Posted in Books, Reading

Happy New Year and first book review: ‘My Ikaria’ by Spiri Tsintziras

Happy New Year!

I hope that you are feeling revived after Christmas and are enjoying your summer or winter break, depending on where you live in the world.

If you are new to The MuSinGer, take some time to check out what this blog is all about.  I also have The Music Room, The Library, and The Prayer Space for you to visit and enjoy, in addition to my blog articles, which will be published fortnightly or monthly – please hit the ‘Follow’ button on the side and enter your email address to be notified of new posts, so you won’t miss out!

Another feature of the blog will be occasional reviews for books which will also be listed in The Library as recommended reading. Why bother spending time reading?  Well, check out why a book is your best buddy and get started in 2019!

Now, onto my review of My Ikaria by Spiri Tsintziras.

All of us tend to reflect upon our last twelve months at this time of year, thinking about the frenetic pace of life we live, or perhaps you are at a crossroads, have just made a major decision, or are looking to improve the next twelve months. 

In the West we are increasingly aware of how stress, isolation, loneliness, sedentary living, poor diet, illness, and myriad other social, personal, and world issues are impacting upon our quality of life and overall happiness.  Many of these concerns, I think, can be traced back to a lack of community and connection.

This is where I found My Ikaria to be a balm on the soul, as well as a wake-up call to all of us in aspiring to living with more meaning in our days.  The author, Spiri Tsintziras, is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia, and her spirit and passion for family, community, food, and connection truly rang out for me in her writing.

The book focuses much on the author’s daily life and family routines, so that you feel you are getting to know her, her existence, and state of mind even before we travel with her to Ikaria,  a Greek island in the Aegean Sea and part of an area known as the “blue zone”, where “people forget to die”.  What is the secret of their longevity and happiness in this place?

Spiri takes us through her life before her Ikarian discoveries through a series of one-word titled chapters, perfectly and succinctly encapsulating the journey we all have as humans in seeking that something more.  We are together with her experiencing those feelings of tiredness (mental, physical, and spiritual), health issues, negotiating family life and responsibilities, work, dealing with the death of a loved one, looking after an elderly parent, coping with change and an uncertain future, etc.  Many of us are particularly feeling the pressures of life at this time of year – the supposed ‘festive’ season – where we look back and realise all that we have or have not done, or what we do or do not have.

Her discovery of the New York Times article above (“The Island Where People Forget to Die”) sparks the beginning of a fascination with Ikaria, its people, their happiness, diet, and lifestyles.  Our hearts begin to yearn with hers in wanting to know more.  What is their secret?  How can we tap into that?

While I had heard of Ikaria before, this process of rediscovering a place which seems to be so vastly different to our own way of life in the West indeed reinforces that feeling of ‘hankering’ for better, which is the title of one of the chapters in the book.  It was then that I felt pulled further into the story, wanting to know what Spiri would do next.

From there we move back and forth, weaving through the author’s life, experiencing the ups and downs, learning, growing, and feeling the shifts and changes with her.  By this stage it feels like I am catching up with a good friend, touching base, connecting, and constantly finding myself nodding while I realise that we are all longing for the same things in life.

The positive theme throughout the book is taking action.  Doing something – anything small – to start shifting our lives to improve our health, diet, physical movement, community, families, and happiness.  It is about re-evaluating, re-focussing, and not being afraid to try new or different things.  We are not travelling to Ikaria just yet, but tilling the soil of our souls and getting ready to sow the seeds of change. 

At first I was anxious to get going to Ikaria, and wondered when or if Spiri would even make the trip there to confirm her findings.  But it is not until at least halfway through the book that the trip actually takes place and we get to learn more about the people and their lifestyles.  In hindsight this waiting is a good thing.  We need the time to get to know the author, her life, mindset, and personal stories in order to understand how Ikaria changes and enriches her.  It is not easy to just take off overseas when we have so many things to take care of at home, work, and our own doubts about leaving things behind, even for a while.

But the wait is worth it.  Ikaria and the people Spiri meets live up to every expectation.  Their generosity, simplicity, health, fun, community, spirit, diet, and gratitude for life shine through.  There is a sense of sadness when Spiri returns home, and we wonder how things will work out for her.  Did she find their secrets to a good and long life?  Did she make further changes in her life?  You will just have to read the book and find out for yourself!

The part of the book which I loved the most is called ‘Your Ikaria’.  This section provides practical advice, steps, recipes, and other tips for living the Ikarian way of life wherever you are.  I love how the suggestions are easy enough to begin today (that’s right, even on New Year’s Day!), which is what makes this book your perfect first read for 2019.

You may not have the time, money, or inclination to travel to Ikaria yourself, but there is no reason why you cannot learn from the messages and lessons this book has to offer to begin your own positive changes right now. 

I found this book to be a clarion call to living more authentically and with purpose.  I realised how much I am missing in the way I live, and that the importance of simplicity, health, connection, movement, great food, and community is grossly underestimated in Western culture. 

Why do older people live so long and so well in Ikaria and places like it?  Because they are not shut away once they get old.  They still have a zest for life.  They embrace it with passion even though their lives may be materially poor in comparison with ours.  They have each other.  We were all meant to live this way, but we have lost ourselves while looking in the wrong places. 

I encourage you to get a copy of My Ikaria by Spiri Tsintziras and make this your year of fresh and healthy beginnings. Why?  Because investing in your life and soul, then using the power of this knowledge to enrich the world is who God made you to be.

Image Credit: pixabay.com

Author:

I enjoy musing, observing, reflecting, singing, writing, gardening, exercising, and dogs - usually not all at once. My Catholic faith and church is an important part of my life. Check out my blog, The MuSinGer, at musings.music.blog

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