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Source: Nerves And Common Sense
WATCH the faces as you walk along the street! If you get the habit
of noticing, your observations will grow keener. It is surprising to
see how seldom we find a really quiet face. I do not mean that there
should be no lines in the face. We are here in this world at school
and we cannot have any real schooling unless we have real
experiences. We cannot have real experiences without suffering, and
suffering which comes from the discipline of life and results in
character leaves lines in our faces. It is the lines made by
unnecessary strain to which I refer.
Strange to say the unquiet faces come mostly from shallow feeling.
Usually the deeper the feeling the less strain there is on the face.
A face may look troubled, it may be full of pain, without a touch of
that strain which comes from shallow worry or excitement.
The strained expression takes character out of the face, it weakens
it, and certainly it detracts greatly from whatever natural beauty
there may have been to begin with. The expression which comes from
pain or any suffering well borne gives character to the face and
adds to its real beauty as well as its strength.
To remove the strained expression we must remove the strain behind;
therefore the hardest work we have to do is below the surface. The
surface work is comparatively easy.
I know a woman whose face is quiet and placid. The lines are really
beautiful, but they are always the same. This woman used to watch
herself in the glass until she had her face as quiet and free from
lines as she could get it--she used even to arrange the corners of
her mouth with her fingers until they had just the right droop.
Then she observed carefully how her face felt with that placid
expression and studied to keep it always with that feeling, until by
and by her features were fixed and now the placid face is always
there, for she has established in her brain an automatic vigilance
over it that will not allow the muscles once to get "out of
What kind of an old woman this acquaintance of mine will make I do
not know. I am curious to see her--but now she certainly is a most
remarkable hypocrite. The strain in behind the mask of a face which
she has made for herself must be something frightful. And indeed I
believe it is, for she is ill most of the time--and what could keep
one in nervous illness more entirely than this deep interior strain
which is necessary to such external appearance of placidity.
There comes to my mind at once a very comical illustration of
something quite akin to this although at first thought it seems
almost the reverse. A woman who constantly talked of the
preeminency of mind over matter, and the impossibility of being
moved by external circumstances to any one who believed as she
did--this woman I saw very angry.
She was sitting with her face drawn in a hundred cross lines and all
askew with her anger. She had been spouting and sputtering what she
called her righteous indignation for some minutes, when after a
brief pause and with the angry expression still on her face she
exclaimed: "Well, I don't care, it's all peace within."
I doubt if my masked lady would ever have declared to herself or to
any one else that "it was all peace within." The angry woman
was--without doubt--the deeper hypocrite, but the masked woman had
become rigid in her hypocrisy. I do not know which was the weaker of
the two, probably the one who was deceiving herself.
But to return to those drawn, strained lines we see on the people
about us. They do not come from hard work or deep thought. They come
from unnecessary contractions about the work. If we use our wills
consistently and steadily to drop such contractions, the result is a
more quiet and restful way of living, and so quieter and more
This unquietness comes especially in the eyes. It is a rare thing to
see a really quiet eye; and very pleasant and beautiful it is when
we do see it. And the more we see and observe the unquiet eyes and
the unquiet faces the better worth while it seems to work to have
ours more quiet, but not to put on a mask, or be in any other way a
The exercise described in a previous chapter will help to bring a
quiet face. We must drop our heads with a sense of letting every
strain go out of our faces, and then let our heads carry our bodies
down as far as possible, dropping strain all the time, and while
rising slowly we must take the same care to drop all strain.
In taking the long breath, we must inhale without effort, and exhale
so easily that it seems as if the breath went out of itself, like
the balloons that children blow up and then watch them shrink as the
air leaves them.
Five minutes a day is very little time to spend to get a quiet face,
but just that five minutes--if followed consistently--will make us
so much more sensitive to the unquiet that we will sooner or later
turn away from it as by a natural instinct.
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