A Note to Readers– It might help to know that this post is an expansion of my thoughts from an article posted 6/23/22 on Chip Conley’s wonderful website, The Modern Elder Academy in his Wisdom Well blog. If you have come from that post or have arrived here by intention or accident, “Welcome!” You will find the additional content in bold below.
Six Words to Live By
Is it possible to guide a life with a six-word mantra? Yes. Indeed it is.
I am intrigued by the Arthur C. Brooks New York Times bestseller, Strength to Strength. Mr. Brooks concludes his book with “Seven Words to Remember.” I won’t share his valuable words in this guest post. Please order his book; it is worth your time.
Each of us have our own six words. And I suggest limiting your words to three ideas. Mr. Brooks also uses three ideas. With just three ideas your mind will recall the mantra with the speed necessary in a compromising moment.
Strength to Strength has become my muse.
Create Your Own Six Words
Before I share my six words, I want to provide guiding parameters for you to create your own six words to live by.
Remember, keep it simple so you can easily remember your mantra.
Can your words apply in all life circumstances?
Will your words stand the test of time?
Are your words based on all your life or at this moment in time?
Are your words intergenerational?
Will your words cross all cultures?
Would you want these words as your epitaph?
I wanted the words to be all-important, all-encompassing. I wanted to distill the essence of my life in just six words. I wanted a mantra to help me focus.
As I considered these points of reflection, my six words came quickly.
My Own Six Words
Breathe. Be Present. Everything Is Temporal.
Breathe. For me, life is all about the breath. I must breathe to live. I came into this life on a breath, I will leave this life on a breath and my life is the hundreds of millions of breaths that comprise a life.
The MEA Wisdom Well Blog requires brevity. I didn’t have the space to fully explain why I know our breath is so important. The book Breath, by James Nestor is so complete. I urge you to read his book. Having been a vocalist my entire life where breath is paramount for good singing and practicing yoga the last 35 years, I can honestly say I know breathwork is one of the most powerful exercises we continue to explore as human beings. And we can do this with healthy aging until our last breath.
For more on James Nestor’s book, Breathe, CLICK HERE.
Be Present. If I’m not fully present, I’m missing the meaning of any given moment.
Let me state this again.
If I’m not fully present, I’m missing the meaning of any given moment.
Everything Is Temporal. When I fully embody this concept…any day could be my last and everything will change or cease to exist. This then defines everything as temporal. Is it possible to embody this concept? Yes.
I used the word “embody.” This is a much deeper concept than understanding, thinking about an issue, knowing something intellectually and believing something to be true. To embody something means to take a concept to the deepest part of yourself and fully integrate the concept into your life.
I want to know my physical body, my emotional and mental state and fully expand all that I am into my consciousness. Remember our consciousness acts as little radio stations broadcasting our essence to all those around us.
My choices have consequences and I intend to leave the world a better place. Aren’t we all living to make the world a better place? Remembering everything is temporal helps me recognize and value what is most important and dismiss the trivial.
I wanted to make the point that knowing everything is temporal and ultimately changing, does not mean my actions, my choices are not free of consequences. Of course every choice I make ultimately has a consequence.
One More Word… or Not
I would have liked to include the beautiful word Gratitude and the essence it represents. Gratitude cannot be forced. There are moments we don’t feel gratitude for what we experience and yet at life’s end, most people embrace all their life offered.
I tried to include gratitude in my six words. It created a fourth concept and as I already stated, it is challenging to be grateful for everything that happens in a life.
I breathe to live. I have a choice to be present rather than fantasize about the future or dwell on the past. When I remember everything is temporal, I do not sweat the small stuff. These last three words remind me to keep life in perspective. How does my life make a difference? What is mine to do?
I had an email exchange with a good friend and editor who sometimes polishes my essays. She suggested the last line be, “What is mine to do that only I can do? I lived with this statement for awhile and in the end decided adding the second part (that only I can do?) could be limiting to some people? I wanted to keep it open. Your thoughts?