Mother Earth News arrived the other day and I was drawn to an article called “Wabi-Sabi: Finding the Beauty and Peace in Ordinary Things” on page 50. It was an unusual article for Mother, which usually has a focus on things like growing potatoes or installing eco-friendly heating systems. This then led me to pick up a four month old copy of Whole Living that I’ve been meaning to finish for too long. To my surprise, there was an article on page 102 called “Wabi Sabi Your Life: Simple Strategies for Embracing Imperfection.” I rarely read an article more than once and I found myself reading these two articles over and over because I felt so connected to this philosophy.
What is wabi-sabi you ask? It sounds like it should be a side to sushi. It is really hard to find a proper Webster’s definition, but it is a Buddhist and Japanese idea that we should find beauty in flaws and connect with the natural world. It is open to interpretation, but it seems to have begun at Japanese tea ceremonies, when the pottery used would be asymmetrical, chipped, and rustic. A key point in the Whole Living article: “Wabi-sabi is handmade pottery, crow’s feet, and the frayed sleeves of a favorite wool sweater, exposed brick and the first draft of a difficult letter. You won’t find wabi-sabi in Botox, glass-and-steel skyscrapers, smart phones, or the drive for relentless self-improvement.” And the article in Mother Earth News tells us, “Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not laminate.”
This shouldn’t be confused with allowing junk to pile up or allowing your veggie garden to become overrun with weeds, which is just sloppy. To me, the idea is simply honoring imperfections, bringing the natural world into our lives, and putting the most value in our objects that have meaning. It is Sunday and sunny and earlier I decided to spend time simply walking around my house and identifying what felt wabi-sabi, not only to inspire me but also to add a little lightness to a day full of “to-do’s.”
Though I think wabi-sabi does have a lot to do with material objects or aesthetics, I think we can all use some bits of this philosophy in our lives. For example, in my own life what is more important? Meeting a work deadline or making sure I’m there when my husband’s kids (he is a music and chorus teacher) have a concert? Taking the time to make a simple but wholesome dinner or ordering Chinese takeout? Buying a bag of regular apples that are shiny and perfect or a bag of local, organic apples that are imperfect but taste better? Eating macaroni and cheese because it tastes good or choosing instead something without dairy so that my conscience can be more at peace?
If you can’t read the two previously mentioned articles, here are three things you can do now to make your life more wabi-sabi:
1. Go through a room and simplify it. Take out all of the stuff that can cause clutter in your mind. Make sure one thing you have an emotional connection to is featured in your view.
2. Grab a pair of pruners, go outside and cut a few thin branches/twigs, and put them in a vase or jar in your home to allow some of the natural world in.
3. The next time you are at the grocery store, pay a little bit more money for the funny-looking organic vegetables. They are healthier, grown by a more thoughtful farmer, and this action will make you feel better about yourself and your meal – I swear.