IT will be plainly seen that this training of the body is at the same time a training of the mind, and indeed it is in essence a training of the will. For as we think of it carefully and analyze it to its fundamental principles, we realize that it might almost be summed up as in itself a training of the will alone. That is certainly what it leads to, and where it leads from.
Maudsley tells us that “he who is incapable of guiding his muscles, is incapable of concentrating his mind;” and it would seem to follow, by a natural sequence, that training for the best use of all the powers given us should begin with the muscles, and continue through the nerves and the senses to the mind,—all by means of the will, which should gradually remove all personal contractions and obstructions to the wholesome working of the law of cause and effect.
Help a child to use his own ability of gaining free muscles, nerves clear to take impressions through every sense, a mind open to recognize them, and a will alive with interest in and love for finding the best in each new sensation or truth, and what can he not reach in power of use to others and in his own growth.
The consistency of creation is perfect. The law that applies to the guidance of the muscles works just as truly in training the senses and the mind.
A new movement can be learned with facility in proportion to the power of dropping at the time all impressions of previous movements. Quickness and keenness of sense are gained only in proportion to the power of quieting the senses not in use, and erasing previous impressions upon the sense which is active at the time.
True concentration of mind means the ability to drop every subject but that centred upon. Tell one man to concentrate his mind on a difficult problem until he has worked it out,—he will clinch his fists, tighten his throat, hold his teeth hard together, and contract nobody knows how many more muscles in his body, burning and wasting fuel in a hundred or more places where it should be saved. This is not concentration. Concentration means the focussing of a force; and when the mathematical faculty of the brain alone should be at work, the force is not focussed if it is at the same time flying over all other parts of the body in useless strain of innumerable muscles. Tell another man, one who works naturally, to solve the same problem,—he will instinctively and at once “erase all previous impressions” in muscle and nerve, and with a quiet, earnest expression, not a face knotted with useless strain, will concentrate upon his work. The result, so far as the problem itself is concerned, may be the same in both cases; but the result upon the physique of the men who have undertaken the work will be vastly different.
It will be insisted upon by many, and, strange as it may seem, by many who have a large share of good sense, that they can work better with this extra tension. “For,” the explanation is, “it is natural to me.” That may be, but it is not natural to Nature; and however difficult it may be at first to drop our own way and adopt Nature’s, the proportionate gain is very great in the end.