Ikigai, or when you don't want to get out of bed in the morning

presence Jun 24, 2018

Do you know that feeling when you wake up in the morning and you feel like you don’t want to do anything…

We all search for something. We want to be happy and we want to find a way where we can wake up in the morning and jump out of bed with joy for what the day may bring. We want to have a purpose, or as Joseph Campbell called it ‘Follow Your Bliss’.

I recently came across a book called Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. Ikigai is a Japanese word that roughly translates into ‘a reason to live’. Actually I had come across the word before when I learned about Blue Zones during my health coach training. Blue Zones are places in the world where people live healthily and happily to a ripe old age. One Blue Zone is found on the Japanese island of Okinawa, which apparently has the highest number of centenarians in the world. They live a pretty healthy lifestyle and they certainly practice Ikigai there. The Ikigai of the Okinawa people is usually tightly connected to their community and their social environment. One female centenarian talked about her purpose as taking care of and enjoying her great-great-grand daughter. That’s what got her out of bed every morning.

I, of course, don’t disagree with any of this. And I think the idea that people can find their Ikigai and that that improves their life experience, is wonderful. But how do you do it and how do you identify with it?

Let’s look at it a bit more closely. I’ve read that the Ikigai looks for a common area in four elements:

What you Love (your passion)
What the World Needs (your mission)
What you are Good at (your vocation)
What you can get Paid for (your profession)

You’re basically looking for an overlap with each of these.

Wow! Don’t you just immediately feel a little overwhelmed? What if you’re not good at what you love. What if you’re not sure that the world needs what you’re good at. And what if you’re really good at something that you love and the world needs, but you’re not earning any money with it. Have you then lost your Ikigai, or not found it yet?

Perhaps there is something much more simple at the heart of our happiness. A search for Ikigai could very easily turn into something else you feel ‘driven’ to do. So then one morning you wake up, and you don’t feel like getting out of bed, and you ask yourself: 'What’s wrong with me for not wanting to get out of bed. Oh my God, have I lost my purpose?'

Eckart Tolle describes his own awakening very briefly in his book The Power of Now. He suffered from severe depression and had reached a point where all he wanted was to die, when he had a spiritual awakening. Following this profound experience, he found himself feeling complete bliss. He began to look at everything differently and found it to be extraordinarily beautiful. He spent the next two years mostly sitting on a park bench feeling at peace.

I love this story, because it illustrates that we don’t have to be DOING, and that we certainly could benefit from BEING. Obviously, as we know, Eckart Tolle went on to find what he loved – talking about Being – and realised that the world needed it, and that he was rather good at teaching it, and that he could earn a load of money with it. Hey presto… Ikigai. But I have a feeling that Eckart Tolle doesn’t wake up in the morning thinking: 'Oh wow, I’ve got such a great reason to get out of bed, let’s get going!' But more that he wakes up and is present in that moment, and then continues his day, by being fully present in every single moment that follows.

Now that is something we can practice ourselves. It’s actually quite easy to do, but there’s also a lot to distract us from it. Which is why we have to remember to practice it. But the beauty of it is that

  • we don’t have to search for it,
  • we don’t have to find it,
  • we don’t have to feel bad if we don’t know what it is or have failed to do it,
  • and we don’t have to make it fit any criteria.

It’s just being present in the moment and paying full attention.

So, when I woke up this morning and didn’t feel like doing anything – in fact I’m still in bed as I’m writing this – and I felt this little sensation of guilt or concern, or perhaps it was just a thought that said: ‘there must be something you want to get up for?’, I decided to just lie there, putting myself squarely in the present moment. And I remembered something else, Tolle once said:

‘Your primary purpose is whatever you’re doing in the present moment.’

My purpose then was to lie in bed and be still, until at some point my purpose changed and I wanted to get up, make myself a cup of hot water with lemon and ginger, go back to bed and write this blog post.

Now I’m going to hit the save button and then… well, we’ll see what will unfold next.

But before you go, why not join my mailing list with updates about my programs, and new blog posts or videos. Further down are also links to the two books I mention in this post.

Ikigai: the Japanese Way to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles is a great little book with some really valuable tips and ideas. Just don’t turn it into an ideal! You can get it from Hive Books >>>

Eckart Tolle’s The Power of Now is a book you should definitely add to your reading list. And if you’ve read it before, read it again… and again…
You can also get it from Hive Books >>

Hive Books is an independent online book seller in the UK. I like using them to avoid ordering from Amazon. If you're not in the UK, just google the titles. 


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