Ikigai: Japanese secret to stay positive

These are tough times for everyone. The world, including India, is fighting against the biggest common enemy at the moment – coronavius disease (COVID-19).

Published: 07th April 2020 09:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th April 2020 09:35 AM   |  A+A-


For representational purposes

Express News Service

These are tough times for everyone. The world, including India, is fighting against the biggest common enemy at the moment – coronavius disease (COVID-19). When everything — from the world economy to our spirits — is tumbling into the abyss, there is one concept called Ikigai which might give us a ray of hope. What does it mean? Ikigai a Japanese secret of better living that roughly means “reason for being” or “reason for waking up every morning”.In distressing times of the COVID-19 which has claimed thousands of lives globally, made us apprehensive, distraught and disconcerted, it seems the appropriate to about this Japanese philosophy. Ikigai (pronounced “eye-ka-guy”) is, above all else, a lifestyle that strives to balance the spiritual with the practical. It sounds simple, but what about the complexity behind it? Why does one wake up? Till recently, people would wake up for their school/college, office, morning walk, work out, newspaper, flight or metro, photography. 

With the nation in the complete lockdown, forcing people to indoors, most people have no reason, rather motivation, to wake up early. But what about the Sun, birds, animals and plants? They motivate us  to live. So long as that motivation exists, you’ll be happily alive. The Japanese island of Okinawa, where Ikigai has its origins, is said to be home to the largest population of centenarians in the world. Ikigai means “a worthwhile purpose to live for”. If that exists, you exist. Just like happiness, each one may have her/his own Ikigai but Ikigai you must have. 

This Heian period (794-1185) concept, written about by clinical psychologist Akihiro Hasegawa in 2001, Ikigai is a culmination of four significant paths in human existence. Ikigai is said to lie at the junction of these critical parameters — passion, profession, vocation and mission. It’s simply channelising your energies — creative, mental, physical, spiritual — in the direction of your goal. For that you should know ‘what you’ wish to ‘do’ in life. Once the motive is clear, you’ll with all your creativity, genius, mind, heart and soul focus your energies on that track.

Genuine Ikigai is not so much about the external forces and pressures, but about those internal energies from within you that prod you on to a new dawn every single morning of your life. It is all about discipline, routine, courage, zeal even in such frustrating times what with humanity fighting this pandemic.  Instead of panicking at the alarming threat of the coronavirus looming large, you can utilise this time to do things you didn’t otherwise. In the fast-paced life, you hardly spent time with family. You were rarely home to “not do” anything, to be at peace with yourself. “No time to stand & stare”- quoting Leisure by WH Davies. Now, is the time for that introspection. With all external temptations and distractions curbed, look within…. yourself and your family. It’s time to sort things out. 

Life is not just about ‘you’, but everything because of which you exist. Life is not about always receiving, but about giving first. You can’t withdraw money from an ATM if you haven’t deposited any. Now, confined to our homes, we value home and family more than ever before. Earth is our collective home and humans our family. We shouldn’t take these, nature and biodiversity for granted. Caring about these is crucial for our own wellbeing. Our greed, self-serving opportunism and attitude of consumption will only lead to nature’s wrath. What we do boomerangs someday. We should manoeuvre life’s journey so as to discipline our deeds, desires and deposits of egomania.   

Ikigai is an action to serve, create and nourish your whole being, something that will nudge you into arising every day to ‘act’, ‘do’ whatever……..even if it’s just to find your way in this ‘jungle of life’ and discover your greater objective to serve humanity. If you find that, you’ll be the happiest being in the universe. So, awaken to the challenging new decade -2020- striking a balance between existence and extinction, begin searching for your life’s mission. Dare to soar through all the troubled waters and coronavirus threats and live your life of Ikigai, the new happiness of being!! 

Manisha Gupta
International award-winning screenwriter & filmmaker and founder-MwD of LOGIHQ, a HAPPINESS start-up


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