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Wabi Sabi - Being the best imperfect self you can be

Something good can arise from a stroll. This is something I learned from the book – both the content and my experience of finding the book itself.

One day, as I walked around Siam Paragon while waiting for my salon appointment, I went into Kinokuniya and found this book. As I already have affection for all things Japanese anyway, I was drawn to the book Wabi Sabi just because of its very Japanese-looking cover. “Don’t judge the book by its cover” really didn’t work for me here. The introduction to the book at the back seems very interesting, and, since I had time anyway, I started reading the book right away. And my oh my, the book was definitely not a disappointment at all.

The book has three main concepts that revolve around the characteristics of nature, including human beings ourselves: impermanence, imperfection, and incompleteness. It explained these three concepts through Japanese arts, western literature and philosophy, and personal experience of the author and his acquaintances. There are also some suggestions for the readers on how to adopt the mindsets and some actions in accordance with these principles. I found the examples and some set of actions potentially useful in my situation, and I decided to adopt some of them right away.


Some quotes to lift the spirit

Before I start diving into some key things that really touches me, there are three quotes that I really love from this book:

“Be the best imperfect person you can be”

If I can really embody this, it would be such a relief. The keyword here is not really about being the “best”, but rather the understanding that I am imperfect. There is no need to strive for perfection – just the best that you can be.

“Dare to be happy amid uncertainty”

Understanding and accepting uncertainty is scary for me, because once I accept the uncertain future, I would start to have negative thoughts and worries. The word “dare” in this quote is really fitting. I will have to dare to accept the uncertainty nature of the nature and be brave enough to be happy with whatever I have and however things will turn out to be.

“It might be the last time we go for a walk in the park, but, if we treat it as though we are saying farewell to life, it is worth all the walks in the world”

This links perfectly with the last quote. Things are impermanent and the present is what we have. Every breath and minute are “our last walk in this park in this particular environment” and we do not know whether this will be our last walk in this life. Therefore, we should really dare to make it worth – hence, be happy.


Worries – for self-reflection

“A lot of times we are not worried that something might happen to others. What we are worried is ourselves – that we might be abandoned”

This quote really hit home for me – especially as I think back on people that have come into my life over years. I have driven a lot of people out of my life unintentionally because of this specific reason. I kept using the question such as “how are you?” “how did that thing go?” and all the caring questions in the world. When I didn’t get any response, I started to feel worry – but exactly a lot of times it wasn’t really that I was worried about the person, but rather that I’m worried that I’m left out of their circle.

I guess the point is not really about criticizing myself, but rather being truthful about my own intention. From this, I learn that I need to understand my own true intention to these questions and the source of my worries. By understanding that, I can then deal with it in the right way.


Imperfection & expectation

“Apart from being useless, hoping that anyone will meet our expectation is a sure path to loneliness”

This links directly to the previous portion. Because everyone is imperfect and impermanent – constantly evolving, it would be foolish for us to hope that someone is perfect and fit every element of our expectation, even though our expectation may be imperfect.

From my story above, I eventually lost a dear friend of mine through my worries and expectation. Up until now, we still lost touch… This still sadden me until now.

The key takeaway from here, if I were to twist it to a more positive note is that I need to learn to accept and love the imperfection – not in my own understanding of the imperfection, but rather the imperfection in the person’s nature. It is also through those imperfection that anything, good or bad may be possible. That may be exciting to observe and journey through, isn’t it?


Beauty of melancholy

“The reality is neither uniquely joyful nor sad, but include both emotion at once – every loss carries an inherent gain”

The word melancholy, though sounds beautiful, carries a lot of negativity. Sadness for no obvious cause if scary – sounds like the source of depression really. However, given the nature of all things that has no perfection, sadness or melancholy also is not a perfect negative. Through survival through sadness and trauma, we are awaken to a new sense of realization. Through death of the love ones, we realized the importance of life. Being a critical illness survivor, we cherish our body and time on earth more – or even care about our own physical and mental health more as well.

It is important to realize the impermanence of melancholy as well. “This too shall pass” is one of my favorite quotes when it comes to mindfulness and consciousness. In facing difficult and negative thoughts, as mindfulness coach would suggest, we need to recognize these thoughts for what they are, realize that they too are impermanent, and let them float. Upon doing so, the beauty of calmness will arise… It works for me a lot of times – except when there are too many negative thoughts popping up at once.


Impermanence and the power of now

“We are spectator of beautiful things”

As someone who has a gone through a period of life where the state of mind blackened everything in life, emerging from such state also made me realize and appreciate the beauty of small things – the flowers, the small bud new plants, the quiet moment, the bird chirping and many more. However, those small beautiful things are also impermanent. They are beautiful at the moment, and the beauty will soon be faded by the hands of time. The rose will turn brown. The bird stop chirping. The bud will grow or die.

To realize and to accept the impermanence of all things are also to understand the power of the present moment – now. The power of being presence is just to be the observer of beautiful things around us. However, at the same time, we also observe the transition. We accept the transition, then we also may recognize the next beauty that will soon catch our attention. One bird may stop chirping, but another may just start responding.


Resilience according to Wabi Sabi

“Resilience is the act of navigating the stream of life without letting past trauma condition your present and future”

I used to say a lot about how my past shape me into who I am today. Now, I think I need to change my statement (impermanent – see?). My present and future are what made of what I chose the buildup based on my past. I could and can choose to learn from it, be burdened by it, lifted it off, or ignore it. It’s my choice what to do with the past trauma. Through recognizing the impermanence and the continuously floating nature of the stream of life, we are empowered by the choice to let the ghost of the past pass through us or influence us into doing or deciding on something.

Another key takeaway on this is to keep reminding myself on the following:

“Not everything is lost; what is broken may be put back together and where there was pain, love and beauty may be created”


Kintsugi & Life

“Break a vase, and the love that reassemble the fragments is strong than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole”

Kintsugi is a Japanese craft that use gold lacquer to mend the broken pieces together. Clearly the efforts and value of putting things back together are much more than the effort to break stuff – of course, unless there is a secret technique one needs to practice for years to break a vase beautifully.

The core idea behind this traditional Japanese art form is similar to a journey through trauma in life. Reflecting back on my depression. It took only a few days or weeks for me to plunge into depth of depression. However, it took me months to be on the recovery journey. Coming back from the pit of depression, I have also gone through several realization. I think I’m now a more “beautiful” version of myself through my psychological efforts and self-love – Just like Kintsugi.

One other thing that I realized about this is that Kintsugi is considered very valuable piece of art despite it is clearly shown that it is a mended version of broken pieces of the original form. In life, we all want to hide from our trauma and past. If we were to embrace the concept of Kintsugi, it is for us to wear our scar proud and to show that we have gone through those battles and survived.


Creating space in life – mentally and physically

Although I’m not able to fully grasp the concept of how minimalism is linked to the three concepts of Wabi Sabi, I found the tips provided in the book very useful. Plus, I do agree with the quote below:

“If you rid yourself of the mountain of things you do not need, maybe you will find a diamond in the center”

When we have so many things in life, the choices that are laid in front of us may clouded us from the most important or the most valuable thing. However, when we have less options, we do have the capability to carefully consider what is best for us or what is the most valuable thing here.

The book provided us with the full list of tips and tricks to rid ourselves of baggage – physically and mentally. However, I am putting here only a few things that I am committed to doing:

1. Eliminate unhealthy relationship

2. Set aside two weeks that I will just decide on to-dos in each of the morning

3. Put aside free hour each day

4. Do not buy anything new at all for 3 months


I would like to end this entry with two quotes that really touches me very deeply in this book:

“Happiness is your nature It is not wrong to desire it What is wrong is searching it outside when it is inside”

Sri Ramana Maharshi

“Perhaps I will not leave any trace of my wings in the air, but I am glad to have flown”

Rabrndranath Tagare

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