Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wabi-Sabi: Explained

Blog posts entitled "Wabi-Sabi" will be dedicated to moments of self-acceptance and calm.

But first, let us explain... 

The term refers to a Japanese philosophy or aesthetic that is based on the acceptance of imperfection. Wabi-sabi is centered on three simple truths:
  1. Nothing lasts (beauty within the impermanent)
  2. Nothing is finished (beauty within the incomplete)
  3. Nothing is flawless (beauty within the imperfect) 
Each assembly of letters, separated by hyphen and rhyming in sound, has come to evolve in meaning by joining and over time. Wabi, once the loneliness of living in nature, has come to mean rustic simplicity. Sabi, once a synonym for "withered," has come to represent beauty with age. You see, as years passed, their separate meanings came under amendment. But later, in joining, they formed wisdom in simplicity and beauty that is flawed. Wabi-sabi is centered on accepting all that is transient, incomplete, and imperfect. 

At first, I felt overwhelmed at its discovery. How have I never heard of this before? A beautiful philosophy, so far from the life I live. Cue: self-doubt, subsequent self-criticism...

But with minimal contemplation came great understanding. Could this be the affirmation I have been dreaming of? 

This Japanese worldview, so remarkably symbolic of my deepest intentions, how can I learn to embody it?

The truth is that I already have; and you have too. 

Last Spring, I went to Veradero (Cuba) with Graham and two of our closest friends.

One morning Graham and I woke early. Hand-in-hand, we walked to the beach ever so quietly. The sand off of the path, almost warm, was jagged from seashells broken. Graham, steps away, carried my camera until no longer in sight. A salted breeze was softly whispering, the ocean current just barely rising. Single cups found scattered, once an evening rum and coke, now parting with the wind.

Natural existence all around me inspired a connection between myself and the world, free of all judgment. Finally I felt liberated from a place of material things. My skin, never to resemble porcelain or cream, felt delicate in the morning sun. The yearning to practice yoga began to consciously nag. Tree pose came naturally and with little thought. My posture, a little one-sided, did not matter. I found solace in recognizing a foundation of faith and love. I stood grounded. In the absence of a "but" or "because," I felt completely happy.

The beauty of this moment would not last: we, bellies grumbling, would shortly walk to breakfast. This moment would never be complete: no God I can see, touch, or hear. I, wavy-haired, unbalanced in posture, slightly blemished, would never be perfect.

Yet this moment served as the source of a serenity, a longing for God, and one of the simplest forms of happiness I have ever known. This moment was wabi-sabi. 
A moment of wabi-sabi (Veradero, Cuba).
This is not to say that wabi-sabi cannot materialize during an experience that is less aesthetically pleasing (in comparison to the ocean!). 

On odd Sunday afternoons, I drive home after Church. One particular instance in my recent past comes to mind. I rested, bedroom window slightly ajar, and turned my music on. Steaming coffee, my hands clasped around it, I watched the steam as it climbed. The scent of vanilla, infused in my oatmeal, modestly lingered but did not overpower. The cool winter air, almost blistering, seemed to sooth my tired skin. The delicate rhythm of Beth/Rest implied the end of a silent mourning. The sound of the wind, quiet and steady, learned to match my rise and fall. I lived this moment as it happened, so free of judgment of internal criticism. I transcended, as I had before, into simple happiness. 

This moment would not last forever: the melody of the piano coming to a calm, awaiting its finale. This moment would never be complete: no nature in sight, no others around me. This moment would never be perfect: and no moment ever will be. 

Each experience in this life is impermanent and incomplete. And, we, each and every one of us, are imperfect.

To fully accept impermanence (our lives), incompletion (our dreams), and imperfection (our being) even if only for an instant: that is wabi-sabi. 

This is why I wish to search. 

Kristina 

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