I was reading an article on the internet yesterday about a book written by author Scott Haas, entitled Why Be Happy. The article and premise of his book discussed the Japanese practice called ukeireru, which in essence means acceptance. It's the art of pausing and accepting the situations life throws at us before deciding upon a course of action.
The more I read, the more I realized I've been in the process of experiencing this type of skill for the past year or so and didn't even know there was a label for it.
At the end of last year, I decided, after a series of illnesses, that I needed to finally slow down and enjoy life. For the past 64 years I'd lived my life at breakneck speed trying to cram as much as possible into every single day, but that process was tiring and I wasn't fully enjoying life.
One day, while I was having a cup of an exotic tea I ordered from an English tea house, I sat at my kitchen table doing nothing other than savoring that cuppa. I focused on the feel of the bone china in my hand. It's smooth, cool sides felt sturdy yet fragile at the same time. The warm, heady aroma of the tea wafted up toward my nostrils. As I breathed in deeply, I closed my eyes imagining every floral note in technicolor. When I brought the cup to my lips, I slowly parted them, anticipating the rich flavors. As the heat from the liquid touched my tongue, my senses came alive and I realized I was finally learning to savor and enjoy the simple pleasure of a cup of tea. How had I missed it all these years?And what else had I been missing.
My world had drastically changed since being diagnosed with cancer. It was as if I'd been given a new lease on life. I was thankful to have a second chance to do things right, but often, as I went about my daily life, I tackled routine chores mindlessly. When we took small trips, I did my best to enjoy them and see things in a different light, but it wasn't always easy.
I'm a typical type A personality, always have been and probably always will be. I'm a high achiever, a go getter, a hurry up and wait kind of person who lacks the patience of Job. I knew it was going to take time and energy to master the art of being in the moment or learning to be grounded as some liked to call it. Apparently, for the Japanese, this wasn't a learned technique, it was a given, a daily way of life. Why was it so easy for them to "get" and so hard for me?
The art of ukeireru bases acceptance as a way of life that offers potential for change. Apparently, that means the Japanese people just kind of "go with the flow." They don't stress about things, instead, they fully experience them.
As I've gotten older, I realize I'm on the downhill side of things. With the time I have left, I want to slow down and embrace the concept of fully being where I am, doing exactly what I'm doing at the time, without feeling anxious or stressed about anything.
I guess the best way to do that is to become more intentional about paying attention to the little things in life.
It may sound silly to "fully experience" a cup of tea when I could just as easily gulp it down in a few minutes and move on to the next thing, but for the past few weeks, I've found I really enjoy this little ritual I've set up for myself. So much so that I've started buying fancy tea cups and unique types of tea. I've given myself permission to have a cuppa whenever I choose and when I do, I sit with it and slowly experience it fully.
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but I believe they're wrong. If this old lady can learn the art of ekeireru, then I'd say 64 years of missing out was well worth it. At least I have a few more years, knock on wood, to see what else I can fully give my acceptance to.
Today, I'm planning on finding more ways to engage with my life. It's become a unique perspective and I'm feeling like I'm slowly waking from deep sleep. It almost reminds me of some days back in the 70s when an altered state of consciousness was achieved from a few drags on a hand rolled cigarette, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I digress.
Ekeireru is still new to me and it's probably something that's new to you, too. Learning to fully embrace experiences, relationships, and daily life shouldn't be something we have to be taught to do. It should come naturally. I wonder why Americans have such a hard time with this?