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Source: Power Through Repose
DO you hold yourself on the chair, or does the chair hold you? When
you are subject to the laws of gravitation give up to them, and feel
their strength. Do not resist these laws, as a thousand and one of
us do when instead of yielding gently and letting ourselves sink
into a chair, we _put_ our bodies rigidly on and then hold them
there as if fearing the chair would break if we gave our full weight
to it. It is not only unnatural and unrestful, but most awkward. So
in a railroad car. Much, indeed most of the fatigue from a long
journey by rail is quite unnecessary, and comes from an unconscious
officious effort of trying to carry the train, instead of allowing
the train to carry us, or of resisting the motion, instead of
relaxing and yielding to it. There is a pleasant rhythm in the
motion of the rapidly moving cars which is often restful rather than
fatiguing, if we will only let go and abandon ourselves to it. This
was strikingly proved by a woman who, having just learned the first
principles of relaxation, started on a journey overstrained from
mental anxiety. The first effect of the motion was that most
disagreeable, faint feeling known as car-sickness. Understanding the
cause, she began at once to drop the unnecessary tension, and the
faintness left her. Then she commenced an interesting novel, and as
she became excited by the plot her muscles were contracted in
sympathy (so-called), and the faintness returned in full force, so
that she bad to drop the book and relax again; and this process was
repeated half-a-dozen times before she could place her body so under
control of natural laws that it was possible to read without the
artificial tension asserting itself and the car-sickness returning
The same law is illustrated in driving. "I cannot drive, it tires me
so," is a common complaint. Why does it tire you? Because instead of
yielding entirely and freely to the seat of the carriage first, and
then to its motion, you try to help the horses, or to hold yourself
still while the carriage is moving. A man should become one with a
carriage in driving, as much as one with his horse in riding. Notice
the condition in any place where there is excuse for some
anxiety,--while going rather sharply round a corner, or nearing a
railroad track. If your feet are not pressed forcibly against the
floor of the carriage, the tension will be somewhere else. You are
using nervous force to no earthly purpose, and to great earthly
loss. Where any tension is necessary to make things better, it will
assert itself naturally and more truly as we learn to drop all
useless and harmful tension. Take a patient suffering from nervous
prostration for a long drive, and you will bring him back more
nervously prostrated; even the fresh air will not counteract the
strain that comes from not knowing how to relax to the motion of the
A large amount of nervous energy is expended unnecessarily while
waiting. If we are obliged to wait for any length of time, it does
not hurry the minutes or bring that for which we wait to keep
nervously strained with impatience; and it does use vital force, and
so helps greatly toward "Americanitis." The strain which comes from
an hour's nervous waiting, when simply to let yourself alone and
keep still would answer much better, is often equal to a day's
labor. It must be left to individuals to discover how this applies
in their own especial cases, and it will be surprising to see not
only how great and how common such strain is, but how comparatively
easy it is to drop it. There are of course exceptional times and
states when only constant trying and thoughtful watchfulness will
bring any marked result.
We have taken a few examples where there is nothing to do but keep
quiet, body and brain, from what should be the absolute rest of
sleep to the enforced rest of waiting. just one word more in
connection with waiting and driving. You must catch a certain train.
Not having time to trust to your legs or the cars, you hastily take
a cab. You will in your anxiety keep up exactly the same strain that
you would have had in walking,--as if you could help the carriage
along, or as if reaching the station in time depended upon your
keeping a rigid spine and tense muscles. You have hired the carriage
to take you, and any activity on your part is quite unnecessary
until you reach the station; why not keep quiet and let the horses
do the work, and the driver attend to his business?
It would be easy to fill a small volume with examples of the way in
which we are walking directly into nervous prostration; examples
only of this one variety of disobedience,--namely, of the laws of_
rest._ And to give illustrations of all the varieties of
disobedience to Nature's laws in _activity_ would fill not one small
book, but several large ones; and then, unless we improve, a
year-book of new examples of nervous strain could be published. But
fortunately, if we are nervous and short-sighted, we have a good
share of brain and commonsense when it is once appealed to, and a
few examples will open our eyes and set us thinking, to real and
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