how to get “wabi sabi” with it

Posted on March 3rd, 2011

Wabi sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection. That statement in itself makes me happy. Observing it is a meditation and a tool for keeping life cool. And whimsicaly creative. I’m playing with it at the moment as I write. It’s proving a nifty little tool!

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Image by tamara lichtenstein

Wabi stems from the word wa, which refers to harmony, peace, tranquility and balance. Sabi, by itself, means “the bloom of time. Through wabi-sabi we learn to embrace our scars, rust, uneven finishes and the “bloom” of time they represent.

I found this post on eco salon about living a wabi sabi life: “Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind.”

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Ways to get wabi sabi with it today?

  • pick some flowers from the side of the road and play with them until you find a nicely discordant arrangment. Stick em in a jam jar.
  • take 2 or 3 old toys or heirlooms you’ve hung onto, stored in a box, and arrange them on the mantlepeice.
  • make a “still life salad”I’ve been collecting herbs from the garden and arranging them on a plate and putting random, favourite ingredients from the fridge that need to be eaten on top. To see how the flavours mix. Anchovies and thyme. Shitake mushrooms cooked in butter on sage. A mound of leftover pumpkin mash with roast cashews.
  • This from ecosalon: “Focus on what you drink your coffee or tea out of in the morning. If it’s a cup that you picked up that has advertising on it, try to find something that you can really appreciate that’s kind of heavy in the hand, like handmade pottery that you interact with and use everyday.”

“Anything that you interact with on a regular basis you want to have soul.”

Being wabi sabi is mostly about getting still and appreciative with the life around us. Shutting off the nagging pull of perfection-seeking. And observing what is. The process of doing this gets me into a lovely focussed space. It’s meditative, it feels special and true.

But most importantly it drives us down, down, down, into ourselves to a space where little flourishes of creativity emerge. Creativity takes practice. Getting wabi sabi with life is a nice way to get the hours up!

This is all. As you were. Be well today. xx

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  • http://www.runningwithballoons.wordpress.com emma

    I love that word; “wabi sabi”.

    This sort of reminds me of something we learned in my “china in world history subject”, my lecturer was talking about “going with the flow of nature”, that is, living with harmony as things flow. He talked about sliding a knife through a chicken to see the meat fall off, rather then hacking at it with knives in awkward places. Another example he gave was kung fu, learning your oppostion’s natural flow of movement in order to oppose it.

    Anyway, food for thought. And I do now feel like eating wasabi peas. Haha!

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  • http://www.tamaralichtenstein.com tamara lichtenstein

    Can you please credit my work? (first photo with light leak) Thank you.

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    For sure Tamara. I wasn’t sure where the pic had come from…it was in a folder of images someone had collated for me. Your work is just stunning!!!

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    David Reply:

    hehe that almost seems like Wabi Sabi – an inadvertent use of one’s work becoming a nice, for want of a better word, plug. (They are nice pics. So sorry if I sounded at all cynical.)

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  • http://maidinaustralia.com Bronnie

    I love it! And the best thing is it’s true…

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  • http://sweeter-living.blogspot.com/ Kris

    Oh I love this post Sarah! Thank you for sharing :)
    I am a total perfectionist and control freak.
    Recently however, I have come to realise that the fact of the matter is I am totally imperfect, and that’s just fine. I am learning to love my imperfections and appreciate them for what they are.
    I love the idea of focusing on the little things we come across in our day, it’s that kind of awareness that makes us really appreciate what we have.
    x

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  • sonja cardwell.com

    I’m new to your blog and I love how you write about stuff ,its so refreshing and honest and guess what I’m on day 2 without sugar omgod look forward to following your stuff x

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Welcome!

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  • http://lisajennea.blogspot.com LisaJennea

    I absolutely love this! Life is imperfect by definition – better to embrace it and appreciate the beauty than obsess over the things that may be wrong in your life.

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  • http://www.melanie.selemidis.com Melanie Selemidis

    Love this! Sick of striving for perfection.Thanks for sharing!

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  • Mel

    So that’s the word to describe my life… Great now I know. My apartment is wabi sabi and everything in it. Ha. Oh and me as well and my clothes. Just discussing with a friend last night how she hates old stuff and I hate new stuff, always have, even when I was little. Great post.

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  • http://www.sharnanigans.com sharni montgomery

    Always with cutting edge ways of being Sarah , love it. Going to get my sabi on

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  • Julie

    What a great post…I most definately need to live a more “wabi sabi” life. I am a first time mum to a gorgeous little boy and have always been a bit of a control freak/perfectionist. Lately I have been setting myself the challenge of letting go, trying to live “in the moment” and to stop being so judgemental (which is just my own insecurity). I will make it my new challenge to appreciate lifes imperfections and just go with the flow.

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  • http://oneaprilmorning.net Laura

    Beautiful post Sarah! I think that finding beauty in imperfection is the key to a joyful life… life is, by nature, imperfect so we need to not only make peace with that but also to embrace it wholeheartedly, and use it as a source of happiness and fulfillment.

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  • David

    It is a great idea. When I visit my parents I’ll chase our ageing dog around the house. My dad gets irritated but would desperately miss such comotion if and when he has to be put in a home or the dog dies (he’s 14). It is too easy to take things for granted. It is so easy to get annoyed with people’s foibles and trying circumstances until suddenly things go a lot worse. I’m sure some Queenslanders stopped worrying about the petty stuff when nature gave them a wake-up call.

    Wabi Sabi certainly sounds like meditation, where one learns to not think, not do, just be …. and just being is not about judgment , perfectionism and desire.

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  • David

    …. and just being is not about judgment , perfectionism and desire….just acceptance.

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  • Julie

    I just loved this…it’s the imperfect things that make life real and beautiful and there really is peace and calm to be found in the imperfect, at least for me it’s one of the few things that calms me…Love, Jules

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  • Julie

    …which reminds why I love old music and blues…it’s imperfect and there for perfect and real…

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  • Cathrine

    What an awesome philosophy! Thanks for sharing it :)

    Ps-I love your blog, you’ve inspired me to quit sugar for Lent (though I don’t know if I could keep it up for a lifetime)

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  • http://minearebetter.wordpress.com/ Abby

    I’d never seen your blog before (linked by Gala Darling) but it’s really great. I especially like this post since I hadn’t heard of “wabi sabi” before. It’s pretty great :]

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  • alli

    I love this!
    Great minds think alike! I wrote an article the other day about letting go of perfection in order to encourage and grow your creativity.
    http://kissesandchaos.com/2011/03/04/the-culprits-of-creative-slumps-part-4-perfection/

    I’d rather look at charmingly crooked teeth than a slick set of perfect veneers anyday!
    More wabi sabi, please!

    ♥♥♥

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  • http://kissesandchaos.com alli

    ps- I love your blog.

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  • http://quiethouses.blogspot.com Kate

    I love this concept. I’ve never heard of wabi sabi before, but it perfectly describes the way I live. I’m sitting in a patch of sun in my comfy cardigan with a big chunky mug of coffee, and I couldn’t be happier.

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  • Michele Felmingham

    I also have an autoimmune disease and I think that wabi sabi finds you. I don’t think it’s a matter of saying that I’ll buy x or y and that is my wabi sabi as some commercial sites extoll. Having an autoimmune disease makes us re-prioritise our lives. The A+ personality who ran 5kms a day and swam 20 laps is no more. You grieve for the person you were and start making life choice and changes that you usually don’t make until you are 70 years old or so. Gone is the stressful job. Gone is the cold weather. Gone is the dream home with too many bedrooms and stairs. Fast forward – the Sunshine Coast, Montville, treehouse, hammock, rainforest, frangipani. wooden floors, no curtains, privacy, creeks. Water, stone, wood and fire are the cornerstones of my wabis sabi path and feng shui, which I didn’t worry about until someone asked me how long had I taken to find an address with a house number of 639. Apparently it’s quite good feng shui number. Wabi sabi found me. Ponds with frogs, rocks and stones, rusty bit and pieces collected from the local markets. Wabi sabi is the pallet of colours found within light and shade and is indeed a magical thing.

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  • http://www.melanie.selemidis.com Melanie Selemidis

    Thanks Michele for reminding us of what’s really important. I too have
    a condition (fibromyalgia) which I’ve struggled with, denied, & fought against & I
    too grieved a full on perfectionist live I can no longer live.
    Your space sounds magically & simply beautiful! Peace ;)

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