Wabi-Sabi: What It Is and How You Can Bring It Into Your Life

Life is unpredictable—but hey, “that’s okay. Embrace it,” says author Thomas Oppong, creator of Thinking in Models and Kaizen Habits.

The idea of “embracing the unpredictable” that Oppong is referencing stems from a Japanese philosophy called wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi, which is comprised of the combination of Japanese words “wabi,” meaning “rustic simplicity” and “sabi,” meaning to “take pleasure in the imperfect,” finds its essence in that nothing is certain.

Followers of the wabi-sabi philosophy are encouraged to look for their blessings in life and to put an end to merely making life a grueling quest for achievements, perfection and other sometimes impossible goals, Oppong explains.

Simply put, wabi-sabi gives a person permission to just be themselves. Because then on the other hand, “everything is possible,” says Oppong in his blog , “ Wabi-Sabi: the Japanese Philosophy for a Perfectly Imperfect Life.

Take Pleasure in the Imperfect

By accepting life’s imperfections and it’s open possibilities, one can learn to find beauty in everyday flaws and grow to appreciate them. The concept is perhaps best illustrated, and even originated from, the Japanese tea ceremony, in which the teacups are sometimes chipped, old and cracked, yet unique and beautiful.

Wabi-sabi is also used to refer to art that is simple, rustic and imperfect.

For example decorating a living room with old family furniture or thrift store knick-knacks that are placed lovingly just so, so as to bring a homely joy.

So, How Can You Wabi-Sabi Your Life?

That is, how can you make it simpler and yet more beautiful? One of the first steps is to back away from an image-driven life and move towards one that is filled with more meaning by embracing the flaws and imperfections that you experience daily.

Next, here are some other places you can start:

Your Home

In an article for EcoSalon, Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author of The Wabi-Sabi House notes that “Wabi-sabi is not a decorating style, but rather a mindset with no list of rules.”

“Creating a wabi-sabi home is the result of developing our wabigokoro, or wabi mind and heart: living modestly, learning to be satisfied with life once we strip away the unnecessary, and living in the moment – an arduous task in our fast-paced, uber-connected world,” Lawrence says.

Your Clothing

It’s wabi-sabi to keep what you have. So it’s encouraged to think twice before getting rid of that well-worn but beloved item — especially if it’s made of a material like leather or wool that gets more character with age.

“Appreciating what you already have is more important than acquiring new things,” says Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.


Wabi-sabi can help you see the beauty in your imperfect self — and even in your aging self, which has an imperfect beauty all its own, says Jessie Sholl, in her Experience Life blog .

“This is where adopting a wabi-sabi outlook can be eye-opening — and mind-opening,” Sholl says.

“By perceiving ourselves through this generous lens, we can stop endlessly striving for the ideal body and focus instead on real physical health. All it takes is a shift in perception.”

Being wabi-sabi is mostly about being appreciative with the life around us.

“Shutting off the nagging pull of perfection-seeking,” says Sarah Wilson in her blog , “how to get wabi-sabi with it.” The process of observing the way things are, rather than how they should be, helps her get into “a lovely focused space” that feels meditative. “It feels special and true,” she says.

092016-diana_manos-photoDiana Manos is a seasoned journalist who has been covering healthcare policy issues in Washington, DC for newspapers, magazines and trade publications for twenty years, with the past ten focusing mainly on health IT. She was senior editor at HIMSS Media from 2006-2014, writing daily for healthcare executives and chief information officers in Healthcare IT News and Government Health IT. Today, she has a successful freelance writing business, with stories published regularly in Health Data Management, Healthcare IT News and Meritalk. She is a thought leader on healthcare issues with an avid Twitter following (@Diana_Manos). Diana covers everything of vital interest to physicians, patients and healthcare industry stakeholders, keeping close ties with other thought leaders, experts and policymakers on a weekly basis. Her ability to spot healthcare policy trends and her deep understanding of the regulatory issues faced by physicians and hospitals gives her stories a wide reach. Diana’s healthcare stories have appeared in the Washington Post, Health Leaders magazine, Hospitals and Health Networks magazine and more. She has been the recipient of several writing awards including the Jesse H. Neal Award for editorial honors in the field of specialized journalism and the American Society of Business Publication Editors Award. In her personal life, Diana is passionate about patient empowerment, natural healing methods and alternative healthcare.

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