6. How to Keep Your Strength.
A principal means for holding and increasing both physical and mental strength lies in the training of the mind and body to do but one thing at a time; in other words, to put all the thought necessary for the performance of any act in that act, and to put aside all other thought whatever save what belongs to that act. The body is but the machine used by the mind. If it be weak, the power of our thought may be largely used and almost uselessly expended in resisting its weakness. The mind is then the workman endeavoring to carry out his design with an imperfect tool. Eventually, this defective tool may derange and destroy entirely the workman’s power.
Strength of mind and body is the corner‑stone of all enjoyment and success. The weak body enjoys little or nothing. Our bodies are reservoirs of force. Eating and sleeping are means for filling up with that force; in other words, for filling up with thought. When so filled up we enjoy our walk, our business, our effort of any kind. What is most desirable for all to know is, how to retain the most of that force during our waking hours and if possible to increase it; because this force has a commercial value in dollars and cents. The weak and exhausted body is neither the body for “business” or pleasure, and all business is best done when it is a pleasure to do it.
An old system of philosophy says, “What thou doest, that do with all thy might.” Not the spasmodic, fleeting might of fury or anger. That is not might at all. That is waste of strength. It implies that every act of our lives, from the tying of a shoe‑string, the forming of a letter, or the sharpening of a pencil, should be done with the might of method, precision, exactness, care; in brief, the might of concentration. When a boy, I was doing my first day’s shovelling in the California gold‑diggings. An old miner said to me, “Young man, you make too hard work of shovelling: you want to put more mind in that shovel.”
Pondering over this remark, I found that shovelling dirt needed co‑operation of mind with muscle,—mind to give direction to muscle; mind to place the shovel’s point where it should scoop up most dirt with least outlay of strength; mind to give direction to the dirt as thrown from the shovel; and infinitesimal portions of mind, so to speak, in the movement of every muscle brought into play while shovelling. I found that the more thought I put in the shovel the better could I shovel: the less like work it became, the more like play it became, and the longer my strength for shovelling lasted. I found when my thought drifted on other things (no matter what), that soon the less strength and enjoyment had I for shovelling, and the sooner it became an irksome task.
Every thought is a thing and a force made of invisible substance. Thinking uses up a certain amount of the body’s force. You are working and using up this force even in what you call your “idlest moments.” If, while doing one act with the body, you are thinking of something else, you are wasting your strength and thought. Before you pick up a pin from the floor, you send from you, in thought, substance,—a plan for picking up that pin. That plan is force. You direct and use that force on your body, the instrument for picking up the pin. You should not mix that plan with one for doing any thing else while the body is picking up that pin. If you do, you are sending your force—or trying to—in two directions at once. You mingle and confuse the plan and force for one act with the plan and force for another.
Every impatient act and thought, no matter how small, costs us an unprofitable outlay of force. If, sometime, when you are tired with walking,—that is, walking with your legs, while your brain has been working, wool‑gathering, or worrying, planning, and scheming,—you will drive all such thought away and put all your mind, attention, and force in your limbs and feet, you may be surprised to find your strength return and your fatigue leave you. Because every physical act costs a thought, and every thought costs a certain outlay of force. Every step you take involves a plan to give that step direction. Plan involves outlay of thought. Thought means outlay of force. If you think of other things while walking, you are expending force in two directions at once.
Do you think that an acrobat could so readily ascend a rope hand over hand, did he not put his whole mind as well as strength on the act? or that an orator could thrill an audience, were he obliged to turn a grindstone while speaking? Yet in so many of our acts do we not unconsciously burthen ourselves by turning that grindstone, in thinking and planning one thing, while doing, or trying to do, another? If you are going up a hill and are continually looking with impatience toward the top, and wishing you were at the top, you will soon become tired. If you are near that hilltop in imagination, while your body is near the bottom, you are sending your force of thought to the top of the hill, leaving only enough in the poor, outraged body to drag it wearily upward. If you hold all that force to that body, and concentrate it on each step, you ascend far easier; because your power is then concentrated in those parts of your body (your legs) that most need that power. When you concentrate all your strength in each step, you make each step easier, you get a certain pleasure out of each step, and you forget also your trouble,—that being the impatient desire of being at the hilltop.
This law holds good in every act of life. Do you not wish you could forget your trouble, your disappointment, your sense of loss, through concentrating all your thought on something else, and becoming so absorbed in it, and enjoying it, as to forget all things else?
This is a possibility of mind, and is one well worth the striving for. It can be attained by the practice of concentration; or, in other words, the putting of one’s whole mind on the doing of so‑called trivial things, and every second expended in such practice brings one nearer the result desired. Each effort brings us its atom of gain in increased power for putting either our whole volume of power or only the amount of power necessary to be used for doing the act in hand. This atom of increased power for concentration is never lost. You need this at every moment in your daily business. You need it to keep your mind from straying off on other things while you are driving bargains.
How long can we concentrate our whole thought on any one act at once? Can you tie three knots in a string and put your whole thought in the tying of those three knots, letting no other thought intervene? You say, perhaps, “I can tie a knot just as well, and think of many other things.” Possibly you can; but can you tie those three knots and think only of knots ? Or has your mind so fallen into the habit of straying off and over a dozen different matters a minute that you have lost the power of focusing it on any single thing for ten consecutive seconds?
Do not call this trivial. Train for concentrative power in the doing of any one act and you train to throw your whole mind, thought, and force on all acts. Train to put your whole thought on each act, and prevent that thought from straying off on any thing else, and we are training to throw the same full current of power in our speech when we talk, in our skill when we work with tools, in our voice when we sing, in our fingers when any dexterous work is required of them, and in any organ or function of our being that we desire for the time to exercise.
Perhaps you think, “Well that’s only another way of saying ‘Be careful.’” True. Yet many may not know how to be careful or precise. Do we not see people every day rushing their legs along the street with the least possible amount of strength, while their minds are planning, wishing, working, hurrying far ahead of them? Yet these people wonder why they forget, wonder why they make so many mistakes, wonder why so many of the small details of their business are irksome: or they go on being so annoyed, and never get sufficiently awakened as to wonder.
Is not this practical philosophy and practical talk? To‑morrow, maybe, you are to have a trying interview on a matter vital to your interests, with a sharp, cunning, business‑man, who is strong in will as well as knowledge, power, ways, and means to overreach you, to muddle your brains, to trick you, to frighten you. Do you not need every available atom of your force to cope with him?
When we cultivate this power of focusing all our force on any single act, we are cultivating also the power of throwing our whole mind from one subject to another. That means, also, that we can throw our whole mind out of a trouble into what may prove a delight, and forget a grief in a happy work. Grief, loss, disappointment, and discouragement injure and kill many people.
We may say to one so afflicted, “You shouldn’t think of this, that, or the other.” But do we tell them by what means they may turn their minds away from their trouble?
Every impatient act, no matter how small, costs us an unprofitable outlay of physical and mental strength,—as when you tug and pull at the hard knot; or when you throw yourself with all your might of fury against the door that’s locked, and try to wrench the knob off because it won’t open readily.
If I turn a grindstone with one arm, I exhaust the force, after a time, in a set of muscles. If I stop turning it with the arm and turn it by a treadle, by foot, I rest the arm‑muscles. Then they fill up again with force, and I can, without fatigue, turn the stone with that arm again for a period. A similar law prevails in all manner of mental effort. Say we are absorbed in some particular subject, plan, scheme, purpose: we dwell on it continually; we cannot stop thinking of it. Do we thereby always make it clearer to ourselves? Do we not thereby often get muddled in thought? Are we not turning that grindstone with our mental muscle (the brain) until it is exhausted, and only the same old set of thoughts relative to the subject occur again and again?
What is needed? Rest for this brain muscle. How? In one way,—by turning the whole force on something else for a time. Did you ever notice that if, when very much fatigued, you can sit down and have an hour’s chat with an agreeable companion, you are rested; and more rested, also, than if you had remained alone, though having no effort of any kind to make? That talk rested and recuperated you. Yet it was an outlay of force. All your thought (your force) was, for the time being, poured into the channel of that conversation. That conversation switched you off, as it were, from one track of thought into another. Our fearfully and wonderfully made organizations are self‑recuperative and self‑repairers. Give any of its departments rest after being used, and it sets immediately about the work of reconstruction, and that with finer and better material than before. The conversation proved the means of switching us on the other track of thought. Can we do the same occasionally without the help of another? Can we so switch off our whole train of thought from one subject to another? from one act to another? from considering how our house shall be built, to the proper sharpening of a lead pencil, without allowing a thought of the house to come in while sharpening that pencil? Can we sharpen a pencil for sixty consecutive seconds without thinking of something else? If we can, we have made great advance in concentrative power in doing what we have to do with all the might necessary, and reserving whatever of our might is not needed in the act for something else. If we can do this, we are possessed of a share of the greatest power in the universe, not only in making ourselves more and more happy, but also power for doing more and more of whatever we have to do, and doing it better and better. We then rule our minds. No one really rules until he or she rules him or herself.
If in any condition of mental distress you can turn, if but for a second, your whole thought on the sticking of a pin in your dress, you are for that second relieved of your trouble; you have in that second gained an atom of concentrative power.
We are then on the road to absolute rule over our minds and moods. At present, with many, it is the mood that rules the mind. We are as weathercocks,—turned by every passing breeze. We are not sure of a good‑humored, cheerful condition of mind for an hour. It may be turned any moment into a state of discouragement, despondency, or irritation, by an event, an obnoxious individual, an unkind word from a friend, a message from an enemy, or even a passing thought. Thousands on thousands would rejoice to be able to forget what is disagreeable. Dwelling on it, be it trouble of debt, trouble of personal animosity, trouble of the affections, trouble of any kind, weakens body and mind, and weakens the person’s power to resist the trouble. Troubled thought is as muddy water. What you need is the power to turn this muddy water off and let clear water in. Troubled thought, mind racked with suspense and anxiety, literally bleeds you to death of your strength. To be able to forget, to turn thought into some more cheerful mood, is to stop this bleeding and get strength again.
To sum up the advantages derived from fixing our whole force on the doing of a single act:—
First, when a nail is driven with all the might of care, exactness, and precision, it is pretty sure to be well driven.
Secondly, in driving it, you have rested some, or many other departments, and are thereby the better prepared to exercise them. You can the better saw a board in two, if you have not been thinking board while driving the nail. Or if, while sewing, you have had your mind on that sewing, you will the better cut your cloth when the time comes to put your mind on your scissors. But to sew and “think scissors,” or to cut cloth and “think sew,” is to put one on the road to blunders and misfits.
Thirdly, focusing all the needed strength for driving the nail, pushing the needle, or handling the scissors, has, if so employed but for ten seconds, been giving you increased training in the power of concentration, and added, also, its mite to your stock of that quality.
Fourthly, it has added to your capacity for getting pleasure out of the doing of any and all things, whether such doing be of mind or body. Putting mind in muscle, brings pleasure from the exercise of muscle. It is the secret of all grace in motion, all skill and dexterity in action. The most graceful dancer is he or she who puts so much thought in the muscles to be used as to forget all things else, and so become entirely absorbed in the act and the expression of sentiment or emotion involved in it.
How shall we gain the power of concentrating thought on any and every act, if through years of unconscious damaging habit in the other direction, we seem to have lost it entirely.
Concentration is a quality: it is in the elements. Open your mind to it, and it will by degrees come to you. Think at times, or at regular intervals, if so you desire, on the word “Concentration.” A word is the symbol of a thought. So placing, if but for a few seconds, your mind on that thought, and you connect yourself with the current of concentrative or constructive thought in the universe; and as so you connect yourself with it, you draw the desired element from it. Every atom or accretion so drawn, is an additional stone in the solid foundation you are laying. It can never be lost, though it may require time ere (before) that foundation is apparent to you.
“Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.”
You can ask when behind the counter. You can knock when walking on the street. You can make a genuine and profitable demand in a second; and seconds so employed are most profitable. If they do not bring the whole diamond, they bring diamond‑dust; and it is such dust that builds up the gem within.
Did you learn anything new in this reading today? or, are they all "old stuffs" that you already knew? If so, do you practice what you knew?
“Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” It's written in books, and I hear people talk about it all the time. Sometimes, I kept asking and knocking and "nothing" really happened. I realize that there were three things that I did wrong:
1. I didn't know how to ask – "Intelligently" and "Emotionally"
2. Impatience and doubt killed what I asked for.
3. I got into "The Way!"
Improvement in me:
1. I know how to ask now. So do you!
2. I trust the divine timing of my life. What is mine will never pass me by :)
3. I surrender!
I attracted.... (Hehehe. Won't tell ya! Uhm... Uhm! :)
Fiji Vacations (n.d). [Image]. Retrieved June 30, 2021, from https://www.fijivacations.com/likuliku-lagoon-resort-fijis-ultimate-honeymoon-resort/
Mulford, P. (1886-1887). How to keep your strength. Your forces and how to use them (pp.59-67). Hollister, Missouri: YOGeBooks by Roger L. Cole. doi: 2015:01:16:10:43:09