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Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Updated: Jan 6, 2022

The book does justice to its popularity. It gives a whole different perspective of how beautiful each day of our life can be if we try to find our ikigai (a reason for being) and work towards it, keep celebrations as an essential part of our living, and invest more in relationships with friends, families and communities.

Originally published: August 29, 2017

Author: Francesc Miralles

Genre: Self-help book

To find your ikigai, you need to be aware of your own self, what you do and why you do that, where do you spend most of your time and how do you feel about that, what is it you do make you calm. I know it’s easier said than done, but if you pay enough attention then I am sure you can at least find your macro flows, if not yet your Ikigai. Also, you should not be worried about finding it, it will come if you just try doing more of what truly makes you happy.

The book not only talks about the philosophy of life but also shares some practical advice that can be followed to have a fulfilling, healthy and meaningful life. Apart from many other things, I learned about many practices apart from yoga, like Qigong, Tai Chi, Shiatsu, all of which have been explained very well in the book.

There is a lot you can take from this book and it starts with mentioning the key to longevity which are diet, exercise, a purposeful life, and strong social ties i.e having a broad circle of friends and family relations. Now, being an asocial myself, honestly, I enjoy my solitude more than anything. But at the same time, I value true friendship and strong family bonding, I know how important a role these relationships play in giving meaning to your life.

I will share some excerpt from the book which I liked most and something I would like to remind myself often:

We all have the capacity to do noble or terrible things. The side of the equation we end up on depends on our decisions, not on the condition in which we find ourselves.”

The Morita Therapy says: Accept your feelings, we don’t create our feelings, they simply come to us, and we have to accept them. We can’t predict or control them; we can only observe them.” Observing how you feel tells a lot about you and it’s a good start to finding your Ikigai.

Something we should ask ourselves: “What makes us enjoy doing something so much that we forget about whatever worries we might have while we do it.” It is so beautifully explained in the book that “there is no magic recipe to find your happiness, but the important ingredient is the ability to reach the state of flow and have an optimal experience. To achieve this experience, we have to increase the time we spend on activities that bring us to this state of flow, rather than on the activities that offer only immediate pleasure.” Write down all these activities and see what is common in them? Why do these activities drive you flow?

Sharing some of the responses of the interviews conducted with centenarians about their life philosophy, their Ikigai during the writing of this book:

A woman celebrating her 120th birthday said: I see badly, I hear badly, and I feel bad, but everything is fine.”

I feel joy every morning waking up at 6 and opening the curtains to look at my garden., where I grow my own vegetables. I go right outside to check on my tomatoes and mandarin oranges…I love the sight of them….it relaxes me. After an hour in the garden I go back inside and make my breakfast.”

Working. If you don’t work, your body breaks down.”

“When I wake up, I go to butsudan and light incense. You have to keep your ancestors in mind. It’s the first thing I do every morning.”

“Chatting and drinking tea with my neighbours, that’s the best thing in life. And singing together.”

“I feel fortunate to have been born here. I give thanks for it every day.”

The book focuses on the ancient eating habit of Hara hachi bu, i.e the 80% rule. Just stop eating when you feel you are almost full but could have a little more. Also, calorie restriction has a proven effect against obesity, diabetes, inflammation, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases and reduces the risk of associated cancer. Also, I directly ordered Sanpin-Cha (a mix of Jasmin tea and Green tea) after reading its benefits:

Reducing the risk of heart attack

Strengthening the immune system

Helping relieve stress

Lowering cholesterol

Improve circulation

Protection against flu

Promoting bone health

A complementary Japanese concept is that of ichi-go ichi-e, which could be translated as ‘This moment exists only now and won’t come again.’ It is heard more often in social gatherings as a reminder that each encounter-whether with friends, family or strangers – is unique and will never be repeated, meaning that we should enjoy the moment and not lose ourselves in the worries about the past or the future. I hope you liked this post, I look forward to your feedback 😊

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