The more perfectly you have mastered and applied the teachings on relaxation of the previous Chapter, the more you are likely to benefit from the technique now to be outlined,
The theory underlying this technique is very simple, but experience has shown that whilst very few fail to understand it, some are immediately convinced of its soundness, others have doubts as to its validity, and a few frankly reject it as absurd.
I refer the latter two groups to the last paragraph of my foreword on page xi, and point out to them that thousands of sufferers have found real and lasting relief from the simple practice now advocated, and that amongst those who have reaped the greatest benefit from it are many who at first were not only sceptical but openly scornful, but who have since acknowledged their conversion and expressed their gratitude.
In the circumstances, I would suggest to doubters that they may be missing an easy chance of genuine help, and that since the validity of the theory can be tested by a few simple experiments, lasting from a few minutes to an hour at the most, it would be foolish not to give it a fair trial with an absolutely open mind, for much good might come from it.
Let us assume that you are lying flat on your back and have achieved perfect relaxation. Your heart is beating, you are breathing, your machine is working; therefore, you certainly must possess some motive power. You have taken off your brakes, your engine is working; therefore, you certainly must have some petrol in your tank.
But you may be very, very tired, after a long and exhausting day's work, and may feel a tremendous need of sleep, of sound and sustained work of repair. And here, perhaps, experience has made clear to you one of those many instances where Nature appears to run her business in such a stupid, illogical and disconnected manner. When you are not too tired at bed-time, you seem to be able to go to sleep quite easily, but when you have overdone things and are overtired, you simply cannot go to sleep, and there you lie—awake, helpless.
Does it not seem absurd that Nature should have decreed that in some cases the more you need sleep, the less you are able to get it?
Despite appearances, Nature is not absurd.
She is making clear to you, that, against the common view, sleep is not rest, but work of repair. Since by overworking, you have exhausted your reserve of nervous energy without which work of repair, or any other work, is impossible, you have to rest, awake, until you have saved enough nervous energy to go to sleep and really get to your work of repair.
Can you do anything to help save your nervous energy, to increase your store of it, to accumulate it, and to shorten the time taken by the process? Can you take in more energy in less time, so that you can go to sleep sooner and do better repair work and more of it?
You know that you store your nervous energy in your brain and that it circulates through your nerves. Now, here is the simple idea that you will find quite easy to grasp, that you are asked to examine and accept or reject, and in any case, to test in practice.
When you lie, relaxed, flat on your back, but awake, the fact that you are doing nothing does not stop your nervous energy circulating through your nerves, any more than a momentary pause during a telephone conversation stops the electric current circulating in the telephone wire. Your nervous energy goes on circulating all the time, but you are doing nothing with it, you are not using it up as it circulates, and some of it, as it gets to your nerve endings in the hands and feet, escapes from you, oozes out of you, and is lost. You know how fond old people are of resting with their hands clasped and their feet crossed, whilst babies and vital young children don't do that kind of thing. The old are tired, short of energy, and by linking their terminals they complete two circuits, keep their energy circulating within themselves and store it. They do so blindly, instinctively, because of their need, just as children, bubbling over with energy, lie spread-eagled, just as unthinkingly.
You may say: " How obvious; why didn't I think of this before? Let's try it at once," or " What an absurdly unscientific presentation of pseudo-scientific nonsense." In either case you won't really know until you have tried, and if you make up your mind to test this " pseudo-scientific nonsense," you must do so in a strictly scientific manner, so that there may be no logical escape from whatever conclusion your experiment may force upon you.
For this purpose, lie flat on your back, your arms by your sides, your feet apart, your whole body relaxed and your mind open, and when you have settled down, begin a period of self-observation of exactly five minutes. Where and When possible, a friend may check your observations.
All you have to do during these five minutes is to count your respirations, note how deep they are, how fully your whole trunk expands, how comfortable, relaxed, warm, and sleepy you feel.
At the end of your first five minutes, begin a second period of five minutes of self-observation, but this time with your hands clasped and your feet crossed, still completely relaxed, taking the same careful note of the same factors. Make the double experiment not less than three times, or half an hour in all, and then study your records and draw your conclusions.
If these are interesting, you may repeat your experiment, making your alternate periods ten minutes or more.
But as conclusions will be drawn for you and suggestions made in what follows, you should now put down this book and not read further until you have completed your experiment, tabulated your records, and drawn your own conclusions; for if you now read on and experiment later, and your reactions confirm my conclusions and suggestions, you will probably feel that suggestion is alone responsible and will not know what to believe.
Therefore, to guard against this risk—
CLOSE THE BOOK NOW, AND EXPERIMENT.
I assume that you have made your experiment, taken careful records of it, and come to your conclusions. What do these records show? What could they show? They could show either that there is, or that there is not, an appreciable difference between the two positions, between hands and feet linked and hands and feet apart. If they show an appreciable difference between the two positions, what is the nature of this difference and what does it mean?
Experiments covering some eighteen years establish that when the hands are clasped and the feet crossed, respirations get progressively and automatically fuller and deeper, culminating in big spontaneous sighs that completely expand the whole trunk from shoulders to crutch, indicative of increased air hunger; that comfort, relaxation, circulation, and warmth, also progressively and automatically improve, and that an increasing tendency to sleep is felt. Occasional variations are usually of quantity and quality, and not of kind.
What does this mean? Clearly it means better and more efficient function, of which comfort, relaxation, warmth, and the tendency to sleep, are only signs and effects. Since nothing is changed except the linking of the hands and feet, it all demonstrates that this change of attitude increases the supply of available nervous energy, and the amount of work done.
Sleep, your work of repair, is efficient in proportion to the amount of nervous energy available for its performance. It follows that the more tired out you are before your sleep time, the more essential it is that you should add to your available supply of nervous energy by resting for some time with your hands and feet linked before you allow yourself to lose consciousness.
You may say: " The facts are there, undeniable, and I accept them. But I reject your explanation." In that case, it is to be hoped that either you or someone else will provide a better explanation of the facts; but that is no reason why you should wait until this more satisfactory explanation is forthcoming before you put into regular practice a simple technique of proved efficacy.
From now on, before sleep, always relax carefully the whole body, and rest for a time on your back with your hands clasped and your feet crossed before you allow yourself to turn on your side to lose consciousness.