8 Zen lessons to lead a more Ichigo Ichie life
In this extract from The Book of Ichigo Ichie, Héctor García and Frances Miralles talk about the central concept of ichigo ichie - and eight Zen lessons for a more ichigo ichie life.
The Japanese characters that make up this book’s central concept don’t have an exact equivalent in English, but let’s look at two interpretations that will help us to understand them.
Ichigo ichie can be translated as “Once, a meeting” and also as “In this moment, an opportunity.” What this means to tell us is that each meeting, everything we ex‐ perience, is a unique treasure that will never be repeated in the same way again. So if we let it slip away without enjoying it, the moment will be lost forever.
Though Steve Jobs was prone to anger, and often treated the people around him unfairly, studying Zen allowed him to bring beauty, simplicity, and harmony to millions of homes with his creations.
The teachings of this Japanese version of Buddhism give us many opportunities to incorporate ichigo ichie into our daily lives.
1. Just sit and see what happens. Our spiritual short‐ sightedness often causes us to look far away—in space and time—for what’s really right in front of us. Zen teaches us to simply sit and embrace the moment, with no further am‐ bitions than this. If we are with other people, we celebrate their company as a gift.
2. Savor this moment as if it were your last breath. You can live only one day at a time, and no one can be certain that they will wake up the next morning. So let’s not post‐ pone happiness. The best moment of your life is always this one.
3. Avoid distractions. An old proverb says that a hunter who takes aim at two prey at once will kill none. The same thing happens when we try to follow a conversation or read a book at the same time as checking our phone. Zen teaches us to do one thing at a time, as if it were the most important thing in the world. If you do it that way, it undoubtedly will be.
4. Free yourself from everything that isn’t essential. One can recognize an expert traveler more by what they leave at home than what they carry in their suitcase. Life is a thrill‐ ing adventure through which it’s best to travel light, so ev‐ ery day, whenever you feel overburdened, ask yourself, What can I let go of?
5. Be your own friend. Rather than comparing yourself to others and worrying about what other people think, assume that you are unique in the world. As the celloist Pau (Pablo) Casals said in a poem written for children: You are a miracle, and there has never been—nor will there ever be—anyone like you.
6. Celebrate imperfection. If not even nature in all its com‐ plexity, with all its births and deaths, is perfect, then why should you be? Each failure is a sign that you should take a different path. Each flaw is an invitation to polish a dia‐ mond. If you have the will to improve, then it’s perfect to be imperfect.
7. Practice compassion. From a Buddhist perspective, feeling sorry for someone doesn’t mean feeling pity but rather a pro‐ found empathy that allows us to travel toward the situation of the other to understand their motivations and, if necessary, their mistakes. Each person acts according to the mo‐ ment of personal growth in which they find themselves. Even when they behave in hateful ways, it’s the best they can do with what they have.
8. Let go of your expectations. Making predictions, waiting for certain things to happen, is a guaranteed way to kill the moment. Ichigo ichie is experienced with the uncluttered mind taught by Zen.