Did you hear the one about the monk who joined a monastery and took a vow of silence?


     Did you hear the one about the monk who joined a monastery and took a vow of silence? Each year when the Bishop came to visit, the monks were each allowed to speak two words. The first year after this particular monk joined the monastery, he was approached by the Bishop and was asked what he had to say.  
      “Bed’s hard,” said the monk.  
      Year number two: The Bishop arrives and the monk’s two words are “Food stinks.”  
      On the third year, the Bishop is approached by the monk, who says, “I quit.”  
      The Bishop replies, “I’m not surprised, all you’ve done since you got here is complain!”
      It may be worthwhile to contemplate how much our attitudes impact our lives. It makes me wonder: Does difficulty in life create negative attitudes, or do negative attitudes create difficulty?
     I recently watched a program from National Geographic that focused on longevity and a study done by National Geographic.  They had identified “Blue Zones” across the planet: places where the residents typically live and thrive past the age of 100. The study of these different communities brought out several areas they shared in common.
      One was that they all led active lifestyles. They didn’t necessarily join a gym. In fact, few of them had. But their lives naturally led them to walk, move and be on the go. In the Blue Zone in Sardinia, for example, the town is very hilly, so the daily routine of walking to a friend’s house or to the market was a part of their daily exercise.
      Successful aging also seems to be connected to sharing behaviors with others in your group that lead to longevity. These shared behaviors include managing stress with times of relaxation or meditation, not overeating, and eating more fruits and vegetables.
      The other aspects of longevity have to do with feeling a sense of belonging to a group. Most of those who live past 100 are a part of a religious or faith-based group. In addition, they are close to their families and have a sense of belonging.
      The other factor for long life that I found especially interesting has to do with having a clearly defined sense of purpose in one’s life. The Japanese refer to this as "ikigai." The term roughly translates into “Why you get up in the morning.”  
      The people in the Blue Zones know who they are and what matters to them, and they hold on to a sort of personal “mission statement” of their lives.
      When I first heard of the concept of "ikigai," I related it to myself personally and pondered how I would define my own personal “mission statement.” Then I moved it outward and thought about being in a community with a shared sense of purpose.
      With so many different aspects of our community going so many different directions, it is easy for us to be like the monk and focus on the events or circumstances we don’t like. But how incredible would it be if we could instead focus on what we share and agree on. It’s hard to imagine Dodge City with a shared "ikigai," but think of all we could accomplish if we had one!