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Exercises In Steadiness

( Originally Published 1907 )

"THE most interesting fact about these experiments in steadiness is that the Will is to have a steady position, but the execution is defective. As the Will is exerted the steadiness of position is increased. This is sometimes so marked as to be visible to the eye directly. I have seen the scalpel tremble in a surgeon's hand so that a serious accident appeared inevitable ; yet when the supreme moment came the hand guided the knife with admirable steadiness." Prof. E. W. Scripture.


Physical quietness conducive to self-control; Self-control the generator of energy; Regulation of energy a dynamo of Will.

The importance of steady nerves is everywhere apparent The unsteady duelist is doomed. The nervous surgeon acquires small practice. The trembling pen writes a crabbed " hand." The agitated speaker loses his audience. Great undertakings frequently require perfect mastery of the body in games, in business, in national affairs. The ninth inning of an even game of ball will largely depend upon Will and self-control. When the engineer of a fast mail train cannot " hold himself up " to a mile a minute, he must give way to a better man. Diplomacy, in trade, politics and international councils, demands the impassive face. The movement of an eyelash often involves the destinies of life and of war.

Under fierce provocation men sometimes find the nerves giving way to pressure of anger or fear; the soul then commands itself " Steady, now ! Steady ! " Body responds to conditions of mind. If mind is a-tremble, nerves reveal the fact. The panic of fear sets the nervous system on the edge of collapse, resulting, unless mastered, in the stampede of a western ranch or the tumultuous rout of a Bull Run battle. The controlling and fearless man is one who is " nerved " to the situation. The value of attention to steadiness is thus indicated. Such value has a physical relation through mind; but it may also affect mind through body.


Of course "trembly" nerves which are the result of disease require medical treatment. But this trembling may frequently be overcome by intelligent practice and determined Will. In the end any such practice must tend to increase the power of Will itself. Dr. Scripture asks:

" Can steadiness be increased by practice? This problem can be answered in respect to the hand." And, after records of experiments, he says :

" The question of the possibility of gaining in steadiness by practice is thus definitely settled."

The chief object of the following suggestions is growth of Will. Hence, Will must always be present in the movements directed. Let the mind constantly affirm: "Attention! I resolve to will! I am wholly engaged in willing this act!"


(a) Exercise No. I. Stand erect. Breathe naturally. In the most resolute mood possible stand perfectly still while counting one hundred at a moderate rate. There should be no movements except those of breathing and winking. Do not stare. Do not permit the body to sway. Stand firmly, but naturally. Relax and rest. one hundred counts. Repeat, with rests, six times.

(b) Be seated, erect, but in an easy posture. Re-main perfectly quiet as above directed while you count one hundred. Rest as before. Repeat with rests, six times.

(c) Repeat above exercises every day for ten days, with rest of two days. The time suggested is merely an example; practice may well be continued in-definitely.

(1) Exercise No. 2. Stand erect. Breathe and wink naturally. Fix the eyes upon some small object on the wall of your room, say a nail-head or the corner of a picture, or a round spot made with a pencil, and large enough to be seen at a distance of eight feet. Place the tip of the forefinger of the right hand, palm toward face, directly on a line running from the right eye to such object or spot. Slowly move the hand, palm toward the face, from your body along such imaginary line, keeping the tip of finger rigidly thereon, until the arm is fully extended, and return to original position in the same manner six times.

(2) Repeat with edge of hand toward face, six times.

Exercises in Steadiness

(3) Repeat with back of hand toward face, six times.

(4) Repeat, shutting thumb and first finger, with second finger, six times.

(5) Repeat with each of the remaining fingers as above suggested, six times.

(6) Repeat with the fingers of the left hand.

(7) Continue these exercises every day for ten days, with rest.

(a) Exercise No. 3. Stand erect. Extend the right arm, limp, at full length, pointing with the fore-finger. Move the whole limp arm, slowly and evenly, from left to right, so as to describe a perfect circle of several feet diameter, drawing it with the finger. Six times. Not too rapidly. Do not jerk. Control trembling and unevenness of movement.

(b) Reverse, six times.

(c) Repeat with arm stiffened, and reverse, six times.

(d) Move the limp left arm from left to right, running tip of finger along an imaginary line as diameter of the circle, six times.

(e) Reverse, six times.

(f) Repeat with stiffened arm, six times. Reverse, six times.

(g) Repeat with right arm limp, from right to left, on a straight line, six times ; stiffened arm, six times.

(h) Reverse, six times.

(i) Repeat and reverse with left arm limp.

(j) Repeat and reverse with right arm stiffened, six times. Left arm, six times.

(k) Continue for ten days, with rest.

(1)Exercise No. 4. Assume any position with the entire body, or any part. Maintain it steadily while counting one hundred. Rest. Repeat six times.

(2) Repeat with various other positions, each six times,, for ten days.

(3) During all this practice, the mind must not be permitted to wander in the least. You must think every act intently. Put the Will-sense into all movements. The eyes must follow the lines suggested. The head should not move with the arms. Throw the Will into the end of the finger. Maintain always the resolute mood. Remember the goal.

" He who is incapable of controlling his muscles," said Maudsley, " is incapable of attention."

Exercise No. 5. This exercise should be observed during life. Acquire the habit of physical quietness while the body is mainly at rest. Whether sitting or standing eliminate all unnecessary movements of hands, fingers, legs, feet, eyes, lips. A nervous youth who was subject to twitching of the hands and features, was cured by the threat of an old sea-captain, with whom he made a long voyage, that he would flog him unless the habit was mastered. Fear aroused the Will. Set your Will to the control of such movements. In order thereto, practise stated periods of sitting and standing while thinking of these motions but resolutely forbidding them. Set regular hours for this exercise, varied in 'position, in the morning, fifteen minutes. Always practise when weary or nervous. Put into the exercise great strength but calmness of Will.

A striking suggestion of your power in this direction may be seen in the following paragraph ;

In the Life of Dr. Elisha Kane, the famous Arctic explorer, his biographer says : " I asked him for the best proved instance that he knew of the soul's power over the body. He paused a moment upon my question as if to feel how it was put, and then answered as with a spring : ` The soul can lift the body out of its boots, sir! When our captain was dying I say dying; I have seen scurvy enough to know every old scar in his body a running ulcer. I never saw a case so bad that either lived or died. Men die of it, usually, long before they are as ill as he was. There was trouble aboard. There might be mutiny so soon as the breath was out of his body. We might be at each others' throats. I felt that he owed the repose of dying to the service. I went down to his bunk, and shouted in his ear, "Mutiny! Captain ! Mutiny!" He shook off the cadaverous stupor. " Set me up ! " said he, "and order these fellows before me!" He heard the complaint, ordered punishment, and from that hour convalesced.' "

Exercise No. 6. The surest steadiness of nerves and muscles must come from poise of soul and tone of health. You can acquire the first if you will take a few minutes each day for absolute quietness of mind and body, shutting out all ideas of hurry, worry, business and activity of every kind, thinking intensely of, and asserting that you are now in, a state of perfect mental poise.

The tone of health is provided for in the following chapter and in "Power For Success." A self-controlled, vigorous person should possess steadiness of nerves, though occasions may arise in which the Will must be called on for assertion of existing power. Edward Carpenter tells a strong story in " The Art of Creation " which illustrates the value of great physical vigor on emergency, and suggests what general poise plus power of Will may achieve under psychic stress equal to that of the freezing conditions referred to in the incident.

"I knew a miner from Manitoba and a good wholesome man he was who told me that one night a stranger knocked at the door of his log-cabin on the edge of Lake Superior and begged help, saying that he and a companion had been crossing the lake on the ice, and that the companion had given out. He who had knocked at the door had come on alone for assistance. My friend picked up a lantern, and the two hurried down across the ice. The night was very cold and dark, but after some searching they found the man. He was lying stretched frozen and ` stiff as, a log.' They picked him up and carried him back to the cabin, and sat up all night and into the next day continually rubbing and chafing his body. At last he came to and made a complete recovery, and in a few days except for, some marks of frost-bite on his skin showed no sign of damage. Surely that was a holy man, in whom the frost, though it went right through his body, could find no sin."

A "holy " man is a whole man, and the latter possesses nerves and physical tone equal to all demands as should be true of every human who is king (or queen) in the inner and the outer life. For when you are " holy," whole, sound, you command both body and mind.

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