What you can learn about living well from the Japanese

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Important lessons for trying times

With the national lockdown being extended, we are all bracing for two more weeks of staying at home, working from home and spending as little time outside as possible. Even in the best of the circumstances – maybe you have a full-time domestic help at home and your home has a lot of room for you to walk around or even run – these can be trying times. So what can we do, while being confined in our homes, to live our lives better than we already are. The Japanese culture and philosophy may have some answers and here are a few takeaways:

1. Wake up early

It’s easy to stay in bed for an extra hour and, yes, the temptation can be very strong. But wake up early. If you have a balcony, step outside and take in the morning air, if only, for some time. Even the most cynical of us will admit there’s something deeply spiritual about finding yourself alone in the universe and catching the quiet of the first rays of the sun before the day gets busy. It will help you focus and start your day on a far better note.

2. Marie Kondo your life

The Japanese author Marie Kondo’s philosophy of identifying things that have fulfilled their purpose in your life and bidding them farewell doesn’t just apply to the clutter in your home but also to the people in your life. Being locked down means you’re cut away from everyone – including the toxic people in your life. Take this time to really assess what and who is really important in your life. Being home for extended periods of time will also likely make you more attuned to the physical clutter around you. Be sensitive to this feeling and acknowledge it. And then start decluttering.

3. Believe in yourself

This seems like a bit of a platitude but as one of the Zen tenets reminds you – All things come from nothing. Acknowledge that. No matter how rich or poor one is, we arrive in this world alone and has to work our way up. The truth is that we have an infinite potential within ourselves and the only way to unleash this is by working on it. For example, if you’re a writer, read and write more. Follow the 10,000-hour philosophy – the only way you can get good at something is by doing it repeatedly for 10,000 hours. Potential can only be met if you work hard.

4. Learn to be in the present

Mindfulness is an important part of the Zen philosophy. And also perhaps the most difficult. But try to be in the here and now. Instead of worrying about tomorrow and regretting about the past, learn to make the most of the exact present moment in which you are living. For instance, if you’re reading this, just focus on reading instead of wondering what the next thing on your to-do list is. This will also help you achieve your potential and find happiness in the moment.

Of course much of this knowledge isn’t rocket science and these aren’t very big changes to make. But that’s what makes it so difficult. Because we believe that these are small things, we put them away for a later date. And that’s how we get caught up in the vicious circle. Take these baby steps and break away from it.