"Wabi sabi meaning". Two little Japanese words that can help us to accept our uniqueness, to perceive the secret beauty of the world. And to appreciate its imperfection and impermanence. Three exercises to discover it.
Melancholy, renunciation of brilliance, simplicity, rusticity, imperfections, marks of time, asymmetry, humility, nature... Wabi sabi style, the Japanese aesthetic concept, is all of this at once, and much more. To grasp its essence, one must call upon one's senses and sensitivity as much as one's reason. Leonard Koren, an architect and theorist of aesthetics who has devoted not only a book1 but also years of study to it, gives a definition in the form of an impressionist poem: "Wabi sabi style is the beauty of imperfect, impermanent and incomplete things.
It is the beauty of modest and humble things. It is the beauty of atypical things." He tells us that wabi sabi style is "associated with Zen Buddhism and could even be called the 'Zen of things,' as it exemplifies many of the spiritual/philosophical principles of Zen. Contemplation, humility, serenity and detachment are some of them.
It is no accident that Murata Shukō (1423-1502), the first wabi sabi style tea master, was a Zen monk. At that time, tea was the object of a lavish ceremony, mainly because its objects, imported from China, were luxurious; and their workmanship, almost perfect. In contrast to this fashion, Shukō served tea in local handcrafted utensils that were considered crude. A century later, a merchant's son, Rikyū (1522-1591), who became a tea master, replaced the luxurious Chinese pieces with local handicrafts, and created a tea house based on the model of a peasant's hut. Rikyū paid for his boldness with his life, but wabi sabi style was born and its spirit was to live on. According to Leonard Koren, three statements sum up his spiritual values: "Truth comes from observing nature. Greatness' lies in the unobtrusive and overlooked details. Beauty can be obtained from ugliness." And his philosophical precepts are simple: discard the superfluous, accept the inevitable and impermanence, do not seek perfection.
For Christopher A. Weidner, systemic therapist and feng shui expert, "wabi sabi meaning to devote oneself to the essential, to be fully oneself - nothing more, nothing less. This aesthetic philosophy of life, he describes, "confirms that we all carry within us everything we need to feel beautiful and happy. We just need to focus on what is essential to us.
In this way, says Weidner, we can not only accept ourselves, but also "become who we are. By escaping the diktats of fashion and the dominant criteria of beauty. To standardized perfection and flashy luxury, wabi sabi style opposes singularity, imperfection and discretion. Three values to welcome in order to make our look more attentive and benevolent. Towards others as well as towards ourselves. And it is in this spirit that we propose the following three exercises.
Find the hidden beauty
Our look is formatted by the dominant aesthetic discourse. If we want to free ourselves from it, to recover our freedom to vibrate and to be moved by the beauty, the simplicity and the diversity of the world, it is necessary to forge ourselves another one. More delicate, more attentive, more loving. "In the context of wabi sabi style, beauty being situated outside the borders of a flawless artificiality, all the marks of superiority of nature over human work or the traces left by an unforeseen event will not be smoothed, erased, but on the contrary cherished"
How can this be done? By paying attention to the details and, therefore, to the imperfections of things, objects and people. The faded or the folds of an old fabric, the beauty of a dead leaf or a dried flower, the charm of a smile on irregular teeth, the drawing of wrinkles on hands or a face, the majesty of a bleached hair, the dance of the dust in the light...
Nuance our emotions
When we find ourselves in delicate situations, in a state of stress or simply when we are not feeling well, getting in touch with what represents wabi sabi style around us is beneficial. It helps to remember that perfection and permanence are illusions, that worries and problems are ephemeral and that no one can fight against the passage of time.
How do you do it? Walk around your house, open your cupboards and let your eyes be "hooked" by a wabi sabi object (irregular, old, worn, broken...). Take it in your hands and, without judging it, give it your full attention: feel its weight, its shape, its texture... Then ask yourself: why is this object important to you? What do you feel at this precise moment? What memories come up? Whatever your emotion (nostalgia, joy, sweet sadness), you will feel less stressed and more nuanced in your feelings and opinions....
Choose what makes you happy
Becoming aware of your essential needs in terms of pleasure and happiness is the best way to make good use of your time and energy and to celebrate your uniqueness. Wabi sabi meaning does not praise renunciation or forced minimalism, but rather informed choice, in accordance with the essence of our being.
How can you do this? Make a list of activities that bring you pleasure and to which you find meaning. Take the time to reflect on what makes them truly enjoyable, intense or rewarding for you. Also ask yourself how they correspond to a trait of your personality and one of its essential needs. Then give each one a priority score from 1 to 6. Then ask yourself: do you give them enough space in your life? In your daily life? What prevents you from doing so? How could you better integrate them?