Shloka Shah
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Ikigai: A mysterious word

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Shloka Shah
·Feb 28, 2022·

3 min read

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I have always been fascinated to read about Japanese culture. Last year, I came across the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.

I initially read the audio version of the book but being someone who loves taking notes while reading, I read the physical copy again. This book talks about the lifestyle of people from Okinawa Island in Japan. Okinawa has the most centenarians in the world who believe that Ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning.

The two words that have been stuck in my mind since the time I read the book are Wabi-sabi and Ichi-go Ichi-e. They are two simple words but convey deep meaning.

Wabi-sabi: It’s a Japanese concept that explains the beauty of imperfection.

Ichi-go Ichi-e: It teaches about living in the moment. Ichi-go Ichi-e is about focusing on the present as it won’t come again.

Top things I remember from the book:

  1. 80 percent secret: In Japan, they have a saying, Hara Hachi bu which means “Fill your belly to 80 percent”. It emphasizes that one should stop eating when one starts to feel full. An alternative to this is the 5:2 diet which recommends two days of fasting.
  2. A little stress is good for you: The book explains how facing new challenges and putting one’s heart and soul into their work while maintaining low-stress levels is beneficial.
  3. Finding flow in everything you do: There is an entire chapter about this in the book and it's my favorite one. The chapter explains that once we have figured out our ikigai, we should completely immerse in the experience, not thinking and overcoming all the distractions. There are various ways and case studies in the book that help you find the flow.
  4. Ancestor Worship: It is important to thank our ancestors for everything that brightens our day. Spend a moment every day giving thanks. Every person has an essence or mabui which is our spirit and the source of our life force.
  5. Antifragility: This was a term I heard for the first time. The word is used to describe things that get stronger when harmed. It is the opposite of fragile and is beyond resilience. The book includes examples that demonstrate the difference between resilience, fragile, and antifragile in an interesting manner.

In the Japanese culture, having a purpose in life is considered extremely important and hence the idea of retirement doesn’t exist. There is a saying that goes in Japan that If you keep your mind and body busy, you’ll be around a long time.

To conclude, I personally enjoyed reading the book and it was inspiring to me to know more about Japanese culture!

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