Transforming Life With Leisure

How does play or leisure relate to ikigai?

For Dr. Suzy Ross, play and leisure are integral to transformation because they provide us with experiences that help us keep moving forward. Same with ikigai, an experiential concept: we can feel ikigai through the experiences we accumulate in life; these experiences give us a sense that life is moving forward.

Nick: I see, this transformation is a theme I've looked at in ikigai. And it relates specifically to someone I'll touch on in a minute. But there's something I'd love to quote from your chapter in relation to transformative leisure and play. And you write:

Play and leisure are integral to transformation, because it unfolds through moments of experience, some of which are extraordinary, others might be deemed important, and many viewed as mundane. Regardless of the importance assigned by the individual, living life experientially, is tantamount of transformation.”

When I read this, I thought, oh, this is fantastic because ikigai is experiential too – you have these life experiences, you make meaning of them.

But what's interesting is the mother of ikigai, this amazing woman, Mieko Kamiya, who wrote the seminal book called Ikigai-ni-tsuite which would translate to about ikigai. 

She wrote about transformational experiences, and how the the triggers for them can happen in the midst of our day-to-day living. So I guess, in the mundane, and maybe the problem is that we're so distracted, we're not being in the present, that we missed them. 

But these triggers allow for transformation, which in turn, might provide us with new reasons for living. So obviously, play can do that for us. 

And so I guess my question is, how can play or leisure transform our lives? I know that's not an easy question. 

Suzy: I think a core piece of understanding this sort of line of thinking is that you honed into experiences. You know, in that quote, I'm talking about experiences are the key and you're saying, yeah, ikigai happens through experiences.

Well, you could listen to that sentence and one level and say, well, that's totally strange, because all of life is an experience. What are you talking about? Like, you're not saying anything profound, because everything is about experiencing while you're alive, you're having experience -- you're dead, you're dead. 

But that's not quite. And so the distinction I want to make is that  when I say experiences in that sentence, what I'm talking about is the difference between being a spectator and having an experience. 

So anytime we're spectating: watching TV, watching a sport, watching other people play. When we're being a spectator. We're not really fully having an experience. Also, when we're abstracting with our minds, we're being super abstract. 

It depends on what's happening there. But that could enter into where we're not quite in the experience. So another way to think about it is when our whole body-mind-spirit is engaged actively, then we're in an experience. 

And as soon as you're in an experience, you are propelling forward in your transformation, because transformation is happening 24/7 throughout our life, because it's a function of the universe. 

So because we're a part of the universe, we are always in this process of transformation. But when we are experiencing something, especially if we're feeling our feelings, our emotions, then we're actually propelling ourselves forward. 

And we're allowing ourselves to move forward through this flowing outward of transformation. Where as if we're spectating or whatnot, we're definitely kind of putting like a dam in the river and slowing things down.

Nick: Wow, that idea of propelling forward really connects to ikigai. Because ikigai could be defined as the activities or experiences in your life that make you feel your life is moving forward. 

So which ties into maybe themes of growth and change and transformation. You're touching on this idea of almost like, it's almost like knowledge, if we accumulate knowledge, it can be helpful, but it really doesn't mean anything until we do something with that knowledge – we action it or we experience life through using that knowledge. 

So that idea of either being the observer, or someone who's actually experiencing the experience definitely makes sense.