COSMIC CAFE: Wabi-sabi 侘寂 Wisdom

By on March 1, 2016

A Japanese teaching that holds global relevance. 

What’s wabi-sabi?

Wabi-sabi is a wise and positive perspective for living life, which originated in Japanese culture and is now global. It is based on three simple realities of our lives: Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. At first glance the list of these three might sound depressing. However, you should keep reading because wabi-sabi is a helpful, accepting and positive perspective on life, which can be applied to myriad things, from love relationships to food, nature to art, and your home to the world.

The bottom line is that wabi-sabi celebrates the beauty in all that is natural and authentic, flaws and allIt is about loving the wisdom and beauty of imperfection, or “flawed” beauty. The idea is that a crack in an old vase, or wrinkles on a person’s face, or shoes that are well worn, or a tooth that is chipped, or a tree that is weathered and bent over from the wind, or a dog with a limp, or an apple that is lopsided; these are all precisely what makes people, nature and objects more interesting, more unique and perhaps, paradoxically, more elegantly beautiful. At its core, wabi-sabi fosters embracing what’s not perfect and deeply honoring how things really are in life.

Wabi-sabi does not condone abuse or violence in any form. It also is not a “ho-hum, laid back, never improve yourself” philosophy. It is the ability to revel in, and to cherish what is real.

Relief for Westerners

It can be a welcome relief to incorporate some of the wabi-sabi perspective in our lives. Overlooking or dismissing the beauty of life in all its stages and phases, shapes and sizes, colors and textures, leads to crushing pressures to look flawless, to over-sanitize, to be perfect, to fit in, and to own the latest gadget. We experience near paranoia about aging and often show disdain for anything old, broken, used, repaired, idiosyncratic or unattractive. Adding some wabi-sabi offers us a way to be kinder to ourselves and to others, and to experience more contentment about everything in our lives.

Wabi-sabi love

Wabi-sabi love relationships are about loving the imperfections in yourself and in the other people in your life. It encourages us to focus on what’s right about each other, which always brings out more of the positive. It is a reminder that the idiosyncrasies of people whom we love and complain about—and even the things about them that drive us nuts—are part of what makes them dear and quintessentially who they are. We are likely to miss these quirks even when those people are gone.

It is worth mentioning that the wabi-sabi perspective on love does not include abuse, negative or criminal behavior, violence or addiction.

A wabi-sabi home

No matter where you live, a wabi-sabi home is full of rustic character, charm, and things that are uniquely yours. It is clean but not immaculate or sterile. It tells the very precious story of who lives there, and the richness of life within its not-perfectly-symmetrical walls.

Take away

It is so kind to allow humor and beauty in our imperfections, and to include them as reasons why we are lovable and loved. Wabi-sabi invites us to soften and shift our thinking from annoy to enjoy, and from anger to compassion. It is true that in life nothing is permanent, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. It is also true that everyone is doing the best they can in every moment, given their givens. And, at the same time, we are also hardwired to grow and to evolve. PJH

Carol Mann is a longtime Jackson resident, radio personality, former Grand Targhee Resort owner, author, and clairvoyant. Got a Cosmic Question? Email [email protected]

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