Wabi-sabi (part two)

October 8, 2009

In part one, we looked at the original definition of wabi-sabi, which can perhaps be summed up by William Morris’ statement: ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’

In part two, we’ll explore how wabi-sabi can be applied to the rest of your life and how it relates to the ethos of Inner Simplicity.

Wabi-sabi is non-materialist and anti-consumerist

Daisetz T. Suzuki, one of the first scholars to interpret Japanese culture for Westerners, described wabi-sabi as an ‘active aesthetical appreciation of poverty’. In other words, it’s about removing the huge weight of material concerns from our lives and and instead living a simple and modest lifestyle, free from greed and its companions, envy and anger.

Losing your pre-occupation with the trappings of material success – wealth, status, power and luxury – will bring you a joyous freedom which fills your heart and soul. As the Japanese hermits and monks discovered, opting for material poverty can result in a life of spiritual richness and a deep serenity. When you are no longer desperately pursuing superficial goals, you will find yourself able to step out of the rat-race and live your life at a slower pace, resulting in a peaceful and more balanced way of being for both you and for those around you.

By living wabi-sabi and slowing your life down, you will also be able to re-establish your relationship with nature, taking the time to appreciate its many beauties and learning to tread more lightly on the planet. Being content with very little means that you learn to treat the Earth’s resources with respect and no longer squander them for the sake of temporarily fulfilling your ego.

Wabi-sabi means acceptance – of yourself, of others and of the way things are

One of the definitions of wabi-sabi which I found was this:  nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect.

Isn’t that a wonderfully liberating concept? Accepting these notions means that we can simply let go and let be.

For instance, when we accept that nothing is perfect, we can let go of our pursuit of perfection and appreciate the simple, unaffected beauty of things as they are – including ourselves. We are beautiful simply because we exist, and we learn to appreciate the beauty of our quirks and flaws – our scars, our stretchmarks and the signs of aging – rather than buying into our culture’s worship of ‘flawless’ (i.e. airbrushed and cosmetically enhanced) youth.

As well as ceasing to beating ourselves up for not achieving that unreachable goal of perfection, we also stop berating others for not being what we expect or demand them to be. We can let go of the fear which triggers our need to control everything and everyone and instead allow people and things to be as they are and love them for their ‘perfect imperfections’.

Accepting that nothing lasts also makes accepting our aging process easier and allows us to focus instead on enjoying the freedom which comes from the wisdom of age. This concept also helps us understand that adapting to the inevitable changes in our lives is a far healthier approach than fighting them. Flexibility is key to the wabi-sabi lifestyle.

Finally, when we accept that nothing is finished, we learn to live in the moment (the well-known concept of ‘living in the now’), rather than constantly regretting the past and hankering after an elusive future, resulting in us wasting our present by wallowing in ‘if onlys’ – ‘If only I had that car/body/partner, then my life would be complete’.

Wabi-sabi means being true to you

Living wabi-sabi allows us to discover our authentic self – the real person who exists beneath our desperate attempts to conform to society’s ideals, and who exists beneath all of the insecurities we’ve amassed due to our failure to live up to that ‘ideal’.

Being true to yourself and being happy with who you are helps you connect with that place within you where peace, serenity and harmony reside. By living within, rather than living without, you learn to trust your intuition and follow the promptings of your inner voice, and in doing so, you begin to express your deeper feelings and live, love and work in alignment with your true values.

And so you take the time to enjoy what is most important to you in life. A wabi-sabi life does not need to be constantly filled with stimulation and activities which sap your inner self – rather, it gives you the space to indulge your natural talents and abilities. Being creative is all part of wabi-sabi, which allows you the freedom to make mistakes and see it as part of the process, and to celebrate the imperfections of your unique creations. Or as Leonard Cohen said in his song Anthem :

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There’s a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.


Wabi-sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets and Designers by Leonard Koren

Practical Wabi Sabiby Simon G Brown
Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanenceby Andrew Juniper



  1. wabi-sabi me!
    i’ll take about five billion
    peace inducing word

    Thanks for teaching me a new cool word!

    Namaste. 🙂

  2. Hi Blissbait

    You are very welcome 🙂

    And thanks for making me aware of your existence – your site is beautiful, with some truly wonderful words and pictures.

    And your name is equally fabulous 😉

    Warmest wishes


  3. Hello! I dodged over and read your web page. How wonderful your work is. Your site will be fun to explore. It’s very cool that you gift so much positivity and tools for bliss! And….YEAH!!! You quoted Joseph Campbell! I’m crazy about him. Always call him my dad. 🙂 Your Thoreau quote is amazing as well, I’d never heard that one and it’s timely for me to be reading. Thank You!

    Cheers and Namaste. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your kind comments, Blissbait.

      I’ve put a lot of work into the site and this blog, so it’s really uplifting to hear that it’s appreciated and is achieving what I set out to do.

      It’s also wonderful to hear that the Thoreau quote appeared at an appropriate time for you – synchronicity is a fabulous thing 😉

      Warmest wishes to you, BB 🙂

  4. nice!! 🙂

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