Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. The word refers to having a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one’s life worthwhile, and towards which an individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life. From Wikipedia.
What is my purpose?
In our modern digital world this question gets asked more and more, particularly on a Sunday evening as we brace ourselves for another Monday morning.
As we squeeze into jobs we do not fit and do nothing but bring us misery. The weekend is our only salvation from this world, but the two days fly by fast and disappear like smoke. This was my life and I am grateful to have the opportunity to change.
I am a great believer that the universe provides me with the tools that I need, and the lessons I need to use them. I do not believe in coincidences, I see it more as little reminders that there is more to this world than what we see.
Today was one such moment, Ikigai came into my life through a suggested video on YouTube and to be honest I usually ignore those suggestions. But today I pressed play, and Ikigai entered my life.
I have more control of my life than I believe, like a stone thrown into a pond the effects of a change of mindset ripple out and disturb the stillness. I feel more open to new concepts, and I now have the confidence to explore them.
The four pillars of Ikigai are set out in the diagram above, At first glance it seems like a no brainer in an ideal world everyone would do what they love and what they are good at.
The stumbling block for me and I guess for most people is what the world needs and what you can be paid for.
What the world needs?
As the world becomes more and more automated and those humans still in the workforce are themselves put under pressure to become more like machines. The world needs creative freedom to explore both what is within and what is without.
What you can be paid for?
In simple terms you can get paid for what you produce, but that is becoming increasingly outdated. I am terrible at monetising anything I do, it actually makes me uncomfortable however the bills keep coming. One of my life goals is to overcome this and allow myself to be paid for what I love.
Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy that gives us an alternative perspective to the question “What is my purpose?”
We are forever being told to be ourselves, and be proud of who we are.
My spiritual journey started long ago as a way to explore the concept of self and my place in the universe, but back then I was lost within a maelstrom of parties and bad choices so all I found was the bar. My method of exploration was drugs and alcohol, and none taken with any reverence. I have recently seen the value of this time in my life, but for the longest time I was ashamed.
Despite my best efforts I do not know who I am, people say I am the sum of all the moments in my life. At a very basic level that is true, however it still does not answer the question “who am I?”
It is said that we are made of stardust which is true, but that stardust is alive. And as a living bag of stardust I have no clue who I am.
Growing up I was always of the opinion it was arrogant to label yourself. It was up to others to label you, and that is what I did. Only now do I realise my error, and admit to myself that this is just giving the power to others.
To be honest, I see that most have either lost track of or have buried their true selves so deep that they might as well be lost.
So to those people who say “Just be yourself.” be careful what you wish for, as the yourself they talk about can only exist within accepted constraints. What if your true self is too wild for those who say “just be yourself?”
So go find yourself, step free from society’s constraints, if that is what you wish.
After some thought I do not want to find myself, I just want to Smile when I am happy, cry when I am sad and eat when I am hungry.
We all have those moments in our lives, when everything changes. When this story was read to me, It set off a chain of events that lead me to this point.
I will alway be grateful to the beautiful soul who read this to me, she inspires me always.
May it challenge you like it did me. Remember as my dsd used to say “Just when you think you are, you arn’t.”
THERE ONCE WAS a young woman who lived in a fragrant pine forest. Her husband was away fighting in a war for many years. When finally he was released from duty, he trudged home in a most foul mood. He refused to enter the house, for he had become used to sleeping on stones. He kept to himself and stayed in the forest day and night.
His young wife was so excited when she learned her husband was coming home at last. She cooked and shopped and shopped and cooked and made dishes and dishes and bowls and bowls of tasty white soybean curd and three kinds of fish, and three kinds of seaweed, and rice sprinkled with red pepper, and nice cold prawns, big and orange.
Smiling shyly, she carried the food to the woods and knelt beside her war-weary husband and offered to him the beautiful food she had prepared. But he sprang to his feet and kicked the trays over so that the bean curd spilled, the fish jumped into the air, the seaweed and rice spilled into the dirt, and the big orange prawns rolled down the path.
“Leave me alone!” he roared, and turned his back on her. He became so enraged she was frightened of him. And finally, in desperation, she found her way to the cave of the healer who lived outside the village.
“My husband has been badly injured in the war,” the wife said. “He rages continuously and eats nothing. He wishes to stay outside and will not live with me as before. Can you give me a potion that will make him loving and gentle once again?”
The healer assured her, “This I can do for you, but I need a special ingredient. Unfortunately, I am all out of hair from the crescent moon bear. So you must climb the mountain, find the black bear, and bring me back a single hair from the crescent moon at its throat. Then I can give you what you need, and life will be good again.”
Some women would have felt daunted by this task. Some women would have thought the entire effort impossible. But not she, for she was a woman who loved. “Oh! I am so grateful,” she said. “It is so good to know that something can be done.”
So she readied for her journey, and the next morning she went out to the mountain. And she sang out “Arigato zaisho,” which is a way of greeting the mountain and saying, “Thank you for letting me climb upon your body.”
She climbed into the foothills where there were boulders like big loaves of bread. She ascended up to a plateau covered with forest. The trees had long draping boughs and leaves that looked like stars.
“Arigato zaisho,” she sang out. This was a way of thanking the trees for lifting their hair so she could pass underneath. And so she found her way through the forest and began to climb again.
It was harder now. The mountain had thorny flowers that seized the hem of her kimono, and rocks that scraped her tiny hands. Strange dark birds flew out at her in the dusk and frightened her. She knew they were ‘muen-botoke’, spirits of the dead who have no relatives, and she sang out her prayers for them: “I will be your relative. I will lay you to rest.”
Still she climbed, for she was a woman who loved. She climbed till she saw snow on the mountain peak. Soon her feet were wet and cold, and she she climbed higher, for she was a woman who loved. A storm began, and the snow blew straight into her eyes and deep into her ears. Blinded, still she climbed higher. And when the snow stopped, the woman sang out “Arigato zaisho,” to thank the winds for ceasing to blind her.
She took shelter in a shallow cave and could barely pull all of herself into it. Though she had a full pack of food, she did not eat, but covered herself in leaves and slept. In the morning, the air was calm and the little green plants even showed through the snow here and there. “Ah,” she thought, “now, for the crescent moon bear.”
She searched all day and near twilight found thick cords of scat and needed to look no farther, for a gigantic black bear lumbered cross the snowfall, leaving behind deep pad and claw marks. The crescent moon bear roared fiercely and entered its den. She reached into her bundle and placed the food she had brought in a bowl. She set the bowl outside the den and ran back to her shelter to hide. The bear smelled the food and came lurching from its den, roaring so loud it shook loose little stones. The bear circled around the food from a distance, sampled the wind many times, then ate the food up in one gulp. The great bear reared up and disappeared into its den.
The next evening the woman did the same, setting the food in the bowl, but this time, instead of returning to her shelter she retreated only halfway. The bear smelled the food, heaved itself itself out of its den, roared to shake the stars from the skies, circled, tested the air very cautiously, but finally gobbled up the food and crawled back into its den. This continued for many nights until one dark blue night the woman felt brave enough to wait even closer to the bear’s den.
She put the food in the bowl outside the den and stood right by the opening. When the bear smelled the food and lumbered out, it saw not only the usual food but a pair of small human feet as well. The bear turned its head sideways and roared so loud it made the bones in the woman’s body hum.
The woman trembled, but stood her ground. The bear hauled itself onto its back legs, smacked its jaws, and roared so that the woman could see right up into the red-and-brown roof of its mouth. But she did not run away. The bear roared even more and put out its arms as though to sieze her, its ten claws hanging like ten long knives over her scalp. The woman shook like a leaf in high wind, but stayed right where she was.
“Oh please, dear bear,” she pleaded, “please, dear bear, I’ve come all this way because I need a cure for my husband.” The bear brought its front paws to earth in a spray of snow and peered into the woman’s frightened face. For a moment, the woman felt she could see entire mountain ranges, valleys, rivers, and villages reflected in the bear’s old, old eyes. A deep peace settled over her, and her trembling ceased.
“Please, dear bear, I’ve been feeding you all these past nights. Could I please have one of the hairs from the crescent moon on your throat?” The bear paused and thought, This little woman would be easy food. Yet suddenly he was filled with pity for her. “It is true,” said the crescent moon bear, “you’ve been good to me. You may have one hair of my hairs. But take it quickly, then leave here and go back to your own.”
The bear raised its great snout so that the white crescent on its throat showed, and the woman could see the strong pulse of the bear’s heart there. The woman put one hand on the bear’s neck, and with her other took hold of a single glossy white hair. Quickly, she pulled it. The bear reared back and cried out as though wounded. And this pain then setlled into annoyed huffs.
“Oh, thank you, crescent moon bear, thank you so much.” The woman bowed and bowed. But the bear growled and lumbered forward a step. It roared at the woman in words she could not understand and yet somehow words she had somehow known all of her life. She turned and fled down the mountain as fast as she could. She ran under the trees with leaves shaped like stars. All the way through she cried “Arigato zaisho,” to thank the trees for lifting their boughs so she could pass. She stumbled over the boulders that looked like big loaves of bread, crying “Arigato zaisho,” to thank the mountain for letting her climb upon its body.
Though her clothes were ragged, her hair askew, her face soiled, she ran down the stone stairs that led to the village, down the dirt road and right through town to its other side, and into the hovel where the healer sat tending the fire.
“Look, look! I have it, I found it, I claimed it, a hair of the crescent moon bear!” cried the young woman.
“Ah good, ” said the healer with a smile. She peered closely at the woman and took the pure white hair and held it out toward the light. She weighed the long hair in one old hand, measured it with one finger, and exclaimed, “Yes! This is an authentic hair from the crescent moon bear.” The suddenly she turned and threw the hair deep into the fire, where it popped and crackled and was consumed in a bright orange flame.
“No!” cried the woman. “What have you done?!”
“Be calm. It is good. All is well,” said the healer. “Remember each step you took to climb the mountain? Remember each step you took to capture the trust of the crescent moon bear? Remember what you saw, what you heard, and what you felt?”
“Yes,” said the woman, “I remember it very well.”
The old healer smiled at her gently and said, “Please now, my daughter, go home with your new understandings and proceed in the same ways with your husband.”
from _Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype_ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD
“Death is no enemy, but the foundation of gratitude, sympathy, and art. Of all life’s pleasures, only love owes no debt to death.”Anita Diamant, The Red Tent
Having a partner that travels the same path as you is a blessing, and something I am eternally grateful for. In fact when I was thinking about my next post, it was clear it had to be gratitude. And as if by magic the above quote popped into my inbox almost simultaneously a gift from my lover.
My introduction to gratitude was like most peoples, a parent figure reminding you to say thank you when someone gave me a gift.
From that introduction, most people just remember gratitude as politeness which is not a bad thing because even on the spiritual level it is politeness. And that is how I left it, thank you to those who gave me gifts or helped me. It has only been recently that I have really thought about gratitude and its’ wider meaning and its’ links to intention setting.
What makes you grateful?
Grateful to start another day and to be more than you were yesterday, it is difficult and there are days when even waking up is hard. From experience if you find one thing to be grateful for and hold onto it you will be amazed how it can change your attitude to life. Like a snowball it builds slowly and from my experience, it sneaks up on you and here is a tip, do not start big like saying I am grateful for the Sun as you just feel silly or at least i did. Just start by being grateful for your coffee as trust me there are mornings when it will save your life.
My point is that gratitude only has power when you truly feel it. Sometimes people struggle with the concept of who are you grateful to, and this took me a while to discover. I started by being grateful to those who made the coffee, which is not wrong. However the true power of gratitude comes when you remove the target and just are grateful, at that point something magical happens.
Gratitude is an energy and it flows through the world embracing all of creation, and you discover the world can be grateful back.
I have experience this on many occasions, most recently on my way home from work I was cold and standing at the bus stop and my phone said I would have to wait 10 to 15 minutes, I remember taking a deep breath and thinking how grateful I would be if my bus would turn up now, and a couple of minutes later it came around the corner, saying thank you I stepped onto the warm bus.
It is a very common word today it is mostly used with regard to WiFi, but in truth it has a deeper meaning. The connection of us to the Earth spirit, that lives in the Air,Water,Rocks, Animals and the Plants. I include humans amongst the animals, I see our arrogance to separate ourselves from the animals as the biggest obstacle to overcome.
The earliest form of religion is Animism. The belief that all life has a soul, even the things we see as inanimate, and that soul has control over the environment around us. When I first heard the term I was in an Anthropology class, the lecturer seemed to put a negative slant on the primitive nature of Animism.
Animism resonated with me, as at that time I had developed a love for the outside. The more time I spent outside the more I felt there was something more to this world hidden behind the curtain.
Even though I was aware of something powerful running through all things on this planet, I had an awakening when I was working in America and I took the weekend off and hiked up to a place called Eagles Perch I rolled out my sleeping bag and just slept under the stars. I woke at the first light, and sat on the cliff overlooking a sea of trees as the sun crept over the horizon I looked to one side and saw two Eagles spireling above the edge of the cliff, trying to catch the morning thermals. I remember getting up to leave and feeling refreshed as I took the trail back to the camp. A family of Porcupines started to walk the same trail in front of me, and I could not go round them so I travelled at their pace. Once I returned to camp I felt changed. This 19 year old from Essex England who had no idea about nature and yet I was genuinely affected by this experience.
I had my awakening confirmed a few years later when I took part in a spiritual retreat in the wilds of Wales. During a sweat lodge I was overcome by the feeling of unity with my surroundings, I felt my second self.The part of us all that inhabits the non physical world, it was a brief yet powerful experience. A feeling of belonging as if I was given a chance to see the world as it truly is, a connected conscious symbiotic organism.
When asked by a friend what am I looking for I said to re discover that feeling and let it inhabit me. I have no wish to understand that experience as understanding is a form of labeling and what good would labeling be within the connected nature of life. We need to take the time and live it.
I don’t do it enough, I am the first to say I value silence. Not for meditation as I lack the discipline, just as a way to detox.
However, I find myself either on social media or one of the streaming services. As I enter the next chapter of my life. Its time I embrace the silence.
Control the distractions, do not let them control me. Learn that happiness is within, I just have to give it a chance to be heard. My goal is to minimise my life and maximise my output.
Its not about just removing the distractions as these too are essential, they act as inspiration it is about control. I can honestly say at the time of writing this they control my life.
As we travel lifes’ river we meet many people, most fall away through time. A very few stay with you and even rarer are those whose frequency acts as an amplifier to yours. Like the friends who push each other higher on a swing these people push you higher through life. I am lucky enough to have met one of those people and I am grateful for that on a daily basis.
Sitting in an antceint woodland removed from the noise of modern life. I start to hear the Earth, or more accurately feel it.
Our lives are filled with a cacophony of distractions, we have everything at our fingertips. Amongst the noise is a single note so faint it can not be heard without effort, that is the challenge we are no longer listening just reacting.
It is only in silence can we re-tune ourselves to hear the Earth, You do not need a forest or a mountain you just need silence.
We are told more and more to live in “now”, but what is “now”?
I, like most people see it as a time marker which in turn makes it impossible to achieve as there is no “now.” “Now” becomes like a sunbeam. I know it exists, but it is ungraspable.
My inner dialog reached an empass at this point. Treating “now” as a moment in time was impossible. Just asking the question “When is now?” is a deadend.
I concluded there must be another approach, and this came to me like a dripping tap filling a bath slowly and with effort.
The question is “What is now?” not “When is now?” as with most of life only when the correct question is asked does the answer come.
In its simplist form, “now” is true reality. A distilation of a moment. “Now” is where we exist, we are all creatures of “now” we have invented the concept of past and future, to obscure “now.” It is only once this is understood, are we able to embrace the magic of “now.”
From the vantage point of my garden, and a glass of wine I can be accused of being blasé. I see it differently, as a way of coping through the uncertain times. I’ve been in isolation for about a month, just me and four dogs.At first I didn’t take it seriously as on the news it seemed like someone else’s problem and I went to work as normal. Bus and train across London the concept of social distancing was an alien one to me, there were a few people in masks and to be honest I viewed them as strange as my thought was they were overreacting.
Now four weeks later in my garden, I have face masks myself and wash my hands every time I venture out. Daily I watch the death toll rise and see our leaders trying to stay in control of an ever changing situation. At the beginning of my lockdown I would watch the news and check social media on a frequent basis, this just heightened my confusion through the seeming contradiction of both the politicians and the medical experts. The concept that information is king falls down when then when you don’t know what or whom to trust, it seemed that we were in a storm of political point scoring. And the only thing that it benefited was my anxiety, leading to broken sleep and a feeling of dread.
I wish to see through the fog of information and find the cornul of truth, but I am increasingly of the opinion that this is an impossible quest as this situation is unprecedented. We live in a world where in the space of one day a person can be anywhere on the planet, and that person can be unknowingly infected. That is a terrifying concept to understand and it brings our way of life to a halt, trapping millions around the world away from home.
As the collective penny dropped, the panic started. Shelves emptied and it turned ugly in the physical world, meanwhile in the digital world it was almost the opposite. Those
who showed concern were ridiculed, and the panic buyers were used as memes to boost likes. Running like a river beneath this was the feeling that we weren’t being given all the information and that fueled the theories both online and in the streets.
At this time in my garden it seems self evident that we were given the information that we needed to know. We were shown graphs, explaining we had to flatten the curve in order not to overload our NHS. Whilst this was being made clear to us we were being told that more our loved one will die. We were spoken to in plain language and yet it was not enough and was seen as insensitive, and when we were told that we would be lucky come out of this with only twenty thousand deaths it was seen as an admission of defeat.
Triage information sharp and to the point, in a population unused to being spoken in this manner it was unsettling and brought home the real scale of this pandemic. The aftermath was not what I expected. We started to reevaluate our value system quickly identifying those with true value to society, and this was demonstrated by the now regular 8pm Thursday make some noise for the key workers event. The first Thursday this happened I was overwhelmed by the response and even shed a tear, these unifying are important to society. As without them we can fall into despair thinking that we are what the media tells us we are.
So now with the police given powers to fine those who are ignoring the social distancing rules and those who are without a legitimate reason. We start to see another more insidious side to the lockdown, as we can all agree that it is up to all of us to beat this virus so on the surface we can all also agree that those who ignore the rules should be dealt with according to the law. However once you think about it, free from the pandemic who decides what a legitimate reason to be out is? And the scope for abuse by the leaders of our country are terrifying. I fear that our lives will be disrupted for a long long time to come in ways we can not see yet.
In truth it is too soon to think about after the pandemic, so let me come back to the here and now. Still in my garden on a sunny afternoon listening to families play and smelling their barbeques I can be forgiven in thinking that there is no pandemic. We are just enjoying a beautiful easter Saturday afternoon, with one exception that it can almost be guaranteed that someone will be watching to see if there is anything going on and if they see people that either do not belong or people disobeying social distancing they with be on to their social media platform of choice and righting a long post about how disgusting it is that people are ignoring the rules. This kind of behaviour can be justified and often is to protect the NHS and save the vulnerable people of the country, and for now this is acceptable.
From my viewpoint of no dependants only the dogs I am in a better position than most as I can choose when to shop and only go out to get food and to some extent I can also get food delivered, so despite my cabin fever I am lucky, and each day i must remind myself of that. Those that I love although they are scattered far and wide over the globe they are safe and well, and I am grateful for that.
As much as I worry for our future I see hope. This has highlighted our dependence on the cheap products of the far east and also our real impact on the environment, as even in these few short months the air quality has improved by a noticeable amount. If we can capitalise on the issues that have been highlighted and learn from them we can become a much more complete and secure global society.