Wabi-Sabi: A way to embrace imperfection


We have an ideology of perfection. Whether it is work, your living space, or human relations, we are always striving for the better, the newer, the smarter, and so on. The pursuit of perfection can make us overwhelmed because everything inside and outside subject to change with time being.

Recently, I came across a beautiful tradition of depicting the true nature of things. It is called wabi-sabi.

The wabi-sabi style demonstrates how to find beauty in imperfection, incompleteness, and impermanence. It is a key part of the Japanese aesthetic that has been gaining attention in other parts of the world recently.

Let us learn about wabi-sabi and how to bring it into our lives.

What is wabi-sabi?

It is a Japanese way of embracing the nature of things as it is. The meaning of wabi-sabi might not be defined well in western terms.

Wabi means finding beauty in simplicity.

Sabi refers to things whose beauty can come only with age.

Leonard Koren, author of “Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets, and Philosophers,” tried to define the term. According to him, “wabi-sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental.”

What are the characteristics of wabi-sabi?

It includes simplicity, asymmetry, roughness, natural materials in both man-made things as well as in natural objects.

The art pieces which portray the wabi-sabi style remind us of the nature of imperfection in the world outside. Usually, it is hard to find symmetry in nature and all that you can find is irregular imperfect shapes.

How to embrace imperfection with wabi-sabi?

Living in a world where it is easy to grasp the feeling of personal inadequacy, wabi-sabi provides a more naturally connected way of living.

It enables us to accept things as it is and not how we want it to be. Wabi-sabi is a deeper way of uniting with nature. A cracked pot highlighted in gold color reminds us of the deterioration that emerges only with time being and the beauty of it.

Likewise, everything inside us and outside us is subject to change over time. If we are readily accepting this truth without hiding or concealing it, life would be much more simple.

What is wabi-sabi life style?

According to Julie Pointer Adams, author of Wabi-Sabi Welcome, describes it as “a way of life that celebrates the perfectly imperfect beauty found in the unusual, unfashionable places or objects, and in moments usually overlooked or unappreciated.”

From morning to evening we are in a constant struggle to show only the perfect side of us. We frown at the wrinkles on the face and apply beauty products to hide them. Since we cannot accept the beauty of each and every phase of life, we try to maintain a perfect image all the time.

However, our unwillingness to accept the beauty of different chapters of life prevents us from embracing a key phenomenon in life called impermanence.

What Buddhist values or ethics can be seen in wabi-sabi?

Buddhism emphasizes the three aspects of all conditioned things. They are; impermanence, suffering nature, and selfless nature.

Whether it is your house, car, parents, or any other living and non-living thing, they are subject to change, which is a characteristic of impermanence.

Change is a process of evolution that allows things to be born, grow, and extinct. Without change, the world is stagnated. Therefore, it is a necessary process in our lives.

How to bring wabi-sabi style in your life?

Start defining beauty in a different way. You can adopt wabi-sabi in different aspects such as; food, home décor, fashion, etc.

Home:

Your home is an indication of your character. When you enter the home after a long day, it should give you the peace and happiness you are looking for.

Make your space clutter-free. Keep what is necessary for your living. Decluttering is a key aspect of wabi-sabi.

Find artwork that depicts your true self. Maybe those imperfect paintings your nephew drew may bring more meaning than a painting brought from the shop.

Go for handmade or natural products that support the local community.

Using natural materials like porcelain, bricks, wood, etc. may feel nature inside the home. Do not forget to add plants for added benefits.

Use hues found in nature such as green, brown, yellow, etc for more inspiration.

Personal care:

Wabi-sabi is about cultivating the willingness to accept what is true and natural. Aging is a part of our growth and one should be able to embrace it with a smile. If you can do so, you can minimize the time and money you are spending on beauty products that conceal your true self.

Clothing:

When you are buying new clothes look for those made out of natural fabrics like wool, cotton, leather, etc.

That being said, what about clothes that you already have? Just hold each item and ask yourself what does this piece of cloth means to you. If it adds value to your rhythm of life, keep it.

Relationships:

Wabi-sabi is the best way to keep relationships long-lasting. When your words, actions, and thoughts prove your true nature, it is easy to maintain a relationship.

Also, feel comfortable in other’s wabi-sabi. Everyone has flaws and those flaws make them so unique.

When you realize this simple truth, it would be easy for you to work with others, without getting angry or hurt.

For further details read How to live simply?

Final Thoughts

This article of mine was written with a myriad of love, because, for some reason, I felt wabi-sabi is very closed to my heart. It was such an inspiration to see how the Japanese tradition has embraced the truth of life in a practical way. Actually, life is beautiful by reason of wabi-sabi. Why do not we welcome our wabi-sabi with a smile?

Reference:

Demystifying Wabi-sabi

Photo by Fernando Lavin on Unsplash

Sara

Rathsara (Sara) is an attorney-at-law who holds a Diploma in Buddhist Studies in ITBMU. She has engaged in community service in Sri Lanka and the United States helping many individuals. She is interested in reading, writing, and researching areas related to mindfulness. Inspired by spiritually developed individuals around the globe, Rathsara is keen to learn and practice mind-developing techniques. In the meantime, she would like to share her experience and knowledge for the well-being of others.

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