The Healing Power of Ikigai – Doing What We Love

by Janet Jacobsen

I have recurring uterine cancer and as part of my healing journey I am asking myself some very profound questions like: what is keeping me here, what is my passion, what engages me and gives my life purpose? In other words, what is my ikigai?

Ikigai (sounds like icky guy) is a Japanese word that basically means ‘why I wake up in the morning’. It’s what brings meaning and joy to our lives. The reason those questions are so important is because the answers could make a difference between healing or not healing, life or death. Studies have found that people who have discovered their ikigai live longer, happier, healthier lives. Our ikigai could be our children, work, plants or pets — anything that we care for and care about. It’s healing power comes from taking our focus off our problems and instead focusing us on what we love. This turns off destructive stress hormones and activates healing energy.

A good friend recently sent me this sweet letter:

“My cat Merlin, my little furry man, had a cancer tumor taken off last year…the vet didn’t seem optimistic. He lost lots of weight and I was giving up on him. He still had an appetite so I fed him as often as he wanted, tuna, salmon, shrimp…but he still didn’t gain a pound. In the last few months instead of fretting, I just started to enjoy him, take his fleas off twice a day and tell him how beautiful and wonderful he is…he gets on the sink 3 or 4 times a day waiting to be told how wonderful he is and I groom him a little. Its 8 months later and his coat and weight are getting back to normal.”
My friend stopped worrying and just focused on loving and nurturing his cat and it was healing for both of them.

Here are some additional examples of the miraculous healing effects of focusing on what we love:

When Phoebe Snetsinger was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she decided to follow her bliss and travel the world sighting birds. Her cancer went into remission and she lived twenty more years, and set the world’s record for sighting the most bird species ever.

Ten years ago my brother Norm was diagnosed with an inoperable brain aneurysm. He eventually stopped thinking about the time bomb in his head and focused on fulfilling his dream of sailing his boat to the Caribbean Islands and beyond. He was recently told by doctors that the aneurysm had calcified and was no longer a problem.

My acupuncturist told me about a woman he was treating with stage 4 cancer whose doctors could do no more for her and told her to check into hospice. When he asked her if there was something she loved to do, she remembered her love of painting that she’d given up years ago due to a busy life. She took up painting again and her cancer disappeared.

They all focused on what they loved doing and their illness subsided. Our ikigai can heal what ails us, and what ails us can awaken us to our ikigai.

I believe there are possible exit points or step up points in our lives, times when we decide to renew or not renew our contract with life, times we ask ourselves, “Am I having fun? Do I still want to be here? Is there something I’d love to do and am I willing to do it?”

When I was a depressed, suicidal teenager I was faced with these questions. My depression led me to reading metaphysical books like “The Power of Positive Thinking”, “Your Thoughts Can Change Your Life” and “Psycho-Cybernetics”. I became very excited and deeply resonated with what these books were saying – I knew my thoughts and feelings created my reality and I wanted to take on the challenge of transforming my life. This gave me a reason to live – it became my ikigai and fueled amazing transformation and healing over the years.

When I was approaching my 50th birthday I was feeling bored with life and uninspired. I became aware that it was a possible exit point…or step up point. Someone I knew had just died of an illness at age 50 — it seemed that she had given up and was choosing to check out. I thought that maybe my stagnation could lead to something like that happening. I checked in with myself and realized I wasn’t ready to leave this life. I wanted to stick around and face one of my biggest life challenges — creating a conscious, loving relationship. That was my new ikigai. I passionately immersed myself in that pursuit, AND an anything but icky guy showed up…the wondrous Tom (my husband)!

Now, some ten years later, I am faced with another possible exit point/step up point — within the past two years my appendix ruptured and then cancer came a callin’. I am seriously addressing these questions: Do I still want to be here? Is there something I feel passionate about doing? Are there exciting challenges that are engaging me?

The answer is yes. My relationship with my husband Tom continues to be a great joy and something I dearly love. Cancer has refocused me on additional passions and reasons for living, like writing and deeply connecting with my spirit. It has renewed my enthusiasm for metaphysics, exploring how our thoughts and feelings affect our reality, our bodies, and our lives. As I’m working on healing myself I’m highly engaged in reading stimulating books such as Spontaneous Healing of Belief (Gregg Braden) and The Intention Experiment (Lynne McTaggert). Science has now caught up with metaphysics and it’s a very exciting time to be alive.

Gardening is an ikigai for many people and in a sense it is for me as well…I am now passionately focused on gardening my energy field, gardening a higher vibration, gardening the healing energy of love. Like my friend who stopped worrying and simply showered love on his cat, I am loving myself, I am lovingly talking to my body and my ailing parts like they’re my children, telling them how wonderful and beautiful they are. I am loving delicious food and delicious connections with the people in my life. I look forward to waking up in the morning, fully tasting and enjoying life. These are all exciting, worthwhile reasons to be here.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?” “What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?” “I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.

I believe our Ikigai is a key element in whether we stay or go, whether we kick the bucket or keep filling the bucket. I want to stay — I want to keep filling the bucket!

What’s your ikigai? What are you excited about and motivates you to jump out of bed in the morning? It could be something as simple as breakfast (like Pooh) or something as profound as loving and nurturing yourself as if you were the most precious thing in the world. I wish you buckets full of ikigai!

About the Author:

Jan Jacobsen has been on a lifelong personal growth journey. She is trained in Hakomi, a mind/body approach which advocates that healing happens when we bring loving presence to what is. She has also apprenticed with Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks (authors of Conscious Loving), learning skills that help love be authentic and fun. Her thriving relationship with her husband Tom is a testament to the effectiveness and value of those skills. She is the author of EnlightenInk Newsletter, as well as the books Gardening Love; Practical Groundwork for Love to Bloom in Your Life, and Miracle Marriage. If you’d like to read her free newsletters, go to http://enlightenink.com

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