Monday #38: Get Your Wabi Sabi On

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Imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.

That’s wabi-sabi in a nutshell.

What began as a Japanese notion that was a more austere and melancholy view of the flawed natural and inanimate world, evolved over thousands of years and, under the influence of Zen Buddhism, became a more lighthearted and hopeful vision of life that celebrates the asymmetric, the slightly off and the rustic or unrefined. Here in the West, our understanding of wabi-sabi keeps the emphasis on the idiosyncratic and the quirky and even extends its criteria to people, to bring this acceptance and celebration of imperfection into our physical and psychological human realm.

As an artist, I know all too well the conflict between my desire to interpret the world in a way that seems loose and playful and the voice of the inner critic who fuels my perfectionism. In nutrition and fitness, I hold the ideal of perfect eating and regimented exercise up against an actual existence that sometimes delights in the hedonistic and lazy.  In my professional life, I try to balance the more channeled, jargon-speak with a need to speak and act passionately and pave a way that is uniquely mine. And, in relationships there is always going to be the misstep, the thing that should not have been said or done and the tendency to beat myself up about it a little bit every time.

So, on a weekend run, I went looking for wabi-sabi and, as I did, I thought about how, as humans, we can internalize this philosophy and bring it to our existence.  How can we use the ways of wabi-sabi to feel more present, more whole?


Can we strive to be content with a simple life, one without the “wanting more”? How does it feel when we want more… how does it feel we believe we have enough?
Image 1

Can we believe that our lives are journeys, paths, and epic adventures? How does it feel to believe we have not reached the place we thought we would… how does it feel to be engaged in the process of our lives, to savor each moment as we live it and believe that we are always in the right place?
Image 2

Can we like ourselves as imperfect beings and celebrate that which makes us all different? How does it feel when we focus on what we feel isn’t working… how does it feel when we can see what is?

Image 3Can we truly let go of the past but honor its beauty and let that part remain in our hearts? How does it feel to idealize a past and constantly hold our vision in a backwards glance… how does it feel to let our past settle in our selves and be open to what is and what could be?

Have a beautiful, quirky, imperfect, adventuresome and satisfying week, my friends.

TRY THIS WEEK: Get your wabi-sabi on. Let it begin in you.


About Dar Hosta James

I am an artist living in New Jersey. I write and illustrate children's books, paint, draw, blog, coach, teach and speak about creativity.
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5 Responses to Monday #38: Get Your Wabi Sabi On

  1. Bielenda says:

    Thank you Dar! When I answered you Facebook question last week (“What is your wabi sabi?”), I responded, “I am my own wabi sabi.” It’s taken me a long time to get here, and I’m not always “here”, but I try to accept myself as a perfectly imperfect. 🙂

  2. Mom says:

    Must you be perfect
    Get you wabi-sabi on
    Ease your stress and strain

  3. writeanne says:

    Yeah, we’re often too hard on ourselves – and don’t offer the comfort and support that we give to others to ourselves. Great post 🙂

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