Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Ikigai - Hector Garcia and Francese Miralles

Ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning, our raison d etre. In a wonderful visual by Mark Winn, Ikigai is shown as the point of intersection between what we love doing, what the world needs, what we get paid for and what we are good at. The point of intersection between what we love and what the world needs is our mission, the point where what the world needs and what we get paid for is our vocation, the point where what we get paid for and what we are good at is our profession and what we are good at and what we love is our passion. Ikigai falls in the sweet spot between all these!

When you find your Ikigai you don't retire - because you love life. The authors talk of the 5 Blue Zones - the places on earth where people live the longest - Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Loma Linda in California, Nicola Peninsula in Costa Rica and Ikaria in Greece. Some basic research tells us that these people follow certain practices - they eat until their stomach is 80% only, live in small connected groups with a strong sense of community, have active minds and youthful bodies, have little or no stress, are constantly moving and get good sleep.

Are you ready to throw yourself into your passion as if it were the most important thing in the world?

After wandering a bit about logotherapy, Morita therapy and flow, the authors come back to talk about the takumis, or traditional craftsmen in Japan. They give examples of Jiro dreams of sushi (a recommended viewing on YouTube), Shakunaga (the porcelain maker from whom Steve Jobs would buy teacups), Miyasaki (the animator who would draw everything by hand). Then there are those who microflow things in mundane tasks like Bill Gates who enjoys washing dishes and the elevator operator in someplace in Tokyo who has an elaborate ritual to her job.

Interviews of the supercentenarians (over 100 years) across the world reveal these answers - eat sparingly, sleep, relax, eat vegetables and fruits, have an optimistic attitude, keep mind and body busy, stay present. The authors mention examples of Christopher Plummer who is active at 87, Carmen Herrera who paints at 100  (sold her first painting at 89) and architect Frank Gehry as those who are actively working.

Then we go to Ogimi, the place in Japan where this community lives. They enjoy the communal life with games, karaoke, daily meetings, singing and dancing. People are happy and treat strangers like old friends, are non-judgmental and always smiling, having a good time. they seem to celebrate each day together.

The first practice seems to be - Don't Worry! They have vegetable gardens which they tend to, say hello to everyone, smile and open their hearts to everyone. One says that if you keep your fingers busy you'll never get old. Another lifts his arms for exercise. Some walk, have routines while others follow rituals. Drinking tea with friends is a big pastime. Smiling, being grateful are all part of their life.

Cultivate Good Habits - Living an unhurried life, eating a wide variety especially vegetables and fruits and fish, and grains are part of their eating habits. They rarely ate sugar and ate less salt. Small portions and lots of green tea. Skip dessert.

For exercise they do moderate exercise and favour with gentler movements as in Radio Tasio, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong and Shiastsu . Research shows that within 30 minutes of sitting your metabolism slows down 90% and in 5 minutes of getting up it gets working again. So don't sit for too long and keep moving, one way or another.

After meandering through concepts of resilience, anti-fragility (fall down 7 times, get up 8), Buddhism, Stoicism etc the authors talk of two interesting concepts. One is wabi-sabi, which looks at imperfection as beauty. There is nothing permanent in their philosophy. They celebrate imperfection. Another is Ichi-go Ichi-e which means that this moment exists only now and will never come again.

In the final analysis - the key to a happy and long life is - don't retire, slow down, eat only upto 80% of your stomach capacity, have a lot of good friends, get in shape, connect with nature, walk, live in the moment and follow your ikigai.

Have a happy and long life!

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