Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Embracing Wabi-sabi (侘寂) ~ Acceptance of Imperfection

This evening I practiced yoga with a newly certified  teacher, who was substituting for one of my favorite Shiva Rea practitioners who is attending a retreat on the Greek isle of Lesbos. Paulette, the instructor, has a soothing voice that is perfect for yoga. This was a gentle yoga practice that focused on self-kindness; but what really struck me was the concept of Wabi-sabi (侘寂), the Japanese  world view with a focus on the acceptance and beauty of transience and imperfection in the natural world.

I suppose the concept of Wabi-sabi resonated with me because I've always been attracted to objects with flaws. When I lived in Asia I would seek out objects in the local markets that spoke to me. I was always attracted to and collected works of art that had cracks, chips, fissures, irregular paint or carving, some facet that rendered it imperfect. To me the imperfection made the object special, unique, unlike any other. Not to mention the imperfect objects were also available for a discount!

The discussion this evening explained that Wabi-sabi is rooted in Zen Buddhism and originally associated with the Japanese tea ceremony in which the handmade vessels of irregular shape were considered beautiful in the imperfection. I feel gratitude that I can appreciate the beauty of imperfection and embrace it. Perhaps my 5 years in the east altered my concept of what is of value and what constitutes beauty in conjunction with my love of the Romantic poet Keats and his Ode to a Grecian Urn: 'beauty is truth, truth beauty,' – that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know".

To often I see that those of us in the west crave perfection instead of finding beauty and truth in what actually is.  I've belonged to some groups on social media where people obsess about a 1/16  inch perceived difference in the stitching on a pair of handcrafted  shoes, take photos and ask compadres for insight as to whether they can see the flaws!  They can't see the beauty in the handcrafted shoes because they expect perfection for the price they paid. But handcrafted items should be expected to be imperfect. People are not perfect. I do not aspire to the unattainable perfection!

Wabi-sabi is authentic. It is a crack in an antique yellow ware bowl. It is the off-kilter gait of our two 3-legged cats. It is the gap in Lauren Hutton's front teeth. It is the beauty and charm of a worn Persian carpet. It is the comfort of a well loved book that has dog-eared pages. It is the beauty of an ugly shaped but tasty heirloom tomato. It is the appreciation an ancient, dilapidated building or collapsing barn that still radiates beauty. It's my appreciation of the landscape filled with uneven terrain, patches of ground covered with rock that will not support growth, wild berry briars that cannot be tamed, a ski slope driveway that needs resurfacing, our unfinished screened in porch, and the little dents in the sports car. I can celebrate and appreciate the imperfect and the authentic.

I am filled with gratitude that Paulette caused me to consider Wabi-sabi this evening, which reminded me of my love, contentment and appreciation for the imperfect people and things in my life. For how can an imperfect person really expect to be surrounded by perfection?

As I've learned in Al-Anon - progress, not perfection - leads to peace and serenity.

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