As a society, we’ve been driven to consume more, and more frequently. Fashions used to change once a season, or twice a year, but now fast fashion retailers are continually churning out new styles and getting rid of old styles. Cars are only made to drive a number of years before we’re expected to upgrade. Cell phones barely last long enough for the release of the next model. Retail therapy, and being a shopaholic, are now badges of honor. Not only is this consumption-centric model hurting our wallets, it’s also devastating for the planet we live on. How do we consume less? How do we live a more sustainable life?
Tara Button hopes to help with that. She started a website called “Buy Me Once,” that find brands that make sustainable, high-quality, and long-lasting products, to encourage people to buy things that can be inherited through the generations. Her book, A Life Less Throwaway, is full of tips and steps to stop our mindless consumption and to build a home and life that truly reflects who we are.
I’m on somewhat of a Japanese roll (not a sushi pun – though sushi sounds good) right now. It’s probably because I’m just starting to plan my trip next summer – yes, I’m 14 months ahead of schedule but there are A LOT of things I need to take care of, so planning helps. So after learn to embrace our imperfections, and to recharge in nature, let’s tackle ikigai, the meaning of life.
Ikigai literally means just that – iki (to live) gai (reason). I feel like I’ve been searching for a raison d’être my whole life; sometimes I’m not sure I’ll ever find it. But ikigai is a different approach to what I’ve considered the meaning of life. It’s not about this grandiose passion that changes the world. It can be applied to anything, big or small. Success is not necessarily a component, though ikigai can lead to great success.
What it ultimately is is a value to live by, a purpose to keep you going, a personal standard to which you hold yourself and live accordingly.
Forest bathing, or shinrin yoku, is “the Japanese practice of seeking a deep and meditative connection with nature,” and was mentioned briefly by Candice Kumai in Kintsugi Wellness. It seemed like a fascinating concept, and definitely something I’d be interested in, so when I saw this book, I had to pick it up.
Shinrin Yoku, by Yoshifumi Miyazaki, delves into the scientific research behind forest therapy (what the media has been, and therefore what we are, calling forest bathing). The author has been a forest researcher for many years, and has conducted studies with control groups and groups exposed to forest therapy. His studies show that there are physiological benefits of forest bathing.
In today’s world of social media and constant connection, it’s hard to not compare our behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. Our own lives seem lacking in the face of others’ seemingly perfect lives. Kintsugi Wellness by Candice Kumai is about learning to embrace our imperfections and learning how to be imperfect.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken things with gold. Ceramic bowls that have cracked or completely broken are sealed together with lacquer and dusted with gold, and the result is often more beautiful than the original. This is a concept that we can apply to life: we are more beautiful for being broken and putting our lives, and selves, back together. The cracks tell our story. It marks our progress, so we do not forget. It’s a continuous process; life will happen, and we might break or crack again, but now we know we can put ourselves back together. We know how to be imperfect.
I’ve been working on simplifying my life, both with decluttering and with mental and emotional stuff (yes, I can be quite articulate). While I’ve been trying to clear out all my physical belongings, and even let go of a few dying friendships, the other day I realized: why am I constantly adding new stuff digitally? It seems like my latent hoarder tendencies that I’ve worked so hard to suppress have simply migrated to the digital, while I was busy working on the physical realm. I needed to do a digital declutter as well.