There’s a Japanese concept I fell in love with years ago: wabi-sabi. As is the case with many foreign-language words and phrases, wabi-sabi doesn’t have a clear or direct translation.
According to learningjapanese123.com, wabi “refers to simplicity and a sense of stillness. It embraces the rustic quality with all its flaws and imperfections. It celebrates randomness that gives a feeling of distinctiveness and uniqueness”.
Sabi “means an idyllic beauty that comes from age. It denotes the natural process of aging that gives an object value and dignity. It is the unpretentious and ambiguous process that renders it beautiful and speaks of the Japanese appreciation of the cycle of life”.
The two words combined indicate having gratitude for or seeing value in things such as broken glass worn smooth by the sea, a flower growing in a crack in the sidewalk, the sparseness of empty trees in the winter, your favorite pair of jeans with frayed hems and a hole in the knee, grey hairs and laugh lines.
Wabi-sabi doesn’t allow imperfection to diminish the value of an object, experience or person. We are called to embrace ourselves and others in all of our humanness with our scars and stretch marks, quirks and faults. The notion of perfection isn’t erased, but rather turned on it’s head. We don’t stop striving to be the best possible version of ourselves, but we don’t beat ourselves up when we stumble or struggle.
As Richard Powell says, "Accepting the world as imperfect, unfinished, and transient, and then going deeper and celebrating that reality, is something not unlike freedom.”
How could you incorporate wabi-sabi into your life, your relationships and your yoga practice?