Most possibly the concept and desire to live forever is as old as humankind first experienced the death of a loved one. Besides many other sources, the epic of Gilgames is one of the most beautiful literal heritage of the dilemma of mortality.
We do want to live forever.
Even though we know, but we avoid to face it as long as possible that death is something unavoidable, incomprehensible… and there are those disturbing thoughts which are common amongst many of us: when we close our eyes for the last time, we just cease to exist and disappear from the world. There is nothing beyond.
Actually what dies? Zen Buddhist practices ask the only question they believe is worth to be asked: “Who am I? Beyond my name, my age, my social status, my relationships, my emotions, my experiences, family and cultural heritage, beyond what I call “me”, who am I?” What part of the “I” disappears when I die?
Buddhist teachings say the world is illusion, the spirit is the only real existing being, and the “I” is the same in everyone (how many ways exist to say “I” or “me”? As many as humans are born and refers to themselves such way through human history. Still, there is only one I. ME.)
And as the Advaita philosophy sums it up, the I is nothing, but a great nothingness, a void, which has a body, emotions, mind, etc. The I, the observer has its life.
What is sure, that we most of times identify ourselves (the I) with our emotions (“I am angry/sad/happy, instead of I feel happy/alone/joy); with our body, with our thoughts and brain activities, with our cultural heritage, etc.
This is wonderfully summed up by the brain researcher Jill Bole Taylor, who experienced and observed her own stroke from the inside of her mind.
Whatever the answer is for this question, and whatever you believe, I guess that the next important question to ask is: how can I live the best I can – and as long as I can?
The best here also refers to an important point we usually forget: the circumstances in which we can and desire and want to live happily ever after.
The desire to live forever is always born in our best moments: just think about it! In our worst moments when we’re 10 km down, at the level of Mariana Trench’s deepest point, even to think about surviving one more minute causes us deep suffering, and we’d rather leave everything behind.
But when we are – or, to follow the Advaita and the Buddhist teachings – when we feel happy and healthy and connected, and all the circumstances are ideal: we do want this to last forever. Though it doesn’t, of course, and we may know if we’ve been through many ups and downs of life already, but nonetheless, this is what our mind/heart/being desires.
The richness of life may mean different things to each of us, but we may agree in what was said here above: we’d choose to live forever – or long enough – only if we could live our life doing what we like to do, feeling ourselves active, healthy, loving and loved, connected and important part of the society (if it matters to us, or at least, to feel ourselves useful in whatever we are doing).
This is the secret of (a happy) life.
And this is the secret of longevity as well, because, all these life-qualities connect us to the Tree of Life, of eternal youth, which may illuminate others through ancient persons living with young spirit in hundred-old bodies.
One of the best practical sum-up of these secrets of longevity is written by Hector García (Kirai) and Francesc Miralles, who conducted a research on the island of Okinawa, Japan, in Ōgimi, and presented their work in the book entitled IKIGAI (it will be published on the 29th August in the USA, and on the 7th September in the UK)
The word ikigai (生き甲斐) got quite known in the last two years, since it was first published in Spanish (March, 2015), and know everyone seems to talk about it.
It stands for “passion of life”, something that wakes you up and makes you continue your life each and every day – and if possible, almost as long as eternity. It’s best known in the West as “follow your passion”.
What I found very useful along the road is a practical list which sums up the (Japanese) secret of happy and long-lived life, and it’s called The 10 Rules/Laws of Ikigai (as presented by Hector García and Francesc Miralles).
This whole article was born today from the 7th “law”, which recommends frequent reconnection of nature.
I am spending my second day in a deserted volcanic island (Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands), and almost a week after a medical urgency I had to undergo, my grief is getting lifted, my body heals, my spirit feels rejuvenated, and though my heart is still sad, and cries over the loss, it feels less heavy and filled with tenderness and some recently born pure joy. Beauty and vastness of nature and space heals, purifies and blesses my whole existence.
The 10 Rules of Ikigai
- Stay active, don’t “retire”. Keep doing what you love
- Take it s l o w. When you leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning.
- Don’t fill you stomach. Less is more when it comes to a long life. Eat a little les than your hunger demands.
- Surround yourself with good friends. Friends are the best medicine, therefore confiding, sharing stories, getting advice, having fun, dreaming… in other words, living.
- Get in shape for your next birthday. The body you move through life in needs a bit of gentle daily maintenance.
- Smile. 🙂 It’s a privilege to be in the here and now – and in a world so full of possibilities.
- Reconnect with nature. Human beings are made to be part of the natural world. Return to it as often as you can.
- Give thanks. For everything that brightens your days and makes you feel lucky to be alive.
- Live in the moment. Today is all we have. Make it worth remembering.
- Find your IKIGAI. There is a passion inside you, a unique talent, that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the end. If you don’t know what your ikigai is YET, your mission is to discover it.
What else would worth to live this life through if not to give the best of ourselves, on whichever way we can?