I’ve been studying wabi-sabi, the ancient Japanese art of finding beauty in things that are impermanent, imperfect and rustic, since I first learned about it a decade ago. I was thrilled to find a philosophy that explains my penchant for well-worn, well-loved furnishings and slower, more deliberate living, and I’ve made it my mission to share it with as many people as possible. Be sure to check this space every Wednesday—Wabi-Sabi Wednesday—as we bring home this elusive concept, which has so many ramifications for modern Americans. The following excerpt from my book, Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, which will be released by New Society Publishers in April, begins to explain some of wabi-sabi’s nuance—and the serenity that its depth can bring.
“Décor is wabi-sabi’s surface, one facet of a philosophy that promotes attention, reverence, generosity and respect—the foundation of a happy home. Wabi-sabi isn’t a ‘look,’ like French country or shabby chic. Intimately tied to Zen Buddhism and the Japanese Way of Tea, it’s a subtly spiritual philosophy that offers a path toward home as sanctuary, a simple place devoid of clutter, disturbance and distraction—including the voices in our heads that attach all sorts of tasks and to-do lists to home. Wabi-sabi doesn’t suggest we ignore these tasks, but it does say we can pay attention when attention is due and stop worrying about them when we should be enjoying dinner with our families. It focuses on things as they are, right now. Everything in our homes—from the breakfast table to the attic windows—presents an opportunity to see beauty. Wabi-sabi is a lens.”
For a good introduction to wabi-sabi and tips on applying it to your life, check out “Wabi Sabi: Find the Beauty and Peace in Ordinary Things,” in the February/March 2011 issue of Mother Earth News.