Wabi-Sabi: Embracing Imperfection & Transience

A path to a happier life

What do you find the most beautiful? What is that one thing which you think has everlasting beauty that never seems to fade?

For me, it is a set of pearly whites; well-structured, shiny, and perfectly in proportion. One such sat in the mouth of my best friend. I absolutely adored them and she knew that. So when she got into a friendly tussle with her sibling over her cell phone one evening and ended up hitting her tooth with the cell phone really hard and cracking her top incisor, I was shocked.

She was really upset, but I was devastated. Her teeth were my pride, after all.

I immediately suggested she go to the dentist and get them fixed. She was in a state of slight shock and said she’d think about it. And no matter how much I loved her teeth, I knew it was not my decision to make.

I decided to give her time and cope with my loss.

The next day, I met her in class, and to my utter astonishment, she carried on her day as if nothing had happened. Like her life didn’t fall apart and she didn’t have a cracked window inside her mouth. She was her happy self, interacting with everyone and not the least bit fazed at the looks people were giving her. When I asked, she said she had decided to let the tooth stay that way because she didn’t want to undergo any artificial procedures to look beautiful.

She just happily said, “It doesn’t really matter, I like my teeth just the same, this new look will grow on me.”

If the Japanese were there to see her, they’d break into a huge grin and exclaim, “Ah, Wabi-sabi!”

The Delusion Of Perfection

People seem to love flawless objects, proportioned gardens with no yellow leaves or wilting flowers, clean walls with no hand-stains, girlfriends with no trust issues, and husbands with no insecurities.

Perfection is like slow poison. It seems harmless and starts with trying to look presentable and fixing things around the house to make it look decent, but slowly seethes into our relationships with people and perception of the world before we know it.

Inwardly, we start spending a little extra time in the mirror, examining the wrinkles around our eyes a little too closely, scrutinizing our blackheads a little too often, and then silently crying in a corner for somebody to love us just the way we are so we can stop being so damned hard on ourselves.

Outwardly, we start to have unreasonable expectations from people and things around us too. We invariably start pressurizing others to chase perfection too, without even realizing it.

Why does he have to be so emotional about everything? Can’t she wear a little makeup when she goes out? Her black circles are showing. Can’t they spend a little extra and buy the fancy cutlery? It’ll make them look so much better-off than they are.

Sometimes, people will realize this pattern and decide this behavior needs to stop. So they buckle up and go to therapy and start reciting affirmations in the mirror every morning, like, “I’m beautiful”, “I’m smart” and “life is great” and other tiring hullaballoo.

Guess what? It’s not the way out. While it’s great you’re acknowledging your faults, it is not going to make you feel good for more than 5 minutes.

The right way out is not by acting like the flaw doesn’t exist, but loving and accepting the flaw.

How People Will Use Your Insecurities Against You

In this age, every marketer and every brand is out to get our attention. Our likes/dislikes and our movements on the internet are monitored 24×7 and all our actions are being tapped by literally every company out there. Everyone wants to get a hold of our e-mail so they can bombard us with emails every day and we don’t forget their existence. That’s all fine, but they can’t force us to give them our money, so how do they go about that? Simple, find an insecurity, and promise to help get rid of it.

And to do that, they inflate our insecurities enough to have us lapping up their teeth whitening procedures, Botox’s, slim tea, and all sorts of other gimmicks.

The worst part is, the testimonials of these products will come from your favorite actors or other people you admire and look up to. They will sound smart, and speak about how it’s a new age and it’s not wrong to want something better than what you have while being recorded getting lip injections and getting paid a bomb to do the same.They will brainwash you before you even realise what’s happening.

So what is Wabi-Sabi Anyway?

Wabi loosely stands for simplicity and rusticness

while Sabi roughly translates to the beauty of age and wear/tear.

This term has its origins from Zen Buddhism in China, which revolves around the understanding of impermanence. Buddhism always talks about acknowledging the transient nature of life and the human body and being aware of it every moment of life.

Despite its origin, it became a truly Japanese philosophy and soon became a part of everyday Japanese culture and was followed in Tea houses, Zen gardens, and even the flower arrangement, Ikebana. Legend has it, A tea house manager deliberately shook the branches of the tree after the helpers had finished cleaning the surroundings of the tea house, so that the clear road had some element of wabi-sabi.

It is said that these terms have adopted a more light-hearted and hopeful meaning with age, and initially stood for the same truth of impermanence, but in a way that could make one sad, due to its brutal honesty.

Wabi-sabi is uneven sides, frayed edges, simplicity, rusticness, and transience.

It acknowledges what most people try to avoid: Death

Everything deteriorates after a while, slowly or all at once.

It is authenticity, in the rawest form imaginable. It is having anxiety attacks and not hating yourself. It is promising to behave but ending up letting all the pent up anger come out, freely. It is embracing everything you think is wrong with you.

It is the full moon in the night sky, with clouds obstructing its view.

It’s fallen autumn leaves on an otherwise clean clear pathway.

It is living with the agony of one’s past that eats away at a seemingly perfect person.

Wabi-sabi is going to the local farmer’s market for its authentic lopsided vegetables instead of the processed and inorganically grown sharp-looking veggies found in big-box retailers.

Wabi-sabi is embracing the signs of ageing instead of nip-tucking your body.

It is welcoming your partner as they are, trust issues and all.

It is upcycling that favorite shirt of yours instead of throwing it away when it gets a tear.

Wabi-sabi is authenticity. It knows life isn’t a bed of roses. There will be earthquakes and stretch marks, broken doors and broken hearts, bruises, and scars, and is willing to accept it all.

Nothing beautiful is ever perfect. Nothing perfect is ever beautiful.

Art is beautiful simply because it’s not perfect. Nothing an artist has ever created is ever devoid of any shortcomings. Ask any artist to show you the piece he is the proudest of, and he will still be able to pinpoint a place with a flaw, which could be improved.

Make The Shift To A Wabi-sabi Lifestyle Today

Accepting shortcomings and flaws doesn’t mean we should live in a rat-infested house with broken latches and dust everywhere and try to accept it the way it is. Nor does it mean we should accept how emotionally vulnerable we are because life has been hard on us, without trying to improve and become a stronger individual.

Wabi-sabi is no excuse to live like a beggar or to not try to improve your personality and attitude. There is a thin line between living the wabi-sabi way and acting like an irresponsible and careless person.

Wabi-sabi is fixing the broken door and enjoying the creaking sound it makes instead of getting a brand new door installed in its place.

Wabi-sabi is proof that you’re human. It’s the most wonderful connection to nature, to god’s creation. Start embracing people and things for what they are, not what you would like it to be. Don’t lose touch with the reality of life, be real.

The simple act of being authentic will bring you inner peace and offer others around you solace, in a world enveloped in delusions of perfection.

So the next time you hear the creaking of a door or sight your disproportionate body in the mirror, you can happily exclaim, “Ahh! Wabi-Sabi.”

Because you know the truth now.

And the truth is that you are beautiful because of — not in spite of- your flaws.

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