Recently we had a cozy evening in. I cooked a simple, but warm, meal and our friend brought a few delicacies. We talked about civil liberties, his trip to East Africa with his wife, and caught all the way up. It was a lovely time. One where the stomach and the soul were aligned and delighted.
In the conversation, we started talking about slowing down. He’s an active man - hard worker, an extrovert, urban dweller (residing in DC), a present husband, and an avid cycler. So the idea of slow-living caught him off guard. He asked me to give an example of slow-living in my own life, and the only way that I could do that was to start with ikigai (eek-ee-guy).
After my boss introduced us to an ikigai exercise my life changed. I was reasonably familiar with ikigai. The Okinawin (okee-nah-when) are regularly studied because, residing in the Japanese island of Okinawa, they are often the longest living people in the world. They have a beautiful culture, but previously I simply skimmed over ikigai, because I thought it meant knowing your purpose.
But in order to do the assignment on ikigai, I had to scour books, articles, watch Ted Talks, documentaries, and YouTube videos. I quickly realized that it's not this broad pie in the sky idea - there are four definitive components to ikigai:
Identify something you LOVE. Like, love so much that you enter into what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls a flow state. While doing it, you are in complete bliss and need no paycheck, no affirmation, no pressure. Notice this is not WHO you love. It’s a task, an act. An example: your ikigai isn’t your children, although it can be “parenting."
What does the world need? Humans yearn to be needed in the community, whether the population is family, nation, neighborhood, or chosen groups. We want to see the positive impacts of our lives.
You need to get paid well. This is where I got lost BUT it also profoundly resonated. Please realize that getting paid "well” is relative, but survival is not. The stress that comes from barely getting by can capsize dreams, cripple creative flow, and produce tunnel vision. You have to live comfortably. This is where being frugal, owning and buying less, comes in… there is that balance between having to work for your wants and having to work for your needs. Regardless, you have to be comfortable (whatever that means to you).
You have to be good at it! We all know the saying, “Don’t quit your day job.” Listen, ikigai isn’t something you have to be the BEST at or NATURALLY good at, but seriously, it does mean that you have what it takes to practice and get better until you are highly skilled.
Ikigai isn't an Idea - it's a Lifestyle
It’s not good enough to know Ikigai - you have to live by it. The Okinawan’s live by it - until well over 100 actually. Daily. It has to be the reason that you get up in the morning. "She gets up while it is still dark" Proverbs 31:15. I believe that ikigai is heaven-sent. It’s what our Creator created us to do. As hinted above, I believe an example of someone living her best ikigai life is the Proverbs 31 woman:
17. She sets about her work vigorously (good/practice); 18. Her trade is profitable (paid); 25. she can laugh at the days to come (happy); 31. Her work brings her praise at the city gates (community).
Slow living and Ikigai:
Ikigai doesn’t have to be your career. For me, it’s my essence - my ikigai is more aligned with my state of being than my vocation.
What does this have to do with slow living?
A slow-paced life is one about streamlining - think essentialism. It’s about living out your ikigai and while living it - being absolutely present. Not rushing through it. Not overbooking yourself. Not over-scheduling. Not multitasking. Solely having space and clarity to observe, participate, and be grateful while living your ikigai.
It’s about saying “no” to things that take away from your ikigai. Not allowing others (things, people, mindsets, etc.) to dictate your time. You know why you wake up in the morning. You know your Kingdom assignment and so you live it out. Once you start carving out time for your ikigai - an hour/day or 13 hours/day - things begin to unfold and move… but there has to be space. Create the space.
Resist the urge to over-complicate life and your time, my friends.
Edited by Ashley Yancey