Perfectly Wabi Sabi

by Kim Klein – Guest Blogger

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 super energized dance routine. 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 and simple 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 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 for the first time during my years studying Feng Shui in the late 90s. At the end of my schooling we had to do a thesis. I chose art – creating my own art as way of infusing my home with my own energy. I wasn’t a real artist so 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.”

So you might wonder, how can adopting a Wabi Sabi attitude help us as a creative or prepare us for anything else in life for that matter? 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 paralyzed. 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 self-imposed imperfection, then there is no chance of failing. We can stop worrying, shelve the stress and just be or just create. I’ve been thinking more about our need to be perfect – and what is perfection anyway?

Perfectionism is truthfully about avoiding shame, judgment, and is the ultimate fear that others will see us for who we really are. It is our attempt to avoid rejection, criticism and failure. At the heart of perfectionism is our desire to be loved and accepted, to impress or please others. But 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 color outside the lines. Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way, says, “The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” When we surrender to the moment we allow the seeds of excellence to grow. Perfection is about controlling the outcome in order to receive love and acceptance. It’s all about fear. Whereas, surrender is about accepting where we are at in any moment, knowing that we are perfectly imperfect just as we are.

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Kim Klein is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Certified Feng Shui Practitioner whose specialty is combining the two modalities to help women achieve balance, rediscover their purpose and reignite their passion for living. She is the author of Damn, the Pusherman ~ Sugar, The Legal Drug that is Keeping you Sick and Fat, and Nine Degrees North, a young adult fiction novel that takes place on Kwajalein, a Pacific Island US missile range in 1969.

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