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10 Unique Lessons for a Meaningful life from Around the Globe

10 Unique Lessons for a Meaningful life from Around the Globe

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ~W.B. Yeats

For a few of the years in my life, I had a semi-nomadic way of living. It was great to travel the world with my backpack. We had many rich conversations and I learned a lot. My backpacking experience was a magical one. I discovered these practices that are common to many cultures.

The lessons I took away from each landscape I encountered I have compiled into a valuable collection. Each destination, from the busy streets of India to Norway’s serene fjords, offers a unique lesson about the organic intelligence within us that leads us to nourish our bodies, minds and souls.

This is a short guided tour that gives you a taste of some of the best insights I have gained from around the globe.

1. Jijivisha – The Joy for Life

In the heart of India, amidst the chaos and colors of its vibrant cities, I encountered the concept of jijivisha—the sheer joy for life. In ancient Indian scriptures jijivisha represents a will to life, a desire to embrace every moment.

The laughter of children, and the smiles from strangers as I walked through the streets of crowded cities became a testimony to this spirit. India’s many hues have a unique ability to imbue life with jijivisha. It teaches the world about the importance of embracing the present moment with open arms.

India is one of the places I have explored most. With 1.5 billion people, twenty-two official languages, and a few hundred unofficial ones, I didn’t even manage to scratch the surface of exploring that beautiful country. It is also not my intention to describe how hard life can be in that country. This country instills jijivisha into me each time I visit it, and for that I am grateful.

2. Niksen – The Art of Doing Nothing

Amidst the picturesque windmills and quiet canals of the Netherlands, I discovered niksen, a comfortable way of doing nothing—allowing oneself to be idle, to daydream, and to simply breathe. Niksen can be a playful and purposeful inactivity, where your mind is allowed to breathe unencumbered by the demands for productivity.

Find some quiet time, and don’t do anything. That’s it.

Don’t try to meditate, or relax, and definitely don’t check your social media. You could doodle, watch people pass by or daydream without guilt.

The idea is to come out of the “high-efficiency” mentality and embrace some moments of “wasting time.” The moment we try to make it into a “thing to do,” a way to relax or meditate, its effect dwindles with the idea that there is a goal to attain. It’s more like watching tulips in one of those wide landscapes of the country where niksen comes from.

It has become my favorite activity. It has become so popular that I teach it to clients to help them restore their mind and soul. My Dutch friends make fun of me. They say it is like teaching them a technique called “chilling out.” And I say: that’s it! That’s what some of us need the most.

3. Friluftsliv, the Love of the Outdoors

Amidst Norway’s majestic fjords one can learn all about friluftsliv, the love for the outdoors—a practice that celebrates the restorative power of nature, even under the whims of weather.

Norwegians regularly tap into nature’s healing power in the heart of the forest, amid whispering trees and birdsong. Friluftsliv invites you to enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of nature. It’s a reminder that, even in the face of life’s storms, there exists a sanctuary in the embrace of the natural world.

The Scandinavians love to be outdoors, no matter what the weather. I think we can too!

4. Hygge: Cozy Comfort, Deep Connection

Hygge is a feeling of warmth and coziness that you get from spending time in a comfortable environment with your loved ones. Imagine a Scandinavian christmas evening with candles flickering and the warmth of a fire stove. You are surrounded by family, with a hot teacup.

In the heart of Denmark, hygge reminds us that in the midst of life’s complexities, finding solace in the simplicity of a cozy ambiance and cherished companionship can nourish our souls and ease the burdens of the day. It’s about savoring the moment, finding joy in the ordinary, and embracing the warmth of human connection.

When I spend Sundays at home, I also think about hygge. I get my coziest socks and make tea in my favorite cup. I light some candles. This can mean the difference between having a day feel wasted or cozy and restorative.

5. Wu Wei – Harmonious Living, Effortless Movement

Wu Wei is the Taoist’s heart. He teaches us to be effortless in our actions. It’s about flowing with the currents of life, embracing the path of least resistance. In the peaceful gardens of Suzhou, the author teaches us that stress can be reduced by aligning with the flow of the universe. Wu Wei invites you to trust in the unfolding wisdom and find peace amidst chaos.

It’s my go-to whenever I feel like things aren’t going my way and that I am trying to force solutions. Wu Wei reminds to me to adjust to the life that is presented.

6. Meraki: Infusing Passion into Life’s Tapestry

In the sun-drenched landscapes and beaches of Greece, meraki, a practice of infusing passion to every endeavor, is born.

Whether it’s preparing a meal, crafting a piece of art, or engaging in a conversation, meraki invites us to pour our soul into every endeavor. It’s a reminder that life is not merely a series of tasks but a canvas waiting for our creative touch. Meraki teaches that stress can be transformed into purpose through passionate engagement. Every moment becomes a work of art.

Meraki is the mindset I use when cooking. This has been confirmed to me by experience time and time again: food tastes much better when cooked in relaxed meraki.

7. Gökotta: Awakening with the Dawn’s Tranquility

One more Scandinavian concept that I love: gökotta in Swedish. Gökotta invites us to wake up with the first light of dawn. It’s about embracing the stillness of the early hours, listening to the world awakening around us, especially the birds.

Gökotta teaches us the art of starting the day in tranquility, setting a harmonious tone for what lies ahead. The quiet of dawn brings clarity to the morning. It reminds us of the beauty of beginnings.

The swedes have a lot of things right.

8. Dolce Far Niente: Embracing Sweet Idleness

The list would be incomplete without il dolce niente. Amidst the rolling vineyards of Tuscany and the historic streets of Rome, Italy gifts us with this poetic concept, one that invites us to revel in the exquisite pleasure of leisure, reminding us that life’s most profound moments often arise in the unhurried corners of existence.

The simplicity of life and the luxury of unfilled time are reminders that the most meaningful moments can occur when we let ourselves be.

I find this works best sitting with friends by the beach or on a picnic—any chance to sit around enjoying slacking around without a trace of guilt.

9. Sobremesa: Cultivating Connection, One Conversation at a Time

In the busyness of Spain, the sobremesa teaches the art of staying at the dinner table and savoring the warmth that comes from meaningful conversations. Sobremesa reminds that bonds are strengthened, laughter is shared and stress disappears in the moments of unhurriedness after a meal. It’s a practice that celebrates the richness of human connections, reminding us that in genuine conversations, we find solace and understanding.

Next time a waiter tries to rush you out of a restaurant, remind them that you are still having your sobremesa…and that your meal is not worth a cent without it.

10. Acurrucarse – The Coziness and Comfort of Cuddling

This word has always been cherished by me. Acurrucarse, in Puerto Rico as well as many other places in Latin America means to snuggle with family members. It often describes cuddling with one’s children or pets, or watching a film on a sleepover with cozy blankets. This term is full of subtleties, and captures the essence togetherness.

I have a daily ritual that involves cuddling my dog with lots of cushions after work, or reading with my daughter in a room full of cushions.

Each of these practices is unique. Each of these practices is influenced differently by geography, history and landscape. But they all speak of self-care. They each speak of a connected and purposeful life.

It is true that humans have many common problems and concerns. However, it is also worth noting that we share an organic intelligence which leads us to appreciate the calmness of rest and connection, and to be mindful of the present moment in every part of the world.

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Cristina Bonnet Acosta

Cristina is a trauma-informed integral coach, offering sessions that combine inquiry with deep rest and attuned care. She holds master’s degrees both in Buddhist Studies and Literature and is currently completing her psychotherapy studies. Cristina splits her time between Vienna, Austria and San Juan Puerto Rico. You can find her hiking, writing, or working with clients. Kitesurfing or hiking in nature is what you will find her doing. To learn more about her work, visit www.cristinabonnet.com.

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