The Wonder of Wabi Sabi
And how understanding it can influence your creative experience
The first time I heard the term Wabi Sabi I thought it was possibly some kind of drink made famous by Sammy Hagar, or some new hot yoga move.
But I was wrong.
What Wabi Sabi is, is a Japanese aesthetic, a philosophy of sorts, and there is no real English translation. But in broad strokes, the Japanese word Wabi means things that are simple and the word Sabi means things whose beauty stems from age. So for example, beauty would be found in a rose, in all of its various life stages, a bud, in full bloom, and as it loses it petals.
Wabi Sabi focuses on the beauty of impermanence, imperfection, and things incomplete and can be traced back to Zen Buddhism, particularly the tea ceremony. This was a ritual of purity and simplicity in which Masters prized the handmade and irregularly shaped tea bowls that were deliberately made imperfect.
I personally applied this principle of Wabi Sabi when I decided to try assemblage, an art form that seemed to allow for raw interpretation, no right or wrong way to do things. Coming from a Wabi Sabi mindset, I could thereby make these creations without feeling they had to be “perfect.”
How can adopting a Wabi Sabi attitude help us in our creative endeavours?
Well, it helps us to let go of the need to be perfect, and with that, the fear of not being good enough.
Perfection is a killer to creativity, to being our true selves. It causes us to procrastinate and become paralysed. It also causes us to become cookie cutter like, following all the rules. And that can be boring. Perfection loses all complexity. It is imperfection that creates character and provides story.
Now, if we can wrap our heads around that and embrace the idea that what we are is already perfect in our imperfection, then there is no chance of failing. We can stop worrying, shelve the stress and just be or just create.
What is perfection anyway?
On the surface, it would seem as if perfectionism is our attempts at avoiding shame and judgment, and is the ultimate fear that others will see us for who we really are, which we imagine would lead to criticism and rejection.
And guess what? Everybody lives with that fear on some level.
But at the heart of perfectionism is our desire to be loved and accepted, to impress or please others. However, first and foremost we must please ourselves — be ourselves — that is where we shine — that is our perfection.
Once we take on the attitude or belief that perfect can be boring and much too constraining, we become free to experiment, to colour outside the lines.
“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.”
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
When we surrender to the moment we allow the seeds of excellence to grow, and we can start to accept where we are at in any moment, knowing that we are perfectly imperfect just as we are.
A Certified Health/Life Coach, Feng Shui Practitioner and writer, Kim lives in Santa Barbara and works with women helping them to accept and celebrate their imperfections so they can live creative, happy, and healthy lives. Visit her at www.wabisabiwomen.com