A few days ago, I picked up a book I had nearly forgotten about. I had read it back in high school and I remember it being one of the best “self-help” books I’ve ever read. Because I had recently been feeling scattered, still stuck in a funk, I decided to begin re-reading the book. Instantly, I was hooked and felt entirely at peace.
This book is called Wabi-Sabi: Timeless wisdom for a stress-free life by Agneta Nyholm Winqvist. Because this book has simply changed my life in a matter of a week, I knew I had to write more on it and the overall idea of wab-sabi.
I still remember when I picked up this life-changing book. I was about sixteen and was just beginning to embark down on my spiritual journey. While at a Half-Price Books store with my dad, I wandered into the spirituality section, searching for a good, eye-opening book to dig into to. I remember seeking out this book, which was slightly bent in a few places and marked down to nothing, and bought it without much hesitation–I knew it was the book. And it has helped me through life twice now.
Wabi-sabi is a Japenese philosophy or idea that states three simple things:
Nothing is perfect.
Nothing is ever finished.
Nothing lasts forever.
I’ll admit, it’s a pretty straightforward way of approaching life, but the closer we look at these ideas, the more we can see their beauty and truth. And in this post, I will share how I interpret this philosophy and incorporate it into my days to embrace a peace of mind and move through life with flow and ease.
1. Accept situations as they come, and as they are
Oftentimes, we try to control life, put it in a box, predict the future, and expect things to happen in the way we want them to. But, life doesn’t work that way, and we all know this. Random things happen every moment of the day that we weren’t expecting, and nothing ever goes the way we had in mind. Even plans that follow-through are going to have their little surprises. Our lovers dump us, friends leave, we get laid-off, and lose things. Plans change, people flake, and we may stub our toe or even fall down and break our wrist, creating a ripple effect and ruining most everything we had mentally planned. We could also get asked the question, land the job of our dreams, win the lottery, hear great news, and get an A on the exam we were expecting to fail–anything could happen at any given moment, and that’s life.
I’ll admit, this is a rather pessimistic way to look at life, as wabi-sabi as a whole is pretty upfront, and I don’t mean that we should always expect the worst, nor even the best. In fact, I believe living a peaceful life entails that we release all expectations, or allow our goals and expectations to be flexible. This way, we can better manage our reactions and see all of life’s opportunities. Once we release our control on life, we release those expectations and can better take life as it comes.
Three days ago, I moved back to my apartment after having been home for a little over a week after Colorado. When I arrived, I realized I forgot my purse and my wallet at home. I was planning to take my boyfriend out to dinner that next night, but because I didn’t have my money I couldn’t and therefore had to drive home to grab it the next day instead. Also, my boyfriend forgot to tell me he had work at 8 am the next day, and I didn’t get back until 10:30 pm, so our night together was cut very short and I had to wake up early the next day.
The old me would have felt very frustrated at all of this. I probably would have snapped at my boyfriend, or even driven back home that very night to angrily fetch my purse.
Instead, I took some deep breaths and reminded myself to take things as they come. I reached out to my mom and organized my boyfriend and I to join my family for dinner while I was there grabbing my purse, and my boyfriend and I pushed our date night to the next day. Nothing terrible happened when I got up at 7 to drive him to work (our college’s parking system is not friendly, so I drive him). In fact, he kindly bought me a coffee, and I had a happy and productive start to my day.
I didn’t think too much about it all, obsessing over the situation or trying to control it–I simply accepted that I left my purse at home, and I’d have little sleep that night, and everything worked out just fine. More than fine, really.
When we simply accept situations as they are, and understand that nothing is perfect, and not everything will work out as we intended them to, we can find moments of bliss in life and work to react more calmly and peacefully when things don’t go our way.
2. Embrace imperfections and mess
We can also release our need to be perfect in many other areas of our life, such as perfecting our style, mental health, Instagram feed, appearance, relationships, and so forth. Life is messy, and so are we, and regardless of how “perfect” our life is, or may appear, we will probably never be completely satisfied.
In the book Wabi-Sabi, Agneta shares the idea that no matter where we are in life, we will always have 48 problems. There will always be an issue that needs fixing, regardless of how big or small. Wabi-sabi teaches us that we can let go of our need to be perfect and just enjoy where we are, embracing the mess and uncertainty of life.
I obsess over my Instagram feed more than anything else in my life, and I realized how much of an issue it had turned into during Colorado, when I was brainstorming ideas for content rather than enjoying the scenery. I’ve now been working to post more photos that I love and represent me and my life without caring too much about the overall look of my Instagram. Identity is a big thing for me, and having released my need to perfect and nail my online identity has opened up so much space and peace in my life. My Instagram also feels more welcoming than ever before, I believe.
When I finally decided to let go of perfection on my Instagram, it has become a much more joyous and creative space for me.
Letting go of any kind of control and perfection helps us to open our minds and welcome peace. When we stop worrying about how others see us, or even how we see ourselves, we can cultivate a life we truly want to live. Also, remember that imperfections and mess can be beautiful, too.
3. Enjoy and truly experience each moment
No matter what you’re doing at this very moment, take time to enjoy it fully, because this moment will soon pass by, just like every moment in our lives.
Wabi-sabi acknowledges that nothing lasts forever, and death is inevitable, but wabi-sabi also looks at death in a beautiful light. Just like birth, death is a natural thing that will eventually come. And not just the death of us, but of our relationships, our job, laughter, and anything that feels stable at a particular time. Everything will eventually pass by and nothing is permanent. Happiness is a fleeting moment, and so is sadness, and nobody will stay in our lives forever.
This isn’t supposed to be a morbid outlook on life, but rather one that shows us how precious life, and everything in it, truly is. Take time to tell those you love that you love them. Have fun at your job, even if it’s not your passion and you’re hoping to be somewhere else. Immerse yourself in the moment while in a waiting line rather than scrolling on your phone and wishing time moved faster. Pay attention to your passing thoughts.
I believe that when we take time to be mindful and grateful for everything in our life, we will feel so much happier and we will be able to experience life as it truly is
Life is not the vacations, date nights, raises, the house of your dreams, your accomplishments, but this moment, and the next moment, and all the moments before now. When we remind ourselves that life is just a bunch of little, seemingly unimportant moments strung together, we can value each moment a little more.
I don’t think I need to write an example here, because we’ve all raced through life, trying to make it to the next big milestone, reaching our next goal, saving up money for a weekend at the beach to get away from it all. So maybe, let’s all take some time today to enjoy where we are, even during a pandemic. Each moment, regardless of how boring, can have beauty.
Wrapping it up…
This post was a little deeper than intended, but I think all my posts are, haha.
The biggest thing I’ve learned from wabi-sabi is this little quote that Agneta barely touched on, “Let is pass.” I’ve always had a tendency of holding onto things, overthinking, and reacting harshly. Now, I’m teaching myself to not only let things pass, but understand that nothing lasts forever, and everything will, in time, pass by.
Our loneliness, anger, even our confusion, and uncertainty won’t last forever, and neither will our happiness. So, we can accept things as they come, embrace the mess that is life, and feel grateful for everything we experience. Doing these things will help us to lead a more peaceful life, and release the unnecessary stress that holds us down. When we acknowledge life for what it is and stop trying to control or change it, we can ease ourselves into a seat and simply enjoy the ride.
I will leave you with this wabi-sabi quote.
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
– Leonard Cohen
Have you heard of wabi-sabi before? Do you enjoy the ideas it presents?
Comment down your thoughts below–I’d love to hear them!
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave a like. I’d appreciate it greatly!
Have a wonderful, peaceful day my friends.