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Shakti Reads: Ikigai

The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

The residents of the small southern Japanese island of Okinawa seem to have found the fountain of youth. It is not that they do not age. They do. In fact more people live to be centenarians here than anywhere else on earth. However, it is the quality as well as the quantity of the years lived that stand out on this idyllic island paradise. Study of the health, happiness, and meaning that these people experience in their lives promises to shed insight on how we could all be living longer, and more joyfully.

The key to living as well as Okinawans revolves around a concept called ikigai (or life purpose). It is finding your ikigai and living under it’s direction that is the focus of Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles’ book entitled Ikigai.

The core concept of ikigai is outlined in this leisurely read, along with the food, activity, and lifestyle approaches that flow from this basic philosophy of living a meaningful life. Okinawans believe that to thrive one must first uncover their life purpose, or ikigai. To determine your personal ikigai you assess what skills you possess, what the world needs, what you love to do, and what you can be paid for. Somewhere in the overlap of these four things lies your personal ikigai.

Ikigai is an attractive little book that holds much wisdom, ranging from such practical advice as hara hachbu (only fill your stomach 80% when you eat), and never retire, to more subtle lifestyle tips for giving thanks and living in the moment.

There is a Japanese saying that it is only by being active that one would want to live to be 100. Maybe so, but our exhausted, stressed-out western culture is evidence that not all activity is equal. Maybe by bringing some ikigai into our lives we can all learn to live as well as the Okinawans.


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