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Exercises For The Nerves

( Originally Published 1907 )

"STANDING at the centre of the universe, a thousand forces come rushing in to report themselves to the sensitive soul-centre. There is a nerve in man that runs out to every room and realm in the universe.

" Man's mechanism stands at the centre of the universe with telegraph lines extending in every direction. It is a marvelous pilgrimage he is making through life while myriad influences stream in upon him.

" Some Faraday shows us that each drop of water is a sheath for electric forces sufficient to charge 800,000 Leyden jars, or drive an engine from Liver-pool to London. Some Sir William Thomson tells us how hydrogen gas will chew up a large iron spike as a child's molars will chew off the end of a stick of candy." Newell Dwight Hillis.


Cessation of unnecessary motion conserves force; Control of nerves tones up body and mind, and increases the sum total of personal power;

Habituated control of nervous energy exercises and therefore strengthens and regulates the Will.


Sir Michael Foster once said: " When physiology is dealing with those parts of the body which we call muscular, vascular, glandular tissues, and the like, rightly handled, she points out the way, not only to mend that which is hurt, to repair the damages of bad usage and disease, but so to train the growing tissues and to guide the grown ones as that the best use may be made of them for the purposes of life. She not only heals ; she governs and educates. Nor does she do otherwise when she comes to deal with the nervous tissues. Nay, it is the very prerogative of these nervous tissues that their life is, above that of all the other tissues, contingent on the environment and susceptibility to education."

We are conscious of sensations apprehended through the various sense-organs. But we are possessed of what is called " general consciousness." One may discover this by sitting a little time in a room that is perfectly still. The general testimony of the nervous system will then be perceived. The movement of the heart may be felt; the breathing may become audible; a murmur may perhaps be noticed in the ears ; a general feeling of warmth or coolness will be observable. You are alive ! You are aware of yourself in a physical sense. You are conscious in particular spots, to be sure, but in a general way also over almost the entire body. With this " general consciousness" we begin the exercises of the present chapter. They are important. Do not slight them.


Exercise No. z. Attend to this " general consciousness" a few moments. Sit quietly, exclude from the mind all external matters, and take cognizance of the whole body. Put your entire thought upon this one thing; it will be difficult, for you will desire to think of a thousand foreign things ; but it can be done by persistence and patient willing. Now write out every fact that makes itself known to you by the testimony of the body. Repeat every day for ten days, with rest of two days. On the tenth day compare the records. Observe the sum total of facts made known. Note also any improvement in power of attending to "general consciousness " and reports of facts or sensations.

Exercise No. 2. Sitting quietly in a room which is undisturbed, attend as before a few moments to "general consciousness." Now throw consciousness to some particular part of the body. Let it be the arm from hand to elbow. Put the whole mind there. Exclude all sensations except those that arise there. What are the reports? Write these facts for reference.

Repeat this exercise with the hand. With the shoulder. With the back. With the foot. And so on, with different parts of the body. Always get at the facts testified by consciousness.

Repeat this exercise with the head. Now attend wholly to hearing not to sounds, but to the sensation of hearing in the ears. Again, give undivided attention to sight : let the whole mind be at the eyes, not on the objects of vision.

Now press upon some spot in the body, say, the back of a hand, or on one cheek, and, while doing so, locate attention at some other spot so resolutely as to forget the sensation of pressure. Write the results in each case. Repeat every day for ten days with rest. On the tenth day compare the records and note the sum total of facts reported, together with any improvement in number of facts observed and power of attention gained.

Exercise No. 3. Walk about the room slowly and quietly, keeping the mind wholly upon " general consciousness." Now rest a moment. Repeat always retaining your hold on consciousness, never allowing it to wander ten times. Make a record of the most prominent facts reported. Repeat every day for ten days, with rest. On the tenth day compare the records and note results as before.

Exercise No. 4. Stand erect in a quiet room, and pass through a regular series of exercises without weights.

(a) Move the right arm, slowly and evenly, directly up from the shoulder, six times. Keep your mind on the work.

(b) From the shoulder, directly out in front, six times.

(c) From the shoulder, directly out to the right, six times.

(d) With the right hand at arm's length above the shoulder, swing the whole arm in a semi-circle, arm straight, directly down in front, bringing hand to leg, without bending the body, six times.

(e) From the original position down to the right side of leg, six times.

(f) With the right arm extended at the right side straight out from the shoulder, swing it around in front until the hand is directly before the face, six times.

(g) With the right hand and arm, reverse all the above movements.

(h) Repeat the same movements with the left hand, six times.

(i) With the left hand and arm, reverse all the movements.

Remember: these movements must be made deliberately and slowly. Attend to each exercise with the whole mind. Do not permit wandering thoughts. Put the entire thought of yourself into every act. Be wholly conscious of what you are doing. Above all, keep the sense of willing present during each movement. Thrust the Will out into the very muscles.

Repeat every day for ten days, with rest. Or indefinitely.

(1) Exercise No. 5. Stand erect in a quiet room. Without supporting yourself with the hands, swing the right foot directly out in front as far as possible while retaining the balance of the body. Return it to the floor in former position. Make these movements deliberately and slowly, six times.

(2) Swing right foot out to right, sidewise. Re-turn to former position, six times.

(3) Swing right foot out in front, around to right, back to position, six times.

(4) Swing right foot back and out and up as far as possible, preserving balance. Return to position, six times.

(5) Swing right foot back as before, around in a semi-circle past right side, back to position, six times.

(6) Reverse each movement with right foot, six times.

(7) Repeat all movements with left foot, six times.

(8) Repeat these exercises every day for ten days, with rest.

The work here suggested must be performed with great vigor, yet slowly and deliberately, with intense thoughtfulness.

(a) Exercise No. 6. Stand erect in a quiet room. Look straight ahead. Slowly turn the face far around to the right, and return, six times.

(b) Look ahead. Turn the face slowly to the left, and return, six times.

(c) Bend the head slowly back as far as possible, and return, six times.

(d) Bend the head slowly forward and down, as far as possible, and return, six times.

(e) Drop the head forward on the chest. Slowly swing it to the right, in a circle up to the right, to the left backward down and back to the left shoulder, to the right in a circle down to former position, six times.

(f) Drop the head back between the shoulders. Swing it, to the right up in a circle to the right shoulder, to the left down around in front and up to the left shoulder, to the right down and back to former position, six times.

(g) Repeat all exercises every day for ten days, with rest.

(1) Exercise No. 7. Stand erect in a quiet room. With the mind upon the act, slowly lift the right shoulder up as far as possible, and return in like manner to natural position, six times.

(2) Repeat with the left shoulder, six times. Repeat the exercises ten times for ten days, with rest.

(a) Exercise No. 8. Stand erect in a quiet room. Without moving the feet, twist the body slowly around as far as possible, to the right, then to the left. Practice six times.

(b) Stand erect, hands hanging prone at the sides. Bend the body at the hips; straightforward and down in front; to the right; to the left. Practice six times.

(c) Repeat the exercises every day for ten days, with rest, as above.

These exercises are designed to be suggestive. They can be varied. Nevertheless, an order should be determined upon and rigidly followed. Perform all acts slowly, deliberately, with the mind intently fixed upon the movement. Keep the Will-idea present. Throw this thought into the limbs and muscles : " I RESOLVE TO WILL ! ATTENTION!!"

(I) Exercise No. 9. Stand erect. Concentrate thought upon self. Now let the mind affirm, quietly, resolutely, without wandering : "I am receiving helpful forces ! I am open to all good influences ! Streams of power for body and mind are flowing in! All is well ! ! " Repeat these and similar assertions calmly yet forcibly many times. Do not be passive. Keep the sense of willing strongly at the fore. Will to be in the best possible moral condition. Rise to the mood of the three-fold health: of body, of mind, of soul.

(2) Continue this exercise fifteen minutes, with brief intervals of rest, at least every morning of your life.

(3) Whenever worried or perplexed or weary, go into this assertive mood and welcome the forces of the good. These directions if followed will prove of priceless value to you.

(a) Exercise No. 10. Stand erect. Summons a sense of resolution. Throw Will into the act of standing. Absorbed in self, think calmly but with power these words : " I am standing erect. All is well ! I am conscious of nothing but good ! " Attaining the Mood indicated, walk slowly and deliberately about the room. Do not strut. Be natural, yet encourage a sense of forcefulness. Rest in a chair. Repeat, with rests, fifteen minutes.

(b) Repeat every day indefinitely.

(1) Exercise No. 11. Stand erect. In the same Mood of Will, advance slowly to a table and take a book in the hand, or move a chair, or go to the window and look out. Every act must be a willed act, and full of Will.

(2) Repeat fifteen minutes with at least six different objects.

(3) Continue the exercises indefinitely.

(a) Exercise No. 12. After a moment's rest, deliberately walk to a chair and be seated. Force Will into the act. Do not lop down. Do not seat your-self awkwardly. Do not sit stiffly, but easily, yet erect. Now, with the whole mind on the act of getting up, slowly rise. Try to be graceful, try to be natural, for Will may add grace to nature. Cultivate the erect posture, whether sitting, standing or walking. Cultivate the vital sense in all movements. By the vital sense is meant the feeling, " I am alive ! Splendidly alive ! " If you are thin-blooded, dyspeptic and nervous, this may at first be difficult, but it will help you greatly.

(b) Repeat fifteen minutes.

(c) Continue indefinitely.

Exercise No. 13. The nervous system is very apt to become a tyrant. When it is shattered, or over-taxed, rest and a physician are imperative demands. But many people who regard themselves as well are subject to its tyranny. This may be due in part to a want of self-control. The following directions may appear to be absurd ; nevertheless, they suggest a way out of some nervous difficulties :

Sometimes, when you are restive, you experience, on retiring, " creeping " sensations in the hair of your head ; the back of your neck " tickles ; " a needle is suddenly thrust into your arm, or a feather seems to be roaming here and there over your physiology. Distracted and robbed of sleep, one spot is slapped, an-other is pinched, another rubbed, while slumber merely " hangs around." How long is this torture to continue? So long as, and no longer than, you permit. Why should one be thus pestered? One needs not to be. It is simply a matter of Will and persistence. If you have practised the suggestions relating to attention and abstraction, you have already acquired power over your nerves by the dominance of mind. In regard to all such matters, therefore, cultivate the ability to turn the mind elsewhere. So long as one slaps and rubs and pinches, so long will sensations diabolic continue. Cultivate indifference to the fly by ignoring it. Do not think about it at all. Put the mind upon some important and absorbing subject of interest. Will that a particular " tickle " shall appear at some other place, making choice of the exact spot ; it will obey, and meanwhile you will forget it. If it does not, will it from one place to another, and finally will that it shall vanish; it will certainly obey in the end. Similarly with regard to any other distracting "feeling."

As a matter of fact everyone exerts such self-control in a thousand instances daily. The clock's ticking is unnoticed; the railway train is not heard; the huckster's voice is not perceived ; cattle low, and birds sing, and children shout, and a city roars, while the mind continues unmindful. Busy men who are surrounded by dense populations, and residents of Niagara, hear neither the " indistinguishable babble " of life nor the thunder of Nature. Shakespeare has said :

"The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark When neither is attended; and, I think, The nightingale, if she should sing by day, When every goose is cackling, would be thought No better a musician than the wren."

The accustomed ear is deaf to the world. But the Will hides behind the tympanum to make custom its beneficent muffler.

You should bear in mind that there is deep design in back of these exercises and tests offered for your use. You are pursuing this study for the sole reason that you wish increased power of Will. And precisely this will you secure if you earnestly follow the instructions given.

"There is one consolation, too, in the carrying out of these tasks. Not a jot or tittle of the effort expended will be lost or wasted. All is deposited in a very safe bank. What Professor Sedgwick has said of mind-culture is equally true of will-culture: ` It is impossible to estimate the ultimate good to be derived in indirect ways from any bit of mental cultivation one manages to give oneself.' Not only is nothing lost, but a profit which bears an analogy to compound interest, is derived. The will is not only laying by a supply of will-power, but by its various exercises it is increasing its own efficiency in winning will-power. The progression is geometrical. It adds to itself its own newly-acquired will-power, and thus strengthened, it gains more and more."


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