Every living organism on our planet, from any of the five kingdoms (Bacteria, Protists, Fungi, Plants, and Animals) depends, for its survival, on three essential values, or criteria for survival: health, competence, and resilience. These can be briefly defined as follows:
Health is internal homeostasis, the proper functioning and interrelation of all of the complex elements of the open, autopoietic systems we call "life." For humans (and, to a certain extent, other complex multicellular beings as well), this includes not only physical health, but mental and spiritual health as well. Mental health is often called "emotional intelligence"--the ability to cope effectively with adversity, while spiritual health is, at a deeper level, faith, or acceptance of that that is, whether this is in the context of religious belief systems ("Thy will be done") or simple, unadorned stoicism ( as old Walter Cronkite would put it. "That's the way it is.") Faith is often confused with belief, but beliefs are simply culturally evolved mental formations for articulating and reinforcing one's faith. Faith unites us all; beliefs divide us. In its essence, faith is saying "yes" to life--it is what we have in common with sunflowers, butterflies, and whales.
Competence is, as the root verb suggests, the ability to compete; that is, the skills--whether innate or learned or both--necessary to compete effectively and thus survive--and even thrive--within a specific ecological or sociocultural niche. It is, by and large, what people are taught in schools and colleges. But it is context-bound--skills that are adaptive in one context are often either useless or maladaptive in another.
Resilience is adaptive flexibility--the ability to adapt to unpredictable changes in one's niche, or context. Often, in both the nonhuman and human realms, competence and resilience are at odds. The more highly competent and specialized one becomes within a given niche--whether a wetland or a modern corporation--the less resilient one is when circumstances change. Wolves, for example, are highly competent top predators. But predation is all they do, so they rely upon very specialized niches in order to survive. Coyotes, conversely, are nowhere near as competent at predation as wolves, but they make up for it by their amazing resilience--their ability to adapt to a wide diversity of niches, and still find enough food to survive. In the human realm, likewise, a highly competent, super-rich stockbroker is likely to be far less resilient than the average small farmer, if the stock market collapses and his wealth vanishes.
So again, these three values--health, competence, and resilience--are essential to the survival of all living organisms, ourselves included. So how can we best cultivate all three?
There are, of course, a vast number of techniques for cultivating these three values, but seldom, at least in my experience, do these techniques--from physical therapy to job training to psychotherapy--address any more than one at a time. Many East Asian holistic disciplines, such as yoga, qigong, and tai chi. are far better at nurturing all three values, since--unlike the west--they do not draw a strict conceptual boundary between body, mind, and spirit.
So I wish to share my own approach, which works well for me. I call it the "Dharma Gaia Mantra," and it consists of ten verb phrases or injunctions, repeated and contemplated on the breath, which can be used, optionally, with a visual diagram--the Pythagorean Tetractys.