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Poise: How to Attain It By D. Starke Characters: 21619

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The point of departure for the cultivation of poise, like that of everything else in fact, must be a well-ordered system of hygiene, far removed from excess, and insisting only upon the points we have already indicated.

Without wishing to fall into the well-known error of so many modern teachers, who assign an exaggerated importance to breathing exercises, we must, nevertheless, admit the great r?le that respiration plays in physical balance.

We are now speaking, understand, of methodical breathing, we might almost term it "reasoned" breathing.

Every one, of course, breathes without being aware of it from the moment of his birth to the hour of his death, but very few people are aware how to increase the power and to enlarge the capacity of their lungs.

Nevertheless, upon these conditions it is that activity depends, as well as the health and the energy that enables us to consecrate ourselves to the pursuit of a definite aim.

Without having to lay claim to a vast knowledge of medicine one can discover that all repeated exercise tends to strengthen the organ that is employed.

Thus, well-directed and carefully practised breathing gives the heart a stronger beat and facilitates the action of the lungs.

From these arises a general feeling of physical well-being, which tends to the preservation of good health and stores up the energy we need to carry out our resolves.

It is, then, advisable to devote several minutes every day to breathing exercises, not merely automatic, but purposeful and under thorough control.

To accomplish this there are two methods.

The first, very easy of comprehension, is to lie down on one's back and to breathe deeply with the mouth closed and the nostrils dilated.

As much air as can be held must be taken into the lungs, then the mouth must be opened and the air must be allowed to escape gradually.

During this operation one should pay particular attention to expanding the walls of the chest, while flattening the stomach.

About twenty deep respirations are required to accomplish the desired effect.

Little by little the lungs will dilate and one will unconsciously increase the length of the inspiration and the slowness with which the air is expelled.

The second method consists in standing erect, with the head thrown slightly back. The lungs should then be filled with air and one should count mentally up to five or even ten before exhaling the air that has been breathed in.

It is advisable that when exhaling one should utter a continuous hum, which must be absolutely free from trembling when one has practised it properly.

People who have practised this exercise have often stated that this method of breathing has been of great help to them when much fatigued as well as a first-class stimulus in moments when all their physical powers were to be called into play.

A well-known college professor has assured us that every day, before giving his lectures, he makes use of this exercise. He claims that he has thus gained a freedom of breathing the good effects of which are manifest in the facility with which he is able to give his lecture and in his general feeling of ease. Rendered quite free from any suspicion of nervousness, he feels that he is completely master of himself and in a fit state of moral and physical health to employ the poise that is essential to the man who has to instruct and to convince others.

Deep breathing has the further advantage of developing the lungs, of strengthening them, and at the same time of making their ordinary functioning more regular.

The man who practises this exercise will have much less propensity to get out of breath. This will be a great assistance to those timid people who are disconcerted by trifles and who, at the least little occurrence, become so much affected by emotion that they experience a sensible acceleration of the action of the heart.

Palpitation can not take place without causing us physical discomfort, and this condition is a serious stumbling-block in the way of the acquisition of poise, for, in view of the great stress the man of timidity lays upon the opinion of others, he will be apprehensive of giving them any inkling of his distress, and yet his difficulty in breathing will be bound to reveal it.

The exercise of which we have been speaking should be performed with care twice a day.

For those whose leisure hours are few it can be accomplished without losing any of the time which is already preempted by other things.

It is merely a question of remembering it as soon as one wakes in the morning and of never forgetting it before one falls asleep at night.

The few minutes between the moment that one wakes and the time one gets out of bed can be most profitably employed in this way.

The same thing is true at night.

If the occupations of the day and of the evening leave us no time to devote to this exercise, we can always go through it in the moments between retiring to bed and falling asleep.

It will thus be seen that there is really no valid excuse for not undertaking this practise, whose effects will certainly be most beneficial.


But our physical efforts must not stop here.

It is more than necessary that we should make others feel the effects of the mastery that we are slowly acquiring over ourselves.

The eye is an invaluable assistant to the man who is studying to acquire poise.

It is not necessary here, in connection with the magnetic properties of the eye, to enter into a digression too extensive for the scope of this book, but we can not neglect this one more-than-important factor altogether.

We are speaking now not only of the power in the gaze of others but of that of our own eyes in relation to our associates.

We must do our best, in fine, to develop the power of our gaze, while studying to fortify ourselves against the influence brought to bear upon us in this direction by others.

One frequently notices, especially in the case of people who are timid, a propensity to lose their powers of resistance with those who are able to fix them with a steady stare.

One has often seen people who lack will-power emerging completely upset from the grueling of an interview in which they have admitted everything that they had most fervently resolved never to disclose.

A superior force has dominated them to such an extent that they have found it impossible to conduct the discussion in the way they had planned to do it.

The man who is in earnest about acquiring poise must, then, be on his guard against betraying himself under the magnetism of some one else's gaze.

At the same time he must cultivate his own powers of the eye, so that he, too, can possess that ability against which, in others, he must be careful to protect himself, and can utilize it for his own ends.

The first principle is to avoid looking directly into the pupils of one's interlocutor.

This is the only way in which a beginner can avoid being affected by the magnetism of the gaze.

By this word magnetism we have in mind nothing verging in the least upon the supernatural.

We have reference only to the well-known physical discomfort experienced by those who have not yet become masters of poise when meeting a steady stare.

Its effect is so strong that, in the majority of cases, the timid are quite unable to endure it. They stammer, lose their presence of mind, and finally reveal everything they are asked to tell, if only to escape from the tyranny of the gaze which seems to go right through them and to dictate the words that they must utter.

One must be careful, then, not to allow oneself to become swayed by the gaze of another. But since it would seem ridiculous to keep one's eyes constantly lowered, and is impolite to allow them to wander from the face of the person with whom one is speaking, one can escape the magnetic effect of his pupils by looking steadily at the bridge of his nose directly between his eyes.

When first practising this one must be careful not to look too fixedly, for the eye has not yet acquired the necessary muscular power, and one will quickly find oneself fascinated instead of dominating.

But this method is an absolute safeguard, if one does not stare too fixedly.

It must not be forgotten that this spot is known as the "magnetic point."

In the case of those who have made no study of the power of the eye, and particularly of those who are lacking in poise, this method of looking steadily at the bridge of the other's nose, while not having any marked effect upon him, will save them from becoming the tools of his will.

Certain easy exercises will be found most useful in arriving at the possession of the first notions of this art, so indispensable in the ordinary applications of poise.

One good way is to look steadily, for several seconds at first and later on for several minutes at a time, at some object so small that the eye can remain fixt upon it without discomfort.

For the latter reason it is better to choose something dark. A brilliant object will much more readily cause fatigue and dizziness.

We have said for several seconds to begin with. It will be found a matter of sufficient difficulty to keep one's gaze fixt for much longer than this, when one is unaccustomed to this sort of exercise.

One should endeavor to keep the two eyes open without winking. One should not open them too wide nor yet close them. The head should be kept steady and the pupils motionless.

If this attempt causes the least wandering of the gaze or the slightest winking of the eyes, it must be begun over again.

It is for this reason that at the start it will be found difficult to keep it up for more than a few seconds.

After resting awhile one should repeat the exercise afresh, until the time comes when one can concentrate one's gaze in this way for at least four or five minutes of perfect fixity.

In order to keep count of the time that is passing, as well as to keep control of one's will-power, it is advisable to count aloud in such a way that approximately one second elapses between the naming of every two numbers.

When once fixity of gaze has been acquired, one can essay various other exercises, such as concentrating the eyes on an object and turning the head slowly to one side and the other without removing one's gaze from this point for a moment.

It is not until one is very certain that the muscles of the eye have been thoroughly trained that one should undertake the mirror test.

To do this, one must take up a position in front of a glass and fix one's gaze upon one's own pupils for a time. Then one must transfer it to the bridge of the nos

e, between the two eyes, and must strive to keep it there immovably.

At first this exercise will not be found as easy as one might suppose. The magnetic power of the pupils is great and one will experience some slight difficulty in breaking away from it.

For this reason it is a good plan to count out loud slowly up to a predetermined number, at which point the gaze should be at once transferred to the bridge of the nose.

These exercises of the eye will be found particularly beneficial for people who are desirous of acquiring poise, as aside from the advantages we have specified, they have the effect of strengthening the will-power, which will be found to have materially gained by this means.

When the desired result appears to have been accomplished and one feels oneself strong enough to meet or to avoid another person's eye, while at the same time one is conscious that one can dominate with one's own, it will be well to experiment upon the people with whom one is closely associated.

One can thus become accustomed, little by little, to control one's gaze, to force an estimate of its influence, and to neutralize the effect of that of other people.


Another highly important point in the conquest of poise is the struggle against awkwardness, which is at once the parent and the offspring of timidity.

Let us make ourselves clear.

Many people only lack poise because they fear ridicule of their obvious embarrassment and of the awkward hesitation of their movements.

Others fall into this embarrassment as the result of exhibitions of clumsiness in which they cover themselves with ridicule. The terror of renewing their moments of torture drives them into a reserve, from which they only emerge with a constraint so evident that it is reflected in their gestures, the evidences of a deplorable awkwardness.

It is exceedingly simple to find a remedy for these unpleasant conditions. One must make up one's mind to combat their exhibitions of weakness by determining to acquire ease of movement.

We have all noticed that awkwardness occurs only in public.

The most embarrassed person in the world carries himself, when alone, in a fashion quite foreign to that which is the regret of his friends.

It may happen, however, that awkwardness too long allowed to become a habit will have a disastrous effect upon our daily actions, and that the person who is lacking in poise will end by keeping up, even in private, the awkward gestures and uncouth movements that cause him eternal shame at his own expense.

In such a case a cure will be a little more difficult to effect, but it can be arrived at, without a shadow of doubt, if our advice is faithfully followed out.

It is an obvious truth that the repetition of any act diminishes the emotion it gave rise to in us at the first performance.

Physical exercises are then in order, to achieve for us suppleness of movement and to extend its scope.

Every morning, after our breathing exercises (which can be performed in bed between the moment of waking and that of getting up, according to our advice to those whose time is limited) it is absolutely necessary to devote five minutes to bodily exercises, the object of which is the acquirement of an easy carriage from the frequent repetition of certain movements.

For instance, one should endeavor to expand the chest as far as possible, while throwing back the head and extending the arms, not by jerky movements but by a wide and rhythmical sweep, which should be every day made a little more extended.

While doing this one should hollow the back so that it becomes a perfect arch.

Then one should walk up and down the room, endeavoring to keep one's steps of even length and one's body erect.

One should never allow these daily exercises to go unperformed on the pretext of lack of time.

Five minutes of deep breathing and five minutes to practise the other movements advised will be sufficient, if one performs these tasks every day with regularity and conscientiousness.

The speaking exercises, to which we shall now refer can be carried out while we are dressing.

Choose a phrase, a short one to start with, and longer as you progress, and repeat it in front of the glass while observing yourself carefully, to be sure that your face shows no sign of embarrassment and that you do not stammer or hesitate in any way.

If the words do not come out clearly, you must make an immediate stop and go doggedly back to the beginning of your phrase, until you are able to enunciate it with mechanical accuracy and without a single sign of hesitation.

You must study to avoid all the jerky and abrupt movements which disfigure the address of the timid and deprive them of all the assurance that they should possess, for the reason that they can not help paying attention to their own lack of composure.

Finally, from the moment of rising, as well as when brushing his hair, tying his necktie, or putting on his clothes, the man who desires to acquire poise will watch himself narrowly, with a view to making his movements more supple and to invest them with grace.

Once in the street, he will not forget to carry his head erect, without exaggerating the pose, and will always walk with a firm step without looking directly ahead of him.

If this attitude is a difficult one for him when commencing, he can, at the start, assign a certain time for observing this position, and gradually increase its length, until he feels no further inconvenience.

The feeling of obvious awkwardness is a large factor in the lack of poise.

It is then a matter of great importance to modify one's outward carriage, while at the same time applying oneself to the conquest of one's soul, so as to achieve the object not only of actually becoming a man who must be reckoned with, but of impressing every one with what one is, and what one is worth.


Is it really necessary to point out what a weight readiness of speech has in bringing about the success of any undertaking?

The man who can make a clever and forceful speech will always convince his hearers, whatever may be the cause he pleads.

Do we not see criminals acquitted every day solely because of the eloquence of their lawyers?

Have we not often been witnesses to the defeat of entirely honest people who, from lack of ability to put up a good argument, allow themselves to be convicted of negligence or of carelessness, if of nothing worse?

Eloquence, or at least a certain facility of speech, is one of the gifts of the man of poise.

One reason for this is that his mind is always fixt upon the object he wishes to attain by his arguments, which eliminates all wandering of the thoughts.

But there is another reason, a purely physical one. The emotions experienced by the timid are quite unknown to him and he is not the victim of any of the physical inhibitions which, in affecting the clearness of their powers of speech, tend to reduce them to confusion.

Stammering, stuttering, and all the other ordinary disabilities of the speaker, can almost without exception be attributed to timidity and to the nervousness of which it is the cause.

We shall see in the next chapter how these defects can be cured.

In this, which is devoted specially to physical exercises, we will give the mechanical means for overcoming these grave defects.

Just as soon as the difficulties of utterance have been overcome, and one is no longer in terror of falling into a laughable blunder, and thus has no further reason to fear, when undertaking to speak, that one will be made fun of because the object of disconcerting mockery, one's ideas will cease to be dammed up by this haunting dread and can take shape in one's brain just as fast as one expresses them.

Clearness of conception will be reflected in that of what we say, and poise will soon manifest itself in the manner of the man who no longer feels himself to be the object of ill-natured laughter.

One should set oneself then every morning to the performance of exercises consisting of opening the mouth as wide as one possibly can and then shutting it, to open it once more to its fullest extent, and so on until one becomes fatigued.

This exercise is designed to cover the well-known difficulty of those who speak infrequently and which is familiarly known as "heavy jaw."

One should next endeavor to pronounce every consonant with the utmost distinctness.

If certain consonants, as s, for example, or ch, are not enunciated clearly, one should keep at it until one pronounces them satisfactorily.

Now one should construct short sentences containing as many difficult consonants as possible.

Next we should apply ourselves to declaiming longer sentences.

It will be of help to have these sentences constitute an affirmation of will-power and of poise.

For example: "I can express myself with the greatest possible facility, because timidity and embarrassment are complete strangers to me."

Or again: "I am a master of the art of clothing my thoughts in elegant and illuminating phrases, because stammering, stuttering, and all the other misfortunes that oppress the timid, are to me unknown quantities."

We can not insist too strongly upon the cumulative effect of words which are constantly repeated. It is a good thing to impress oneself with forceful ideas that make for courage and for achievement.

Distrust of self being the principal defect of the timid, the man who would acquire poise must bend every effort to banishing it from his thoughts.

The repetition of these sentences, by building up conviction, will undoubtedly end by creating a confidence in oneself that will at first be hesitating, but will gradually acquire force. This is a great step in advance on the road toward poise.

We are discussing, it should be understood, only such cases of difficulty in speaking as are directly traceable to an inherent timidity.

If the inability to speak clearly comes from a physical malformation it should at once be brought to the attention of a specialist.

It is well recognized that, in the majority of cases, those defects are the consequences of timidity, when they are not its direct cause.

In combating them, then, with every means at his disposal, the man who desires to acquire poise will prove the logicality of his mind. It is a well-known axiom that effects are produced by causes, and vice versa.

Thus, in the case we are considering, timidity either causes the difficulty in speaking or is caused by it. In the first condition as well as in the second, the disappearance of the one trouble depends upon the eradication of the other.

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