Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. (Because living long doesn’t interest me as much as living well.)

I don’t even know how to pronounce this word, ikegai, but I want it.

It seems to address our reason for being, such as the French call a raison d’etre.

Some people have found their ikigai, while others are still looking, though they carry it within them…our ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning.

The reason I get up in the morning is to go to work.  Teaching children has been an enormously important part of my purpose. But, what will happen next year when I retire? I can see that finding my ikigai in the next six months will not be a moment too soon.

The purpose of this book is to help you find yours, and to share insights from the Japanese on how to have a healthy body, mind and spirit.

As I read, and type, I am sipping a cup of green tea. Green jasmine tea. Because I read last night, in this book, how the people from Okinawa live longer lives than any other people in the world. Now, I do not want to live longer, especially if I am alone or in pain, but living a healthy lifestyle has had a certain vague appeal to me as I age.

A few bullet points from the authors on a healthy lifetsyle include:

  • “Fill your belly to 80 percent.” In other words, stop before you are stuffed. Even better, try to fast one or two days a week.
  • Drink green jasmine tea.
  • Stay away from cow’s milk and anything that comes from it.
  • Eat mostly fruit, vegetables, fish and rice.
  • Stay away from processed sugar.

The authors continue with healthy suggestions, and ways to reduce stress, in order to increase longevity. But, what I really want to know is how to find my life’s mission. Early on, the authors point to Morita therapy, a purpose-centered therapy created by Shoma Morita.

In the West, we tend to believe that what we think influences how we feel, which in turn influences how we act. In contrast, Morita therapy focuses on teaching patients to accept their emotions without trying to control them, since their feelings will change as a result of their actions…Morita therapy is not meant to eliminate symptoms; instead it teaches us to accept our desires, anxieties, fears and worries, and let them go. (p. 46)

Wait.

Stop.

I have always stomped on my fears and anxieties, believing that by the sheer force of my will they will dissipate. Now I read a suggestion that I ought to accept them? This is not the American pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootsteps mentality which I have accepted for decades.

The basic principles of Morita therapy are to:

  • Accept your feelings.
  • Do what you should be doing.
  • Discover your life’s purpose.

Okay.

How?

One way to begin is to “go with the flow”. Consider what makes you so happy that you forget about whatever worries you may be harboring while you’re doing it.

Well, I will stop here lest I divulge every facet of this fascinating book. It is easy to read and filled with applicable knowledge. It turns some of what I have learned as truth on its head. Most importantly, it helps direct us to a more fulfilling life. A life with purpose and meaning.

I suspect that, for me, this will include books. Lots of them, shared with lots of people, like reading to the elderly who can no longer see as well as they used to. Who no longer find people nearby to talk with.

What will it mean for you?

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