Ikigai – Héctor García and Francesc Miralles

Book at a glance…

This book explores Ikigai which is the Japanese concept referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose in life, a reason for living (a raison d’être) bringing satisfaction, happiness and meaning.

Image extracted from Forbes.com

One of the most profound questions this book highlights is ‘why do some people know what they want and have a passion for life, while others languish in confusion?’

Highlights

  • Medical studies of centenarians from Okinawa and ‘Blue Zones’ – geographical areas where people live the longest.
  • The art of staying young while growing old – strong sense of community is just as significant as a healthy Japanese diet.
  • Little things add up to a long and happy life.  
  • Spending too much time seated at work or home reduces muscular and respiratory fitness, increases appetite and limits the desire to participate in activities (sedentary leading to other health problems).
  • Antiaging attitudes – stoic attitudes/serenity in the face of adversity, adopting a positive outlook (common traits found in longest living people).
  • Finding a flow in everything you do– focusing on tasks/hobbies in a distraction free environment and immersing yourself in the experience, dissolves your ego and you become part of what you do while losing your sense of time (Csikszentmihalyi’s research).
  • Never stop learning and cultivate beneficial habits.

Actionable messages

  • 80 percent secret (Hara Hachi bu) – ancient wisdom advises against eating until we are full so Okinawans stop eating at 80 percent full rather than overeating and propelling the body to have long digestive processes that accelerates cellular oxidation.
  • Brain stimulation is important to prevent neuron and neural connection to deteriorate so anti-aging strategies for the mind may help. Intellectual activity, curiosity, and a desire to learn may slow the process e.g playing games, interacting with people, dealing with new situations.
  • Stress – causes of premature aging which wears body down (as per studies). Suggested solutions – meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and body scans. However, the book also argues that a small dose of stress is a positive thing.
  • Get adequate sleep – recommended seven to nine hours.
  • Diet – Recommend ‘eating the rainbow’ which means a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, less sugar, more grains, natural antioxidants, green tea and jasmine tea!
  • Choose to use your feet instead of elevator/escalator – emphasis on being MORE active
  • Mediation – exercises mental muscles and generates alpha and theta brain waves.
  • Live an unhurried life and LAUGH!

Favourite Quotes

The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow.

We finally land our dream job, but after a little while we are already hunting for a better one. We win the lottery and buy a nice car but then decide we can’t live without a sailboat. We finally win the heart of the man or woman we’ve been pining for and suddenly find we have a wandering eye. People can be insatiable.

The objective of the virtuous person is to reach a state of tranquillity (apatheia): the absence of negative feelings such as anxiety, fear, shame, vanity, and anger, and the presence of positive feelings such as happiness, love, serenity, and gratitude.

Questions to ask yourself:

What makes you enjoy doing something so much that you forget about all your worries that you have while you do it?

When are you the happiest?

Hope you have a great weekend!

Benefits of Reading

“More than merely a distraction, but an active engaging of the imagination,” one that “causes you to enter an altered state of consciousness.”

– Dr David Lewis
  • Boosts knowledge

This should be no surprise that reading encourages knowledge. In todays world, majority aim to know about a broad range of topics and genres, in keeping up with conversations and reading is always the way to go.

  • Enhances imagination and gives inspiration.

Most readers are great dreamers as reading allows them to delve into their imagination simultaneously boosting it. It also inspires to create.

  • Expands vocabulary and improves speech

Over the years, many studies have showed a strong link between reading and a richer vocabulary. For instance, a study showed gradual improvement of students’ vocabulary and reading skills through reading English newspapers.

  • Promotes mental health and prevents cognitive decline

In one study, participants were asked to read “Pompeii” and as the plot grew more intense, increasing regions of the brain showed enhanced activity. Brain scans revealed that reading stories not only strengthens language processing areas but also affects the reader through embodied semantics in sensorimotor regions by enhancing long-term connectivity. Another study even suggested that individuals that read, have a lower chance of developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

  • Develops empathy

According to researchers from the University of Toronto, reading may change certain personality traits of readers. Some results indicate that fictional literature may facilitate empathy.

  • Improves sleep

Another strain of neuroscience by the University of Sussex showed that even six minutes of reading reduces stress by 68%, even helping people with Insomnia.

Praise Song For My Mother -Part 2

The sky was pearly grey and it was drizzling incessantly.Daisy was long gone to the market so that she could buy groceries for them. Shortly after Peter had started reading a book there was a knock on the door.  The orphanage minister came to their house but discovered that there was no one in the house apart from the boy who ran away. Taking advantage of Daisy’s absence, he grabbed Peter, laughed and exclaimed, ‘Finally! you made me work hard. It’s payback time’.

The man carried him mercilessly , ignoring the screams of the boy. The scream manifesting the pain within, confusion. His skin craved the comfort of his mother, he knew she was nowhere close. He needed her scent, the movement of her body and the feeling of her presence.

When they reached the orphanage, he was made aware of the new head in the Orphanage. Mr Russell was his name.’Oh, you look miserable! Tell me the truth. You do not prefer dwelling here I assume’.

‘Yes’, he replied and continued,’ I wish to live with my mama. Her name is Daisy’.

‘Alright, we are settled then, if your so-called Mother, Daisy, arrives her by the end of noon tomorrow, I shall hand you all over to her, if not, let nature take it’s course. You will be living here forever’.

The next day, Peter was woken by the dainty chirping of the birds from the wide open window. Alas, Daisy had not arrived to take him. He was keeping his hope alive because he knew she would arrive. During breakfast, he overheard the conversation between a worker and the minister, ‘Daisy is not coming it seem. She is dead. We just acquired the news, she was killed by the bomb blast in the Greenwich market’.

Peter clenched his fists so hard, nails digging into his palms that a trickle of blood dropped1 to the floor. A scream escaped his trembling lips as the realisation hit him. Hard. All the eyes peered over him.  Fury raced through his body, heating him to his very core and igniting a flame so hot within his heart that he almost screamed in agony and anger. Hot tears trickled down his face. As he ran from the dining room to the realm of the sun outside, he fell against the golden grass. He pressed his forehead against the grass, fingers crushing through it .He screamed again, so sure that this was not true.

He gazed at the daisies in front of him, that were swaying to the rhythm of the wind and whispered,’ Please come back.’

Once, when the winds of fate had blown more favourably, it had danced on the breeze with vitality, dominating all around it. Peter glimpsed ahead to not find the sun blinding him but the rays flashing upon a woman riding a  radiant horse, proceeding towards him . Instantly, he kissed the daisies with a wide smile on his face and gleaming eyes.

Disclaimer: I have no right over the image used in this post. All the credit goes to the rightful owner.

~Alifia.

Praise Song For My Mother- Part 1

It was midnight and the trees quivered. The stone walls of the ruin rose up, sheer and6936703575_793c743081_z impenetrable, to quixotic towers and a tattered flag drooped on its pole. Now the ivy was gradually choking those walls to death but leaning against the wall was a boy. Silently crying with an overwhelmed feeling of anger. Haunted by memories of an intense past, the boy wished death to conquer him. People did not see him as the beautiful twelve-year-old boy with dark, tousled hair and a face that could have belonged to a young prince. People looked at him only to detect anger or boredom, the dangerous moods that almost always led to pain. Deep within, he was just an ordinary boy, craving for someone who would love him dearly, craving for someone who would nurture him endlessly, craving especially for his parents whom he doesn’t remember.

Suddenly, he heard the swiftness of a horse. In the distance, the trees were silhouetted against the deep velvety sky. He pretended to be invisible but he knew well that the moonlight splashed down its watery white-silver glow onto the ruin, bathing him, illuminating him.  As the horse abruptly stopped, he lifted his chin and gazed at the women before him in amazement. Face like a moon, pale and somehow wavering. Staring out a soft, round face in her early thirties. Every feature stuck to his mind beyond an astonishing beauty. Her long dark hair wafted around her. She appeared completely unafraid and there was a look to her stare that was very comforting to the boy.

She descended from the white horse and knelt down in front of the boy. ‘What are you doing here, my dear?’, she asked. When he didn’t reply, she held his damp face and softly whispered, ‘Do not be afraid, I will protect you. Come with me, it’s cold out here  ’.

The boy couldn’t resist this invitation. He quietly followed her and they rode. They stopped at a cottage and a golden light glowed from a window at the back of the house, it was serene but for the wind of the trees.

‘My name is Daisy. What’s your name?’ she asked. ‘Peter’ he replied.

Peter told her everything; the endless struggles of being an orphan and working under the authority of the men who called themselves as ‘Child keepers’. This wasn’t the first time Peter had tried to escape. He tried once, at the age of ten but convinced himself not to  attempt it ever again after he was perpetually penalized by an infliction of imprisonment for a period of time. Now, he wasn’t the old scared Peter who would do anything for a penny, he had somehow gathered the courage to make this secret escape and it worked this time.

 As the days went by, Peter grew so fond of Daisy that he finally felt as if he belonged somewhere, to someone. She was water to him, deep and bold and fathoming. She was moon’s eye to him, pull and grained and mantling. She was sunrise to him, rise and warm and streaming. On the other hand, Daisy was filled with an overpowering desire to keep Peter hidden and protected from the outside world. She knew they would come to take him back to the orphanage.

Daisy was a small village girl, so gentle and yet so virtuous, slander might wound but could not dishonour. She was known by several names. ‘Barren’ was the most common but she never imagined that she would ever be called a ‘mother’. At least not in this lifetime. When she first heard Peter calling her ‘Mama’, Daisy buried her head in her hands, sobbing as she did so, the tears streaming down her face. Peter sat there quiet, his arms wrapped tightly around her in an embrace, hoping to comfort her. Her cheeks stained with the countless stream of tears from her glossy eyes, enduring the emotional pain that continued to engulf her. ‘I know, they call you those words but do you know what? You are a mother, you are my Mama’.

Affection and compassion gleamed in her blue eyes and she stood up, kissed Peter on the forehead.

Both Daisy and Peter thought that this was the end of their misery, unfortunately it wasn’t.

-To be continued.

(A story I created for English Lit)

Disclaimer: I have no right over the image used in this post, all the credit goes to the rightful owner .

~Alifia.