April 23, 2023

3 Japanese Concepts that will Calm your Anxious Mind.


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When life knocks us down, it becomes difficult to get back up.

Anxiety, worry, fear, grief, sadness, and anger all have a way of slowly binding us and keeping us stuck where we shouldn’t be.

Losing our sense of direction is normal and common; experiencing frequent worry or confusion is okay; not being able to tame the monkey mind might be challenging at times. At the end of the day, we’re imperfect human beings who make mistakes all the time.

But this doesn’t make us any less spiritual. Spirituality is our essence. We can never lose it, but with the presence of destructive thoughts and emotions, it may go silent for a short while.

When I lose touch with my own essence, I revert to things that refresh my memory and help me remember that there is more to life than my temporary anxious mind.

Japanese concepts, in particular, have always helped me to reach beyond my sensory experiences and remember my highest goal in life.

Some of them never fail to directly put me in my present moment. They’re like massive waves that instantly take me to the shore of well-being and happiness. They calm my anxious thoughts and make them less intense and pervasive.

There are many Japanese concepts that are beautiful and profound, but there are only three that have personally changed my life for the better:

1. Ikigai: A reason for being.

I just finished reading Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life. Ikigai means “raison d’être” or “life purpose.” Even though we may not know it, Japanese people believe we all have something that makes our life worthwhile. Finding this thing can help us lead a satisfactory life that may even be healthier and longer. In other words, it’s the secret to a happy existence on Earth.

If you’re ever worried or anxious, remember that you have a powerful ikigai that may motivate you to live a calmer life. Find something you love or that you’re deeply passionate about. Don’t go looking over here and there or chase the big things. Ikigai is about the small things. Your ikigai could be as simple as planting, writing, helping someone in need, playing with your dog, going back to a memory in time, or baking a pie. 

2. Wabi-sabi: Finding beauty in simplicity and imperfection.

The first time I heard about this concept was when I was traveling across Malaysia. Wabi-sabi is a leading concept in Japan that refers to finding beauty in what’s imperfect or incomplete. When something is in its natural, unchanged, raw form, it is truly stunning and pure.

Sadness, anger, jealousy, and fear all occur when we don’t accept a certain outcome. We don’t accept the flaws in our life. What we seek, however, is perfection and things going according to plan. We even struggle with loving ourselves because we think we could be better, more beautiful, thinner, kinder, and so on. Wabi-sabi can help us appreciate things as they are. Nothing is ever finished, and that is okay. We need to make peace with that.

3. Kintsugi: Repairing broken pottery.

I think it was back in college when I first learned about the concept of kintsugi; I was in awe. In Japan, kintsugi is a common art technique that goes back hundreds of years. If a bowl or plate is broken, for example, they don’t throw out the pieces. Instead, they repair what’s broken with gold—which makes it beautiful and worthy.

How often do we find beauty in what’s damaged? How well do we navigate failure? Knowing that I’m fully capable of accepting what’s broken or imperfect in my life soothes me and calms my inner control freak. I don’t have to hide the flaws or act as if they don’t exist. All I have to do is put the broken pieces back together and appreciate the new version.


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