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It was a Saturday late night and suddenly I find my son coming in and wishing me “Happy Mother’s day amma and gifting me “IKIGAI … the Japanese secret to a long and happy life” a book written by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. It was the 26th day of melancholy, retrospection, grief, despair and frustration with existential crisis of losing life partner.

Existential crisis also known as moments when individuals question whether their lives have meaning, purpose or value and are negatively impacted by the contemplation. Human beings – are faced with circumstances, changes or transitions expected or unexpected that leave us wondering and questioning the direction our life is taking. When experiencing an existential crisis, it is very common to feel lost, uneasy, and as though we have lost touch with our values and purpose in life.

But the book in hand reads that, in Japan everyone has an Ikigai… a reason for living. The place where passion, mission, vocation and profession intersect means each day is infused with meaning. The venn diagram (to illustrate simple set relationships, logic) made me curious.

On a Sunday morning without obligations or commitments of the workweek reason for getting out of bed … one has to find a purpose and that is ikigai in a very simple way of explaining. We cannot control our emotions, but can take charge of our actions each day. Again, to find an answer to the questions of what do we need to do, what action should we be taking is to look inside and find your own ikigai.

Viktor Frankl’s (founder of logotherapy) own experience believed that human being does not require a peaceful existence but a challenge to strive for and meet by applying all the skills. Dr. Shoma Morita created his own purpose centred therapy in Japan. Shoma Morita besides being a psychotherapist was a zen master of Naikan, an introspective meditation.

Morita therapy focuses on teaching to accept one’s own emotions, make discoveries through experience, look inside yourself to find answers to; what do we need to be doing right now? What action should we be taking? The four phases of therapy include the following

1. Isolation and rest without any external stimulus like Television, books, friends, family or speaking for about five to seven days. When the patient gets bored to and wants to start doing things again, the next stage begins 2. Light occupational therapy for five to seven days. During this period the patient performs repetitive tasks in silence like a. Writing a diary of thoughts and feelings b. Nature walks, breathing exercises c. Simple activities like drawing, painting, gardening etc 3. Occupational therapy: performs tasks with physical movement like trekking to mountains, chopping wood besides immersed in other activities like writing, painting or making ceramics 4. Return to Social life and outer world… reintroduced to social life but maintains the practices of meditation and occupational therapy developed during the treatment.

Naikan Meditation: Is centred on three questions the individual must ask himself

1. What have I received from person X? 2. What have I given person X? 3. What problems have I caused to person X?

Through these reflections, we stop identifying others as cause of our problems and deepen our own sense of responsibility. As Morita said, “if you are angry and want to fight, think about it for three days before coming to blows. After three days the intense desire to fight will pass on its own.

Logotherapy and Morita therapy are both grounded in a personal unique experience that all of us can access without a therapist or spiritual retreats; the mission of finding your IKIGAI, our existential fuel.

The world is full of opportunities for growth and achievement. Are we ready to throw ourselves into our own passion as if it were the most important thing in the world?

Dr. Sudha Turaga
Director DPS and Pallavi Educational Institutions
Voluntary Counsellor Manodarpan and CBSE

Dr. Sudha Turaga
Director DPS and Pallavi Educational Institutions
Voluntary Counsellor Manodarpan and CBSE

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