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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

Want a happy, fulfilling life? Author of Ikigai tells you how

Spanish author Francesc Miralles discusses the book that’s flooding our social media feed, and shares the Japanese secret to a long and happy life.

more-lifestyle Updated: Sep 16, 2019 15:20 IST
Medha Shri Dahiya
Medha Shri Dahiya
Hindustan Times
Spanish author Francesc Miralles discusses the book that’s flooding our social media feeds.
Spanish author Francesc Miralles discusses the book that’s flooding our social media feeds.(Yan Pekar)
         

Happiness is a butterfly we all want to catch, but it seems to be fleeing everyone’s grasp. We all want to extend the fleeting sense of contentment we get sometimes in between the crises that hit us at quarter-life, mid-life and life in general. But how? Well, Ikigai,seems to have the answer. Ikigai is a Japanese concept which translates to “the reason to jump out of bed each morning”. The book offers tools to make life fulfilling, long and happy, which the two authors, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, learnt when they spent time with Japanese centenarians. So, the modern-day catchwords like ‘feeling spent’ ‘exhausted’ ‘burnt out’ can be moved away for ‘a life of purpose’ that Robert Byrne would have approved of. Excerpts from a conversation with Miralles:

It’s easy for Indians to grasp the essence of the book because it is in conformity with our spiritual DNA at a lot of levels — Yoga, living in the moment... Have you ever been to India?

Yes, I have been to India twice. India is the mother and the cradle of Eastern spirituality. Buddhism was born in India, then it travelled to China, Japan and then it got Zen...Yoga was born here, too, then it got evolved...

I travelled from Mumbai to south India many years ago. And undertook another trip in north India and Nepal. I am quite inspired by the cultures and traditions in India. I am a reader of the great Indian thinkers like (Jiddu) Krishnamurthi and I have a great interest in Indian spirituality.

Were these trips professional?

No, these trips were solely for discovery. Like many Westerners, I was not having a good time. I was working in a company, earning good salary, but I wasn’t happy, I felt empty. I wanted to think about my life. I quit everything and came to India, and took many trains, visited many temples. In India, I wrote my first book for children and I took inspiration from there to become a writer. I came here to rethink my life.

Ikigai, published by Penguin Random House, explains the Japanese concept. And it offers ample tools to make life happy.
Ikigai, published by Penguin Random House, explains the Japanese concept. And it offers ample tools to make life happy.
So, did it help discover the ‘more’ you were looking for?

Yes, absolutely. In India, people are communicative, kind, and welcoming. I witnessed different kinds of religion. I remember travelling by train, I observed various people especially the young generation. I had many conversations. So, I had a very intellectual experience. I learnt how the people were living and I found a way of living a very simple life. It opened my mind, I found a a way of living which was more simple that it was enough to be with friends, to watch the sun set, to be by yourself.

Have you found your Ikigai?

Yes, I am 51 years old and it means I have lived enough years to have two-three Ikigais

So, one can have more than one Ikigai...

For some people, it may be just one thing; like a doctor has a passion and that could be their Ikigai for life. But it is quite normal that people have different passions in their life and they have three or four different Ikigais in different moments of your life.

I have observed many people, when somebody is able to do something significant for others, they feel happy. Therefore, it’s important to do meaningful things in life that make you feel your presence on the planet is worthy.

I remember, when I was between twenty to thirty years old , my Ikigai was travelling and I wanted to discover new things. Then, my Ikigai was to teach German. It then changed and I entered the world of books, and my Ikigai was about bringing good books to people. Now my Ikigai is to help people discover their inner talents. For me it’s a big happiness and an experience to recognise their inner talent and draw it out.



Is there a sure shot way to discover one’s Ikigai?

There are different ways to approach it. Some people know what they want to be precisely. Those who do not know, have different ways to search their Ikigai. One of them is to try everthing and this is the method of science, the trial and error method, to get new inventions. You can establish different approaches. you try out different things and in the end you’ll find something that brings happiness and feels home, and be useful to the world in some way. Another way is to go back to childhood, because when we were children we were connected to our talents and passions. we can collect our passion. If an individual feels blocked then one must look at his or her childhood and what you wanted to be and you have lost it somehow.

Happiness seems to have become an industry. What is your definition of happiness?

Happiness means different things to every person. Like for somebody who is lonely, happiness is seeking a companion. In general, what brings us happiness is to feel useful to others. I have observed many people, when somebody is able to do something significant for others, they feel happy. Therefore, it’s important to do meaningful things in life that make you feel your presence on the planet is worthy.

What are some of the books that you read?
When I have some time for myself, I read novels with an inspirational dimension. My favourite is The Magus by John Fowles. Also, Hermann Hesse Siddhartha, whcich takes place in India (smiles).

One book that changed your life for ever?
The Magus. And if you have to read only one book of the 20th century, then it has to be Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

The book lays out the following principles:
  • Don’t retire
  • Take it slow
  • Don’t fill your stomach
  • Surround yourself with good friends
  • Get in shape for your next birthday
  • Smile
  • Reconnect with nature
  • Give thanks
  • Live in the moment
  • Follow your Ikigai

And who is your favourite author?
Depends on the moment. My favourite author is Buddha, I read a lot of what he said...And I am interested in beautiful writings of Thich Nhat Hanh. When I was in my 20s, I read a lot of Jiddu Krishnamurti. His way of discussing reality impressed me. And when I want to have some quality companion, then, Haruki Murakami. I have had some great times with his stories. I find Carl Jung’s ideas very interesting, too.

Do self-help books help?
Yes, of course! But like in every field, you must know what to choose. For example, if you ask me, ‘does music help’? Then my answer will be, if it is good music, relaxing music, rich music, it’ll enrich your life. If you are listening to very aggressive music, it won’t do you any good. It’s the same with self-help books. There are some very good books such as by Victor Frankl, Carl Jung... And, there are books that promise to make you a millionaire in 50 minutes, that is not a good book.

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First Published: Sep 16, 2019 15:20 IST

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