What is wabi sabi?

What is wabi sabi?

Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect.

Wabi sabi is an ancient Japanese philosophy that finds beauty in the impermanence, incomplete and imperfect.

That said, attempting to limit wabi sabi to a single definition may interfere with its nuance and fluidity. 

Wabi sabi is an aesthetic, a way of life, a philosophy that allows for a variety of interpretations. We cannot define what wabi sabi is, but can at least introduce some descriptions to help with our understanding.

Here are some descriptions of wabi sabi by some authors. We hope this helps you grasp wabi sabi – though what you embrace completely depends on you.

"Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional." 

 -Leonard Koren,  Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

"Wabi sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect." 

 -Richard Powell, Wabi Sabi Simple

"Wabi sabi is an intuitive response to beauty that reflects the true nature of life."

"Wabi sabi is an acceptance and appreciation of the impermanent, imperfect and incomplete nature of everything."

"Wabi sabi is a recognition of the gifts of simple, slow and natural living."



Wabi and Sabi

Originally, wabi and sabi were simply two separate words.

Wabi was first used to denote "the sadness and bitterness of not being able to do what we want."
Around the 13th century, wabi changed to the more positive "acceptance of any situation, regardless of how difficult or challenging it is", such as an actively seeking a peaceful life, even in situations rife with disappointment due to lack of money or goods. It is the concept of embracing any situation without pessimism.

Sabi expressed a sense of oldness, tranquility, and the quaintness of withering away. It is finding beauty in the passage of time, such as rusting, staining and cracking.

In modern Japanese, wabi is used to indicate a preference for the simple and quiet life, and rustic simplicity, whereas sabi refers to elegant refinement.


Wabi sabi can be found anywhere by anyone

Wabi sabi concepts are reflected in the traditional culture of Japan, such as zen gardens, Japanese green tea (the Way of Tea), ikebana flower arrangement, incense and haiku poetry.

Wabi sabi is not only found in Japanese culture, but also in the Japanese mindset, whereby nature is incorporated into daily life and seasonality is cherished.

However, wabi sabi is certainly not limited to Japan and can be expressed and appreciated anywhere, by anyone.

What will be your wabi sabi moment today?

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