So what is Wabi Sabi?
Pretty much everything that today’s sleek, perfectly mass-produced, technology-saturated culture is not.
It’s flea markets and op shops as opposed to shopping malls, it’s rustic mis-match chairs instead of a perfectly symmetrical chair set, and it’s a bunch of wildflowers rather than a dozen long stemmed red roses.
Wabi Sabi is a Japanese philosophy, which promotes ‘The acceptance of imperfection’.
Loosely translated, ‘Wabi’ means simplicity whether elegant or rusticm and ‘Sabi’ is the beauty of age and wear.
The concept is derived from Zen Buddhist teachings and includes the recognition of asymmetry, irregularity, and modesty as attributes of beauty.
In the Japanese Tea Ceremony, which I learnt a few years back, the idea of Wabi Sabi invites a person to consider imperfection – a dent or a crack in a tea bowl – as an object of value, as opposed to something to throw in the trash.
The irregularly shaped handmade bowls are prized for their perverse beauty and deliberate imperfection.
And as they chip from regular use we are reminded that nothing is permanent – even fixed objects are subject to change.
The Japanese celebrate beauty in what’s natural, flaws and all!
And it was while visiting France in 2016, that I was inspired to record this little video sharing my experience with Wabi Sabi in a foreign country:
Just look at nature.
Nothing is perfect.
Yet being in amongst naturally grown foliage and randomly placed trees is a rainforest is such a phenomenally beautiful experience.
I have never heard someone say while on a bushwalk: ‘If only they planted those trees in a line and pruned them back each week.’
We value what is natural in nature, so why not value what is natural in ourselves?
Because we are taught through social conditioning and the media that a certain look is more beautiful.
We are taught to look upon our unique attributes with disdain.
As a result of this unfortunate brainwashing we lose sight of the simple truth: We are all perfect just the way we are, so-called imperfections and all. (You can read my article on Perfection Paralysis here).
Imagine how different we would all feel, if every time we looked in the mirror and began seeing our imperfections as things of great beauty?
Wabi Sabi prizes authenticity.
If you’ve used Botox or liposuction or rigorous training and starving yourself to maintain tone and symmetry, that is not authentic.
It is the sign of a deeper insecurity that has you believing if you do not look a certain way, you are of no value.
Guys won’t date you, bosses won’t promote you, you’ll die old and alone with way too many cats!
Physical changes are not need.
The only change that is needed is a change of perception.
So what if you have big feet!
Sure they my be larger than average, but if you didn’t have feet, how would you get from A to B?
What about your nice big bottom?
Imagine sitting on bones all day when you could enjoy some natural cushioning!
Appreciation is the first step in the seeing the beauty in all that we are and all that surrounds us.
In the book Wabi Sabi Simple Richard Powell says Wabi Sabi acknowledges three simple realities: ‘Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.’
There is divine beauty in the aging process, not only of us humans, but of the things around us.
The problem is that for most people beauty is tied to the stories they tell themself.
This week I invite you to take the Wabi Sabi approach to life and look upon those things you would normaly see as imperfect, and look for the beauty in them.
It might be some cellulite on your voluptuous thighs, perhaps you need to notice the value in the rustic appeal of chipping paint on your verandah, or look upon your partner’s protruding nostril hair with great admiration.
I now see my own wrinkles as ‘smile lines’; proof of a life lived happily right NOW!
My physical scars as the stories of my life.
A grey hair a sign I am growing wiser as opposed to older (I like to call it my ‘glitter’!).
Every time you notice yourself seeing a flaw, STOP!
Take a big breath in and out, place you hand on your heart, and ask yourself: How can I see the beauty in this?
While this may seem strange and awkward to begin with, if you stick at it, over time you’ll start to notice how your perception of all things changes.
You’ll start seeing the beauty in cracks in the sidewalk, you’ll view the lose thread on your cardigan as a garment that has served you well and when you look in the mirror all you will see is beauty.
That is when you know you have embraced the Wabi Sabi way of life.