Hustle, work hard, save money, travel the world, build the perfect home, and be the best you can be – that’s pretty much the crux of all the life advice we get these days. And it’s tough to live it. Who has the energy to work hard and party hard? How many of us have the financial capability of travelling the world and having a rock solid savings plan? Who among us hasn’t given into the temptation of pretending to live the perfect Instagram life?
Life isn’t perfect, and it won’t be till we keep trying to make it perfect. We need to let go, and that’s what the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi is all about. If you haven’t heard of this revolutionary way of life, you need to pay attention here. Wabi-sabi isn’t something one understands immediately, it takes time to really comprehend the value a concept like wabi-sabi can bring to your daily life.
“Wabi” is defined as simplicity and following less-is-more in every aspect of life. “Sabi” can be defined as finding joy in imperfections. Simply put, wabi-sabi tries to drive the focus away from aiming for perfection and replacing it with living in the moment.
Here are 7 life lessons, inspired from wabi-sabi, which you can incorporate into your thought process to lead an imperfect but happy life.
1. Revealing your imperfections
The problem with pursuing perfection is that it takes over your life and takes you away from the present. Wabi-sabi, on the other hand, urges you to reveal your imperfections to the world and let them go, so that you can live fully in the moment. As Beth Kempt writes in Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life, “Accepting imperfection is one thing. Allowing others to see it is another. Yet that’s often where we find common ground. Revealing our vulnerabilities, challenges, as-yet-unrealised dreams and quirky joys opens a window onto our hearts. People can see who we really are, and they are drawn to connect.”
2. Finding the value in simplicity
Wabi-sabi is deeply rooted in the Japanese tea culture. One of the more popular examples of this is the famous image of a cracked teacup where the flaws are celebrated rather than hidden. The art of kintsugi, in which cracked items are repaired with gold to showcase the “damage”, is an important part of the wabi-sabi way of life. Rikyu, the 16th century master of the famous Japanese tea ceremony, incorporated the worship of simplicity, rather than wealth, into the practice. This was one of the most famous examples of the value of simplicity and nature in the Japanese way of life.
3. A comfortable home is more important than a pretty one
Beth Kempt, in her book, gives the perfect definition of a wabi-sabi home – “lived in, loved and never quite finished”. With so many social media platforms, and the pressure to present the perfect life, our homes are often the first casualty. They may look good, but do they feel good? Not always. In the pursuit of making our homes look perfect for Instagram, we often forget that what matters more is our own comfort within those walls.
4. Slow down
This is summed up perfectly in one quote in Beth Kempt’s book. “Less stuff, more soul. Less hustle, more ease. Less chaos, more calm. Less mass consumption, more unique creation. Less complexity, more clarity. Less judgement, more forgiveness. Less bravado, more truth. Less resistance, more resilience. Less control, more surrender. Less head, more heart.”
5. Imperfection is not a compromise
When you start to see the value of wabi-sabi, you realise that imperfections don’t have to mean flaws. You’re not compromising on a perfect life by accepting your imperfections. It’s not a bump in the road which you’ve taken in your stride. Once you start to realise this, imperfections become a beautiful part of your life. Remember kintsugi? Imperfections are only flaws if that’s how we see them. Put some shiny gold in there and see the beauty of your “flaws” come to life.
6. Language matters
The acceptance of wabi-sabi starts from the simplicity of language. There are several Japanese phrases which, if incorporated into your vocabulary, will instantly take you to a happy place. Here are a few examples, inspired by the wabi-sabi life:
- Goyukkuri dozo: Please take your time
- Ichi- go ichi-e: This meeting, this time only. Used to remind people to treasure this particular experience
- Komorebi: Sunlight filtering through the trees
- Ware tada taru o shiru: I have everything I need
- Igokochi ga yoi: Used to describe a feeling of comfort, of feeling at home
7. Take in every moment of joy
Who says you have to wait for something big to happen to celebrate or to be happy? You could have several moments of joy every day – the moment you wake up and see those beautiful first rays of the sun, the time your coffee was absolutely perfect to taste, or when you ignore the mess in your house and add your own tiny touch to it. Beauty is everywhere, you just have to be willing to see it. Wabi-sabi encourages you to find beauty in everything you do and in everything around you, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.
Click here to buy Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempt.