WABI SABI... What on Earth is WABI SABI?

I asked this same question when a friend of mine began talking about it. It’s like what???!!! Wabi what? I will admit that I don’t know everything but when something comes along that intrigues me, I must delve into it and maybe end up teaching it–at the very least passing on the good and juicy information.

Wabi and Sabi are two Japanese words which stand for the essence of tranquility. It’s about being imperfect and being okay with that and realizing that the world is impermanent. Remember the tulip that we talked about in the previous blog? It blooms for a while and then it wilts, begins to die and then becomes another form. The bulb, the essence of that tulip is still there waiting to bloom again. The flower, leaves and stem are impermanent…they are meant to be that way. All of nature is that way, even in climates where the seasons do not shift drastically – there are changes going on all the time.

Think of wabi as: imperfect, tranquil simplicity, irregular beauty, austere elegance. Something in its natural state which is simple and austere. As a state of mind imagine being serene and transcendental. The beauty of wabi is a natural beauty that is not perfect, is always changing and just out of reach. It is like nature itself–dark and light, harsh and gentle, sad and joyful. It is a state of mind. Personally, you can choose to stop grumbling about your life, stop being constricted by what you don’t have and lean into a sense of tranquility that is beyond the everyday–embody the idea of wabi. Here’s a thought. Practice wabi for the next week. Embody it, slide into it, lean on the concept, make it part of your life and be aware how it impacts the small pieces and the large bites of your life.


How was your week? Are you okay with not being perfect or are there lingering judgments, “I knew this wouldn’t work”, I can’ts? Are you still wagging your own finger in your own face? Speaking of face, it’s time to practice sabi.

And see sabi as the beauty that actually treasures the passage of time and the sense of impermanence that is evoked. It is like a patina brought on by the aging process. It is the natural cycle of birth and death. Sabi is prizing the long survival rather than complaining of age. You have defied the ravages of time, you are here in all your faded glory. Sabi is quiet and solitary, detached in the Buddhist sense as seeing all things as happening by themselves yet in miraculous spontaneity. Sabi could be thought of as a beauty that is exquisite and unattainable, a longing for a place but not the place itself but the dream of that place.

Wabi and sabi reflect a mindful approach to everyday life. Centuries ago, when the Japanese began the first tea ceremonies as the art of everyday life and a means to achieving enlightenment and peace of mind through the very simple, every day preparation of tea. Wabi sabi is this and much more than this. The terms themselves are anything but simple as they encompass life and art with both philosophical and aesthetic meanings.

In today’s thinking these terms are unified when we think of the beauty of things impermanent, imperfect and incomplete, modest and humble and unconventional. Today’s international design concepts incorporate the underlying ideas of wabi and sabi. From the tea house of 16th century Japan to design concepts of the 21st century, the idea of wabi sabi inspires as they continue to evolve.

How might wabi sabi impact your life immediately? You’ll find the answer in the next blog…see you soon!