Dog-Tag Mantra

My dog-tag mantra: simple and focusedSimplifying and distilling my core principles and “philosophy of life” into a few essential words is not an easy task. In fact, it’s an ongoing pursuit that evolves as I, with increased awareness and growth, change.

But here’s the most recent reflection of my reflection: a personal mantra of key ideas, imprinted on a dog tag that I wear daily.

These 12 words represent the ideals and identity I hope to realize in my life. And as the notes below detail, each element is an area of focus in which I hope to grow and develop more fully.

To me, using a dog tag as the vehicle/medium is both symbolic and practical: it’s representative of mortality and an ongoing internal struggle against ego; and it’s a tangible reminder of the goals I’m setting for my life.

And like all things, this mantra is dynamic — it evolves and changes over time. The insights and focal points morph and shift naturally with experience… and I’m OK with accepting this impermanence. 🙂

So here’s the most recent description of the thoughts and reflections underlying this mantra. (I tweak this document periodically as my awareness grows and new insights surface.)

This mantra, like life itself, is truly a “work in progress.”

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TODAY
I MAY DIE.
SO LIVE, LAUGH,
LOVE, LEARN AND
BE AUTHENTIC.

WHY A DOG TAG?
• Reminder of mortality — that death is part of life.
• Associations with combat: life is a daily struggle to be a “peaceful warrior” and overcome the obstacles within. It’s an ongoing, internal fight against ego — a battle to let go of “self” and focus on others.
• Ego-centeredness creates the illusion that we’re separate, distinct “individuals”; in actuality, we exist only in relation to everyone and everything else. Focusing on self denies our interrelatedness and interdependency.
• Egocentrism often involves preoccupation with how I’m perceived by others.
• Guard against ego: defend against being defensive. Paradoxically, it’s a fight against fighting for dominance, which serves to protect or inflate ego. Humility is the greatest show of strength.
It’s not about me — it’s about others. It’s not about “winning” or defeating adversaries in competition; it’s about advancing the “whole”/human race by connecting with others and all things.
• Disarming/dissolving ego involves refusing to be governed by anger, violence, retaliation or destructive impulses — anything not aimed at promoting unity and peace. Peace is the ultimate goal of humankind.

This personalized item reflects my identity and aspirations. I interact with it daily by wearing it, and it functions as an instrument for meditation/prayer/awareness.

It’s a physical object that can be touched and felt. Like prayer beads, it’s a tangible reminder that enhances focus when calling to mind a particular area of awareness that’s pertinent to what’s going on in my life.
(Plus, if it’s always hanging around my neck, it’s harder to lose. 😛  )

Here’s a breakdown of the different ideas underlying my personal “mantra”:

*****  TODAY
• Invokes awareness of the present moment.
• There is no past or future — only the present.
• Worrying about the future or feeling guilty about the past won’t change anything; anxiety and regret are time-consuming distractions that keep us from focusing on the present.
Here and now is all we have; I can only act in the present moment.
• Also, whatever the difficulty, I just need to make it through today.
• Having an attitude of gratitude heightens awareness of the present moment; be thankful for the gift of today.

*****  I MAY DIE.
• An awareness of mortality is required to truly live.
Life is short, so don’t waste any time; make the most of it.
• This day may be my last — today is all I have — so how do I want to live?
• Spending time in anger, fear or regret would be a waste.
• Most people aren’t afraid of dying; they’re afraid of not living — of not making the most of the time they have.
• “To conquer death, you only have to die.”
• I’m going to die anyway, so live fully! No regrets…

*****  SO LIVE,
• No fear, anger or regrets.
• Face and overcome fear: if today is all I have, why be afraid? Live! Be alive — be awake!
• Judgment, possessiveness and the desire to control people or circumstances all stem from fear.
• Use fear as an indicator of what I must do: “Do the thing you fear [the most].”
• Do something new; gain a new perspective; learn from the experience.
• Security is illusory; belief-confidence and abundance-thinking trump a scarcity mentality.
• Take action… and take risks! Don’t settle.
Have the courage to be authentic and follow your heart.

*****  LAUGH,
• Life is good!
• Don’t take life too seriously… have fun!
Live with joy. Let go of negativity and remember that happiness is a choice — it’s an ongoing decision to focus attention on contentment/appreciation for what we have. Happiness = present awareness + gratitude
• Being happy isn’t contingent on external factors or meeting future conditions; it’s an inner choice made now.
• Thoughts create feelings/emotions; by being conscious of what we’re thinking, we have power over our thoughts (and therefore our emotional response). Choose your thoughts, choose your feelings.
• Although we can’t control external circumstances, we’re always in control of our thinking.
• Be optimistic and have a positive attitude. Don’t expect or judge — accept and appreciate.
• Stay balanced and keep things in perspective; “it’s not a big deal” in the cosmic scheme of things. 😛
• Humor is a life-giving affirmation of our connectedness and shared experience.
• Contentment — detachment from the desire to possess or longing for permanence — leads to happiness. Detachment produces inner freedom.
• It’s not about “owning” anything or controlling situations; it’s about sharing everything and appreciating experiences. So let go… and enjoy the moment!
• Appreciate things now (actively in the present moment) rather than later (as remembrances).
• Simplicity is only possible after learning to trust in an unknown future. Simplicity is manifested in joyful, authentic living.
• Everything I need is here and now. Live for today.
Show gratitude for everything in life.

*****  LOVE,
• Life is about relationships and experiences — it’s about making connections.
• Love is the most fundamental, life-giving element of human experience; we naturally gravitate toward unity, acceptance and inclusion. But love requires ongoing, conscious effort and isn’t always easy.
As human beings, we are meant to love and serve one another.
• Focusing more on others means focusing less on self.
• Practice loving-kindness/compassion always. Develop friendships with all.
• Be generous in spirit, time and resources; “give more than you take.”
• Love means actively helping others advance their happiness/well-being. Love and service give life meaning.
• Self-acceptance (love-of-self) is the foundation for loving others.
• What’s outside reflects what’s inside; outward expressions flow from internal realities.
• Compassion is the highest virtue, and friendship is the highest form of love.
• Friendship derives from personal authenticity: “Friendship is being able to be yourself.”
• Forgiveness — letting go of hurt/anger/resentment — is essential to love, acceptance and peace; it’s detachment from suffering that creates serenity and happiness.
Be peace; inner peace engenders peace in the world.

*****  LEARN AND
• Life is primarily about learning and growing; our purpose is to progress to higher states of being/awareness/consciousness and cultivate happiness, which brings us closer to bliss.
• To learn is to progress by seeing/recognizing connections — that all things are linked (“there are no coincidences”), and one element gives rise to another.
• Our yin-yang universe is dynamic and ever-changing; live in the balance.
• Be open-minded; refrain from judgment, which clouds perception and presupposes absolutes.
• Everything depends on consciousness and perspective. Life is what you make it… it’s awareness and belief. We live in “a place that has to be believed to be seen.”
• Learning is in all aspects of life and through all experiences; in our interconnectedness, we’re both learners and teachers.
Always ask: what am I supposed to learn in this experience?
• Truth, goodness and beauty are in all things — our job is to find them and learn from them.
• Challenges stimulate our growth and provide opportunities to increase our capacities.
• We learn from both joy and sorrow, which are inextricably linked and complementary experiences.
• With faith in a benevolent universe, accept the unknown. Learn to be comfortable with uncertainty.
• Learn to trust the (seemingly paradoxical) “outflow principle”: the more you give away, the more you receive.
• Don’t resist life’s natural momentum or block free-flowing energies; be courageous… take risks… have faith… let go… and go with the flow.
• I don’t need to know how something works for it to work; just because I can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
• “Be not a solver of riddles” — it’s not about intellectual understanding. Life and truth are paradoxical, and our efforts to label/classify/systematize are oversimplifications that weakly describe Infinite Being, which can’t be pigeonholed into neat categories of human comprehension.
• “The more we know, the more we know we don’t know.”
• Failure is an essential part of learning; “missteps” actually point the way to progress.
Learn to detach and let go — there are things you can’t control. Accept what is.
• Letting go is saying “no” to ego and the desire to control or dominate (the primary causes of discontent/suffering).
• If I don’t like something in others, it’s usually a reflection of something I don’t like in myself. Conversely, what I appreciate in others reflects my own disposition. (Resonances are positive and negative.)
• Realize our inseparable connectedness and interrelatedness — that I am part of the whole.
In growing, we become more aware of our oneness.
• Reflect and meditate; seek the answers within. Allow the truths you already know to surface.
• Be still; quiet the mind; enter the wisdom of silence, where differences and separateness disappear.

*****  BE AUTHENTIC.
Be yourself. Personal authenticity is the key to happiness.
• Follow your heart. Let passion be your guide.
• Be creative and original; passion and creativity go hand-in-hand.
• “Life is full of choices”; as limited human beings, we have to choose some things and reject others — we can’t have it all. But saying “no” to some things is actually affirming: it focuses us on what we truly seek.
Be the change you seek.
• Being yourself is a balance between who you [really] are and who you [truly] want to be — identity is somewhere between actuality and potentiality.
• “The Kingdom of God is within you and all around you”; what’s most real and essential is “hidden in plain sight.
• Be one with the Force, which surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds all things together.

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All this can be summarized by saying that “The purpose of life is to learn and to cultivate happiness.”
To me, these are the two central focal points of human experience; all else is contained within these.

Human growth requires detachment and “letting go.” This movement toward egolessness recognizes that the desire to control produces suffering… and freedom comes from judgment-free acceptance and the realization that, regardless of external circumstances, we have the power to choose our thoughts/feelings and be co-creators of reality.

In the end, it’s all about love: learning points us to love and teaches us that
it’s the answer; and love is the generative force that creates all happiness.

This personal mantra has evolved significantly as I’ve had daily opportunities to reflect on what’s most essential in authentic living. This exercise in focus/simplification has been extremely helpful — and it’s produced an even more concise summary of the core attributes I value most in my life:
Love, Awareness and Gratitude.