Wabi-Sabi

Some of you may have heard of this concept before, and many of you may have not. It was only recently introduced to me through my meditation app, where the guided meditation happened to talk about wabi-sabi. The explanation of it made me realize how much I identified with the concept and how important I think the concept is, regardless of what we’re dealing with in our lives.

What is wabi-sabi? It’s a Japanese worldview that has been around since the 15th century. There isn’t a great translation for it (as often happens when we try to translate culturally-specific concepts) but roughly, wabi means finding simplicity in nature, and sabi means appreciating beauty. What it’s taken to mean is the beauty of imperfection, and accepting the imperfections in your life, while making the most out of what you have. Because no one is perfect, and yet we all strive to be, especially in the Western World. But why? I am not perfect, you are not perfect, literally no one is. Another way of viewing wabi-sabi is your ability to appreciate complexity while valuing simplicity. The world has become a more and more complex place, as we’ve seen through this pandemic, but also just through the consistent advancement of technology, and through the political landscape in the Western wold. But while the world may be complex, it is the simple things that are more likely to bring us joy. Like spending time with family or friends, being able to work from home if you have that option, and the adorableness of a child’s laugh.

Accepting our imperfections: physical, and otherwise is a part of wabi-sabi. Photo at Kalamalka Lake, BC.

This concept is tied into Zen Buddhism. There are three aspects of Buddhism that it is related to: impermanence (we’re all going to die fyi), suffering (is inevitable, no one has a life without any), and non-self (which may not have actually been said by the Buddha, there is much debate). These concepts kind of tie into existentialism too, don’ they? Finding meaning in life, non-being, existential anxiety… Wabi-sabi definitely ties into some Zen principles like simplicity, asymmetry, beauty, naturalness, grace, freeness, and tranquility. And finally, I see the connection to mindfulness (which comes from Zen Buddhism as well) such as being present, seeing things as they are, and acceptance.

Nature is full of imperfections. Photo taken at Niagara, ON.

When it comes to health, there is definitely ways of applying wabi-sabi. We must accept our illnesses. We must accept any body imperfections that come with them. We are beautiful the way we are. We should look for the beauty in the simple things in our lives to make ourselves happy. That doesn’t mean we can’t dream or strive for more. Rather, we can enjoy and accept as a way of improving our mental health, while always trying to make the most out of life.

Sometimes it’s about just enjoying the simple things. Photo: My friend and I last October, just outside of Toronto, ON.

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