top of page

IKIGAI – Our Reason for Living

A bird does not sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.

Chinese proverb


An extremely important component of health, wellbeing, and longevity is our psycho-emotional make-up. Far too often we shut ourselves off from the outside world to become prisoners of our negative attitude towards life. We feel short-changed, manipulated, taken advantage of; we repress our ambitions, our desires, deny ourselves pleasure, shy away from the risk of love and commitment for fear of being hurt; organizing our lives to minimize the trauma of unexpected surprises. We feel powerless, unable to express or assert ourselves; we feel misunderstood, retreat into ourselves and indulge in self-mortification and self-punishment, invariably weakening our immune system, deregulating our hormonal system, blocking our detox systems, as we slowly seek refuge in illness, often as a last cry for understanding and love.

Japan has some of the healthiest and long-lived individuals on the planet. Apart from diet, exercise and caloric restriction, the single most important reason for this amazing longevity is the Japanese concept of Ikigai, or the reason we should be motivated to get up in the morning. Ikigai is our reason for living, our raison d’être; it is that which brings satisfaction and meaning to life, what make life worth living. It is the deep source of values in life; it is the mental, emotional and spiritual circumstance which makes us feel valuable. It is the process of allowing.


one’s self-possibilities to bloom, possibilities that give a sense of purpose to life and keep our centers from collapsing and spinning off to the periphery of life.

In oriental medicine, each organ system (zang/fu) has a strong psycho-emotional component. These are known individually as the shen, hun, yi, po and zhi. Collectively they keep us connected and grounded to our higher selves. The Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans have never had the luxury of personal space, privacy, and freedom to express their individuality that we enjoy in the West, yet they have managed to find happiness and ikigai, in great part to oriental medicine, acupuncture, herbal medicine and Qi gong, all of which bring an emotional balance, stability and well-being to their often highly regimented lives.

Oriental medicine is firmly grounded in Taoist philosophy, which recognizes that we are Spirit (Shen), Energy (Qi) and Matter (Jing). A balance of all three of these treasures promotes Ikigai, and a solid Ikigai sustains these three treasures. There exist hundreds of acupuncture points on the body, half of them regulating psycho-emotional issues. Chinese medicine can free up blocked emotional energy, and help transmute negative perceptions into positive ones, allowing the patient to give themselves permission to find their personal Ikigai.

bottom of page