Ichigo Ichie: Once in a lifetime encounter – The Japanese Way To Happiness


Ichigo Ichie is a Japanese phrase meaning ‘one time, one meeting’. People in Japan often use the phrase as a greeting or to bid goodbye, conveying that the meeting was unique and special. A tenet of Zen Buddhism, the phrase ‘Ichigo Ichie’ was created by Japanese tea master, Ii Naosuke (1815-1860). Naosuke lived with a constant threat of being assassinated, so he made his tea as if it was the last time, goes the legend. He knew that he may not have the chance to experience the same tea again and lived in the moment. The intricate ritual of tea making compelled the the tea master to be present in the moment and embrace the transient nature of life.

The age-old concept of Ichigo Ichie is a way forward for practicing mindfulness. It keeps you rooted to the present by using your five senses to let go of negative emotions like fear, anger or sadness that has its origin in the past. Living in the present moment helps to identify coincidences that connect events in life, giving them definite meaning. Ichigo Ichie can also help to discover the purpose of life or ‘ikigai’ – as referred to by the Japanese. Only when you pay attention to the moment, you can be tuned into the “thing” that excites you and motivates you to pursue it and be a happy person.

The philosophy of Ichigo Ichie

Ichigo Ichie is the philosophy of living in the present, which guides us towards our destiny, helping us attain happiness. Here is a lowdown on the main principles of Ichigo Ichie.

Live every moment

Respect the uniqueness of a moment and embrace it before it’s lost forever. Every moment is special as it offers opportunities that can be harnessed to augment overall wellness. Ichigo Ichie is a gentle reminder about the exclusivity of a moment that will never be repeated and stresses the importance of being present in that moment. The present moment may be defining as it could be the moment of enlightenment. So, the Zen philosophy stresses that everything can wait except the present moment that requires intense presence.

Every moment happens once in a lifetime

Every meeting with a friend(s) or a family member(s) is a moment in a lifetime. It will never happen again the same way, even if you meet the same person(s) at the same place, as the date (time) will have changed and circumstances in the life of the meeting individuals will change. For instance, the exhilaration you get in meeting a friend at a café in your early 20s will not be the same as when you meet the same friend in the same café in your early 40s.

Live in the present

Only the present matters as it’s real and has many possibilities. Dwelling in the past or anticipating the future will only inflict pain as we have no power over them. The past is done and cannot be changed, while the future is only about speculations. Living in the present is

especially important in the company of family members, significant to personal happiness. But most people take close family members for granted, ignoring their presence by taking mundane phone calls that can be avoided.

Be open to people & ideas

Every person you meet may be a kindred spirit, whom you were destined to meet. Sometimes strangers provide an answer to a problem we have been struggling to resolve. New people mean new ideas and new experience, which is the secret to an animated existence. Do things differently, if you want a different result. This requires openness to people (read strangers) and ideas/situations in life.

Sit back and meditate

Caught in the humdrum of life with no time for yourself. Relax, step back, take a pause and sit down to meditate in your chair, and observe the miracle called life. This simple step will help you to unwind by focusing at the moment, and pave the way towards wellbeing.

Practice mindfulness of senses

The five sense organs of sight, smell, sound, taste and touch are there to make human life more meaningful. The senses keep you grounded in the moment, where you can live and experience the present that is more important than the past or the future. The Japanese philosophy urges people to use the five senses to align their existence with others around them. It helps to sharpen empathy and influence others in the right direction.

Coincidences happen for a reason

The universe has a way of communicating with us. Those who can read the signs sent by the universe are better adjusted in life and happier people. The principle of Ichigo Ichie considers every moment magical, so keeping a journal of the daily events helps in unravelling the reality of events and allows course correction.

Celebrate every gathering

Consider every gathering auspicious and celebrate it as a unique experience. Treat every occasion – birthdays, short trip or a vacation – as a special moment that will never be repeated. Create a positive mental frame to enjoy the small gathering that takes place in day-to-day life.

You have the power to change your life

Nothing is permanent and the circumstances of life can be changed. The dominant theme of Ichigo Ichie is that every moment is unique and can be changed if they are not acceptable. By living in the moment, human beings have the power to identify and use opportunities to transform their situation in life.

Ichigo Ichie encourages people to be present in the moment as it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The reward for being present in the moment is to find an inner peace and probably a purpose of life, while you let go of everything (past and future) that holds you back.

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