Ikigai – The Sum of Small Joys in Everyday Life

Ikigai and Illness

Ikigai and Illness is on my mind. This makes sense as I love the subtlety and depth of this word and it plays a central role in my life. Last month I was part of the Speakers Series at Wellspring Calgary and invited to give a talk on this subject. This month  Nick Kemp in Australia, invited me to his podcast, Ikigai Tribe, and we had a lovely conversation (see the notes) on Ikigai and Illness. Nick is a western expert on Ikigai and a kind, generous and hospitable host.

One of the things I love about ikigai is its relationship to everyday life.  We can have many things that claim ikigai status. For instance, it might be hearing the birds when you wake on a spring morning, or your first cup of coffee while you do wordle, your family, gardens, sunsets, a walk in the park, or being part of a choir, running, cycling, poetry… for each person their ikigai is unique because we all experience joy in different ways. There is no list as to what qualifies.

Ikigai might be your work, as it is for me, but not necessarily so. Traditionally it is a much broader concept and is more focused on our daily lives so will include hobbies or a special group of friends who you love to spend time with, grandchildren, story telling…  It isn’t for another to describe your ikigai rather it is for you to become aware of what interests you, and what brings out the best in you. Where you experience delight and meaning is where you will discover your ikigai.

Reasons to get up in the morning

When we have a purpose in our lives, and reasons to get up in the morning, it strengthens our resilience during difficult times.  And since ikigai doesn’t rely on the peak moments in our lives it is always available and forms a significant part of our resiliency. We do not rely on just one thing but on many smaller things.

Ikigai also changes over time. We may do less of what was important in our forties and discover new aspects of ourselves as we live longer and experience the trials and tribulations of life. It can provide us with a soft and solid place to land. Things and people we can count on.

A call to action

I often say that ikigai is a call to action. It is something we do. If you love lying in a hammock it is still something you need to do. Get the hammock out and take the time to crawl in and read or nap. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to neglect things you actually like doing and fail to begin. It’s not a criticism, just human nature. It takes small steps and a little discipline to take the first step.

Definition

We can’t express certain words by a simple translation.  The word ikigai is made up of two parts: iki meaning life and gai meaning values/purpose/meaning. Simply put, a reason to get up in the morning. As much as each person’s ikigai is unique there is also a subtle meaning to how we use our ikigai to contribute to others. How do we connect with the outside world? I see my love of poetry as part of my ikigai and passing poems on to another is a contribution that brings me great joy.

It is easy to put our lives on hold when we get a serious illness or we are going through a difficult time. Or even when we have become comfortable and see no need to change the status quo. Yet, when we take steps to do something we may have yearned to do in our youth, or act on our secret desire to sing or play the piano and we actually do it – the side effects of this can be transformative.

I recommend staying curious. Be willing to try something you have longed to do and better yet, be prepared not to be good at it. Enjoy it for its own sake, because it is something you want to do. There are many ways to discover small joys in daily life even when the big picture looks bleak. Let’s not miss out on those small things. Those are often the things that when we look back on our lives bring coherence, ah-ha’s, love, meaning, and our reasons for living.

My ikigai friends in Japan have just had another hiking adventure. Most of the people in this photo came to Calgary in the summer of 2019 to hike in the Rockies. 13 in all. I smile when I see their delightful faces.

Notes

1:) Here is a link to Nick Kemp’s podcasts. Scroll down a little and you will find the Episode List with photographs” I am  # 039, the one in purple. These podcasts are long so you won’t want to listen to it all. I am not listening to myself since it is now written in stone and can’t be changed. Yikes! What’s done is done. For anyone interested in ikigai, however,  there are some amazing podcasts in this collection and I intend to make my way through several.

2:) Can you believe that my next blog is on June 1st. I am now working my way through the task of getting all my logins and passwords written out for my family. One day for sure they will need this list. Since I talk about this and resist doing an updated list myself, I am using  15 minutes a day to just do it. It is working, no matter how hard I resist. In fact, as soon as I publish this post my 15-minute task will get done.

3:) May you have a good last week of May. There are many things going wrong in the world. However, there are many things going right too, thanks to our fellow humans. Let’s never forget that. And take comfort in the vastness of the sea and sky and mountains. Look for beauty.

4:) A hundred thank-you’s to you all, dear readers. For certain, you are one of my reasons for getting up every Wednesday morning and beyond. With gratitude, Trudy

12 replies
  1. Laura Perra
    Laura Perra says:

    Once again, your writing invites me to reflect. Every morning I have what I call the sacrament of the tea. We brew our tea in an earthen pot, a special memory of its purchase in Maine brings as much joy as the special tea, called Lifeboat, does. The act of raising my first cup heavenward heralds my willingness to join the day.
    There are other facets to this ritual, but these are the most on my mind to share.
    Thank you for your gift.
    Laura

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you Laura for this beautiful image of your morning tea. Next week I will post a beautiful tea story for you. I appreciate you taking the time to leave this lovely comment. Warmly, Trudy

      Reply
  2. Pat
    Pat says:

    Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be walking on one of Vancouver Island’s beautiful beaches. I was looking down searching for just the right rock when suddenly I raised my eyes and two huge bald eagles soared just feet above my head. I was blessed.

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Hello Pat: what good fortune to see those beautiful eagles. I enjoyed their majesty when I was on Gabriola this winter. It is so kind of you to send a note. I appreciate it. WRmly, Trudy

      Reply
  3. Kathryn
    Kathryn says:

    Good morning Trudy

    Thank you for a lovely post. With all the killing and death in our own country that continues on a daily basis I’m a bit melancholy.

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you dear Kathryn:I think we are all discouraged with what seems like a never ending story of senseless killing. It seems hopeless. What can we do? I suppose one small thing we can do is treat everyone we greet in our daily lives with just a little more tenderness and kindness. Take heart. Warmest greetings coming your way. Trudy

      Reply
      • Kathryn
        Kathryn says:

        Dear Trudy,

        Hello again. After reading Yoshie’s comment,I gazed at the mountain top photo more closely. What an accomplishment and all the smiling faces. With metta

      • T Boyle
        T Boyle says:

        How lovely of you to notice and send a note. I will make sure Yoshie sees your comment. Thank you Kathryn. 🙏🏻

  4. yoshie
    yoshie says:

    I ma happy to say hello from a summit in Japan Alps, though in your blog. Climbing mountains is one of our ikigais. Reaching summit after hardship gives us sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, gratitude for being alive. Thank you for your good explanation for ikigai. It’s fresh for me, as we naturally take ikigai for granted.

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you Yoshie. I have barely touched the surface with ikigai. You are invited to add to, and correct me as to the subtleties of Ikigai.I will continue to discuss this lovely concept over the next weeks. I love this latest picture of you and your climbing friends. With gratitude, Trudy

      Reply
  5. Janice
    Janice says:

    I wonder how it would be if we taught Ikigai to children from the get-go, that it is essential to find a reason to get up in the morning, to find what gives us delight and meaning. Though in truth, children already know how to do this, don’t they. Perhaps they need to teach us. Either way, it is a valuable practice – for me it is family, friends, poetry, nature in particular. Thanks for sharing this with us Trudy. love Jan

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you for your observations dear Janice. From what I understand people in Japan are steeped in Ikigai. Not necessarily something that is taught but something that is lived. Sometimes, here, we tend to make a big deal about the peaks, yet, by taking all the small things for granted we miss out on much of what makes life worth living. Hugs all around, Trudy

      Reply

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