Ikigai – What Do You Really Want?

Ikigai 

 No, it’s not the contact details of that oddly-smelling dude from the bar last weekend who you assured you’d text after one too many cocktails. (iki-guy, get it? Sorry. I’ll stop now..)

I recently stumbled upon this picture of a venn diagram online in an article on elephantjournal.com, and through a bit more research, was truly uplifted by what I read.

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‘Ikigai’ is a Japanese word which translates to ‘the reason for being’ or a ‘reason to wake up each morning’. Aside from the obvious excitement at the prospect of that first cup of coffee or tiny ray of premature sunshine on the way to work in the morning, ‘ikigai’ is used in Japan to represent a healthy passion for that which allows us to feel fulfilled, satisfied, and valued.

 Through assessing the connections between existing aspects of our own lives and those which we wish could be included, it allows us to access a sense of accomplishment by helping to lay out a simpler path to put into practice the talents and potential we all hold.

It has been described as the outcome of “allowing the self’s possibilities to blossom’, – essentially what happens when we weed out the unhelpful and hindering thoughts, practices, and day-to-day negative activities which may have embedded themselves amongst the delicate bulbs of potential planted within us, making them difficult to access and clouding both our vision and judgement with alternate motives. It might just mean you get easily distracted from your long-term goals, a passing sparkly thing proving just too tempting and ‘full of potential potential’ to let slide (that’s right, not even actual potential – just the potential to develop this potential…*facepalm*).
#Notions

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By breaking down the reality of each important element in our lives, the concept of ‘ikigai’ allows us to accurately consider exactly how and where our passions, talents, and desires are or are not of benefit to us, and thus motivate us down a path directed towards correcting this.

The path itself will not have any one definite end – ‘ikigai’ supports the yogic concept of ‘enjoying the journey’; allowing the focus to shift from the end goal to the current process and current moment of simply getting there.

The passions and potential we acknowledge through finding our ‘ikigai’ is just the first necessary step on the long road to achieving a sense of contentment, and one which takes some self-reflection and meditation to acknowledge.

 It’s important also to remember that sometimes the hardest thing for us to do is to actually sit down and admit to ourselves what it is we really want. Once you’ve recognised and accepted these natural instincts and talents, and truly devote the energy and attention required to help them manifest as reality, they become surprisingly easier and easier to access, and therefore easier to maintain this connection.

 ‘Ikigai’ is not an end goal, target number, weight, destination, or job title. It is not a world phenomenon or cure for disease, platinum selling-single, or award-winning movie.

‘Ikigai’ is something you can access anywhere, anytime, to bring you back to your current situation and accept yourself as you are. Although you might not be exactly where you’d like to be right now, the brilliance of ‘ikigai’ lies in the awareness that every moment you live now is contributing to a future sense of contentment that you will ultimately find if you continue living in the moment.

It is a way to recognise that which defines us and all positive aspects of our lives, in order for us to begin incorporating them into our days to orchestrate a more enjoyable experience of our time here. If nothing else, it’s a way to motivate ourselves and encourage growth.

That’s it’s, really. The simplicity of the Japanese way of life is enchanting.

Art, Language, and Yoga as Forms of Personal Expression

 

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They say that art calms the mind, and soothes the senses.

As someone who is regularly plagued by bouts of extreme and intense anxiety, coupled with irrational responses to everyday occurrences, I have truly found solace in writing; in expressing my thoughts and worries elsewhere before they get the opportunity to take over my life.

Writing especially I have found to benefit me extremely in this sense, yet also other art forms too – singing, practicing yoga, translating, doodling, creating anything…aside from the obvious enjoyment and productivity associated with these acts themselves, it’s comforting to realise that regular practice and engagement with them have massive health benefits too.

The calmness and ease I feel after writing or praciticing yoga for a short time, or expressing myself in some other way is what I imagine most people (and by most, I mean people who aren’t prone to anxiety or extremes of thought patterns) feel on a ‘good day’. A ‘good day’ being a day where they awake feeling relatively content with their lives; their job; the balance on their latest bank statement; an upcoming night out or short holiday planned to keep them ploughing on through the next workday. A good day is all I want. A mediocre day without stressing over what to eat for breakfast, how I should break up the day ahead, whether or not I’ve had a response from the latest job application I’ve submitted…

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When I was travelling I had many, many of these ‘good days’. So many in fact, that I’ve come to associate the very act of travelling with these feelings of contentment, understanding, and acceptance of the world around me. When I’m travelling, it’s not only MY world I’m accepting – the things and people I see on a day-to-day basis – it’s the ENTIRE world. It’s a level of acceptance and bliss it’s difficult to recall now as I sit alone in my parents’ house, the grey clouds of an Irish ‘Springtime’ taunting the pale skin that has only just begun to lose the thick spatter of freckles Asia provided as a thoughtful departing gift to remember her by.

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Language and Writing

People are quick to comment on SouthEast Asians’ calmness and politeness of character, something I have experienced first-hand and now seek to put into practice myself. Even the various languages and alphabets as they are written- the delegation of equal importance and respect to each line, component, and meaning of each letter in each and every word they speak and write is absolutely fascinating, and humbling in comparison to the almost careless way we seem to throw our words and thoughts around a lot of the time.

In taking the time to sit and write them out, we are treating our own minds with respect, our own thoughts, however frivolous they may be, are being given the time of day they deserve and not hushed away in the back of a wardrobe or the ‘junk drawer’. This can be achieved no matter what language we are writing in.

Yoga For Self-Awareness

 Sitting with a new language and attempting to fully understand new structures, words, functions, and patterns is similar to sitting with our own bodies and listening to our needs. We slowly become more and more in tune with them; understanding the unique functions, strengths, cycles, abilities and limitations, the positive and negative reactions to outside stimuli, the huge spectrum of potential and possibility for this ever-evolving life-form that we’ve been given to power through a ‘lifetime’ here.

I don’t pretend to claim a clear understanding of all things body and mind and language-related and the vague sort of tenacious connection that I am now more certain than ever is in existence between us all – I’m merely enjoying the process of exploring it. I’m not expecting to ever understand it all, because that would defeat the purpose of the journey and of the creative exploration of what we’ve been given to work with. I can only hope to maintain an enjoyment of this journey, to sit with it, associating words and symbols and ideologies with different concepts and ways of life and language; with physical movement and accepting my body through yoga being a medium through which this change can work – a way for me to continue exploring it.

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