Sometimes, when we most need it, miraculous messages end up right in our laps. This past January, during an especially difficult time, a dear friend and I swapped “pick-me-up” gifts. Knowing me so well, he gifted me with a little book entitled Wabi Sabi, The Art of Everyday Life, by Diane Durston. While I’m pretty sure he picked it up mostly for the fun title and the wisdom quotes inside, what he truly did was deliver enlightenment to me at the precise moment of need.
Wabi-sabi is a traditional Japanese world view that embraces the core concepts of transience, simplicity and imperfection.
“Wabi”, roughly translated, means rustic simplicity or understated elegance. It fully embraces the “less is more” philosophy and revolves around a sense of gratitude and contentment rather than seeking for more. A “wabi” Life is one which places gratitude above greed, simplicity above “flash”. Wabi honors the natural state, serenity, and tranquility with what is, rather than always pushing up the proverbial ladder. Much like the Scandinavian practice of hygge, wabi encourages us to slow down and savor every sensory experience, from fresh air, the taste of our coffee, the feel of our favorite t-shirt against our skin…and to take wonder in it all.
“Sabi” is believed to mean taking pleasure in the imperfections of Life, reveling in the passage of time, and enjoying the reflection, wisdom and glow that comes from living fully.
Very much like Selah, written about in an earlier post, wab-sabi is an invitation to slow down and be grateful for what is even as Life involves a perpetual state of flux.
In Robert Powel’s book Wabi-Sabi Simple, he uncovers his three key perceptions of the wabi-sabi lifestyle on Earth:
“Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”
Or, in my own words, Life is fleeting, Life is changing, Life is beautifully messy.
Over the past several years, I’ve worked hard to simplify Life. I’ve significantly slowed down. I used a move to do major purges, and the closing down of both my Mom’s and my best friend’s homes after their deaths has helped me realize that we can probably place the “stuff” that TRULY matters in a few drawers.
It’s not about the stuff, it’s about the moments.
And those moments fly by.
That’s where my struggle lies….in the embracing of transience. I tend to be highly resistant to change, even good change, even change I chose! I’m inclined to stick with projects (and people) past the point of it being in anyone’s best interest. I’m scrappy by nature, so I’m good at hanging on…..when really, I need to get better at letting go. Yep, it’s the transitions, the transience, the impermanence part that hits me hard.
There is unspeakable wisdom in the art of letting go. Not just letting go of “things”, but of dreams that no longer serve, of people who don’t fully embrace who we are, of people we lose too soon.
Just as forgiveness is not an act of absolution, but rather a release of anger and hurt that holds you hostage, letting go is not an act of “moving on” or forgetting.
Rather, letting go is an act of opening up, of accepting what is for what it is and not for what it was. Letting go is an opening up of the heart, hands and mind to be able to fully embrace now without losing it to the past.
We were made to let go. If we weren’t, Life wouldn’t be a source of constant change. No, we’ve been created to be agents of change as well as graceful recipients of it. We’ve been called by Life to appreciate all that has been, all that is, and all that lies ahead.
Wabi-sabi is elegantly and profoundly simple: Life is beautiful, Life is messy, Life is fleeting. Rest in the imperfect, authentic, gloriousness of the now.