Nowadays, we can get everything in an instant like buy things online; look for information quickly; and get instant gratification through social media. Some people, especially in the urban cities, run fast-paced lives and they are just jumping from one thing onto the next without finding meaning on what they’re doing. This “life in the fastlane” tends to make people feel empty and confused as they try to get that next big thing one after another. If you feel this way in any form, I advice you to slow down a bit and try to experience life through the idea ichigo ichie (一期一会).
Ichigo ichie is a Japanese concept that is translated as “one lifetime, one meeting”. It is a concept derived from a Buddhism signifying “one span of life” or “from birth to death”. This Japanese proverb is commonly associated with the Japanese tea ceremony–one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement. The meticulous Japanese art uses Ichigo ichie to highlight the idea that every event or meeting in our life may occur only once and that therefore we should pay close attention. In the tea ceremony, even if the host and guests meet again the day’s gathering can never be repeated exactly so participants are advised to relish every moment.
Ichigo ichie is a way to relish life
When viewed this way, even our tasks or experiences that seem like a routine can be different every time. For example, the simple act of drinking a cup of coffee every morning may seem like the same situation that we take for granted without giving it much thought. While gulping the bitter liquid our heads are already racing on what to do the rest of our day. However, if we only stop and pay attention, we may notice the way we feel, e.g. the warmth of the coffee against the cold weather.
Thus, to live a meaningful life we must treasure each and every moment that passes. Ichigo ichie is not only about meeting people. Every experience is a wondrous encounter. Ichigo ichie is a way of actually feeling the heat of the summer and shivering in the winter. When we view things like this we begin to feel different–we begin to feel alive.
Incorporating the concept of Ichigo ichie into your life is easy. You only need to make a slight change in how you view and do things. No need to undertake major changes. Here are some ways to incorporate ichigo ichie into your life.
Mindfulness is being present in the moment. Train yourself in the art of listening, watching, touching, tasting, and smelling to give each moment the richness of human perception. This will increase your awareness of your surroundings.
When taking a walk at the park, see the colours of the leaves and flowers, listen to the birds chirping and the light chatter of people, feel the gentle breeze of the wind, then stop for a moment and smell the proverbial roses.
Give your full attention
There are a lot of things that compete for our attention. Whether we are at home or at work, there are several tasks (or distractions) waiting to be completed. We tend to juggle two or more things at once. We are too consumed trying to complete each tasks that we usually forget what we are working on and for whom or for what we’re doing it for.
Ichigo ichie teaches us to give our full attention to not only to new people we meet but also to people who are next to us like families and friends. We may not notice it but we tend to take for granted people who are just next to us like our spouses or our kids because we think that they’ll always be there for us. But no, they wont. When we’re with someone–whether meeting for the first time or not–try not to multitask, put your phone away and really connect with the person.
Do something you’ve never done before
One way in achieving unforgettable moments is by trying out new things. Adopt a new hobby, try a new dish, or embark on a trip. Create a bucket list of things you want to do and commit to doing them.
Human beings are transformative by nature and have the power to change. Ichigo ichie also teaches us that we have the opportunity to create different moments even if the reality is dull and predictable.
Take it slow
We are constantly rushing from one thing to the next. Slow down. The Japanese expression “mono no aware“ means “the awareness of the passage of time” and appreciating the beauty of things. It is like the bittersweet feeling that things are fleeting and that the true essence of life is ephemeral and impermanence. When you begin to appreciate the fact that nothing lasts forever, you’ll start to make every moment count.
Make every moment special
According to ichigo ichie, each opportunity presents itself only once. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll loose it forever. Life is a question of now or never. Thus, we must appreciate every encounter since it will never happen again. Do not wait for the right circumstances to go on a trip or to celebrate your achievements. With ichigo ichie every day is special.
Ichigo ichie teaches us that our seemingly routine activities can have more meaning than we usually give them. With heightened awareness, our hearts become more at peace with our sorroundings and we begin to feel that tingle of joy that indeed it’s good to be alive. Ichigo ichie reminds us that each morning, every moment we spend with our loved ones is valuable and deserves our full attention. We don’t know when life will end. Each day could be our last.