I have, for a project at work, been digging into the traditions and aesthetics of Japan this week. A wonderful dive into a culture that is so parallel, and so different, to ours.
A country which values its ancient history, art, food, architecture, literature, royal family and more. A country which dovetails ours in so many ways, but also a country which is also starkly different. A country whose calm, quiet, almost minimal approach to life is so different to the packed, boisterous, cluttered day to day life in the UK.
So I have enjoyed discovering a new perspective on life, a fundamental twist on how we do things. And a phrase I discovered this week - "Ichi-go Ichi-e" - which derives from the Japanese tea ceremony is one of the real jewels I have uncovered.
"One opportunity, one encounter" - this Zen inspired philosophy asks us to extract the most out of every interaction we have. It is the antithesis to boredom, and the antidote to time lost - because it requires us to appreciate the value of each encounter. Each one is unique (even if it is something we do all the time).
If we can really open our selves to every opportunity presented to us, to recognise the power of subtle change and not be dazzled by the totally new, then we are opening ourselves to a much wider understanding of what is around us. And in doing so we will learn more, and be able to do more.
I am a person who is guilty of busyness, who rushes when stressed, multi-tasks to the detriment of the single task, who doesn't always listen in the now, because my mind is on the future.
There is so much to learn in repetition, so much to take from what we see every day - we just need to look and listen and be present.
Iche-go Ichi-e reminds me of how much I am missing when I am not focused on what I am doing, and who I am with. It is a reminder of how I want to be.
Ichigo Ichie literally means “one opportunity, one encounter”．The terms is often translated as “for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a life time.” Its better translation may be “Treasure every encounter, for it will never recur.” The term is derived from Zen Buddhism and concepts of transience, and it is particularly associated with the Japanese tea ceremony and it is often brushed onto scrolls which are hung in the tea room. In the context of tea ceremony, ichigo ichie reminds participants that each single tea meeting is unique that will never recur in one’s lifetime, therefore, each moment should be treated with the utmost sincerity.