We are surrounded by a world exposed to social media, innovation and new products which requires us to improve always even though it is difficult for us to change constantly. So, why not stop and appreciate things that we already have instead of forcing us to do what we do not seek? It is where the ancient Japanese philosophy Wabi-Sabi can help us. Wabi-Sabi is all about accepting imperfections in our lives and remaining happy for what we have rather than hunting for perfect grounds constantly and sacrificing inner peace. Obviously, all these explanations may seem very simple for such a deep-rooted concept, this Japanese culture is something the world must learn for an enhanced lifestyle.
What is Wabi-Sabi?
Wabi and Sabi can be explained individually and are two different concepts respectively. Wabi is the concept behind recognizing beauty in humble simplicity. It tells us to remain open to all and detach ourselves from the material value of things to gain spiritual richness. Sabi, on the other side, is about the passing of time like things growing with age, decaying and manifesting in themselves. Sabi is more concerned with what lies beneath the surface, with what we perceive as broken or old as opposed to what we actually see.
Both Wabi and Sabi concepts develop an overarching philosophy for making people’s life happier by accepting what they have, appreciating the simplicity and believing in aging with time. Although there are a plethora of teachings embedded in this age-old Japanese philosophy, we would focus on a few which can help us sustain happily in this ever-changing modern life where people chase constantly perfection and success.
Origins of Wabi-Sabi
In the 15th century, Wabi-Sabi emerged as the reaction to the dominating lavish lifestyle, ornaments and material wealth. The concept revealed the beauty behind imperfection and why we must accept that nothing lasts forever. Kintsugi is one fine example in which broken pottery is fixed up with the help of lacquer highlighting imperfections and how age-old items become unique. It is, however, important to note that this form of art is not sloppy or an excuse for imperfect craftsmanship. Rather, Wabi-Sabi emphasizes care, quality and attention.
Japanese legend says that a young man named Rikyu seek to learn the Way of Tea in Japan. He went to a tea-master who asked him to take care of his garden as an examination. Having cleaned his garden properly, Rikyu shook a cherry tree just before showing it to his examiner. This made a few leaves and cherry blossoms fall to the ground. Thereby, Rikyu presented his perfect garden and to date, he is recognized as the person who found the meaning behind Wabi-Sabi. A teacup chipped over the years illustrates the concept’s roots in the Japanese tea ceremony. The teacups although uneven in shape, is used and symbolize love, serenity and peace.
7 principles of Wabi-Sabi lifestyle
Fukinsei or Irregularity
Being overly obsessed with perfect symmetry is one common interest that creates stress in most of us. Fukinsei is one Wabi-Sabi philosophy that challenges us to control our idea and balanced symmetry. When everything falls into place, both perfect and imperfect, the world becomes beautiful.
Shibumi or understanding
Shibumi is about understanding the value behind the simplicity and avoiding flashiness. This is most commonly applied by fashion and nude looks where natural features are highlighted without over-embellishments. This also helps in preserving authenticity.
Kanso or simplicity
Kanso is a Wabi-Sabi principle that requires you to get rid of clutter from your life and focus more on clarity. This is similar to essentialism where Kanso asks people to live in less-is-more philosophy. This makes your lifestyle more selective, choosy, and devote time to things that are more important.
Shizen or Naturalness
While we like to see nature as something that is wild and untouched, Wabi-Sabi takes nature as intertwined with human elements. Shizen concept is most applied in garden nowadays which is not completely raw but creates harmony with nature with an intention and purpose.
Yugen or elusive grace
Yugen is about finding inner beauty which cannot be seen with naked eyes. The beauty that Yugen represents remains mysterious and leaves our minds with endless possibilities. Artists, photographers and designers use this principle to make lesser things look more interesting.
Seijaku or tranquillity
Seijaku principle means solitude, tranquillity and stillness in our daily bustling lives. We can use this principle in a way where we can get tranquillity amidst chaos and noise.
Datsuzoku or liberty from everyday habit
Finally, this seventh principle of Wabi-Sabi is about freeing ourselves from daily habits and routines. We must embrace the unknown and look for conventional ways by doing things differently. It allows us to think out of the box and have fun through creativity, repurposing and a world of possibilities.
Can Wabi-Sabi be compared to the art of imperfection?
Wabi-Sabi can be used to illustrate everything we have today in this technology-driven world instead of looking upon flashy, mass-producing and luxurious things. It celebrates farmers over trendy malls, rough cotton over expensive silk and texture over carved wood. Wabi-Sabi describes how to build imperfection and see the rawness behind cloudy or dull landscapes and abandoned things. All grain, cracks, texture, crevices and scratches can narrate its own story. Only we have to learn to accept their story and honour imperfection to discover the real Wabi-Sabi. For example, an age-old sculpture adds character to our living space as it narrates the story of a bygone era. Interiors space with different shapes, life, size and masses all channels perfectly with Wabi-Sabi.
How can you embed Wabi-Sabi within your surrounding?
To add Wabi-Sabi to your lifestyle, you do not have to be a master in Japanese philosophy or culture. In addition, the concept does not require a large investment to apply it in your surrounding or at home. All you need is a shift in your perspective from chasing perfection to accepting imperfections.
To embed Wabi-Sabi in your surroundings, you will have to create a soothing atmosphere in your home by emphasizing what you already have instead of a desire for something new. Just fall in love with your imperfect side like things around us and reduce buying too many new things to replace the old. You can use your rusty hammer that has been passed over through generations. Instead of disliking its condition, you can value its imperfect nature and the story it tells about your previous generations.
Although we need to buy things at times, especially when our children grow up and want new things, we can consider Wabi-Sabi when we shop and select sustainable, vintage, or hand-made products over mass-produced goods.