Make Every Moment Count
Life is a profound experience. One lives from moment to moment. Anything can happen in each moment; it may be good and bad. Everything we experience right now is unique, most of it can never happen again.
Life is short. Whatever we do right now can affect our future. Our habits define who we are. Our perspective shapes our reality.
The key to living a fulfilling life is to make the most out of every moment. This practice allows us to cherish each moment without worrying too much about the future nor the past. We learn to be mindful, accept the impermanence of life, and be content with what we have.
The Japanese concept ichigo ichie teaches us how to treasure each moment in life. Ichigo ichie means “one moment, one time.” This concept is a reminder that time keeps moving forward, that every moment matters, and that we should cherish each moment that we encounter. Ichigo ichie is influenced by Zen Buddhism, that’s why the concept is all about mindfulness and impermanence.
The origin of ichigo ichie is believed to be derived from the expression “ichigo ni ichido” by tea master Sen No Rikyu. Ichigo ni ichido means one chance in a lifetime. In the previous chapter, we learned about the philosophy of tea master Sen No Rikyu about being present and accepting the imperfections of life.
The phrase ichigo ichie was later used by the chief administrator of the Tokugawa shogunate, Ii Naosuke (1815–1860) when he was constantly threatened with assassination. He made tea each day as if it were his last. He wrote:
“Each tea ceremony should be treated with great attention because it is ichigo ichie, which is to say, a unique encounter in time. Even though the host and guest may see each other daily, the gathering can never be repeated. If we consider the extraordinary nature of every moment, we realize that each encounter is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.”
Contemporary life is way different from the era of Ii Naosuke and the shogunate but there’s a fact that didn’t change at all. We all are going to die. Every mortal being on this planet will pass away. We will face death. Our time keeps moving forward all the time. Each second spent gets us closer to our death. The beauty of life is found in the unknown. We don’t know when our life will expire. We don’t know what will happen in the future. Life is like the flow of the river. Whether you like it or not, it keeps on going. We should treat each moment in our lives as our last moment. That is ichigo ichie. Being aware of the uncertainties in life will make us value each moment. There are no guarantees.
The concept of ichigo ichie is still alive in Japan today. When you meet a stranger for the first time, that is ichigo ichie. My short trip to Japan was ichigo ichie. It was an awesome trip. I’ve visited other countries before but Japan was just different. The experience was amazing. From the food to tourist spots, ambiance, technology, people, the train stations, etc. There were just too many moments to share. The trip made me crave for more experience in Japan. It was definitely a once-in-a- lifetime experience and I still am grateful to have that opportunity.
In our careers, ichigo ichie applies to our job interviews or opportunities. Seize the moment. The offers you are offered with may never be offered to you again. There are times when our work will be boring because of the routine, environment, stress, and problems.
While at work, try to do something new — you can add plants on your table or workplace (if you have one) to lift up your mood, eat outside with your co-workers, or take a break. Taking a break from work is important. Most of us don’t like to because we may be labeled as lazy or unmotivated but we forget that we are human beings. We get tired or burned out. A change of scenery will definitely recharge us.
If you are in the creative industry, express your ideas. Show it to the world. Let them know what you are capable of. We only live once. Use it to express your thoughts.
In relationships, don’t take anything for granted. Cherish each moment with your loved one. Our lives are built on routines. Instead of sticking to a routine that will bore you and your partner, try doing something new — go to new places that both of you haven’t been to, take nature trips, give your partner a gift, or surprise your partner. The key to a happy and long-lasting relationship is for couples to share many new moments.
Ichigo ichie adds up to a happy life. Cherish each moment. Be present when it matters most. How? Perhaps it begins with a deep breath and a cup of tea.
*This is a free chapter of my book Going Japanese: Embracing Japanese Wisdom For A Better Life. Get a copy here