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Poise

Oh to be self-balanced for contingencies,
To confront night, storms, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as trees and animals do.
—Walt Whitman

As I am a pupil as well as yourselves, I judge that my needs are also your needs. For experience is the teacher of all; and, as we grow or develop through our experiences, we think and reason about them at the time, and also after they have passed. We can see where we were weak and where we were strong. We can see where we might have done much better, might have risen to a higher point, if we had been less selfish, if we had dwelt on the side of unselfishness and love, and not looked at the personal of ourselves and others. To be “self-balanced” is what? What is balance? Balance is the point of adjustment. To balance is to equalize.

Balance is the point of indifference. If we take for our illustration the old seesaw of our childhood, we first got our saw-horse, and then put our board across. We placed this board evenly, so that it would balance. That was the very first thing we did. Now, if we and our little friend were equal in weight, we rode merrily up and down, with no effort whatever, — just a little touch of our toes to the ground sent us up high. But suppose one child weighed more than the other? At once the board was changed: the point of balance was changed to suit the requirements, otherwise it would not have been balance at all. Balance for one condition is not necessarily balance for another.

Let us apply this to our daily living. One experience we can meet easily; we adjust ourselves quickly; we rise above it instantly. Another experience comes; we take more time for adjustment; we find that, in order to rise, we must give to another “more board,” as he is lighter weight, and our adjustment or balance depends upon that. In other words, if we have grown to a larger understanding of our spiritual self, we must make the balance possible by conceding more. To meet “contingencies,” “storms,” “ridicule,” “accidents,” “rebuffs,” is not this our whole lesson in life? What is it to meet them “as the trees and animals do”? I think it is to meet them without question, without resentment.

We are apt to meet our experiences, even little ones, with questioning, if not resentment. That is our very first attitude of mind. Why need this have come to me? and then resentment follows. Let us keep the picture of the seesaw before us. Let us do as well as the trees and animals do.

I loaf, and invite my soul. — Walt Whitman

Why is it that people always apologize when they are found without occupation > One would think it were a crime not to be constantly employed. Women must have fancy work of some kind on hand, to pick up in spare moments. After the necessary sewing and mending, why so anxious to fill the spare moments by keeping the fingers still busy? It is rare to see either men or women sit quietly, even for five minutes. We must play with a pencil or a watch-chain or rub our fingers over a smoothly polished chair arm; we must do something in the external.

Let us cultivate quiet in our bodies as well as in our minds. You will observe that there is a certain repose about some people that at once gives you a sense of strength. It is not being lazy to be quiet. So much bustle in the exterior shows an unrest in the mind. Let us drop the word “busy”; the very utterance of it is confusing. Let us do our daily work, whatever it may be, in quiet and tranquility. We must not allow ourselves to hurry or be hurried by others. We must work by our own methods, and not be uneasy if others say we make “hard work” of it. What is easy to us may seem hard to them. We have a right to work in our own way, if it does not interfere with another. Let us also learn to “loaf.” Do we “invite our soul” when so constantly filled with the external doing? No, we have to reach the loafing attitude of mind, in order to come into consciousness of soul. We must kill out the old idea of work. Work is most desirable when it is not considered work, but occupation. Then I want you also to understand that loafing in the true sense is occupation of the very best kind. The loafing that loafs to shirk that which it ought to do is an entirely different matter. But to loaf and invite your soul, — that is, to take the careless attitude of mind, and dwell in the spiritual, or divine, part of yourself, — this it is that unfolds us day by day. Let us set about it, and begin to “loaf” in earnest.

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Katharine H. Newcomb

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