Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese concept of imperfect beauty. It gets real when you think of it as Richard Powell does: “Nothing lasts forever, nothing is ever finished, and nothing is truly perfect.” Andrew Juniper in Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence notes “if an object or expression can bring about within us a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.” These ideas mirror we are “imperfectly perfect” the yogic scriptures speak of regarding how intensely we strive for perfection – in body, mind, work, sports…whatever. In this culture, we are always striving to eat healthier and work out harder to achieve a perfect body shape, weight and health status, or graduate with honors, get the best evaluations, be the most considerate parent, the most devoted servant in our places of worship.
A devoted yoga student awed by themes I chose to open our yoga practice appeared after class one day and said she’d looked up words for me to use in future classes. Her eyes twinkled when she said “chatoyant.” All my classes, she said to me, relate in some way to the greatness and brilliance within each of us. She related chatoyant to the themes of luminosity and light I offered in the centering meditation before asana. Chatoyant means “optical reflectance,” like the shimmer or shine in a gemstone. Upon more digging into the dictionary, I found that this opulence is because of the imperfections in the stone. Think of a tiger eye gem. There are fibers and particles in the stone that cause the shimmering of the iris we see. Without that flaw inside the stone, we wouldn’t see the incandescence.
Yet, when we consider how we present in the world, our mind goes first to how imperfect we are. We think in terms of:
- our limitations
- unpredictable behaviors that misalign with our goals
- desolation & solitude
- how broken we are
- impediments that get in our way
- our lack of self control
Wabi-sabi represents the reality of being natural, changing, unique beings that help us connect to our real world. A wabi-sabi student finds the most basic objects intriguing, inspiring and exquisite. Wabi-sabi can change our perception of the world to the extent that our “flaws” and imperfections enhance our greatness, highlight the brilliant light within that shines through our eyes, and expresses our radiance in a way that is diminished by negativity and self-doubt.
I often speak of the beauty, the healing essence within you that I call Self. In fact, my intention is always to guide you to a place where you can see your own beauty and worth.
Regardless of seeming imperfections, we can look past the fibers in the tapestry of ourself that might be a little out of line with the pattern.