"The body looks," someone has said, "as old as the mind feels." By virtue of a great mental law and at the same time chemical law we are well within the realm of truth when we say: The body ordinarily is as old as the mind feels.
Every living organism is continually going through two processes: it is continually dying, and continually being renewed through the operation and the power of the Life Force within it. In the human body it is through the instrumentality of the cell that this process is going on. The cell is the ultimate constituent in the formation and in the life of tissue, fiber, tendon, bone, muscle, brain, nerve system, vital organ. It is the instrumentality that Nature, as we say, uses to do her work.
The cell is formed; it does its work; it serves its purpose and dies; and all the while new cells are being formed to take its place. This process of new cell formation is going on in the body of each of us much more rapidly and uniformly than we think. Science has demonstrated the fact that there are very few cells in the body today that were there twelve months ago. The form of the body remains practically the same; but its constituent elements are in a constant state of change. The body, therefore, is continually changing; it is never in a fixed state in the sense of being a solid, but is always in a changing, fluid state. It is being continually remade.
It is the Life, or the Life Force within, acting under the direction and guidance of the subconscious or subjective mind that is the agency through which this continually new cell-formation process is going on. The subconscious mind is, nevertheless, always subject to suggestions and impressions that are conveyed to it by the conscious or sense mind; and here lies the great fact, the one all-important fact for us so far as desirable or undesirable, so far as healthy or unhealthy, so far as normal or aging body-building is concerned.
That we have it in our power to determine our physical and bodily conditions to a far greater extent than we do is an undeniable fact. That we have it in our power to determine and to dictate the conditions of "old age" to a marvelous degree is also an undeniable fact—if we are sufficiently keen and sufficiently awake to begin early enough.
If any arbitrary divisions of the various periods of life were allowable, I should make the enumeration as follows: Youth, barring the period of babyhood, to forty-five; middle age, forty-five to sixty; approaching age, sixty to seventy-five; old age, seventy-five to ninety-five and a hundred.
That great army of people who "age" long before their time, that likewise great army of both men and women who along about middle age, say from forty-five to sixty, break and, as we say, all of a sudden go to pieces, and many die, just at the period when they should be in the prime of life, in the full vigor of manhood and womanhood and of greatest value to themselves, to their families, and to the world, is something that is contrary to nature , and is one of the pitiable conditions of our time. A greater knowledge, a little foresight, a little care in time could prevent this in the great majority of cases, in ninety cases out of every hundred, without question.
Abounding health and strength—wholeness—is the natural law of the body. The Life Force of the body, acting always under the direction of the subconscious mind, will build, and always does build, healthily and normally, unless too much interfered with. It is this that determines the type of the cell structure that is continually being built into the body from the available portions of the food that we take to give nourishment to the body. It is affected for good or for bad, helped or hindered, in its operation by the type of conscious thought that is directed toward it, and that it is always influenced by.
Of great suggestive value is the following by an able writer and practitioner:
"God has managed, and perpetually manages, to insert into our nature a tendency toward health, and against the unnatural condition which we call disease. When our flesh receives a wound, a strange nursing and healing process is immediately commenced to repair the injury. So in all diseases, organic or functional, this mysterious healing power sets itself to work at once to triumph over the morbid condition.... Cannot this healing process be greatly accelerated by a voluntary and conscious action of the mind, assisted, if need be, by some other person? I unhesitatingly affirm, from experience and observation, that it can. By some volitional, mental effort and process of thought, this sanative colatus, or healing power which God has given to our physiological organism, may be greatly quickened and intensified in its action upon the body. Here is the secret philosophy of the cures effected by Jesus Christ.... There is a law of the action of mind on the body that is no more an impenetrable mystery than the law of gravitation. It can be understood and acted upon in the cure of disease as well as any other law of nature."
If, then, it be possible through this process to change physical conditions in the body even after they have taken form and have become fixed, as we say, isn't it possible even more easily to determine the type of cell structure that is grown in the first place?
The ablest minds in the world have thought and are thinking that if we could find a way of preventing the hardening of the cells of the system, producing in turn hardened arteries and what is meant by the general term "ossification," that the process of aging, growing old, could be greatly retarded, and that the condition of perpetual youth that we seem to catch glimpses of in rare individuals here and there could be made a more common occurrence than we find it today.
The cause of ossification is partly mental, partly physical, and in connection with them both are hereditary influences and conditions that have to be taken into consideration.
Shall we look for a moment to the first? The food that is taken into the system, or the available portions of the food, is the building material; but the mind is always the builder.
There are, then, two realms of mind, the conscious and the subconscious. Another way of expressing it would be to say that mind functions through two avenues—the avenue of the conscious and the avenue of the subconscious. The conscious is the thinking mind; the subconscious is the doing mind. The conscious is the sense mind, it comes in contact with and is acted upon through the avenue of the five senses. The subconscious is that quiet, finer, all-permeating inner mind or force that guides all the inner functions, the life functions of the body, and that watches over and keeps them going even when we are utterly unconscious in sleep. The conscious suggests and gives directions; the subconscious receives and carries into operation the suggestions that are received.
The thoughts, ideas, and even beliefs and emotions of the conscious mind are the seeds that are taken in by the subconscious and that in this great realm of causation will germinate and produce of their own kind. The chemical activities that go on in the process of cell formation in the body are all under the influence, the domination of this great all-permeating subconscious, or subjective realm within us.
In that able work, "The Laws of Psychic Phenomena," Dr. Thomas J. Hudson lays down this proposition: "That the subjective mind is constantly amenable to control by suggestion." It is easy, when we once understand and appreciate this great fact, to see how the body builds, or rather is built, for health and strength, or for disease and weakness; for youth and vigor, or for premature ossification and age. It is easy, then, to see how we can have a hand in, in brief can have the controlling hand in, building either the one or the other.
It is in the province of the intelligent man or woman to take hold of the wheel, so to speak, and to determine as an intelligent human being should, what condition or conditions shall be given birth and form to and be externalized in the body.
A noted thinker and writer has said: "Whatever the mind is set upon, or whatever it keeps most in view, that it is bringing to it, and the continual thought or imagining must at last take form and shape in the world of seen and tangible things."
And now, to be as concrete as possible, we have these facts: The body is continually changing in that it is continually throwing out and off, used cells, and continually building new cells to take their places. This process, as well as all the inner functions of the body, is governed and guarded by the subconscious realm of our being. The subconscious can do and does do whatever it is actually directed to do by the conscious, thinking mind. "We must be careful on what we allow our minds to dwell," said Sir John Lubbock, "the soul is dyed by its thoughts."
If we believe ourselves subject to weakness, decay, infirmity, when we should be "whole," the subconscious mind seizes upon the pattern that is sent it and builds cell structure accordingly. This is one great reason why one who is, as we say, chronically thinking and talking of his ailments and symptoms, who is complaining and fearing, is never well.
To see one's self, to believe, and therefore to picture one's self in mind as strong, healthy, active, well, is to furnish a pattern, is to give suggestion and therefore direction to the subconscious so that it will build cell tissue having the stamp and the force of healthy, vital, active life, which in turn means abounding health and strength.
So, likewise, at about the time that "old age" is supposed ordinarily to begin, when it is believed in and looked for by those about us and those who act in accordance with this thought, if we fall into this same mental drift, we furnish the subconscious the pattern that it will inevitably build bodily conditions in accordance with. We will then find the ordinarily understood marks and conditions of old age creeping upon us, and we will become subject to their influences in every department of our being. Whatever is thus pictured in the mind and lived in, the Life Force will produce.
To remain young in mind, in spirit, in feeling, is to remain young in body. Growing old at the period or age at which so many grow old, is to a great extent a matter of habit.
To think health and strength, to see ourselves continually growing in this condition, is to set into operation the subtlest dynamic force for the externalization of these conditions in the body that can be even conceived of. If one's bodily condition, through abnormal, false mental and emotional habits, has become abnormal and diseased, this same attitude of mind, of spirit, of imagery, is to set into operation a subtle and powerful corrective agency that, if persisted in, will inevitably tend to bring normal, healthy conditions to the front again.
True, if these abnormal, diseased conditions have been helped on or have been induced by wrong physical habits, by the violation of physical laws, this violation must cease. But combine the two, and then give the body the care that it requires in a moderate amount of simple, wholesome food, regular cleansing to assist it in the elimination of impurities and of used cell structure that is being regularly cast off, an abundance of pure air and of moderate exercise, and a change amounting almost to a miracle can be wrought—it may be, indeed, what many people of olden time would have termed a miracle.
The mind thus becomes "a silent, transforming, sanative energy" of great potency and power. That it can be so used is attested by the fact of the large numbers, and the rapidly increasing numbers, all about us who are so using it. This is what many people all over our country are doing today, with the results that, by a great elemental law—Divine Law if you choose— many are curing themselves of various diseases, many are exchanging weakness and impotence for strength and power, many are ceasing, comparatively speaking, are politely refusing, to grow old.
Thought is a force, subtle and powerful, and it tends inevitably to produce of its kind.
In forestalling "old age," at least old age of the decrepit type, it is the period of middle life where the greatest care is to be employed. If, at about the time "old age" is supposed ordinarily to begin, the "turn" at middle life or a little later, we would stop to consider what this period really means, that it means with both men and women a period of life where some simple readjustments are to be made, a period of a little rest, a little letting up, a temporary getting back to the playtime of earlier years and a bringing of these characteristics back into life again, then a complete letting-up would not be demanded by nature a little later, as it is demanded in such a lamentably large number of cases at the present time.
So in a definite, deliberate way, youth should be blended into the middle life, and the resultant should be a force that will stretch middle life for an indefinite period into the future.
And what an opportunity is here for mothers, at about the time that the children have grown, and some or all even have "flown"! Of course, Mother shouldn't go and get foolish, she shouldn't go cavorting around in a sixteen-year-old hat, when the hat of the thirty-five-year-old would undoubtedly suit her better; but she should rejoice that the golden period of life is still before her. Now she has leisure to do many of those things that she has so long wanted to do.
The world's rich field of literature is before her; the line of study or work she has longed to pursue, she bringing to it a better equipped mind and experience than she has ever had before. There is also an interest in the life and welfare of her community, in civic, public welfare lines that the present and the quick-coming time before us along women's enfranchisement lines, along women's commonsense equality lines, is making her a responsible and full sharer in. And how much more valuable she makes herself, also, to her children, as well as to her community, inspiring in them greater confidence, respect, and admiration than if she allows herself to be pushed into the background by her own weak and false thoughts of herself, or by the equally foolish thoughts of her children in that she is now, or is at any time, to become a back number.
Life, as long as we are here, should mean continuous unfoldment, advancement, and this is undoubtedly the purpose of life; but age-producing forces and agencies mean deterioration, as opposed to growth and unfoldment. They ossify, weaken, stiffen, deaden, both mentally and physically. For him or her who yearns to stay young, the coming of the years does not mean or bring abandonment of hope or of happiness or of activity. It means comparative vigor combined with continually larger experience, and therefore even more usefulness, and hence pleasure and happiness.
Praise also to those who do not allow any one or any number of occurrences in life to sour their nature, rob them of their faith, or cripple their energies for the enjoyment of the fullest in life while here. It's those people who never allow themselves in spirit to be downed, no matter what their individual problems, surroundings, or conditions may be, but who chronically bob up serenely who, after all, are the masters of life , and who are likewise the strength-givers and the helpers of others. There are multitudes in the world today, there are readers of this volume, who could add a dozen or a score of years—teeming, healthy years—to their lives by a process of self-examination, a mental housecleaning, and a reconstructed, positive, commanding type of thought.
Tennyson was prophet when he sang:
Cleave then to the sunnier side of doubt,
And cling to Faith beyond the forms of Faith!
She reels not in the storm of warring words,
She brightens at the clash of "Yes" and "No,"
She sees the Best that glimmers through the Worst,
She feels the sun is hid but for a night,
She spies the summer through the winter bud,
She tastes the fruit before the blossom falls,
She hears the lark within the songless egg,
She finds the fountain where they wailed "mirage."