Stuff happens. It’s how you deal with it that makes your life.
Japan is a timeless place where ancient traditions fuses with modern life. They treat the two concepts as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Japan’s beauty and wisdom are unique and unmatched. Western citizens would genuinely enjoy knowing a thing or two from Japan’s culture.
Recently, I set myself the challenge to learn Japanese. Some may wonder why., it’s challenging to master.
Japan, for me, has a sense of mystery to it.
Just being able to speak Japanese, would be so cool. You feel part of Japan. Though It isn’t the most accessible language, that shouldn’t stop you from learning it. That’s a cry to try harder.
It’s also helpful that when you set out to learn a new language, take the time also to study its traditions, activities, wisdom. Otherwise, you won’t fully grasp the language.
So that’s what I did.
The more I delf into its culture, the more I wanted to know everything about it. I don’t know what it is, but the culture resonates with me; just of think of sushi, minimalism, and its timeless wisdom. You can see that Japanese culture has a mindfulness mentality.
I think one of the most overlooked concepts of Japanese culture is its philosophies. I discovered some exciting wisdom that I came across. I know the one quote that stuck with me as Shikata Ga Naï. It’s what the Japanese people know as “we cannot help it.”
The phrase Shikata ga nai (しょうがない Shō ga nai) is another way to say that we cannot help it. I would translate it more than: “It is what it is. We don’t always have control over our lives.”
It’s sound’s pessimistic. Western culture would view it that way. But that’s too simplistic. There’s a more profound message here:
Shikata Ga Naï means letting go. It’s about accepting what you cannot change and doing your best to let it roll off your back.
As the Buddhist concept has become more popular in the West, more people embrace “mindfulness.” Life isn’t always pleasant. Suffering is part of life. So being mindful of both positive and negative feelings is the best place to start. It’s all about embracing reality while living in this present moment.
I wanted to take this opportunity to emphasize the beauty of the phrase “Shikata Ga Naï.” The meaning behind the words might appear wrong, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Especially if you have stress and overworked, perhaps you can give yourself a little break next time and say “Shikata Nai Ne..”
There are times we need to accept reality. The truth is we don’t always have control over every situation
A simple practice you could do is this one; view “Shikata Ga Naï” as skipping stones over water.
It’s an easy exercise I learned a few years back when I was a day at sea. It helped me with something that bothered me.
To begin with, you first have to find a single rock. Best is to take one that’s flat on both sides. It’s better that way because it will skip easier over the water.
Then, if you found a good stone, stand towards the water and close your eyes. Do this while holding the stone.
While you hold the stone, Try to picture it in your mind. Think of it has a problem you have, a thought you can’t get out of your head. Don’t worry if you can’t do it right away. Just take your time. Better to do this mindfully than quickly.
Also, know of how the rock feels; And crazy as it sounds, even try to be the rock.
Don’t give any meaning to the process. Just observe it in your mind.
Remind yourself that you have to breathe deeply in and out. It will calm your mind, and you will feel more relaxed
Only until you feel calm and ready, gently open your eyes.
Now, Look into the distance and throw the rock, best as you humanly can, horizontally over the water — to throw the stone so it skips the surface of the water takes some practice. Don’t bother if you can’t do it. I surely couldn’t do it.
That’s all to it. It’s a simple practice. You don’t have to do it the same way I described here. You can do it however you like. It’s all the same.
The principle remains; to feel Shikata Ga Naï, let go.
Remember, the only thing standing in your way is your creativity.
Shikata Ga Naï As Lifestyle
It’s no secret that Japan’s focus on a diet and staying active until later in life are significant contributors to their longevity.
If you’re familiar with blue zones, you might know that Okinawa — islands at the southern end of Japan — known as the land of immortals. Okinawans have less cancer, heart disease, and dementia, and women there live longer than any women on the planet.
Perhaps their greatest secret is a strong dedication to friends and family. They maintain a robust social network called a “moai,” a lifelong circle of friends that supports people well into old age. Okinawans also have a strong sense of purpose in life, a driving force that the Japanese call “ikigai.”
There’s a final secret. It is SHIKATA GA NAI.
They know that whatever drama takes place in their life, is good to take a step back and remind yourself, “This won’t matter in five years, or five months (or sometimes, even five weeks), so I will not give it over five minutes.” And then wash your hands of it.
Now it sounds more comfortable than it is. We all have been into situations where something happens outside of our control — Maybe somebody cuts you off in traffic, or a canceled flight, or worse, You’ve bought your favorite ice cream in the shop, and you drop it by accident while everybody is watching (happened to me ones)
It’s tempting to torture yourself, wondering what went wrong, blaming yourself, or trying to fix something or make something work. But, sometimes you have to remind yourself that those things happen. They’re part of life.
When you let go, you will feel peaceful. Think of it like you’re in the middle of a forest, and all you can see is trees. But by walking away, you’re taking yourself out of the situation and putting yourself in a different place.
Sometimes, stepping away is easy. Sometimes it takes longer to gain perspective. But before you know it, you’ve walked to the edge of the forest. And will see the entire landscape.
Minimalism is letting go
“Shikata Ga Nai”, is minimalism.
I knew about minimalism for a while. But I spent no serious thought about it, not until this year. The reason for my change is simple. I wanted to strip everything away that wasn’t essential in my life. I tried to only focus on the things that would make me the happiest.
I realized that the best way to do this is by elimination. My first thought was to begin small. But I didn’t know exactly where to begin. So I bought a book called Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism. A Book by Fumio Asaki. His main message of the book is to find the things that are genuinely most important to you — and reducing everything else in your life.