The Road I Know by Stewart Edward White 1942




ALL of Betty's instructions, and all of the work she was called upon to do, conformed to the law of rhythm. That is to say, she had alternate periods of activity and of rest. But the usual notion of rest as semi-comatose loafing was promptly knocked from under us. After a prolonged period of what she termed "striving," Betty considered herself entitled to what she called a "sag-back" party.


"The way you sag back when boresome callers go at last," she explained.


And at once she made an astounding discovery.


"Why!" she cried, "that's funny! It certainly is! I hunted and hunted, and there is not any place in the whole universe where you can slump!—I fell behind looking for it. Now somebody's helping me catch up just to see what it feels like, the difference. No place to slump! Not even when you catch up! It is less strain to keep your place, it's a more comfortable feeling there's no standing still—You can stand still, if you want to," she decided after further investigation, "but you can't sit down."


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This paradox puzzled her. She retired into another of those inner experiences of hers which I always hoped was going to mean something or other to me—in time.


"They straightened me out in fine shape," she confided presently. "I had lost my equilibrium and sat down. It's a funny thing, but you can't do that; you've got to keep going when you once start. It's as if you were to decide that your heart had beat long enough, and you thought you'd stop it a while."


It was only later, and after several sessions of gropings, that she again reported anything to me.


"After every great spiritual effort I've always been left with a slightly vacuum-like spent feeling," said she. "As if I'd put in my all and was entitled to a vacation, a slight reaction, a slump,—getting back to a comfortable and ordinary level. That's the way I've been doing, the way everybody does. Well now, there's another kind of relaxation, another kind of rest. Instead of going back each time to your own starting place, which is merely an unnecessary habit, discard that idea, and enjoy resting on the She stumbled for a word or phrase.


"Rest on attainment," supplied the Invisibles, cryptically. Here was a new concept for Betty to absorb and to clarify.


THE ROAD I KNOW                                     143 2.

"The only relaxation is in accustomedness," the Invisibles tried to explain. "When you get accustomed to a thing it does not tire you; you can

rest in your attainment. You may just as well give up right now any idea of slumping, because you never can, unless you back out. All you can do

is to work so hard you get used to it, so that it doesn't tire you. There's great joy in it, though, when you get there."

It did not sound very restful to me. I said so.*

"They say I mustn't think of being wracked and spent and tired," said Betty. "I must rest in what I have attained. That is the real refreshment. It

doesn't tire you so much when you start expanding if you rest on what you've attained. That's quite nice! It transfers your center of

consciousness. Such a new way of resting!"

With an air of discovery she announced that this

* "But you missed the point," Joan writes me, in comment on this part of the MS. "Of course you 'rest on attainment'! Take mere physical dexterity, like learning to knit, which I did not do until about five years ago. My fingers were stiff and clumsy; I lost stitches off my needle; it was very hard for this old dog to team new tricks. I was about to give up in despair. Then suddenly I could knit! Now when I am weary I rest myself by knitting. Work one knows how to do is never wearying when pursued normally. We rest on that attainment, and only tire over some new process of learning. Transfer this fact from the physical into Betty's spiritual, and you'll understand."

I think Joan is right.


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feeling-tired-business is largely a matter of what the body seems to expect of us.


"I am apt to think I am tired when I come back," said she, "but it's only a peevish kind of resentment of my body. I'll just ignore that. I'm not tired: I'm just used,—like a slate. I can brush it off and fix it.


"I must never," she continued, "admit a weak or tired thought at that stage. If I do, it dilutes the impression; like leaving something unstoppered. It runs out."


"Stay up on your hilltop; make yourself at home there," advised the Invisibles. "No sense in you—the real you—coming back. Rest up there and have a new starting point. This going back every time is just poor technique. You can do it, but it's clumsy and laborious."


"It's nice to stay up," admitted Betty, after she had considered this, "but it's new-nice. I still want to go back and slump; that's old-nice.—Well, I'll try it—


"It's a stronger kind of rest," she reported to me. "Sort of leaving your consciousness on the top shelf instead of bringing it back to rest on unpadded nerves." She was silent so long that I asked her what she was doing. "I'm tidying up to come back," said she.


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"Now listen," said the Invisibles, "there's no restless feeling of perpetual motion about it. It's more a feeling of warm existence, like quiet and very active rays. It's like the sun growing things—that kind of life. It keeps you living outside, in advance of yourself, instead of occupied with your physical self."


"I'll try it," agreed Betty, "I won't allow myself to think when I'm tired. When I'm tired I'll be in a derrick and lift automatically without thinking. It will probably work, if you say so." She sounded doubtful. "I see—it will be outside of myself. It'll take some doing! " She chuckled. "Me a derrick! Make it mechanical. I see: instead of damaging my real substance by drawing on it. All right; come on, we'll go try it."


"Don't spend yourself on what your mechanism can do," supplemented the Invisibles.


"I know lots of things but I can't teach myself them," observed Betty quaintly, "I want to go now with myself that knows lots of things. It's nice not to try to understand, just to know." Ensued a long pause. "I did not come all the way back!" she cried triumphantly, "I distinctly did not come all the way back today. I may not be able to stay there—"


"The main thing is not to slump back automatically. You can be at ease without being out of formation," said the Invisibles.


But no word did.

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"What was that expression?" queried Betty. "Rest in attainment. At first I thought that a terrible idea. But there is rest to it. Only, I don't get it unless I've attained. It's the rest you find in being, unconscious of your struggle because you are strong enough for it."


Apparently she eventually surrounded the technique to her own and the Invisibles' satisfaction. Years later she had this to say:


"It used to be such an effort to keep going: now it's such a discomfort to stop. My being seems to consist entirely of the feeling of a machine in action. I'm set in action; wound up; my machinery is going. It's the feeling of the next stratum of energy above us which they talked about."


There is indeed, said she, a rhythm of rest and accomplishment. It is the rest of incoming and outgoing.


"I wish I could find a name for it all. There is a poised well-being about this thing. It is a vigorous rest. I'm enthusiastic and vigorous; yet I'm resting—without slumping. How would I say that? Rest isn't the word: it's a pause of consciousness. It's a kind of radiation, which is a sort of worship. There ought to be some name for that pause in application that sort of shoots out. It ought to be done lots, to fill up the gaps, to heal. Lots of it is needed everywhere, all through life; it's a kind of ventilation. I'll just do it a while and see if some word comes up to claim it."