Living a Wabi-Sabi Life

Wabi-Sabi—Appreciation of the Imperfect and Impermanent
You are looking in a shop window at a beautiful dress. Suddenly, you see the reflection of a young woman behind you, also looking at the dress. She reminds you so much of your younger self– fresh, eager. You smile at the recognition of the wonder of this moment.

That fragile moment of recognition is part of the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi– the beauty of things impermanent or incomplete. It contains a profound appreciation for things modest and humble. As an

Bonsai and shadow © Quinn McDonald, 2007

Bonsai and shadow © Quinn McDonald, 2007

aesthetic, it honors things imperfect and unconventional.

A Different Approach to Success and Abundance
Wabi-sabi is the release of control. It avoids beating up the creative soul for not achieving perfection. Recognizing and embracing our imperfections allows room for growth. The only result of demanding perfection is certain failure. Perfection is impossible, and while we live in a culture that loves people who are “passionate” and “give 110%,” we seldom feel passion for our daily lives, and it is impossible to give more than all. Perfection is a cruel boss. It leads to giving up, depression and anger rather than eagerness for growth and improvement.

Living a wabi-sabi life means letting go of the stress of competition, relentless achievement, and replacing them with a willingness to let life find its own pace. It allows for space to trust that opportunities will appear, and a willingness to let the world unfurl without having full control over every activity. It is a life stripped down to what is valuable, rather than randomly acquired. It is not living without, but rather within.

In a wabi-sabi life, you recognize all things are impermanent, imperfect, and incomplete. Once you open the door to imperfection, a creative force rushes into your life, making it possible to risk, to try different solutions, to explore your creativity fully. Which leads to living a creative life–work and business combine to create a full, rich and abundant life.

How to Live a Wabi-Sabi Life
One of the hardest things to do is live in the moment. We are always planning—what to have for dinner, what time to pick up the kids, what to do if that promotion doesn’t come through.

Bittersweet © Quinn McDonald, 2007

Bittersweet © Quinn McDonald, 2007

We live our lives in the past, reviewing our mistakes, and in the future, planning on contingencies and how to handle what will happen next. The current moment is empty as we rush to control—ourselves, our lives, the lives of our children. We try to control our creativity, what we make, even our intuition.

Certainly planning helps organize our time and leads to action. But when we begin to plan for every possibility, guess at every motive, fill every second of the day with planned activities, meetings and obligations, we exhaust ourselves and our families.

We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Often we can’t influence the future. What we think of as failure is simply a lack of knowing. You don’t always have to know. And you don’t always have to be in control. Take off that heavy obligation of knowing and controlling and take three deep, slow breaths. Then decide right now. In this moment. To live and grow. And leave perfection behind. And let creativity take root in your life.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach. She teaches journal-writing classes, including Wabi-Sabi Journaling and raw-art journaling (c) 2007-9 All rights reserved.

12 thoughts on “Living a Wabi-Sabi Life

  1. Hi! I’m a life coach beginning my practice. Last night I attended a tele-class and we know to embrace the idea of living wabi sabi! It’s awesome that as a coach you are also into living wabi sabi and you promote it! love love love your blog. Blessings to you Quinn!
    add me on Facebook 🙂

  2. This is great – I have felt so much better since I learned to say “no” to many obligations, mostly self-inflicted, I was overwhelmed but not wanting to let anyone down, and I am one of those people who has always had trouble believing that I could be valued for more than what I can “do” for everyone else rather than to “be” myself and let that be enough. I have tried to let go of the things that can be let go, because there just aren’t enough hours in the day to “do it all.”

    My mantra used to be, if you want something done right you have to do it yourself, which is true for things that really are your own, just not everybody else’s stuff too. Now there are times when I can just walk away and let it be undone. Still working on it!

  3. What an inspiring piece! Living in the moment is my continual challenge and worry can certainly pull me away from noticing all the gifts around me – like your beautiful bittersweet plant – and in me – like my choice of Debbie as a friend! We are writing here in NJ and staying in a wabi-sabi place, walking and eating when we need to, etc. Thanks for offering us this beautiful encouragement to keep trusting our path!

  4. Your timing is perfect. There are many things in my life that are overwhelming right now and I have been living on “what if’s”. What if this happens? What if this doesn’t. Today I will enjoy today.
    Thank you.

    • Yep, it seemed a good time to use New Year (for some cultures) to start with a wabi sabi life. Cross-cultural considerations are always interesting. Now that I’ve been blogging for more than 3 years, I occasionally update some of the ones that are evergreen. The photographs are new, though.

  5. I feel so blessed and happy to have come across this article today….I just decided today morning to accept myself with all my imperfections (if they can be called imperfections – as that is also created by God himself/ herself! ). This week I decided to let go and just enjoy life – doing what I like instead of feeling obligated to take up certain chores as always & I discovered the joys of being free. (I realized I was binding myself and holding others responsible for it ! Now I am reading a beautiful book on healing and being HAPPY ! 😀

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