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Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: The Freedom Of Life

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


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


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


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.