Transforming Lives Through Your Best Self

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu shares how he prefers to live ikigai as much as possible. He believes that living in a way that feels right not only benefits himself but also for others. The impact he can have on others simply by making them feel seen and supported is significant.

You are responsible for your own life

Nick: Stephen, what about you when you think of ikigai? What does it feel like? Or what does it mean to you? And what are some examples of your personal ikigai?

Stephen: I'm probably in the category of those that you just said that don't really think about it. I don't remember my grandmother ever talking about it. What I like, I'm so drawn to about her life and her teachings is the feeling that she lived ikigai and didn't really talk about it.

That was embodied in her way of living, and that's why I wanted to tell stories about her because I feel like she showed ikigai and what it meant to her by the way she lived. So I liked that way of looking at it. I don't actually talk directly about it, and I think I want to live it as much as possible.

And I think I've described that I find just a sense that if I can live the way I feel is a good way to live, and that will by itself give something to other people. That's the way in my work, I conduct these workshops. And then I have this formal way of teaching courses in which I hope to embody the sense of humility and vulnerability and openness to experience and trust and faith in life.

And if I can somehow bring that to my connections with other people both formally, but also on a daily informal basis, so the very small interactions that I can have in my day, and I start with the person that I live with, how I interact with that person, how I show that person, don't take a relationship that I've had for 40 years for granted and assume that this person should do things for me, but have appreciation and show gratitude for what this person does for me.

And then every person I contact in my daily life who may not mean that much in the sense that somebody I just passed by on the street or passed on the way to work or somebody working in a shop, if I can somehow engage with those people in the same way with a sense of I see you, I am here for you, without using the words, often ‘ogenki desu ka?’

If I can just interact with people, that sense of gratitude and a sense of please look with kindness upon my life, and please see me, please remember me, and I will extend the same to you. I find that I'm looking for ikigai and in the ordinary. And looking for that in being content with what a day offers me, and the opportunities it offers me to do something.

The other word my grandmother liked a lot was responsibility, or sekinin. It felt that in a sense that she was saying, you are responsible for your own life, I can help you as much as I can but you are ultimately responsible to live the best life you can to do the best with what you've been given. And you've been given a lot. So you have to do a lot.

You've brought children into the world, you have a great responsibility to children, but there are also other children that you as a teacher you have responsibility for. And that's something that you need to take very seriously about. You're given the responsibility in this life, to take care of your own life and to take care of the lives of others.

So I find that that's what I strive for and in every day is to feel that as much as life is hard and full of suffering and sorrow that there's joy in life and it makes me summon the courage to go on each day and live the best I can.