“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.” ~ James A. Michener
Ikigai is a Japanese word that translates to “the reason for being” or “a reason to wake up each morning.” In Japan the word is widely used to describe a healthy passion for something that makes us feel as though life is worth living to the fullest.
It is believed that everyone has an ikigai, although not everyone has yet understood, discovered or developed it.
Ikigai is often used to describe a devotion that we have to something that we find fascinating, to the extent that we may become quite obsessed or even consumed by it. However, we also have full freedom to decide how much of ourselves we freely give, and the choice to submerge ourselves is entirely our decision.
The interest in our ikigai can be so deep and strong that we may literally live and breathe it every day and align to it mind, body and soul, even altruistically suffering for it if necessary. Regardless of the blood, sweat and tears that are shed to put the work in, we tend to stay loyal to our ikigai and weather all storms that attempt to keep us from it once we have evoked and embraced it.
If someone asks us to choose between an ikigai and a relationship the person giving the ultimatum may not get the outcome they hoped for. If we are ever forced to abandon our true path, due to an external source making the decision for us or deliberately severing the ties due to control, jealousy or for other irrational reasons, we may feel as though we have lost a part of ourselves and we will very likely feel devastated and heartbroken.
Due to having a powerful connection to our ikigai we have the stamina and endurance to persevere when the going gets tough, while others who do not have the same resonance may give up and fall by the wayside.
This warrior-type energetic allegiance sets our ikigai aside from any regular hobbies or interests, as we feel as though we are a part of something special and we cherish and identify it as being an inherent aspect of who we are.
An ikigai is often described as an intense internal burning desire to carry out a personal mission that we have a strong affinity to. We may not be able to reasonably explain why, but we will feel a magnetic attraction to explore a particular path and will feel drawn towards anything that is associated with it. When we manifest whatever is pulling at us, we will receive an intense internal satisfaction, which makes us feel fulfilled and gives new layers of meaning to our lives.
Finding and igniting our ikigai is not a complex task. When we are quiet and still it is often the first thing that comes to our mind when we think about what we would do if we had as much time or resources required to bring it to life. The reason I mention “life” is because an ikigai takes on its own energy and once the creation has been birthed it gains momentum so that it feels to its creator as though it is “alive.”
Although an ikigai can be realized by pursuing a specific goal, ambition or dream, it can also be something as simple as setting an intention for a new way of expressing ourselves or interacting with others. For example, some people find depth of meaning in cooking for and caring for their family. Other people find it through genuine and sincere acts of kindness towards others, or it could be discovered by setting a mindset to open up to all new possibilities so that we let in a limitless amount of spontaneous and life-changing opportunities.
The basis of an ikigai is that it is immensely pleasurable and that it not only benefits and enriches our own life, but that it also enhances other people’s lives too. It is about finding value in something that we love doing while mastering and developing talents and skills to ensure that it is sustainable.
This sets us a personal challenge, without any pressure, so that we can improve our ability as time passes. We then naturally add new personal elements, so that our expression of ourselves is uniquely crafted and a personal tribute that we can feel proud of.
I discovered my ikigai through writing and being of service, mostly by spending my time campaigning to reduce the relentless suffering that billions of animals endure daily. I found ways of channeling the pain I was experiencing whenever I thought about the cruelty that is inflicted on animals. I now turn this frustration to action, so not only do I no longer sit feeling helpless and outraged, I also change the world for each animal that benefits from the relentless work that is being carried out by many organizations across the world.
I write blogs, post in groups, send emails and support and educate the people who are directly involved in the unimaginable torture and agony that goes on in the industries that provide our food, drink, clothing and many other products. By remaining compassionate throughout for both the animals and people, I am able to understand, to a certain extent, why people make the choices they do and this helps to put in measures to ease the devastating effects this has on the animals.
In many other areas of my life I internalize everything and this previously caused a large amount of emotional energy to build up, which eventually became very difficult to manage or process. Now that I have discovered how cathartic writing is, I have been able to unearth and heal the forgotten or rejected parts of myself that could not be soothed or mended in the same way through alternative healing practices.
Since starting to write and share my experiences, I have been amazed and somewhat bewildered to hear that my words often reach people on all corners of the planet who have also battled through very similar situations to the ones that I experienced. Sharing my ikigai and finding other people who resonate with it empowers, motivates and inspires me further to continue with this impulsive need to further explore and expose the shadows that accompany me as well as of humanity.
Since I was very young I felt a profound inner peace whenever I was able to turn my world inside out and spill my imagination or jumbled up thoughts onto paper. Being able to make sense of my inner ramblings through sorting the words in to some kind of logical manner, so that they could be put into context, was a huge relief as my thoughts were released from my overloaded and overwhelmed mind.
I shelved this passion for many years as motherhood took over, however, in its place I found meaning and a sense of divine purpose in raising my child and guiding her so that she could find the treasure inside her and then turn it into something sustainable that is of great personal value. I held off writing so that I could devote my time to my family, although, I always knew that one day I would return back to writing as soon as an opening appeared that allowed me the space, time and calmness that my creative spirit cried out for.
Writing, and having the opportunity to unravel the knotted mess in my mind has quite literally been life saving at times and has altered my whole way of being. However, I also have to remind myself that I’m a great believer in things happening exactly when they are meant to so that I do not look back with regrets.
Even though everything develops when it should, this isn’t suggesting for a moment to put off whatever feels like a “soul purpose” until the “time is right” because, truthfully, there will never be the “perfect” time.
I do, however, strongly believe that when we are fully ready, our ikigai will dramatically reveal itself and call us to action in a way that we cannot fail to take notice. When this happens we will find it almost impossible to resist the urge to faithfully follow wherever our heart is leading us to.
I urge that when that door opens wide, and we feel that burning sensation crying out loud so that we listen, we stop for a moment and think about how we can work and play simultaneously to bring this meaningful pursuit to fruition.
This doesn’t mean we have to totally revamp our whole life all at once—we can allow our ikigai to softly, gently and gracefully hold our hand as we take the first steps towards a transformational journey.
There is no rush, no time limit, demands or expectations, as it will all unfold the very moment we pay close attention to whatever already exists within us.
We can have as many ikigais as we desire throughout our lives and give our attention to more than one at the same time. There are no rules or regulations with an ikigai as it is purely about following what is integral to us and then managing it effectively so that others can benefit from it in some way simultaneously. Existing aligned to an ikigai is believed to be one of the main reasons that many people live very healthy, long, harmonious and blissfully happy magical lives.
“The Purpose of Life Is to Discover Your Gift. The Meaning of Life Is to Give Your Gift Away.” (or share it!) ~ Attributed to William Shakespeare
What to do when you’ve lost your mojo:
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Kenneth Cox