Embracing Wabi-Sabi + Finding Beauty Amongst The Imperfections

Have you ever heard the term Wabi Sabi? I first learned about this Japanese concept about 15 years ago when I was doing some research for an assignment I had due for my Diploma of Interior Design. Living Wabi Sabi is a Japanese tradition which fosters a bohemian sense of beauty that celebrates the basic, the unique and the imperfect. This philosophy has been a continued source of inspiration for me and especially one which I like to bring in when designing/decorating my home or business. The essence of Wabi Sabi reminds me of all the imperfect beauty inherent in life.

Through the lens of Wabi Sabi, everything in the home, and life — from a makeshift vase to the attic windows — presents an opportunity to see beauty, because beauty is ordinary.

Intimately tied to Zen Buddhism, Wabi Sabi is a subtly spiritual philosophy that views the home and mind as a sanctuary — a simple place devoid of clutter, disturbance and distraction.

Wabi Sabi honours clean, minimalist spaces as well as organic materials and nature. Well-trod floorboards, old books, mindful rituals, ancient traditions and worn furniture are all perfect examples of beauty in the everyday. So is cultivating a huge appreciation for ‘just being’ – free from your ego, the opinion of others, the need for appreciation and so forth. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, aged wood, hand-made items and recycled objects. It finds beauty in cracks and crevices and all the marks that time, weather and use leave behind.

The key fundamental behind Wabi Sabi is that it celebrates modest living and the ever-changing moment, finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, accepting the cycle of growth, decay and death. It’s slow, mindful and uncluttered, and regards authenticity above all.

The beautiful philosophy behind the Japanese tradition of living Wabi Sabi is that no matter where we are or what we have, we already hold everything we need to be happy. It is about celebrating the perfectly imperfect uniqueness of you and me and everything. It is a new way of looking at life: the way of Wabi Sabi.

Appreciate this and every moment no matter how imperfect, for this moment is your life. When you reject this moment, you reject your life. You don’t have to settle for this moment, you are free to steer a different course, but for now, this moment is yours, so be mindful to make the most of it – Taro Gold

Wabi defines rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, it revolves around understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks, authenticity and anomalies arising from the process of construction/development, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object/person. Sabi by itself means “the bloom of time, where one can see the beauty or serenity that comes with age, celebrating all the cracks, chips and general wear and tear. True sabi can never be manufactured for it is a gift of time.

12 Ways To Live Wabi-Sabi

  • Cultivate Slowness And Mindfulness: Take a moment to embrace every mundane chore and activity, instead of vacuuming your home with annoyance take the time to appreciate the act of purifying your home. Order pure black coffee and sip on the hearty and robust flavour, appreciating the moment and reflecting on the hands of the farmer who grew those coffee beans.
  • Celebrate Craftsmanship: Surrounding yourself with things made by real people invites a tiny piece of each craftsman into your space. Treat yourself to a pottery mug or bowl, notice how it feels solid and heavy in your hand. Admire its shape, textures and colours while appreciating the fact that it was handmade in an artist studio somewhere. Buy handmade paper, quilts, and jams – take the time to truly appreciate the unique beauty in the object, feeling the story of the artist as you touch and use the handmade item.
  • Make And Grow Your Own: Making and growing things yourself helps to give soul, flavour and intent to a product. Digging in the garden, knitting and sewing clothes out of artisan fabrics provide for a tactile meditation almost impossible to experience by any other means.
  • Embrace Purity And Cleanliness: There is beauty in creating a clean and sacred space – both in your home and in the mind. Have a regular purifying ritual where you mindfully remove all the clutter and dust, while enjoying the process completely.
  • Cultivate Solitude: Find a space in your home that you can dedicate to quiet self-reflection and meditation. Spending time in solitude helps to slow down the busy chatter of your monkey mind so that you can hear the truth and be gently reminded of what really is important in life.
  • Give Old Things A New Lease Of Life: Find ways to breathe new life into objects, this is good for both the planet and wallet, plus it is a great form of creative expression. Turn old cans and bottles into vases, preserve old distressed wooden furniture with a coat of Danish oil or knit old rags into a rag rug.
  • Create Space: In Wabi Sabi, space and light are the most desirable ornaments. See if there is a shelf, drawer or cabinet in your home that you can declutter today. Open up the windows of your home to let in light and air – this allows your home to purify and breathe – plus it helps to uplift the spirit.
  • Celebrate Silence: Truly less is more – and that principle applies to noise also. Leave the television off for one night each week and choose to read a book instead. Turn off the radio during your morning or evening commute so that you can listen and watch the life that surrounds you. Make time in the afternoon for a quiet cup of tea.
  • Cultivate Sabi (the beauty that comes with age): Antique doorknobs and naturally distressed furniture that help give your home character. Building with salvaged and recycled materials gives a house substance, authenticity and a story that can’t be copied.
  • Embrace Imperfection: Real people have faults and so do real objects. Instead of looking at something as a fault try and foster the imperfection so that the beauty can be seen and felt.
  • Create A Sanctum: Give every room in your house a soft seat, a blanket to curl up with, gentle lighting and a deep, delicious rug. Burn natural oils, play soft music and help purify the air with plants. Invite people to stay, curled up in Afghans and sipping tea.
  • Choose Quality Over Quantity: Transform an “ordinary” lifestyle into a living state of grace by choosing quality over quantity so that you are only left with the things you find useful, purposeful and beautiful. Less is truly more, and an item steeped in quality doesn’t need attention drawn to it – it naturally attracts attention. Less stuff means more time to spend with family, friends and nature — a philosophy simple enough for even the most complicated lives.

Resources Around The Web:

  1. Living Wabi Sabi: The True Beauty of Your LIfe By Taro Gold, this book is a true treasure where every page reveals a gem of gentle wisdom. A blend of Eastern wisdom, feng shui, and the movement toward simplicity, this book inspires us to see the beauty in imperfection, to discover that our unique flaws also can lead us to our greatest strengths and treasures. Read more about the book here.
  2. Craving more Wabi Sabi? If you didn’t quite get your fill on this simple yet profound Japanese philosophy then check out this huge selection of books available on Wabi Sabi. Click here
  3. Journey across Japan for the true meaning of Wabi Sabi, join British novelist Marcel Theroux on this 7 part BBC documentary as he hits the streets of Japan. Its a moving journey that starts under the bright neon lights and craziness of Tokyo and ends in an austere Zen Temple in the snowy foothills of Japan’s eastern mountains. Click here to watch first episode