Wabi Sabi is one of the most essential of all Japanese principles. It is the art of appreciating the beauty in this naturally imperfect world.
It is a concept derived from Buddhist teachings. Wabi Sabi’s history is intimately linked with Buddhism and its suggestion that wisdom comes with making peace with our transitory and imperfect natures.
Old connotation: Wabi– originally meant the misery and loneliness of living in nature, away from society and Sabi– meaning shrill, lean or withered; a flower past its bloom.
However, around the 14th century these meanings began to change, taking on more positive connotations.
New Connotation: Wabi now connotes an almost exquisite bittersweet melancholy in being on one’s own; a rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age. The marks of aging and wear can enhance an object.
Wabi Sabi believes that things are always more beautiful for bearing the marks of age and individuality.
At one level Wabi Sabi relates to the history of Japan but at another, it is a lesson for all of us at all times. This is because, the place we really have to come to terms with imperfection, melancholy and age is in ourselves.
Wabi-sabi is a state of mind, a way of being. It reminds us to practise it on ourselves and others understanding that each is unique.
Practising Wabi Sabi on Yourself:
Many a time in an attempt to achieve excellence we end up having an unhealthy level of focus on perfection. Often the unreasonable expectations we have from ourselves can lead to an inability to accept our own shortcomings and what we do not have. Wabi Sabi teaches us to accept our own vulnerability. It takes courage to accept yourself for who you are, no matter where you are and with whom you are.
Practising Wabi Sabi with others:
Accepting yourself for who you are means you are in harmony with yourself. Therefore, you are not in competition with anyone else. You end up being more accepting of other people and don’t feel the need to get demanding with those we interact with. You start accepting people for who they are and enjoy people even if they are unlike you. Thus, communication improves, relationships improve and you get more time improving on yourself. You also become a positive influence in enabling others achieve their goals. Nobody is perfect and wabi sabi encourages us to accept our own flaws as well as those in others.
Practising Wabi Sabi with things around us:
It teaches us gratitude for what we already have rather than constantly yearning for something new and perfect. Don’t be obsessed in seeing perfection around you. It will help us in being peaceful and content in our current moment and be happy and light hearted in our day to day lives.
Wabi Sabi urges us to take a second look at what we might otherwise dismiss or treat with disdain. Nature is not perfect or symmetrical. There is a lot of impermanence and incompleteness all around. Yet, it is so beautiful and there is simplicity all around. Similarly, Wabi Sabi encourages us to appreciate the imperfectness in things around us and look at more sympathetically at cracked or dilapidated or asymmetrical things. It could be an asymmetrical piece of decoration or a cracked teacup or moss gathered on a wall or even the wise wrinkled face of a friend or relative. We will be able to find charm and beauty in all of it. This Japanese principle believes that things are always more beautiful for bearing the marks of age and individuality. It also reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet. Our bodies, as well as the material world around us , are all in the process of returning to dust.
However, it doesn’t mean you should not work to improve your situation. Instead, it is all about balance and contentment. It helps us in becoming calm and dealing with life in a simpler way, rather than striving for the unattainable.
Next time you see a grey hair or notice a new wrinkle, remember wabi-sabi to ease the panic attack that brews within you. You will quickly realise, there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, it is beautiful. It is a sign that you are travelling a path laid full with memories and achievements. Appreciate the process of aging.
Next time, you see faults in others be more accepting , rather than taking them on as a project to be fixed. Accepting others for who they are will save you the emotional turmoil and save you a lot of time and energy. You will definitely empower yourself.
Next time when caught in a traffic jam, don’t let it grind your nerves and make you lose your cool. Accept the cacophony as a part of this beautifully imperfect world.
Wabi Sabi embraces authenticity by acknowledging that, “Nothing lasts, Nothing is finished, and Nothing is perfect.”