet, gather
strength, and see the light more clearly for the next stage of the
journey. 

"It is wonderful," some one remarked, "how this theory of
non-resistance has helped me; life is quite another thing since I
have practised it steadily." The reply was "it is not wonderful when
we realize that the Lord meant what He said when He told us not to
resist evil." At this suggestion the speaker looked up with surprise
and said: "Why, is that in the New Testament? Where, in what part of
it?" She never had thought of the sermon on the Mount as a working
plan, or, indeed, of the New Testament as a handbook of
life,--practical and powerful in every detail. If we once begin to
use it daily and hourly as a working plan of life, it is marvellous
how the power and the efficiency of it will grow on us, and we shall
no more be able to get along without it than an electrician can get
along without a knowledge of the laws of electricity. 

Some people have taken the New Testament so literally that they have
befogged themselves entirely with regard to its real meaning, and
have put it aside as impracticable; others have surrounded it with
an emotional idea, as something to theorize and rhapsodize about,
and have befogged themselves in that way with regard to its. real
power. Most people are not clear about it because of the tradition
that has come to us through generations who have read it and heard
it read in church, and never have thought of living it outside. We
can have a great deal of church without any religion, but we cannot
have religion without true worship, whether the worship is only in
our individual souls, or whether it is also the function of a church
to which we belong, with a building dedicated to the worship of the
Lord to which we go for prayer and for instruction. If we could
clear ourselves from the deadening effects of tradition, from
sentimentality, from nice theory, and from every touch of emotional
and spurious peace, and take up the New Testament as if we were
reading it for the first time, and then if we could use it
faithfully as a working plan for a time, simply as an
experiment,--it would soon cease to be an experiment, and we should
not need to be told by any one that it is a divine revelation; we
would be confident of that in our own souls. Indeed that is the only
way any one can ever be sure of revelation; it must come to each of
us alone, as if it had never come to any one before; and yet the
beauty and power of it is such that it has come to myriads before us
and will come to myriads after us in just the same way. 

But there is no real revelation for any one _until he has lived what
he sees to be true._ I may talk like an angel and assert with a
shining face my confident faith in God and in all His laws, but my
words will mean nothing whatever, unless I have so lived my faith
that it has been absorbed, into my character and so that the truths
of my working plan have become my second nature. 

Many people have discovered that the Lord meant what He said when He
said: "Resist not evil," and have proved how truly practical is the
command, in their efforts to be willing to be ill, to be willing
that circumstances should seem to go against them, to be willing
that other people should be unjust, angry, or disagreeable. They
have seen that in yielding to circumstances or people
entirely,--that is, in dropping their own resistances,--they have
gained clear, quiet minds, which enables them to see, to understand,
and to practise a higher common sense in the affairs of their lives,
which leads to their ultimate happiness and freedom. It is now clear
to many people that much of the nervous illness of to-day is caused
by a prolonged state of resistance to circumstances or to people
which has kept the brain in a strained and irritated state so that
it can no longer do its work; and that the patient has to lay by for
a longer or a shorter period, according to his ability to drop the
resistances, and so allay the irritation and let his brain and
nervous system rest and heal. 

Then with regard to dealing with others, some of us have found out
the practical common sense of taking even injustice quietly and
without resistance, of looking to our own faults first, and getting
quite free from all resentment and resistance to the behavior of
others, before we can expect to understand their point of view, or
to help them to more reasonable, kindly action if they are in error.
Very few of us have recognized and acknowledged that that was what
the Lord meant when He said: "Judge not that ye be not judged. For
with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what
measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why
beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but
considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou
say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and,
behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out
the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to
cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." 

It comes with a flash of recognition that is refreshingly helpful
when we think we have discovered a practical truth that works, and
then see that it is only another way of putting what has been taught
for the last two thousand years. 

Many of us understand and appreciate the truth that a man's true
character depends upon his real, interior motives. He is only what
his motives are, and not, necessarily, what his motives appear to
be. We know that, if a man only controls the appearance of anger and
hatred, he has no real self-control whatever. He must get free from
the anger itself to be free in reality, and to be his own master. We
must stop and think, however, to understand that this is just what
the Lord meant when He told us to clean the inside of the cup and
the platter, and we need to think more to realize the strength of
the warning, that we should not be "whitened sepulchres." 

We know that we are really related to those who can and do help us
to be more useful men and women, and to those whom we can serve in
the most genuine way; we know that we are wholesomely dependent upon
all from whom we can learn, and we should be glad to have those
freely dependent upon us whom we can truly serve. It is most
strengthening when we realize that this is the true meaning of the
Lord's saying, "For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is
my brother, and my sister, and mother." That the Lord Himself, with
all His strength, was willing to be dependent, is shown by the fact
that, from the cross, He said to those who had crucified Him, "I
thirst." They had condemned Him, and crucified Him, and yet He was
willing to ask them for drink, to show His willingness to be served
by them, even though He knew they would respond only with a sponge
filled with vinegar. 

We know that when we are in a hard place, if we do the duty that is
before us, and keep steadily at work as well as we can, that the
hard problem will get worked through in some way. We know that this
is true, for we have proved it over and over; but how many people
realize that it is because the Lord meant what He said when He told
us: to "take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow will take
thought for the things of itself." 

I am reasoning from the proof of the law to the law itself. 

There is no end to the illustrations that we might find proving the
spiritual common sense of the New Testament and, if by working first
in that way, we can get through this fog of tradition, of
sentimentality, and of religious emotion, and find the living power
of the book itself, then we can get a more and more clear
comprehension of the laws it teaches, and will, every day, be
proving their practical power in all our dealings with life and with
people. Whether we are wrestling with nature in scientific work,
whether we are working in the fine arts, in the commercial world, in
the professional world, or are dealing with nations, it is always
the same,--we find our freedom to work fully realized only when we
are obedient to law, and it is a wonderful day for any human being
when he intelligently recognizes and finds himself getting into the
current of the law of the New Testament. The action of that law he
sees is real, and everything outside he recognizes as unreal. In the
light of the new truth, we see that many things which we have
hitherto regarded as essential, are of minor importance in their
relation to life itself. 

The old lady who said to her friend, "My dear, it is impossible to
exaggerate the unimportance of things," had learned what it meant to
drop everything that interferes, and must have been truly on her way
to the concentration which should be the very central power of all
life,--obedience to the two great commandments. 

Concentration does not mean straining every nerve and muscle toward
obedience, it means _dropping every thing that interferes._ If we
drop everything that interferes with our obedience to the two great
commandments, and the other laws which are given us all through the
New Testament to help us obey, we are steadily dropping all selfish
resistance, and all tendency to selfish responsibility; and in that
steady effort, we are on the only path which can by any possibility
lead us directly to freedom. 






XIII 

_About Christmas_ 





THERE was once a family who had a guest staying with them; and when
they found out that he was to have a birthday during his visit they
were all delighted at the idea of celebrating it. Days
before--almost weeks before--they began to prepare for the
celebration. They cooked and stored a large quantity of good things
to eat, and laid in a stock of good things to be cooked and prepared
on the happy day. They planned and arranged the most beautiful
decorations. They even thought over and made, or selected, little
gifts for one another; and the whole house was in hurry and
confusion for weeks before the birthday came. Everything else that
was to be done was postponed until after the birthday; and, indeed,
many important things were neglected. 

Finally the birthday came, the rooms were all decorated, the table
set, all the little gifts arranged, and the guests from outside of
the house had all arrived. Just after the festivities had begun a
little child said to its mother: "Mamma, where is the man whose
birthday it is--" 

"Hush, hush," the mother said, "don't ask questions." 

But the child persisted, until finally the mother said: "Well, I am
sure I do not know, my dear, but I will ask." 

She asked her neighbor, and the neighbor looked surprised and a
little puzzled. 

"Why," she said, "it is a celebration, we are celebrating his
birthday, and he is a guest in the house." 

Then the mother got interested and curious herself. 

"But where is the guest? Where is the man whose birthday it is?"
And, this time she asked one of the family. He looked startled at
first, and then inquired of the rest of the family. 

"Where is the guest whose birthday it is?" Alas I nobody knew. There
they were, all excited and trying to enjoy themselves by celebrating
his birthday, and he,--some of them did not even know who he was! He
was left out and forgotten! 

When they had wondered for a little while they immediately forgot
again, and went on with their celebrations,--all except the little
child. He slipped out of the room and made up his mind to find the
man whose birthday it was, and, finally, after a hard search, he
found him upstairs in the attic,--lonely and sick. 

He had been asked to leave the guestroom, which he had occupied, and
to move upstairs, so as to be out of the way of the preparations for
his birthday. Here he had fallen ill, and no one had had time to
think of him, excepting one of the humbler servants and this little
child. They had all been so busy preparing for his birthday festival
that they had forgotten him entirely. 

This is the way it is with most of us at Christmas time. 

Whenever we think of a friend, or even an acquaintance, we think of
his various qualities,--not always in detail, but as forming a
general impression which we associate with his name. If it is a
friend whom we love and admire, we love, especially on his birthday,
to dwell on all that is good and true in his character; and at such
times, though he may be miles away in body, we find ourselves living
with him every hour of the day, and feel his presence, and, from
that feeling, do our daily tasks with the greater satisfaction and
joy. 

Every one in this part of the world, of course, knows whose birthday
we celebrate on the twenty-fifth of December. if we imagine that
such a man never really existed, that he was simply an ideal
character, and nothing more,--if we were to take Christmas Day as
the festival of a noble myth,--the ideal which it represents is so
clear, so true, so absolutely practical in the way it is recorded in
the book of his life, that it would be a most helpful joy to reflect
upon it, and to try and apply its beautiful lessons on the day which
would especially recall it to our minds. 

Or, let us suppose that such a man really did exist,--a man whose
character was transcendently clear and true, quiet, steady, and
strong,--a man who was full of warm and tender love for all,--who
was constantly doing good to others without the slightest display or
self-assertion,--a man who was simple and humble,--who looked the
whole world in the face and did what was right,--even though the
whole respectable world of his day disapproved of him, and even
though this same world attested in the most emphatic manner that he
was doing what was dangerous and wicked,--a man with spiritual sight
so keen that it was far above and beyond any mere intellectual
power,--a sight compared to which, what is commonly known as
intellectual keenness is, indeed, as darkness unto light; a man
with a loving consideration for others so true and tender that its
life was felt by those who merely touched the hem of his garment.
Suppose we knew that such a man really did live in this world, and
that the record of his life and teachings constitute the most
valuable heritage of our race,--what new life it would give us to
think of him, especially on his birthday,--to live over, so far as
we were able, his qualities as we knew them; and to gain, as a
result, new clearness for our own everyday lives. The better we knew
the man, the more clearly we could think of him, and the more full
our thoughts would be of living, practical suggestions for daily
work. 

But now just think what it would mean to us if we really knew that
this humble, loving man were the Creator of the universe--the very
God--who took upon Himself our human nature with all its hereditary
imperfections; and, in that human nature met and conquered every
temptation that ever was, or ever could be possible to man; thus--by
self-conquest--receiving all the divine qualities into his human
nature, and bringing them into this world within reach of the hearts
and minds of all men, to give light and warmth to their lives, and
to enable them to serve each other;--if we could take this view of
the man's life and work, with what quiet reverence and joy should we
celebrate the twenty-fifth of December as a day set apart to
celebrate His birth into the world! 

If we ourselves loved a truthful, quiet way of living better than
any other way, how would we feel to see our friends preparing to
celebrate our birthday with strain, anxiety, and confusion? If we
valued a loving consideration for others more than anything else in
the world, how would it affect us to see our friends preparing for
the festival with a forced sense of the conventional necessity for
giving? 

Who gives himself with his gift feeds three,--
Himself, his hungry neighbor, and Me." 

That spirit should be in every Christmas gift throughout
Christendom. The most thoughtless man or woman would recognize the
truth if they could look at it quietly with due regard for the real
meaning of the day. But after having heard and assented to the
truth, the thoughtless people would, from force of habit, go on with
the same rush and strain. 

It is comparatively easy to recognize the truth, but it is quite
another thing to habitually recognize your own disobedience to it,
and compel yourself to shun that disobedience, and so habitually to
obey,--and to obey it is our only means of treating the truth with
real respect. When you ask a man, about holiday time, how his wife
is, not uncommonly he will say:--

"Oh, she is all tired out getting ready for Christmas." 

And how often we hear the boast:--

"I had one hundred Christmas presents to buy, and I am completely
worn out with the work of it." 

And these very women who are tired and strained with the Christmas
work, "put on an expression" and talk with emotion of the beauty of
Christmas, and the joy there is in the "Christmas feeling." 

Just so every one at the birthday party of the absent guest
exclaimed with delight at all the pleasures provided, although the
essential spirit of the occasion contradicted directly the qualities
of the man whose birthday it was supposed to honor. 

How often we may hear women in the railway cars talking over their
Christmas shopping:--

"I got so and so for James,--that will do for him, don't you think
so?" 

And, when her companion answers in the affirmative, she gives a sigh
of relief, as if to say, now he is off my mind! 

Poor woman, she does not know what it means to give herself with her
gift. She is missing one of the essentials of the true joy of
Christmas Day. Indeed, if all her gifts are given in that spirit,
she is directly contradicting the true spirit of the day. How many
of us are unconsciously doing the same thing because of our--habit
of regarding Christmas gifts as a matter of conventional obligation.

If we get the spirit of giving because of Him whose birthday it is,
we shall love to give, and our hearts will go out with our gifts,--
and every gift, whether great or small, will be a thoughtful
message of love from one to another. There are now many people, of
course, who have this true spirit of Christmas giving, and they are
the people who most earnestly wish that they had more. Then there
are many more who do not know the spirit of a truly thoughtful gift,
but would be glad to know it, if it could once be brought to their
attention. 

We cannot give in a truly loving spirit if we give in order that we
may receive. 

We cannot give truly in the spirit of Christmas if we rush and
hurry, and feel strained and anxious about our gifts. 

We cannot give truly if we give more than we can afford. 

People have been known to give nothing, because they could not give
something expensive; they have been known to give nothing in order
to avoid the trouble of careful and appropriate selection: but to
refrain from giving for such reasons is as much against the true
spirit of Christmas as is the hurried, excited gift-making of
conventionality. 

Even now there is joy in the Christmas time, in spite of the rush
and hurry and selfishness, and the spirit of those who keep the joy
alive by remembering whose birthday it is, serves as leaven all over
the world. 

First let us remember what Christmas stands for, and then let us try
to realize the qualities of the great personality which gave the day
its meaning and significance,--let us honor them truly in all our
celebrations. If we do this, we shall at the same time be truly
honoring the qualities, and respecting the needs of every friend to
whom we give, and our gifts, whether great or small. will be full of
the spirit of discriminating affection. Let us realize that in order
to give truly, we must give soberly and quietly, and let us take an
hour or more by ourselves to think over our gifts before we begin to
buy or to make them. If we do that the helpful thoughts are sure to
come, and new life will come with them. 

A wise man has described the difference between heaven and hell by
saying that in heaven, every one wants to give all that he has to
every one else, and that in hell, every one wants to take away from
others all they have. It is the spirit of heaven that belongs to
Christmas. 






XIV 

_To Mothers_ 





MOST mothers know that it is better for the baby to put him into his
crib and let him go quietly to sleep by himself, than to rock him to
sleep or put him to sleep in his mother's arms. 

Most mothers know also the difficulty of getting the baby into the
right habit of going to sleep; and the prolonged crying that has to
be endured by both mother and baby before the habit is thoroughly
established. 

Many a mother gets worn out in listening to her crying child, and
goes to bed tired and jaded, although she has done nothing but sit
still and listen. Many more, after listening and fretting for a
while, go and take up the baby, and thus they weaken him as well as
their own characters. 

A baby who finds out, when he is two months old, that his mother
will take him up if he cries, is also apt to discover, if be cries
or teases enough, that his mother will let him have his own way for
the rest of his life. 

The result is that the child rules the mother, rather than the
mother the child; and this means sad trouble and disorder for both. 

Strong, quiet beginnings are a most valuable help to all good things
in life, and if a young mother could begin by learning how to sit
quietly and restfully and let her baby cry until he quieted down and
went to sleep, she would be laying the foundation for a very happy
life with her children. 

The first necessity, after having seen that nothing is hurting him
and that he really needs nothing, is to be willing that he should
cry. A mother can make herself willing by saying over and over to
herself, "It is right that he should cry; I want him to cry until he
has learned to go to sleep quietly by himself He will be a stronger
and a more healthy man for getting into all good habits as a child."

Often the mother's spirit is willing, or wants to be willing, but
her nerves rebel if, while she is teaching herself to listen
quietly, she will take long, quiet breaths very steadily for some
time, and will occupy herself with interesting work, she will find
it a great help toward dropping nervous resistance. 

Children are much more sensitive than most people know, and readily
respond to the mother's state of mind; and even though the mother is
in the next room, if she is truly dropping her nervous resistance
and tension, the baby will often stop his crying all the sooner, and
besides, his mother will feel the good effects of her quiet yielding
in her care of the baby all day long. She will be rested instead of
tired when the baby has gone to sleep. She will have a more
refreshing sleep herself, and she will be able to care for the baby
more restfully when they are both awake. 

It is a universal rule that the more excited or naughty the children
are, the more quiet and clear the mother should be. A mother who
realizes this for the first time, and works with herself until she
is free from all excited and strained resistance, discovers that it
is through her care for her children that she herself has learned
how to live. Blessed are the children who have such a mother, and
blessed is the mother of those children! 

It is resistance--resistance to the naughtiness or disobedience in
the child that not only hurts and tires the mother, but interferes
with the best growth of the child. 

"What!" a mother may say, "should I want my child to be naughty?
What a dreadful thing!" 

No, we should not want our children to be naughty, but we should be
willing that they should be. We should drop resistance to their
naughtiness, for that will give us clear, quiet minds to help them
out of their troubles. 

All vehemence is weak; quiet, clear decision is strong; and the
child not only feels the strength of the quiet, decisive action, but
he feels the help from his mother's quiet atmosphere which comes
with it. If all parents realized fully that the work they do for
their children should be done in themselves first, there would soon
be a new and wonderful influence perceptible all about us. 

The greatest difficulty often comes from the fact that children have
inherited the evil tendencies of their parents, which the parents
themselves have not acknowledged and overcome. In these cases, most
of all, the work to be done for the child must first be done in the
parents. 

A very poor woman, who was living in one room with her husband and
three children, once expressed her delight at having discovered how
to manage her children better: "I see!" she said, "the more I
hollers, the more the children hollers; now I am not going to holler
any more." 

There is "hollering" of the voice, and there is "hollering" of the
spirit, and children echo and suffer from both. 

The same thing is true from the time they are born until they are
grown up, when it should be right for them to be their own fathers
and mothers, so far as their characters are concerned, that they can
receive the greatest possible help from their parents through quiet
non-resistance to their naughtiness, combined with firm decision in
demanding obedience to law,--a decision which will derive its weight
and influence from the fact that the parents themselves obey the
laws to which they require obedience. 

Thus will the soul of the mother be mother to the soul of her child,
and the development of mother and child be happily interdependent. 

It is, of course, not resisting to be grieved at the child's
naughtiness,--for that grief must come as surely as penitence for
our own wrongdoing. 

The true dropping of resistance brings with it a sense that the
child is only given to us in trust, and an open, loving willingness
leaves us free to learn the highest way in which the trust may be
fulfilled.




End of Project Gutenberg's The Freedom of Life, by Annie Payson Call


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