Have you ever heard of Wabi-Sabi? You might think it’s something to put on sushi and it does sound very similar to wasabi, but it’s not. The definition In the Wiklipedia says…. “In traditional Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-Sabi is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of appreciating beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” in nature. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence, suffering and emptiness or absence of self-nature.”
The concept of Wabi-Sabi has been on my mind for a couple of months. I wanted introduce a new theme to my weekly newsletter and being a somewhat of a perfectionist, (I say “somewhat” because I’m far from being perfect and I certainly don’t I strive to be!) this concept alone inspired me to learn more about it. But, what really speaks to me about Wabi-Sabi is how, as a Western society, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect when we really don’t need to. The beauty of Wabi-Sabi is that it gives us permission to celebrate and embrace our imperfections and how we can apply it to every aspect of daily living and beyond. I love how it shares the briefness of haiku and how it is connected with what haiku represents, which a fleeting moment in time that is turned into a short poem. They also both share the challenge of defining exactly what is really is.
Wabi-Sabi can be applied to almost every aspect of life, from how we look at our bodies to how we decorate our homes. I’ve broken it down to four areas which are: our bodies, nature, our homes and how we can apply this concept as a lifestyle to follow.
OUR BODIES: I picked this one first because, it’s probably, for most, the biggest area in life that we strive for to be perfect, especially when we’re younger and more so for women. What I love about Wab-Sabi is the special way it’s gives us permission to accept and love our flaws. I’ve gained and lost the same 10-15 pounds so many times over my life, that I’ve lost count and I’m not alone with this one. As a woman in her 50’s, things are changing and sometimes I don’t care, but other times I am somewhat bothered by it. I also have a large streak of grey/white at the top of my temples, which looks blonde on Zoom which makes me feels better… but why should it matter? As we age, why do we so desperately want to keep our youth? Our imperfections are what makes us human, gives us character, shows life experience and makes us relate-able to one another. Wabi-Sabi is the “perfect” reminder to accept the impermanence of our existence and how to look for the beauty in our own imperfections. As much as hanging on to our youth is more enticing, the richness of life’s experiences and the wisdom that we hold within ourselves, carries so much more beauty on the inside. The scar on your knee from when you fell down as a child, or the crows feet around your eyes, represent moments to celebrate and embrace the messiness of life.
NATURE: Wabi-Sabi in nature is everywhere and once we start to notice it, we will see more and more of it. When we see the imperfections in nature, it can help us to accept the imperfections within ourselves. Nature’s cycles of growth gives us a good example of this. The seasons are so connected to the seasons of life that we go through. In the spring there is a rebirth, buds bursting and a newness that feels so good and fills us up with hope. When the blossoms come to bloom they look so beautiful and can represent the youthfulness of a teenager. Before you know it, the blossoms are gone and the next stage of life has arrived. Every fall there is a death that can help us to surrender to our mortality, giving us the acceptance of growing older, the inevitable fact that we are only here on this planet for a short time. The beauty of fall is in every leaf and every raindrop. giving us the opportunity to learn how to let go and accept change. As time pushes us further into winter, the stillness settles in. Nature’s cycles of growth, death, and the daily wear and tear are embodied in the tattered edges, rust, winkles and decline that is recycled from year to year. Through Wabi-Sabi, we learn to embrace both the grace and the sorrow found in these symbols of the passage of time. We can use this concept as a message to take care of the planet and connect with nature on a daily basis.
OUR HOMES: Another part of Wabi-Sabi is that it can help us create joy in our homes and feel more content with what we have, rather than always wishing for more. It teaches us to be grateful with our current situation without constantly yearning for more. It can help us learn how to be selective with determining what we want and what we really need. It gives us the perfect opportunity to look at what we have, and the things we want to keep, that speaks to our hearts while living in a throwaway society built on mass-produced products that carry no meaning. The chipped ceramic teacup that your Grandmother gave you holds more meaning than the trendy set of dishes that you bought on sale. Every object in your home should be beautiful in its own way, useful, or both.
AS A LIFESTYLE: Wabi-Sabi gives us permission to let go and just be. Be in the moment of complete acceptance in every area of life. Accepting someone else’s faults, rather than taking them on as a project to be fixed, gives you the opportunity and emotional energy for enjoying that person for who they are in the moment. Accepting the flaws in others, will help us accept the flaws in ourselves, making us to feel safe, not judged and comfortable. Sometimes, the most critical person in your life is yourself. The graceful appreciation of our natural progression through life is a message that can get lost, forgotten and not honoured. Wabi-Sabi gives us the perfect antidote as to how to let our inner beauty shine through our bodies, our homes and in nature. The stories that are held in the scratches, the bumps and the discolouration is the what makes life magical and fleeting with impermanence. Everything is just right the way is it, flaws and all.