Wabi-Sabi – Not Wasabi

A few months ago I was invited for coffee at a Japanese friend Chiyoko`s house. It was the first time I was visiting her house and I marveled at the beautiful Japanese aesthetics.

This is how I discovered Wabi-Sabi.

My Story

A few months ago I was invited for coffee at a Japanese friend Chiyoko`s house. It was the first time I was visiting her house and I marveled at the beautiful Japanese aesthetics. On the table was a large ceramic centerpiece..though beautiful, it had a large crack running through it. Absent mindedly I ran my fingers on the crack and wondered in my head why my friend chose to exhibit this cracked piece as the focal point of her table decoration.

Chiyoko read my thoughts and said “WabiSabi”

“Wasabi?” I asked with my limited knowledge of Japan.

She nodded her head and went on to describe the ancient Japanese philosophy of WabiSabi – which means the beauty is embodied in the presence of flaws, damages, the mistakes, the presence of imperfection and impermanace. Wabisabi is often used as an aesthetic in designing, yet it can be brilliantly applied to the current juncture of life and how we deal with it.

How can Wabi-Sabi relate to life?

There are cracks and flaws in what we set out to achieve, our plans have crumbled due to the pandemic – we could be dealing with businesses failing, left without a job, missing our loved ones more than ever, worried about safety.

We have been primed to the notion of perfection…a perfect career, a perfect spouse, a perfect child and we have suddenly had this ouch moment…where we are confronted by these imperfections. These are experiences that we all are sharing.

Wabi-Sabi breaks us away from the premium we put on the set notions of perfection – which can land us on a psychiatrist`s couch.

WabiSabi`s power lies in giving freedom back to myself, in helping me liberate myself from being enchained to this vicious cycle of false expectations of a perfect outcome, those outcomes not being met, Depression and Despair and then a new set of false expectations around the perfect.

Bringing Wabi-Sabi into our lives doesn’t require flamboyance or special skills.

Here a few ways in which we can integrate wabi-sabi

1. Embrace the Cracks

This is not a cliché on a greeting card. For instance, my dad`s death in an accident when I was 8 was something that shook my world. For a long time I numbed that reality beacuse I pretended it didn’t happen. Until recently, I accepted it as something that happened and I could do nothing about it.

2. Harvest it

Since I made this acknowledgement, it has made me strong to share this crack with the world and release the gifts that it holds – such as being more independent, more resilient because of what had happened.

In addition, when we embrace the cracks – a relationship which didn’t work out, a job lost, a business suffering loss; we can harvest it. In other words, we can look at how I have grown as a person from that experience and intentionally shift the direction I was heading to.

3. Declare the Wabi-Sabi

While avoiding talking about the faultlines seems the natural and comforting, declaration is actually powerful.  For instance, it means not hiding yourself behind filters which make life look perfect. It implies no longer shying away from speaking about those cracks. Talk to people, declare on social media – declare it to the world in as many ways as possible. Above all, claim wabi-sabi

Dia Mitra

Dia Mitra

Dia is a leading Executive and Leadership Coach helping leaders navigate business challenges, gain insights and design their path to achieving formidable goals. An alumnus of TISS Mumbai, Dia has 15 years of experience is unlocking human potential. She works with clients across the world and helps them discover their authentic self.

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About Dia

Leadership Coach I Wellbeing Practitioner I TISS, LSR Economics I ACC – ICF I Marshall Goldsmith Certified Coach

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