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.
Even though I decided my word of the year was going to be “start,” it seems like I’m living more according to the word “essential.” I’ve been very drawn to books and writings on how to simplify your life. My own life has been a roller coaster this year, almost overwhelming at times. Do you ever feel like you’re trying to do too much but yet still not doing enough? That.
One of my friends introduced me to Leo Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits, a few years ago. If I’m being honest, I haven’t applied anything I’ve read from his blog. Life is just happening at the speed of, well, life, so it was hard to implement things. Especially when you fall down the internet rabbit hole and all of a sudden you’re reading on how to plant your own garden, when you were originally looking to build sustainable habits. So when I saw he had a book, I decided to try that instead; I always work better in book format.
The Power of Less sets up six principles that helps us identify what is essential, and how to eliminate everything that is not. The first third of the book presents the principles, and the rest covers specific steps and strategies for applying those principles in different aspects of your life.