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The only real thing is to study how to rid life of lamentation and complaint.
— Epictetus

As I talk with different patients, pupils, friends, I find in all a state of dissatisfaction. This seems to be necessary up to a certain point in evolution. But we do not wish to dwell in this state any more than we desire to stay ill.

Dissatisfaction, an uncomfortable mental condition, makes us seek to better our condition.

Just as soon as we come to a small recognition of the spiritual as the real, either consciously or unconsciously does the conflict begin. This conflict grows worse and worse until it becomes unbearable at times; and we are willing to do anything to get into a peaceful state of mind, body, and surroundings.

We try first one thing and then another, a ways seeking for aid from without.

We pray to a far-away God to right our wrongs, for so our condition appears to ourselves.

Remedies without and within are applied to ease our sufferings in the body, all with but little, if any, relief. We are living in “lamentation and complaint” at this stage in our development.

Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined. — Pope

We all believe this to be true in regard to a twig. If a gardener plants row after row of slender shoots that are to grow into trees, how carefully he watches them! If a strong wind comes and bends them in one direction, how he immediately brings a force to bear that will straighten them by attaching a strong cord to them and pulling them in the opposite direction! Then, when they stand straight again, he removes the cord, as it is not required any longer.

When the trunk of the tree has become strong and stocky, and stands well rooted and firm, the gardener is satisfied, and the branches are allowed to grow in all directions; for the tree is now symmetrical and beautiful. If any of the branches, however, overstep the bounds of symmetry, they are pruned or cut off.

This can illustrate the training of our mentalities. At first we make an effort. We repeat our affirmations faithfully, we perform our mental gymnastics. We are careful to get ourselves well-grounded in the new way of thinking. We must make an effort at first to keep ourselves straight. After we have accomplished this, our branches are allowed to grow in every direction. That is, we can gather truth from all sides without effort. Then all is joy to us. There is no longer “lamentation and complaint,” for there is such a sense of freedom in our growing. If we find ourselves growing too much on one side, we can prune our branches and regain symmetry.

What we should constantly remember is the fact of different stages in development, and not be discouraged if we are still working in the “lamentation and complaint” stage. It is within ourselves alone to change our thinking as quickly as we desire. We may think we desire to change more quickly than we do; but I do not believe it for myself, so I cannot believe it for you. We can be just what we desire to be. We are nothing less and nothing more.

If we are not pleased with our condition, we know wherein lies the difficulty. We can delay or hasten our steps as we choose. In each stage of development we have made the same choice, always seeking for what we thought the best, but have done so unconsciously until now. “And then there comes this strength which grows out of the fixity of the mind, the mind which now has grown so strong that it can fix itself on what it will, and stay there unshaken, no matter what whirlwind may be going on around, — a fixity so great, so steady, that nothing that is without can avail to shake it at all, which has grown so strong that it does not need effort any longer.”

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Katharine H. Newcomb

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