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The Wabi Sabi Lifestyle

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

The world is an amazing place, filled with various philosophies and ideals. Today, we are taking a trip to the other side of the planet to learn about a philosophy you likely didn’t hear about when in high school, Wabi Sabi.

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese concept that encompasses the beauty of imperfection, the impermanence of life, and the simplicity of the world around us. While it may seem like a funny word, this teaching is a beautiful theory that can be adopted into our lives.

In our Western World, there is a love of perfection, balance, and the idea of permanence. We can find it in our architecture, art, fashion, and beauty standards. On the contrary, Japan has a different concept of the beautiful, which we have no word for in English, Wabi Sabi.

Wabi Sabi shows respect for the passage of time and how everything in life ages, faces challenges, and eventually breaks. It is the appreciation of imperfection, impermanence, and the melancholy.

As a brief history lesson, Wabi Sabi has developed over time, right down to the meaning of the world. It truly began to come to play in 15th century Japan in the tea ceremony. The original tea ceremony was design to keep monks awake during long periods of Zen meditation, but the shoguns of Japan overtook it as a way to be flashy and show off their wealth.

One tea master found this convoluted practice of the tradition unacceptable, so he redesigned the tea ceremony to emphasize the teachings of Wabi Sabi. Rather than the glitz and glamor of the ceremony, it focuses on the reality of life, aging, and incompleteness.

To put it simply, it rests on these seven aesthetic principles: simplicity, asymmetry, the beauty of the understated, naturalness without pretension, subtle grace, freeness, and tranquility.

Wabi sabi can be found all around us if we so choose. Instead of seeing ugliness in a face full of wrinkles, you see a life filled with laughter and smiles. Rather than discarding a worn blanket, you cherish it as representing hundreds of snuggles, movie nights, and loving moments. I think you get where I am going with this. We can see the world through whatever lens we choose, even if it is broken.

The Art of Kintsugi

To expand the teaching of Wabi Sabi, we are going to explain the art of kintsugi (kin-sugi), which literally means to join with gold.

Kintsugi is a Japanese art form of mending broken ceramics with lacquer and powdered gold. Instead of trying to hide the evidence of the break or throwing away an old ceramic, it emphasizes the repair of the item in a glorious way.

The practice came from 14th century Japan, when the third Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, broke his favorite tea bowl. Not wanting to throw it away, he sent it off to China to be repaired….but upon its return, he was horrified. The bowl had been put back together with ugly staples. Unpleased with this, the Shogun summoned his best artisans to find an alternative solution, which is how kintsugi came to be and is now represented as a philosophy of life.

In today’s world, we place youth, beauty, and perfection on a pedestal, often trying to hide away scars and the ugly pieces of life. But friend, we all know that life is not always perfect. We get terrible things thrown at us, which can leave us broken. And that’s okay!

Following the kintsugi theory, we can use it as a metaphor for life. Yes, we may be broken, beaten down, or scarred. However, we can heal through trauma and come back stronger and more beautiful than before. We don't need to hide away our scars; we can be proud of the pieces of ourselves that we have mended back together through wisdom, hard work, and dedication. There is beauty in imperfection, pain, and the passage of time.

Are you curious about how you can use Wabi Sabi in your own life?

The Wabi Sabi Lifestyle in Modern Times

To wrap up this philosophical teaching, I want to explain some ways in which you can utilize these philosophies in modern life.

First, you can use this principle to declutter your space and focus on function rather than material possessions and status. Through a sparse space, you can gain tranquility and appreciate what you already have.

Second, focus on simplicity. A single flower in a charming old vase brings just as much joy as an expensive bouquet in a brand new shiny vase.

Third, and I have mentioned this before, forget the busy badge. The USA places pride in being busy, but being busy doesn't make you happy. Slow down, appreciate the small moments in life, and choose a balanced life over a hectic one.

Fourth, practice mindfulness. There are so many beautiful things and moments to enjoy in this life, but they can often become forgotten in a fast-paced world. Again, slow down and savor what's right in front of you.

Lastly, appreciate kintsugi. We are not immortal; nothing in or around us is. Rather than noticing the flaws, find beauty and appreciation in the passage of time and the struggles of life. Remember, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Wisdom, maturity, and life's most important values don't come from constantly receiving success; they come from struggling, making mistakes, and being broken. For when we heal, we come back better than ever before.

What do you think of the Wabi Sabi lifestyle? Let me know by shooting me a DM over at Everyday Happiness! Plus, remember, that kindness is contagious! Go out into the world and be kind to someone today.

Let’s connect on social at @everydayhappinesswithkatie and join the community on the hashtags #IntentionalMargins and #everydayhappinesswithkatie on Instagram.

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