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Human Dust

Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: Nerves And Common Sense

WHEN we face the matter squarely and give it careful thought, it

seems to appear very plainly that the one thing most flagrantly in

the way of the people of to-day living according to plain common

sense--spiritual common sense as well as materia--is the fact that

we are all living in a chronic state of excitement. It is easy to

prove this fact by seeing how soon most of us suffer from ennui when

"there is not anything
oing on." It seems now as if the average man

or woman whom we see would find it quite impossible to stop and do

nothing--for an hour or more. "But," some one will say, "why should

I stop and do nothing when I am as busy as I can be all day long,

and have my time very happily full?" Or some one else may say, "How

can I stop and do nothing when I am nearly crazy with work and must

feel that it is being accomplished?"

Now the answer to that is, "Certainly you should not stop and do

nothing when you are busy and happily busy;" or, "Although your

work will go better if you do not get 'crazy' about it, there is no

need of interrupting it or delaying it by stopping to do

nothing--but _you should be able to stop and do nothing,_ and to do

it quietly and contentedly at. any time when it might be required of


No man, woman, or child knows the power, the very great power, for

work and play--there is with one who has in the background always

the ability to stop and do nothing.

If we observe enough, carefully enough, and quietly enough, to get

sensitive to it, we can see how every one about us is living in

excitement. I have seen women with nothing important to do come down

to breakfast in excitement, give their orders for the day as if they

were about running for a fire; and the standard of all those about

them is so low that no one notices what a human dust is stirred up

by all this flutter over nothing.

A man told me not long ago that he got tired out for the day in

walking to his office with a friend, because they both talked so

intensely. And that is not an unusual experience. This chronic state

of strain and excitement in everyday matters makes a mental

atmosphere which is akin to what the material atmosphere would be if

we were persistently kicking up a dust in the road every step we

took. Every one seems to be stirring up his own especial and

peculiar dust and adding it to every one else's especial and

peculiar dust.

We are all mentally, morally and spiritually sneezing or choking

with our own dust and the dust of other people. How is it possible

for us to get any clear, all-round view of life so long as the dust

stirring habit is on us? So far from being able to enlarge our

horizon, we can get no horizon at all, and so no perspective until

this human dust is laid. And there is just this one thing about it,

that is a delight to think of: When we know how to live so that our

own dust is laid, that very habit of life keeps us clear from the

dust of other people. Not only that, but when we are free from dust

ourselves, the dust that the other men are stirring up about us does

not interfere with our view of them. We see the men through their

dust and we see how the dust with which they are surrounding

themselves befogs them and impedes their progress. From the place of

no dust you can distinguish dust and see through it. From the place

of dust you cannot distinguish anything clearly. Therefore, if one

wishes to learn the standards of living according to plain common

sense, for body, mind, and spirit, and to apply the principles of

such standards practically to their every-day life, the first

absolute necessity is to get quiet and to stay quiet long enough to

lay the dust.

You may know the laws of right eating, of right breathing, of

exercise, and rest--but in this dust of excitement in daily life

such knowledge helps one very little. You constantly forget, and

forget, and forget. Or, if in a moment of forced acknowledgment to

the need of better living, you make up your mind that you will live

according to sensible laws of hygiene, you go along pretty well for

a few weeks, perhaps even months, and then as you feel better

physically, you get whirled off into the excitement again, and

before you know it you are in the dust with the rest of the world,

and all because you had no background for your good resolutions. You

never had found and you did not understand quiet.

Did you ever see a wise mother come into a noisy nursery where

perhaps her own children were playing excitedly with several little

companions, who had been invited in to spend a rainy afternoon? The

mother sees all the children in a great state of excitement over

their play, and two or three of them disagreeing over some foolish

little matter, with their brains in such a state that the nursery is

thick with infantile human dust. What does the wise mother do? Add

dust of her own by scolding and fretting and fuming over the noise

that the children are making? No--no indeed. She first gets all the

children's attention in any happy way she can, one or two at a time,

and then when she has their individual attention to a small degree,

she gets their united attention by inviting their interest in being

so quiet that they "can hear a pin drop." The children get keenly

interested in listening. The first time they do not hear the pin

drop because Johnnie or Mollie moved a little. Mother talks with

interest of what a very delightful thing it is to be for a little

while so quiet that we can hear a pin drop. The second time

something interferes, and the third time the children have become so

well focused on listening that the little delicate sound is heard

distinctly, and they beg mother to try and see if they cannot hear

it again. By this time the dust is laid in the nursery, and by

changing the games a little, or telling them a story first, the

mother is able to leave a nursery full of quiet, happy children.

Now if we, who would like to live happily and keep well, according

to plain common sense, can put ourselves with intelligent humility

in the place of these little children and study to be quiet, we will

be working for that background which is never failing in its

possibilities of increasing light and warmth and the expanse of


First with regard to a quiet body. Indigestion makes us unquiet,

therefore we must eat only wholesome food, and not too much of it,

and we must eat it quietly. Poor breathing and poor blood makes us

unquiet, therefore we should learn to expand our lungs to their full

extent in the fresh air and give the blood plenty of oxygen.

Breathing also has a direct effect on the circulation and the brain,

and when we breathe quietly and rhythmically, we are quieting the

movement of our blood as well as opening the channels so that it can

flow without interruption. We are also quieting our brain and so our

whole nervous system.

Lack of exercise makes us unquiet, because exercise supplies the

blood more fully with oxygen and prevents it from flowing

sluggishly, a sluggish circulation straining the nervous system. It

is therefore important to take regular exercise.

Want of rest especially makes us unquiet; therefore we should attend

to it that we get--as far as possible--what rest we need, and take

all the rest we get in the best way. We cannot expect to fulfill

these conditions all at once, but we can aim steadily to do so, and

by getting every day a stronger focus and a steadier aim we can gain

so greatly in fulfilling the standards of a healthy mind in a

healthy body, and so much of our individual dust will be laid, that

I may fairly promise a happy astonishment at the view of life which

will open before us, and the power for use and enjoyment that will


Let us see now how we would begin practically, having made up our

minds to do all in our power to lay the dust and get a quiet

background. We must begin in what may seem a very small way. It

seems to be always the small beginnings that lead to large and

solidly lasting results. Not only that, but when we begin in the

small way and the right way to reach any goal, we can find no short

cuts and no seven-league boots.

We must take every step and take it decidedly in order to really get

there. We must place one brick and then another, exactly, and place

every brick--to make a house that will stand.

But now for our first step toward laying the dust. Let us take half

an hour every day and do nothing in it. For the first ten minutes we

will probably be wretched, for the next ten minutes we may be more

wretched, but for the last five minutes we will get a sense of quiet

and at first the dust, although not laid, will cease to whirl. And

then--an interesting fact--what seems to us quiet in the beginning

of our attempt, will seem like noise and whirlwinds, after we have

gone further along. Some one may easily say that it is absurd to

take half an hour a day to do nothing in. Or that "Nature abhors a

vacuum, and how is it possible to do nothing? Our minds will be

thinking of or working on something."

In answer to this, I might say with the Irishman, "Be aisy, but if

you can't be aisy, be as aisy as you can!" Do nothing as well as you

can. When you begin thinking of anything, drop it. When you feel

restless and as if you could not keep still another minute, relax

and make yourself keep still. I should take many days of this

insistence upon doing nothing and dropping everything from my mind

before taking the next step. For to drop everything from one's mind,

for half an hour is not by any means an easy matter. Our minds are

full of interests, full of resistances. With some of us, our minds

are full of resentment. And what we have to promise ourselves to do

is for that one-half hour a day to take nothing into consideration.

If something comes up that we are worrying about, refuse to consider

it. If some resentment to a person or a circumstance comes to mind,

refuse to consider it.

I know all this is easier to say than to do, but remember, please,

that it is only for half an hour every day-only half an hour. Refuse

to consider anything for half an hour. Having learned to sit still,

or lie still, and think of nothing with a moderate degree of

success, and with most people the success can only be moderate at

best, the next step is to think quietly of taking long, gentle, easy

breaths for half an hour. A long breath and then a rest, two long

breaths and then a rest. One can quiet and soothe oneself inside

quite wonderfully with the study of long gentle breaths. But it must

be a study. We must study to begin inhaling gently, to change to the

exhalation with equal delicacy, and to keep the same gentle,

delicate pressure throughout, each time trying to make the breath a

little longer.

After we have had many days of the gentle, long breaths at intervals

for half an hour, then we can breathe rhythmically (inhale counting

five or ten, exhale counting five or ten), steadily for half an

hour, trying all the time to have the breath more quiet, gentle and

steady, drawing it in and letting it out with always decreasing

effort. It is wonderful when we discover how little effort we really

need to take a full and vigorous breath. This half hour's breathing

exercise every day will help us to the habit of breathing

rhythmically all the time, and a steady rhythmic breath is a great

physical help toward a quiet mind.

We can mingle with the deep breathing simple exercises of lifting

each arm slowly and heavily from the shoulder, and then letting it

drop a dead weight, and pausing while we feel conscious of our arms

resting without tension in the lap or on the couch.

But all this has been with relation to the body, and it is the

mental and moral dust of which I am writing. The physical work for

quiet is only helpful as it makes the body a better instrument for

the mind and for the will. A quiet body is of no use if it contains

an unquiet mind which is going to pull it out of shape or start it

up in agitation at the least provocation. In such a case, the quiet

body in its passive state is only a more responsive instrument to

the mind that wants to raise a dust. One--and the most helpful way

of quieting the mind--is through a steady effort at concentration.

One can concentrate; on doing nothing--that is, on sitting quietly

in a chair or lying quietly on the bed or the floor. Be quiet, keep

quiet, be quiet, keep quiet. That is the form of concentration, that

is the way of learning to do nothing to advantage. Then we

concentrate on the quiet breathing, to have it gentle, steady, and

without strain. In the beginning we must take care to concentrate

without strain, and without emotion, use our minds quietly, as one

might watch a bird who was very near, to see what it will do next,

and with care not to frighten it away.

These are the great secrets of true strengthening concentration. The

first is dropping everything that interferes. The second is working

to concentrate easily without emotion. They are really one and the

same. If we work to drop everything that interferes, we are so

constantly relaxing in order to concentrate that the very process

drops strain bit by bit, little by little.

An unquiet mind, however, full of worries, anxieties, resistances,

resentments, and full of all varieties of agitation, going over and

over things to try to work out problems that are not in human hands,

or complaining and fretting and puzzling because help seems to be

out of human power, such a mind which is befogged and begrimed by

the agitation of its own dust is not a cause in itself--it is an

effect. The cause is the reaching and grasping, the unreasonable

insistence on its own way of kicking, dust-raising self-will at the

back of the mind.

A quiet will, a will that can remain quiet through all emergencies,

is not a self-will. It is the self that raises the dust--the self

that wants, and strains to get its own way, and turns and twists and

writhes if it does not get its own way.

God's will is quiet. We see it in the growth of the trees and the

flowers. We see it in the movement of the planets of the Universe.

We see God's mind in the wonderful laws of natural science. Most of

all we see and feel, when we get quiet ourselves, God's love in

every thing and every one.

If we want the dust laid, we must work to get our bodies quiet. We

must drop all that interferes with quiet in our minds, and we must

give up wanting our own way. We must believe that God's way is

immeasurably beyond us and that if we work quietly to obey Him, He

will reveal to us His way in so far as we need to know it, and will

prepare us for and guide us to His uses.

The most perfect example we have of a quiet mind in a quiet body,

guided by the Divine Will, is in the character of the Lord Jesus

Christ. As we study His words and His works, we realize the power

and the delicacy of His human life, and we realize--as far as we are

capable of realizing--the absolute clearness of the atmosphere about

Him. We see and feel that atmosphere to be full of quiet--Divine

Human Love.

There is no suffering, no temptation, that any man or woman ever had

or ever will have that He did not meet in Himself and conquer.

Therefore, if we mean to begin the work in ourselves of finding the

quiet which will lay our own dust from the very first, if we have

the end in our minds of truer obedience and loving trust, we can,

even in the simple beginning of learning to do nothing quietly, find

an essence of life which eventually we will learn always to

recognize and to love, and to know that it is not ourselves, but it

is from the Heavenly Father of ourselves.

Some of us cannot get that motive to begin with; some of us will, if

we begin at all, work only for relief, or because we recognize that

there is more power without dust than with it, but no one of us is

ever safe from clouds of dust unless at the back of all our work

there is the desire to give up all self-will for the sake of obeying

and of trusting the Divine Will more and more perfectly as time goes

on. If we are content to work thoroughly and to gain slowly, not to

be pulled down by mistakes or discouragements, but to learn from

them, we are sure to be grateful for the new light and warmth and

power for use that will come to us, increasing day by day.