Ikigai: what lights you up?

The core curriculum for the upcoming Balanced Rock, Living the Dream retreat can be summed up in the Japanese concept Ikigai. I was so happy to have a social media post from my friend, Jamie Anderson, to put words to the curriculum I was in the process of writing! According to Japanese thought, everyone has an Ikigai, and it is essentially ‘a reason to get up in the morning’ or a reason to enjoy life.

Ikigai is essentially ‘a reason to get up in the morning’ or a reason to enjoy life.

The Wikipedia definition describes the terms as indicating the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. Secondly, the word is used to refer to mental and spiritual circumstances under which individuals feel that their lives are valuable. It’s not necessarily linked to one’s economic status or the present state of society. Even if a person feels that the present is dark, but they have a goal in mind, they may feel ikigai. Behaviours that make us feel ikigai are not actions which we are forced to take—these are natural and spontaneous actions.


On our course this August, we will be delving into this concept during our hikes to high alpine lakes and domes, in our journals and in some facilitated discussion around the campfire.

We will explore this concept:

  • Have you found your ikigai or want to search for your ikigai?

And in terms of the work, hobbies, and things we spend time doing:

  • Do you love it?
  • Does the world need it?
  • Are you good at it?
  • Can you be paid for it?

How can you live with purpose today, to live a longer and healthier life? (ie: How can you live your dream?)

I feel lucky to have found my Ikigai through my work with Balanced Rock. When I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to create an education center that involved deep connection to experiencing nature, spiritual exploration and growth, community building, and creative expression. I continued to follow a varied path of mountain guiding and rambling, restaurant and service industry work, non-profit management, environmental education, doula, massage therapy, yoga instruction, housecleaning, beekeeping, and farm work to name only some.  Sometimes my jobs seemed “random” but always taught me lessons and new skills and provided contentment and new opportunity.  I love learning and teaching and sharing and taking risks and entrepreneurship. I love healing modalities. I love variety and non-traditional work schedules. I love following the rythym of nature and seasons.   Balanced Rock is and has been this for me. It is why I get out of bed in the morning. I feel happy and life meaning from this work. I am very grateful for this.

We would love to hear thoughts on how you are now living your dreams. Please comment on our blog!

And if you would like to brainstorm more, join us for Living the Dream Retreat August 12th-14th.

Here’s to finding daily happiness and purpose!

Heather Sullivan

Managing Director & Co-Founder of Balanced Rock


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