In our modern society, we often seek perfection in everything we do. From striving for flawless skin to pursuing the perfect career, we obsess over achieving an often unattainable ideal. But what if there was beauty in imperfection? In a world where nothing is perfect, including yourself and others, how can everyone strive to find joy in the imperfections that make them unique? That’s where wabi-sabi comes in.
The Philosophy of Wabi-Sabi
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic, a set of ancient ideals, that finds beauty in the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Its philosophy values simplicity, authenticity, and the natural cycle of life.
In Japanese culture, this can most often be depicted through the Wabi-Sabie tea bowls.
Wabi-sabi tea bowls are often handcrafted by skilled potters who embrace the natural shape of the clay and welcome the imperfections that come from the process. This often contrasts factory-style pottery, which is perfect and all alike. The wabi-sabi tea bowl shape is often asymmetrical, reflecting the imperfect nature of the natural world. The surface is often intentionally left unglazed, allowing the texture of the clay to be felt through the fingertips. The beauty of a wabi-sabi tea bowl comes not from its perfection but from the balance of its imperfections. These imperfections create a unique, one-of-a-kind piece that cannot be replicated.
Like the tea bowl, wabi-sabi can be applied to everyday life, encouraging us to find beauty in the imperfections of our lives. It allows us to recognize the unique qualities that make us special and embrace them as part of our identity. In a world where nothing is permanent, it encourages us to savour each moment, both good and bad, as it is often in these moments that we find the most joy. Like a growth mindset, wabi-sabi teaches us to accept our flaws gracefully, allowing us to experience life’s beauty fully.
Using Wabi-Sabi In Our Daily Lives
Wabi-sabi can be a reminder to stay grounded in the present moment and focus on what is truly important. It encourages us to find joy in the things that make us unique rather than trying to conform to unattainable perfection. We should take time out of our busy schedules to appreciate the beauty of imperfection and celebrate who we are. Tips for applying Wabi-Sabi include:
- Embracing imperfection: Allow yourself to accept your flaws and imperfections. View them as part of your identity and be proud of them. Through a growth mindset, we can find joy in the challenges life presents us.
- Practicing mindfulness: Take time to be present and appreciate the beauty of each moment. Rather than worrying about the things that have already happened or what is yet to come, focus on everything that is happening right now. The stoics call this idea Amor Fati; love of one’s fate.
- Embracing change: The beauty of wabi-sabi lies in its impermanence; things are always changing and evolving. Celebrate these changes and let go of what no longer serves you.
- Appreciating the small things: Focus on the little moments that make up your day. Find joy in the simple things and be thankful for them. This melds perfectly with the stoic phrase “Memento Mori“; remember that you are mortal.
- Letting go of comparison: Comparing yourself to others is something that we all do, but it can be damaging to our mental health. Instead, focus on being your best self and celebrating the unique qualities that make you special. Oubaitori, what makes you, you?
Examples of Wabi-Sabi in Practice
The great thing about Wabi-Sabi is that its philosophy can be applied to all aspects of life, from fashion to food to interior design. Practicing Wabi-sabi in all aspects of life can help to bring about a sense of balance and peace. Here are some examples:
Wabi-Sabi in Food
In food, wabi-sabi means savouring the simplicity of ingredients and the natural flavours of food. It’s about enjoying imperfectly shaped vegetables and the unique flavours that come from simple ingredients combined in a thoughtful way.
Wabi-Sabi in Fashion
In fashion, wabi-sabi is about embracing imperfection and celebrating individuality. It’s about finding beauty in the unique ways you can style and wear clothes. Instead of wearing a plain jacket, why not add a patch or some pins to make it your own? Try unique colours, or mix and match different prints.
Wabi-Sabi in Interior Design
In interior design, wabi-sabi means using natural materials and showcasing the beauty of imperfections. It’s about finding beauty in the rough texture of an exposed brick wall or an old piece of furniture. It’s about keeping things simple and uncluttered, with a focus on functionality and utility.
Wabi-sabi is a reminder that nothing in life is perfect, and that’s OK. It’s about finding beauty in the imperfections and impermanence of everything around us. It encourages us to slow down and appreciate the world around us, value simplicity over excess, and find joy in the beauty of life.
So the next time you find yourself obsessing over the pursuit of perfection, take a step back and remember the beauty of wabi-sabi. Embrace the imperfection, find joy in the simple things, and appreciate the natural beauty of the world around you.