IKIGAI: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life– There are so many questions we ask ourselves. Things like – what is the meaning of our life? Is the point just to live longer, or should I seek a higher purpose? Why do some people know what they want and have a passion for life while others languish in confusion?
These were the topics of discussion going on between the two authors of the book Ikigai, Hector Gracia, and Frances Miralles when the mysterious word “IKIGAI” came up.
There are several meanings of this fascinating word based on people’s interpretation. But the word roughly translates to “the happiness of always being busy“. But again its actual meaning goes deeper than this. It also is one way of explaining the extraordinary longevity of the Japanese people of Okinawa, where there are 24.55 people on an average over the age of 100.
As we go through IKIGAI the book, the meaning of this word becomes more broad and understandable. This book was basically written to help one find its own ikigai.
Ikigai the book provides informative and interesting facts about how to embrace a healthier and happier way of life by discovering our individual ikigai through different ways of lifestyle. Some various aspects of our lives are also mentioned in the book ikigai like flow, finding the source of motivation, the importance of being together.
The art of staying young while growing old
According to the Japanese belief, everyone has an ikigai, some people have found them, others are looking. To those who were born in Okinawa, “ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning”.
The book says it is important for a person to not retire. And also there is no such word as retire in Japanese.
“Hara Hachi bu” the word repeated before and after eating means “fill your belly to 80 Percent” as ancient advice of wisdom, against eating until we are full.
Another vital thing is moai. It is a bond between people with common interests to look out for one another.
Little things that add up to a long and happy life.
“Men’s Sana in corporate Sano” (“a sound mind in a sound body”). It’s said that the health of both body and mind is important. And having a youthful mind also drives one towards a healthy lifestyle that slows down the aging process. This is why it is so important to our brain to have a little workout. Then stepping out of one’s comfort zone is sometimes also important and a bit of anxiety is okay. Says Shlomo Breznitz (Israeli neuroscientist).
The book Ikigai also says that stress can be the very reason behind various health problems. It is also one of the reasons for cellular aging.
Then the book Ikigai also says that even though taking challenges in daily life is really important for one’s personal growth and also keeps body and mind active, it is important to adjust the stress we are going through to take that challenge. Otherwise it can be really harmful. It can cause depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc which will then lead to premature aging of our body.
Then the book ikigai also gives few points about how we can change our lifestyle that will make us feel better inside and out. The few ingredients we will need are:
- Walk to work,or just go on walks.
- Use your feet instead of elevator.
- Participate in social or leisure activities.
- Replace your junk food with fruits.
- Get the right amount of sleep etc.
These things will renew our bodies and mind.
A very important element of finding ones’ ikigai is having an active mind which will make the body young. It says that those who live long have a positive attitude and high degree of emotional awareness.
Importance of finding purpose
To find one’s own ikigai, one of the most important element is to find purpose, something to live for.
Then there is a brief description about how logo therapy helps people to find their purpose ultimately leading them to their ikigai.
Then there is Morita therapy which teaches patients to accept their emotions without trying to control them.
The three basic things of the therapy are
- To accept your feelings
- Do what you should be doing
- Discover your life’s purpose
Find your flow
The forth part in the book ikigai starts with this amazing phrase.
By “flow” the book means when you are doing something with all you’ve got without any worries and time doesn’t bound you.
It says when we are the happiest, it can help us discover our ikigai.
In other words flow is when a person is delightful, creative and completely immersed in an activity.
When the work is easy , it’s simply boring, when the work is beyond our abilities there’s anxiety but when the work is challenging- that’s when you find your flow.
In this phase of the book ikigai, the author has described the flow and how to achieve it with practical sense and evidences where people have achieved it whereas some people find it hard to sustain.
One of the most important element of achieving flow is by centering our focus to one single objective, which can be done by mental exercise like meditation.
Rituals over goals
To reach a state of flow, being ritualistic is important. If you work in a ritualistic workplace, it’s much easier than in one where we are continuously stressed out. Ritual help us by giving process ,sub-steps, on the path of achieving a goal.
The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most, they are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow.
“Flow is mysterious. It is like a muscle :the more you train it, the more you will flow, and the closer you will be to your ikigai.”Ikigai
Masters of longevity
In this phase of the book, the author went to meet the true masters of the art. The interview was conducted in Okinawa.
The person who lived the longest for 117 years and 27 days says- “eat and sleep, and relax to live a long life.” That was of course her own perspective of her life.
Another woman born in France, of 122 years said on her 120th birthday that “I see badly,I hear badly and I feel bad, but everything’s fine” that for her, was her sense of humor that kept her alive. There were many people interviewed , for most of them, their age didn’t matter. Alexander Imich (111 years) said “I just haven’t died yet”. Which concludes that he hasn’t thought about his longevity, as he was in a flow, enjoying his works.
The artists are the one considered as the masters of ikigai. As for them their art is everything, happiness and purpose. Most of them don’t work literally, they just say paint because that is what give them pleasure.
A lesson from Japanese centenarians conducted in ogimi:
- Don’t worry. Keep your heart young.
- Cultivate good habits
- Nurture your friendship everyday
- Live an unhurried life
- Be optimistic.
The Ikigai Diet
Okinawas miracle diet or the ikigai diet- Locals of the village eat various variety of vegetables. They eat 18 different foods in a day and eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday. There more than 30 Percent of calories comes from vegetables. Grains are the foundation of their diet.
Also, they rarely eat sugar. Even if they do, it’s cane sugar. As for flesh, they eat fish three times a week ; unlike in other parts of Japan, meat of pork is consumed by the locals.
They only eat 7 grams of slat approx.
And the concept “Hara hachi bu” also counts.
Therefore it concludes that eating less is a way to live long or a way to increase longevity. The key is to stay healthy while consuming few calories with high nutritional value.
Gentle movements, longer life.
The studies from blue zones (places where people live the longest) suggested that the people who live the longest are not the ones who do the most exercise but rather the ones who move the most. The people of ogimi even after eighty, they don’t sit at home looking from a window. They simply walk a lot, get up in the morning, maintain their gardens. Some of the practices that promotes longevity from the book ikigai are mentioned below.
These are basic exercises that people do.
- Radio taisi (morning warmup)
- Yoga, creates harmony between body and mind
- Tai chi, a Chinese martial arts focused on self defense.
- Qigong, include the five elements of life.
Resilience and wabi-sabi
People with clearly defined ikigai have one thing in common, they pursue their passion no matter what.
What is resilience?
We know the literal meaning that it is the capacity to overcome any difficulty.
But is that it?
The more resilient we are, the easier it will be to pick ourselves up and get back to what gives meaning to our lives. This word is described by Buddhism, cynicism and more.
What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Whenever we find our dream job, we are happy but soon we are hunting for more. That concludes that people can be insatiable. The stoics believed that these kinds of desires and ambitions are not worth pursuing. The objective is to reach a state of tranquility. The stoics prefer practicing negative visualization to be prepared for the worst thing that could happen. That is a way to answer “The” question.
In the words of Epictetus, “it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to the matters”.
As we should have a clear sense of what we can change and what we can’t, which will help us to get rid of negative emotions.
According to Zen Buddhism, meditation is the way to be aware of our desires and emotions and thereby free ourselves from them.
The word wabi-sabi teaches us to appreciate the beauty in imperfection as an opportunity for growth.
The word ichi-go ichi-e teaches us to focus on the present and enjoy each moment that life brings us. This is why these are important to find and pursue our ikigai.
What is the word for describing a thing that get stronger when harmed?
Anti fragile can be the answer. Something beyond resilience and robustness.
If we adopt an anti fragile attitude, we’ll find a way to get stronger with every blow, refining our lifestyle and staying focused on our ikigai.
Our ikigai is different for all of us, but one thing we have in common is that we are all searching for meaning. There are Powerful forces to distract us, but we shouldn’t let them take over our lives.
Intuition and curiosity are very powerful internal compass to help us reach our destination. Keep doing things that make you happy. Don’t take life as a problem that needs to be solved. Involve yourself with people who love you and with whom you love to be.
Ten rules of The book Ikigai
- Stay active; don’t retire
- Take it slow
- Don’t fill your stomach
- Surround yourself with good friends
- Get in shape for your next birthday
- Reconnect with nature
- Give thanks
- Live in the moment
- Follow your ikigai.
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