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Lessons on Living the Good Life - Ikigai

I’ve been reading a book called Ikigai  - the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. Loosely translated from Japanese as “reason for being alive,” “Iki” means “life, alive” and “kai” means “an effect, result.”  The French might liken it to their “raison d’etre,” or “reason for being.”


Focusing on people from their 80s to “super-centenarian” 100+ year old residents of Okinawa, Japan, the authors spent time with extraordinarily vibrant older humans who have distilled their happiness and well-being to simple principles, including:

·       Stay active – I suggest we banish the word “retire” from our work vocabulary – how about “respire”?

·       Take it slow and express gratitude for everyday things – be present and curious when you step outside and hear the curve-billed thrasher’s serenade!

·       Stay a little hungry at mealtime - “Hara hachi bu” means to eat until you’re 80% full (my greatest challenge)

·       Surround yourself with friends – “moais” are groups in Okinawa who care for each other with celebrations, games and singing, even pooling money for communal financial support.

·       Move your body – you don’t need to call it exercise – even consistent gardening or walking around the block keeps your body vibrant.

·       Spend time in nature – Japan has a practice called forest bathing, or “shinrin-yoku.”  We in Tucson can enjoy desert bathing – using all 5 senses to be present in nature and allow our noses to soak up the healing creosote aroma, our eyes to feast on miraculous clouds encircling Rincon Peak.

·       Follow your passion – something you’re good at, contributes to your well-being, and serves the world. It can change over time!


I love seeing our horse herd light up when they hang out with folks at outdoor yoga, play “bite me” tag in the early morning frost, engage with a client on heart-centered connection.   Horses have a natural Ikigai that we humans would do well to learn from.



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