What’s Your Ikigai?

The people on the island of Okinawa, Japan are some of the oldest, healthiest and most content people on the planet. What is their secret?

Ikigai! (pronounced icky guy)Ikigai

Ikigai translates as “a reason to wake up each morning.”

Do you have a reason for waking up each morning? Or do you reluctantly drag yourself out of bed each day thinking, “Another day to get through” or “Is it Friday yet?”.

Can you imagine waking up ready and eager for a new day of life?

It is possible! This is what an ikigai is: it’s waking up each day with a purpose  or direction. You know where you are going.

An ikigai is something you love to do, want to do, and that makes you feel alive.

It can be a specific goal, ambition or dream or it can also be something as simple as setting an intention for a new way of expressing yourselves or interacting with others. For example, some people find depth of meaning in cooking and caring for their family. Other people find it through genuine and sincere acts of kindness towards others, or it could be setting a mindset to open up to all new possibilities so that you let in a limitless amount of spontaneous and life-changing opportunities.

The basis of an ikigai is that it’s something that you enjoy and makes you feel vibrant and alive. As you grow and expand into your ikigai, you will also enhance other people’s lives through your vitality and energy.

It is about finding value in something that you love doing while mastering and developing talents and skills to ensure that it is sustainable.

My ikigai is to live each day as fully as possible and help others do the same.

There is a wonderful passage from “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll that give an indication as to why as ikigai is important.

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.
“Which road do I take?” she asked.
“Where do you want to go?” was his response.
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter?”

Each of us has a choice, we can live our lives by default or we can live by intention. If you are happy with your life, great! But if you have a niggling thought that maybe there is something more, missing, or that you’re stuck, then perhaps you need a ikigai.

You can continue repeating the same patterns in your life or you can take steps toward that something that keeps tugging at you. In stillness if you listen to those yearning tugs you will hear what is calling. Your inner wisdom knows what you might fear to acknowledge.

You can take baby steps towards that longing without dismantling your life. Your first step could be to create an ikigai card which you place by your beside to read each morning to give your day purpose. Then do something each day with your purpose in mind. Each action will anchor your ikigai.

A joyful, peaceful and fulfilling life in your birthright.
Now is the time to reclaim it.

Lessons Learned When It Wasn’t About Me

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said. The art of reading between the lines is a life long quest of the wise.”
― Shannon L. Alder
Flowers for Sis!

Flowers for Sis!

Almost everyone today has someone, or knows of someone, going through the experience of cancer or a life threatening illness. I am no different.

In 2009, my sister was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and my world turned upside down for a while.

When I was first told about the diagnosis, I went through a period of shock and disbelief, before anger and deep sadness took over. At the time, the question I asked was the same one many others have asked, “Why?”

Cancer is a word none of us want to hear.

But we do!

I had only been back in Canada for 5 months, after an absence of 26 years. During that time, I had lived and worked overseas and visited my family for a month of more, every couple of years. I do not believe it was a coincidence that I was pulled me back to my homeland at this particular time.

For over a year I felt the pull, but resisted. I did not think I was ready to return, the Divine had other plans.

After receiving the news, I travelled to the province where my sister lived. We had always been very close, and because of an age difference of 17 years, I often regarded her as a second mom.

My plan at the time was to stay for a month or two to give her and her family support.

Well, one month became two, two months became four, then the request. “Would you please stay with me?” my sister asked. How could I refuse?

It just so happened that my summer job had come to an end and I hadn’t yet found another position. This as well as several other considerations made my decision easy.

Yes, I would stay.

So began a two-year journey for my sister, my brother-in-law, their family, and myself. Over the next two years my brother-in-law and I became the primary caregivers; me during the day and him at night.

For me personally, it was a time of great compassion and self-awareness. For the first time in many, many years, I was completely focused on someone else instead of myself.

It was on this journey with my sister through the high and lows, the good and bad, and the happy and sad, that I had to reach into the depth of my soul. I can truly say this was the most difficult thing I had ever done. I often had to remind myself that God does not give us more than we can handle.

In the end, there was a silver lining hidden in this difficult journey.

It was only after my sister transitioned back to spirit that I saw the many gifts she had given me.

Gifts from my sister:

It was not about me.  There were several times at the beginning of our journey together when I would get upset, angry, or sad. My sister would look at me and ask, “Why are you so upset? Are you upset for me or yourself? If you are upset for me, don’t be? If you are upset for yourself, look inside to see why?” There was a lot of wisdom in these questions. I discovered that my emotions were about me, and for me.

Let go of the outcome. When you know your time is limited you look at each day differently. My sister and I laughed as much as we could. We found great hats and scarves for her. We went for car rides. Had pedi and manicures. Played with the grandkids. Had dinner for the family. We made each day count. We did not dwell on the outcome. What would be, would be! The journey we were sharing was more important than the destination.

Live Life Fully. None of us knows when, or if, illness or tragedy will arrive. Nor do we know when our time in this reality will end. Because of that, we should not wait to live. Why defer a dream? Why wait to do something special? Why wait to feel alive and vibrant? So many people wait for the right time or having enough money. For me living life fully means getting out my comfort zone and taking a few risks. What would it look like for you?

Don’t be afraid to love and express your love. I feel so blessed that I had two years to show and express my love for my sister. So many others are not given that chance. The love I express now for my family and dear ones is so much deeper than it was before. Who in your sphere needs to hear you say, ‘I love you?’

We come into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing. At the end of our earthly journey we leave as we came. We do not take our physical shell, our house, our clothes, our cars, our bank accounts, or our gadgets. We take nothing. I wonder why we spend so much time and energy gathering and protecting them. Could clutter be keeping you from enjoying your life?

In the end I knew that we are not our physical bodies, we are spirit. Yes, it is true, we are spirit having a physical experience. The spirit of my sister lives on in my memories. Since she departed I have had many moments where I think, “She would have liked this.” I think she would like the fact that I am sharing this with you.

I feel very honoured that my sister asked me to join her for this, her last journey. Through it all, there were two journeys, her’s and mine. Both profound!

Every trial that comes our way is an opportunity to grow and thrive. It is all in the way you look at it. You can either see it as a burden to endure or you can view it as an experience to discover new treasures within. It is all in our perception!

Do you grin and bear adversity, or do you look for the silver lining waiting to be uncovered?

Life is a journey comprising of experiences that are designed to help us grow. Live life to the fullest and with passion, enjoying what you find along the way.

Are you building walls saying NO? Ready for YES?

Are your thoughts creating wall and barriers preventing you from experiencing more of life?

Mine were!

Does this sound like you? A friend calls you up or texts with a suggestion to go out for lunch. You pause! Your mind is frantically searching for the right answer. Should I go, shouldn’t I? If I don’t go what excuse can I use? I have so much to do right now. I don’t know! I have to pick up the kids? The litany goes on.

I know this all too well. I went for a period when I built walls around myself and fended off almost all invitations, making up all sorts of reasons why I didn’t want to or I couldn’t. Often after I turned down an invitation I would spend hours thinking that maybe I was missing out, maybe I should have gone, why didn’t I say yes.

Ah, the thought games we play!

When I realized I sitting home alone far too often and was receiving fewer and fewer invitations even to me my excuses sounded lame. I decided ENOUGH.

I saw that it was only my thoughts stopping me from enjoying life, friends, family and new experiences.

I was thinking myself into a lonely secluded life surrounded by 4 walls and no new stimulus. Did I really want this? NO!

Once I knew that I had to change my thoughts in order to change my life I decided to start saying, “YES”. I did it in little steps. That was easy because I wasn’t getting very many invitations.

I accepted the first invitation that came my way. I went to a movie with a friend. More invitations came as I continued to say YES. To begin with I accepted all invitations just to practice saying Yes, then I became more selective.

When I did consider saying NO to an invitation, I would pay attention to the thoughts and feelings around the no. Why was I saying no? Was it something I really did not want to do or go to OR was I just building walls again?

Saying, “Yes” has brought back more joy, curiosity and people into my life. My life is richer from the giving and sharing that has ensued.

In our busy lives we don’t often realize that we have been constantly declining invitations and limiting our experience of life. It is so easy to fall into a rut of sameness. When you ask someone what they have been up to, how often to get the reply, “You know, same old same old.”
Is that your answer?

Perhaps it is time to turn that NO into a YES and see where it takes you. You might find that you have more energy, more joy, and yes, even more time to get things done.

Take the challenge and give yourself permission to say YES and see what happens.

Is this my dream?

You sit, hands clasped around a cup tea, staring out the window and wonder what happened. Is this really your dream life?

You went to college, landed a great job, got married, had kids, have all the outer trappings of material success, BUT feel empty.

You did what your family and society expected of you. You did what everyone else was doing. Was it right or wrong? Neither, it just was.

You made those choices based on who you were and what you knew at that moment. They were the best decisions for that time.

Now you are living this dream.

There was a time, I too sat starring out the window wondering if this was all life had to offer. Then I became aware that my life was my dream, my choice and it had been perfect for me.

Mine dream included university, a short marriage, no kids, a 25 year career as an educator, a life of constant change and movement, no permanent fix address and sense of adventure that leads me on. This was my dream and it was/is right for me.

The choices I made gave me some fantastic experiences from which to grow. Once I realized that, it became clear that going forward I had the opportunity to make new choices thus new dreams.

I looked around and noticed other people’s dreams. Looking at them I realized I couldn’t live their dreams, as they probably couldn’t live mine.

So, as you sit there sipping your tea and looking out the window, reflect on your life choices up to now. Look at how they are a reflection of the authentic you. Note all the ways they helped you to grow and arrive at this moment in your life.

Take a look around and if the dream that you have create up to this moment doesn’t quite fit any more, it might be time to choose something different.

What is the one thing you could easily change to begin the journey to a new life, a new dream? Take some small steps, feel them out, if it feels right keep moving, question any resistance that comes up – what is it about?

BE gentle with yourself and remember to celebrate any action you take toward your new dream.

Life is your dream and change is only one thought away. Only you can change the thought and take the steps.

What is your new dream and where will it lead?