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Dreamy Theater

B1. The Practical Use of Reverie.

You do not need to be thinking all the time during your waking hours. Such habit of mind soon exhausts, and keeps you putting out the same set of thoughts, a train of idea over and over again.

One of the greatest sources of power and health, both of mind and body, is the ability to dismiss all positive thought at will, to sit perfectly quiet physically, to pass, if but for a few seconds, into a dreamy state or reverie; to see only the landscape that may be before the physical eye, or even but a very small part of that, or to allow the mind to dwell and live in such mental pictures as may come to it.

In such manner by such process, perhaps unconsciously practiced, does the painter seize upon some choice bit of scenery, separating and cutting it, as it were, from the rest, and transferring it to canvas. You may have many a time passed it by without really seeing it as he depicts it, because your mind was roaming or working hither and thither in every direction, one second being in your home, the next at your store, shop, or office, then wrestling with a difficulty, then worrying over a trouble, and, in fact, engaged with more things in sixty seconds than you could write out in one hour. All this is work. It is expenditure of force. It is very often a useless expenditure of force. It brings no clear, no new idea. It is exactly as if the woodman spent two hours in wildly brandishing his axe before he set to work cutting down the tree.

Sixty seconds of reverie or meditation are sixty seconds of actual rest to mind and body. 

Even on the lower partial plane of success, that of mere money accumulation, it is the man who can control a few moments of reverie at will, or, in other words, the man who can dismiss his thought when he pleases, and thereby rest his mind for ever so few moments; it is he who holds the reins of financial power, for it is during these moods of rest, or reverie, that the door is opened for new, fresh ideas, and it is the new idea plan device first, and the persistent silent force to hold these in mind, and in that way push them afterward, that coins money.

Have you much capacity for seeing anything, or even enjoying what you do see, when you are on the run? You may then pass by and fail to notice the person whom of all others you most desire to see, and whom it may be most profitable for you to see. Bank bills may then lie in your path unnoticed.

In mental condition, thousands of people about us are breathless, hurried, and on the “dead run,” and running from year to year in the same rut of thought. They cannot, in such mental condition, see opportunities for pushing their fortunes. They have not the courage to take hold of opportunities if they do see them. They do today exactly what they did yesterday, and do that only because they did it yesterday. They are the slaves, not of the capitalist or monopolist, but of their own mental condition, which binds them to continual and monotonous ruts of thought and consequent action, by chains stronger than any of iron. They have no ability for bringing themselves into these desirable states of mental rest. They think they must be doing something with mind or body all the time. Their minds work in the same direction when their bodies are in the unconscious state called sleep. Their sleep brings them, on the body’s waking, not one‑half the refreshment or strength as will come to those who cultivate periods of reverie, mental abstraction, or meditation, call it as you may.

While traveling on the steamboat, these never‑rest‑me people will wander continually through the cabins, and from one end of the boat to the other, without aim or object, looking for they know not what. On the railway train they have but one impatient desire, to get to their place of destination as soon as possible, and when there arrived, may not know what to do with themselves. In their households they are always “pottering about,” working the body a great deal, and at the day’s end, as regards any real advancement of fortune or business, have accomplished next to nothing.

All this is keeping up a mental tension, an outlay of actual force, and for what? It is keeping the violin string stretched to its utmost tension when the instrument is not in use. It is keeping the engine running when there is no work to do, no machinery to move. It is an inevitable source of exhaustion, disease, and weakening of the body.

Gen. Grant’s cigar won for him more victories than his sword, for without any regard to the action of tobacco on the organization, the mere act of its inhalation, the puffing forth again and the almost unconscious watching of the smoke curls, causes, if but for ever so few seconds, the condition of reverie or mental abstraction which brings the mind into the negative or receptive condition, and in such condition it can not only rest, but receive new ideas. We here neither recommend nor condemn tobacco, but speak of it only as an imperfect agency, when so used, for inducing that certain mental state which helped Grant temporarily to hold his mental forces in reserve, and act to advantage when occasion required.

The same mental state can be brought by other and more natural means, and, as these are cultivated, the results will be far more profitable and lasting.

Such as these: Stop here, and now as you read this page throw yourself back in your chair, let your arms hang passive on the chair arms or on your lap, and think of nothing, if but for three or five seconds. If a cloud in the sky, or a curl of vapor, or a tree branch moved by the wind arrest your eye, look on them so long as they amuse you and no longer. If you cannot cease working with mind or body even for five seconds (and a great many people cannot), cease your abrupt, spasmodic, physical motions. If you must move your arm, do so, if but once, as slowly as possible. You have now taken your first exercise in the cultivation of reverie or mental abstraction. You have given yourself an atom of real rest. You have drawn to your mind an atom of power which you will never lose. You cannot expect immediate success in the cultivation of this much needed faculty. You may have the hurried mental habit of a whole lifetime gradually to overcome. But the seed of repose is now sown within you. This thought will never leave you. Don’t try too hard to cultivate it. Let it come up and grow of itself, as it assuredly will.

You can carry this mental discipline or control of body into the most trivial acts (so erroneously called) of every‑day life, as when you rise up or sit down, or in turning the pages of a book, or turn over your newspaper, or in opening a door or window. For when you perform any of these acts in an impatient, jerky, spasmodic fashion, regarding them as irksome barriers betwixt you and something you wish to arrive at, you expend a great volume of force unnecessarily. You can expend force enough in the impatient turning of the leaves of this book to do a half hour’s composed, careful work; and the finer your mind, the more varied and fertile your thought, the greater is its power, and the more of it do you through hurried act waste. When you so cultivate the reposeful mood during your waking hours, you are cultivating also the capacity for sounder and more healthful sleep, for the predominant mood of the day is the predominant mood of the night. Sleeplessness comes from lack of mental control, or the habit of never‑ceasing, spasmodic, fitful thought, leading surely to spasmodic, fitful, physical acts; and if the mind cannot control the body in the daytime, and keep it in a restful and force receiving state, neither can it control the body at night. Such is the mind which may keep you for hours awake, turning and tossing, unable to sleep, until your bones and flesh ache from weariness.

But as you cultivate reverie or mental rest, your mind will grow to such power that you can induce sleep or a state of rest at any time.

Don’t practice these or corresponding methods when it is irksome or frets you. If you do, you retard rather than advance. Try these methods only when they please you. The beauty and mystery of all real growth of spiritual or mental force is, that like corn or wheat, it grows when we are asleep or unconscious of such growth. Two, three, five years hence, your whole bearing, manner and physical movement will be changed into the slower, more graceful force, holding reposeful mood and action of power. The body is literally banged to pieces by the mental action and mood of unrest. Thoughts flying to no purpose and without control here, there, everywhere, and on everything, hour after hour, and day after day, do literally tear the physical machine to pieces.

Every physical act, even your steps in walking, as the mood of deliberation and repose is cultivated, can be made a source of pleasure; and when your physical movement is pleasant to you and not irksome, your work, be it what it may, is not only well done, but in the pleasant doing you are drawing more and more power to yourself, and such power comes to stay forever. This principle extends to all art, be it oratory, acting, painting, sculpture, and is the secret of superior attainment in all art and in all business; and as it is more cultivated, as in the soon coming future it surely will be, men and women will, in so increasing their power, accomplish results as incredible to the masses, at the present moment, as were the possibilities of the electric telegraph to our great‑grandfathers. The “miracle,” so called, of Biblical history, was a result attained solely through this storing up and concentration of mental power.

In so cultivating and developing the capacity to hold at will long or short periods of mental abstraction or thought and force resting, you are building up and ever increasing in power and volume the unseen element, which going from you can act on other minds far and near, and thereby effect results most favorable to your material fortunes. Yet this same power or element you can turn upon yourself with most unprofitable results, as people do who are ever on the hurry‑skurry, or who are unable to rest so long as a pot‑lid remains in the house unscoured, or a mote of dust is seen in a corner of the room. Neatness can degenerate into a mania, and a man or woman’s whole mind and force can be expended wholly on objects within the walls of a small room, leaving nothing to work with outside.

Exercise in these short periods of mental rest or thought dismissal will increase your capacity for presence of mind. Presence of mind means the ability to call up at a moment’s notice, in any emergency, all your judgment, reason, tact, decision, and fertility of idea. Presence of mind is mind not thrown off its center. It is the impassioned actor’s corner‑stone. It gives the orator the word, or sentence, or idea fit for the time and place. It is the business man’s protection in or out of his counting‑room. Wearied mind, which has frittered itself away on uncontrolled thought, cannot summon its forces together for action on any sudden alarm or unexpected turn of affairs. The rested and reposeful mind is the rested garrison of your thought fortress.

Presence of mind is the mind holding its power through this ability to give itself rest and store up force, and is the secret of all ease and grace of physical movement. The inspired danseuse acts up to this law. So does he or she who sings or plays from the soul. So do all who really excel in any art or calling. As mind is more and more trained in this direction, it gains power for recuperation in almost imperceptible periods of time. It can be receptive or drawing in power one second, and giving it out in effort the next. In the dance, in acting, in oratory, it can absorb a new idea, a new method unlike any it has shown in any similar previous effort, and put this immediately into execution. For such reason genius, whether on the platform or the stage, rarely expresses itself twice alike. It is the secret of the successful billiard player as well as that of the superior marksman. Hurried, nervous, and consequently ever‑tired people, rarely become good shots or “experts” at anything. Mind ever on the quiver puts the body also in a quiver, so that neither the gun or the cue can be held steadily. Learn to hold your force and rest your mind, and your nerves will become as strong and steady as steel. For these nerves of ours are the conveyancers and channels for carrying thought to any part of your body which it is desirable your thought should act on and through. Such training will make you the master of the most vicious and unruly horse. Such training is the foundation of courage. It is the tired mind, and consequently exhausted body, that is most open to the current of fear. The moment fear seizes upon you in holding the reins, the excited animal feels that you are afraid of him, for you have sent your mood of mind, or element of fear, literally into him. It was this superior force, so gained, that made the prophet Daniel keep the lions at bay, when put in their den. There is no limit to the possibilities coming of it. It can make the body superior to any material element. It is the power which caused the three young Jews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to pass through the fiery furnace unharmed. It was the power in Paul that made the viper’s sting harmless to him. This power belongs also to you. It is in you in the germ. It can make any organ or function of your organization ten times more powerful to act than at present.

Reverie, like any other faculty, can be developed to excess, as in the case of dreamy, absent‑minded persons, who lose themselves in their day dreams, forget where their bodies are, or even what their bodies may be doing. They lack the positive force to awaken themselves to action when action is necessary. There is an equilibrium to be established between our positive and negative forces (the negative being reverie), so that you can throw yourself into either state at will, and at any time or place. In this way you are constantly resting, even as you work with mind or body, and so nicely can this equipoise be adjusted, that you may always receive a little more force than you expend, so keeping ever a reserve of strength, exactly as the engineer keeps a reserve of steam in the boiler. Many people now use up their steam or force as fast as they receive it, one result of which is, they fail, or fall sick, or lose their heads entirely on occasion of any unexpected or unusual strain, pressure, or emergency.

As you cultivate more and more the ability to give yourself, at any time you desire, these mental rests (presuming that your mind is always in the attitude of good will to all), your physical breathing will become slower, deeper, and more healthful and strength giving. You will then inhale and exhale air from the very bottom of the lungs, and not from or near the top, as do panting, hurried, restless, and jerky people.

All healthful changes of mind or spirit must cause corresponding healthful and beneficial changes to the body, for it is your spirit that is ever remaking or changing your body to its own likeness.

The reverse of this is sadly true, for if your mind lives in the thought of sickness, or any kind of unhealthful thought, it will fashion the body after the likeness of such thought.

But there is an inhalation or breathing of your spirit, of which that of the lungs is a coarser type, and when you are at peace with the world, and are living in the current of constructive thought, this ability for reverie or mental abstraction, if but for two or three seconds, will enable your spirit to reach up literally higher and higher, and inhale an atmosphere of element far finer, more powerful, and fuller of life than any on the earth’s stratum of existence; and as through this exercise your power increases to so dismiss thought, and throw yourself into this state, you will receive and feel from such element an exhilaration and healthful buoyancy far exceeding that coming of any earthly stimulant or force. This is one means for realizing the “divine ichor” of the ancient mythology. It is one means for gaining the real “elixir of life.”

It will give you a tremendous force to act with in all material or “practical affairs,” when the time, place, and opportunity call for action. Thousands of people today, through the mania for ever keeping themselves on a mental tension, and of deeming themselves sick if not always strung up to that tension, do by their own acts retard instead of advance their fortunes. In their hurried mental condition, they lack tact in dealing with others. They repel instead of inviting those who could most benefit them, and, although often people of great energy, they fall far short of the position they might occupy did they give themselves more repose.

They lose also hours of time and volumes of force, in the endeavor to repair the consequences of their own hurry and imperfect effort. They “sling things” about unconsciously, lose their pencils, their penknives, mislay important letters, lose money in making change, and are always looking for something mislaid in the mood of hurry. Of what practical use is force so expended?

Q's note:

"Strength is born of Rest" (Prentice Mulford, May 1888 - May 1889).  Live Your Life like nobody's business!!  Meaning, Live Your Life in ways that make You Happy, and it's none of any damn body's business!  Ya Got That?!  ;)


Image Credit:


The Luxury Travel Expert (n.d.). [Image]. Retrieved July 1, 2021, from


Mulford, P. (1886-1887). The practical use of reverie. Your forces and how to use them (pp.263-272). Hollister, Missouri: YOGeBooks by Roger L. Cole. doi: 2015:01:16:10:43:09

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