You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself into one.
We must build the ladder by which we rise And climb to its summit, round by round.
- J. G. Holland.
If my mind is not engaged in the worship, it is as if 1 worshiped not.
We are creatures of habits, most of which we have formed involuntarily, or at best in ignorance of the Law. Now we are beginning to learn and to live in conscious and intelligent use of the Law. Under necessity the bookkeeper concentrates upon his column of figures and hears not the noises about him. Under necessity the workman learns to concentrate upon his machine, his tools, his material, and to hear and to think of nothing else. Under necessity the musician and the artist concentrate upon their task. Under the same necessity the mother attends to her duties unheeding what is going on about her. So with all successful business men. They learn to mind their business; to concentrate their thought upon it. So with us, when we are interested in music, in a play, or conversation, or in the communion of love's expression. Concentrated upon the thing in hand, we think of nothing else. This condition you are to cultivate. It is the rapt condition of the saint; the condition of prayer; the condition of hysteria; the condition of meditation; the condition of absent-mindedness. All these we enter into instinctively. You are to learn to enter them at will, and to understand the method and the purpose. Drifting is not navigation.
Neither are these instinctive conditions, - even though they are productive of good, - self-control. All instructions under the New Thought name lead to self-control, which is the culmination of all true education.
Paul enumerated the "fruits of the Spirit" thus, - "Love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance." Temperance is also given in the margin of the revised edition as "self-control," which is the pure meaning of the word. Therefore temperance is the realization of spiritual consciousness. Temperance is self-control; is man's coming into his inheritance of power; is man taking possession of that kingdom which is his. He can never take it until he shall realize that he is one with Infinity.
This is accomplished only by hammering and forging the Self into the expression desired. "Man is a bundle of habits," says Emerson. Whence come they? Many by inheritance. Are they mine or do I belong to them ? Only that which I appropriate from heredity by choice, belongs to me. All the rest if I continue to manifest it, I belong to. Heredity owns me till I convert it to my desire. That which I do not thus choose and which yet remains in me, is uncontrolled tendencies which bear me on as wind bears the leaf and as hunger bears the wolf. I yield to them and when the habit of yielding is formed, I excuse myself by saying: - "Heredity. I can't master." When the fact is, I have not tried.
Without attempting to stem the current, or to direct the bark of my life, I have been content to drift. This habit of submission to tendencies is non-human. It belongs to the brute. Man has not yet left heredity behind. My humanity consists in my power to choose. My power to move, to think. He who does not exercise his power of choice is losing his opportunity of selfhood.
Habits are unconsciously formed. They grow while we are sleeping. They are born of our thoughts, and thoughts we take into our sleeping hours are most potent in controlling our lives.
For this reason mental habits have power over us. Mental habits are the only ones to cultivate, are the only habits that are good. Any habit of physical expression is bad, because it becomes a fetter. But a correct mental habit is based upon Principle, and leaves the individual free to act as he feels is right under all conditions.
Cultivate the habit of thinking pleasant thoughts and you will wear, as a habit, a smile. Take a pleasant thought to bed with you and you will smile all the next day.
The rain falls upon the newly plowed hill and makes a little streamlet down the field. The next shower fills the little channel and cuts it deeper. So does the next and the next, until the traveler of a later generation than the plowman, finds a deep gufty or ravine. The water was trained to a habit of flowing in one place. So with thought. Thought is Power. The same thought repeated creates brain and nerve conditions, thus like the rain-fall, preparing for itself a physical memory. Application of this principle gives the fingers of the pianist and the typist, such automatic power. In like manner every thought creates the nerve cells through which to express itself. Fear, worry, anger or any passion becomes a mental habit and creates for its expression the right machine. Grey matter is already secreted for that purpose through previous thoughts of fear, and worry. Each time an Affirmation is made there are nerve cells created that make it easier for the Affirmation to control the body the next time. And the next time the Affirmation is made, a thrill passes through the whole system, as the prepared cells respond to the thought.
Thus through Affirmation, after a little while, we have a new mental habit, with a new physical memory written in our nervous system, through which that habit finds easy expression. The sympathetic nerve is like my father's old horse. Father rode around the country buying produce, and the old horse would stop at every farm-house where he had been accustomed to stop, no matter whether we were on a purchasing tour or a picnic. It is necessary that we guard our thoughts, and especially our words, for the vibrations of our voice create nerve conditions through which the thought will work automatically, like the old horse. Have you never had a tune ring in your head all night, or some song, or word of friend? The listening had made a nerve-condition that keeps up automatic action. Much of fear and worry continues in this way. Stop it by will.
Understanding that nerve cells vibrate from habit without our conscious thought, it behoves us to be careful of the thought habits we form; to be careful of what thoughts we express; careful of what thoughts we hold but do not express, for the silent holding, creates also nerve-conditions that later compel expression. From unpleasant thoughts, people so create their bodies, that they find it impossible to live in them, and move out through disease.
Out of the chasm of a bad mental habit, we can build the ladder on which to climb, only of pleasant thoughts. Each time the Affirmation is made, a fung is placed in the ladder. Repetition will create the habit of concentration, so that soon nerves will readily respond, and the habit of health and happiness be formed. Whoever says to me, "I can't concentrate!" is simply repeating the cry of an old habit. I reply, "You can, but you don't! When you will to, you will concentrate/' The habit of willing soon becomes a pleasure; becomes chronic. You learn that you can, when you think you can. Concentration depends upon the habit you create. Therefore, to tell me you cannot, is to make conditions so that you do not.
If you really wish to concentrate; wish to enjoy the Silence, you must make it a habit to do so, by giving thought, will, effort and love to it, till it becomes as natural to concentrate then, as now to fear. You know how habits of any kind are formed. Do with a chosen Affirmation as you have been doing with Affirmations of fear, worry, and illness, and soon you will find yourself living in the Silence; for the habit of concentration, of paying attention, to a chosen thought, will have been formed. This habit will grow upon you till you realize that you can think whatever you choose to think. And be whatever you choose to be.