There’s a beautiful word called ‘synchronicity’, which means the fortuitous (or not) simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.
I had this happen this week when I grabbed the next book in my Book Friday series and read it, only to realise that the lessons it had for me to learn were exactly the lessons I needed to learn at this present moment in life.
To put into context for anybody who reads this post in years to come: this month is the start of the Coronavirus Global Pandemic and the moment it’s really hit the UK. Yesterday (12th March) the PM of the UK headed a COBRA meeting (how exciting that sounds; how banal it is when you know it only means Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) and appeared at 5pm to list the measures the Government are recommending people take.
Well, not many measures. It seems the current scientific advice is not to do much more other than avoid going out if you think you’re infected and keeping the especially vulnerable, such as the elderly and those with serious underlying illnesses, away from possible contamination as much as possible. I’m seriously considering placing my parents under house arrest, and setting up decontamination chambers outside their house for the many family visitors they have, two of whom work in hospitals and health related areas, some of whom are teachers who must be in contact with children who (thank Goddess) mostly bounce back from this illness if they feel ill at all and all of whom are busy living, eating and travelling in pursuit of a life.
Of course, I won’t go full Outbreak on them. Coronavirus, once herd immunity has been established, will be as dangerous as annual flu. Which is to say, it will be lethal for those at risk and an inconvenience for the fit. You can get UK Coronavirus advice from the NHS here.
What’s that got to do with my book for March? Well, I picked up Ichigo Ichie by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. Ichigo Ichie translates literally from the original Japanese characters as One time, one opportunity and is usually expanded to mean What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. We need to value every moment like a beautiful treasure.
Life isn’t a permanent condition, the book reminds us. As Charlie Brown said to Snoopy, “Some day we will die.”
But it’s Snoopy’s reply here that gives me hope. This is our call to Carpe Diem, to live well while we can because tomorrow is not a promise. Ichigo Ichie is a book about putting that into practise. Today we can live.
At 196 pages, it’s not a long book. It’s a beautiful feeling book, matt-textured hardback cover and thickly luxurious cream pages. There’s almost no illustrations in the book, so no lavish photographs here, and the text is very uniform throughout but that doesn’t matter. In this book, the content of the message is key. I’ve read it a couple of times, once as a speed read, but I’m going back again to mull over some of the points.
The authors obviously love and practise Japanese and buddhist principles. They meditate, seek mindfulness and have a great respect and honour for Japanese living. Beauty, simplicity, harmony in life. Ichigo Ichie is very much connected to mindfulness and presence in the moment, even in the darkness of life. I think that’s why picking it up this week seemed so synchronicitous to me.
Humans live as emotional beings, at any one moment experiencing anger, sadness, fear or happiness. Anger and sadness root us in the past: we are looking at things that have gone before. Fear ties us to a non-existant future, to things that might be, but may not be. It’s good to feel fear if a great big train is heading towards our car stuck on railroad tracks, less so to be ruled so much by a fear of that that we never take the route across the tracks ‘just in case’, even though that route might take us past the woods and mountains our heart craves.
The book says that we should be trying, as much as possible, to avoid living in either past or future. We should aim instead to be in the present, to be happy with what we are and where we are. Like mindfulness, but with a deep vein of contentedness that we cultivate through catching, recognising and remembering small moments of joy and peace and safety. Mmm. Moments of joy, peace and safety? Ichigo Ichie ties very nicely with hygge, into capturing moments of life in our memory and letting the emotions we felt then infuse now with joy.
Of course, achieving inner happiness takes time and effort (10,000 hours, according to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers). It also takes the ability to disconnect from stuff. If we can be happy with the small moments of joy, with the teapot of chai shared with a neighbour or the run in a park shared with our friend, then do we really need the big party, the fantastic holiday, the new clothes, masses of DVDs or any other purchases that we buy as an escape from reality. Finding a way to be at peace with yourself just as you are saves you money, suffering and the planet at the same time.
Back to the coronavirus, then. It seems likely at some point in the future that very many of us will be (or already are) holed up at home and likely to be stuck there for a while. As Buddha said “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. I know it’s easy to say, but is there a way you can mitigate the experience? In the UK people have been stockpiling toilet roll, but I wonder if we shouldn’t have been stockpiling good books, an extended Netflix list, some good chocolate and a few different tea or coffee options. If we’re going to be self-isolating, why not enjoy the moments. What’s the worst that can happen? We get the virus and have the pain of an illness (and hospitalisation if it gets really bad). But if we’re well, or mostly well, for the majority of our stay, we can use it as a spring time retreat. A chance to reset our life, without the distractions that pull at us. We can read slower, watch carefully, live with consideration.
I’ll be rereading Ichigo Ichie again. This time, copying out some of the quotes and placing them around the house. Part of my stockpiling in recent years has been all that art equipment I’ve always meant and never got around to using. Now seems as good a time as any. And I’ll be limiting my contact with the outside world. Walks in the wood, time spent just being. Who knows, I may leave my isolation a better woman than I go in.
If you, or anyone you know, are at risk from Coronavirus, please accept my prayers and hopes for safety and a speedy recovery if you do get ill. I don’t want to belittle anybody’s concerns about the virus, only to give an alternative approach. What will happen, will happen. If we have taken all the precautions we can and readied our homes, then worrying about it won’t make it either go away or be easier. That’s the point of Ichigo Ichie. We only have this moment: let’s make it a good one.
If you’d like to support me….
My new book, Cosy Happy Hygge is available as an ebook or a paperback on Amazon now. As you know, I do the whole kit and caboodle myself, from writing to proofreading to designing and I’m very proud of this one. It’s about using rhythm and ritual to make your life a gentler, kinder place. Writing it has been an important part of my mental health recovery.
I don’t monetise my blog. I don’t run adverts, take sponsorship for writing posts or use affiliate links. I want everything I do on this blog and in my hygge life outside to be truthful. If I promote a book it’s because I’ve read it and like it, if I point out an item it’s because it’s impressed me on its own merits and not because the publicist has talked me into it. It does mean I don’t run giveaways and I’m not chasing followers, but the drawback is that I need to find a way to support myself.
That’s why I write books. My thoughts are that if I ask you to buy a book not only does it support me, and let me keep writing as an independent writer, but you get something back for your bucks. I’ve written several books, some on hygge, some on Christmas. If you like what you read here, or in the Hygge Nook, and you’d like to support a struggling writer, would you please consider buying a book? Ebooks give you the best value, since for 2 or 3 pounds you get the whole content of the book without paying the extra for paper production, but I’d be a pretty poor writer if I didn’t appreciate the beauty of a real book in the hand. If you buy just one book, it all adds up in the end to support me, and I’d be so grateful.
If you already have my books, or just want to support me as an independent writer, you can always just send me the price of a cup of coffee as a friend, to paypal.me/HyggeJem . I tend to use a lot of my spare cash on books that I review for the website, so every penny donated goes towards building my happy hygge life.
My first three books are hygge related, 50 Ways to Hygge the British Way was my first book, and is available in Paperback and Kindle version. It’s a simple look at ways to feel more hyggely in life and at home even though we’re not Danish and don’t have it in our DNA.
Happier is my fourth book. It’s about how I boost my own happiness levels. It’s full of hints, tips and ideas for you to use and adapt to suit your own situation. It is available in ebook and paperback version from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
I have three Christmas books,
Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas was released in September 2017 and is available again in paperback and ebook version. It looks at keeping the Christmas season warm and cosy, with ideas for activities and routines to keep Christmas happy.
A (Hygge) Christmas Carol is my look at Dickens’ immortal classic and the many lessons we still learn from it today. It contains the full text of the book as well as hyggely thoughts on the story.
Enjoying a Self Care Christmas is only available in ebook version. It’s about keeping Christmas simple enough and healthy enough to keep you sane in the process.
If you buy any of the books or some of the items through the links on this page, I get a couple of extra pence per copy, as an Amazon Affiliate, in Amazon vouchers which go towards buying more books to review for the blog. I’d really love it if you’d support me monetarily, but I quite understand that cash is tight for many people, and I just love having your support via reading and commenting as well.
Truthfully, I’ll probably never make a living as a writer, but I do make a little extra income that gets ploughed back into books and magazines. One obsession feeds the other…