Wabi Sabi

 

by  Simon Brown

 

 

 

Wabi Sabi

 

by  Simon Brown

Wabi sabi is very hard to translate. I have asked many Japanese people to translate the words for me and there are lots of slightly different interpretations. The version I like is, transient beauty seen through humble eyes. Transient beauty is the beauty of things the change with time. For example every day sending some time observing the opening of new buds, that eventually blossom into flowers and then continue watching as the tips of the petals start to dry, the colours fade and eventually the petals fall to the ground. We can continue our observation of the petals as they naturally dry out. This can form a two or three week meditation. The image for humble eyes could be as though we are seeing something for the first time. Trying to escape the assumption that we already know things. In macrobiotics this would be the curiosity, beginners mind and appreciation.

The wabi sabi lifestyle encourages us to fully use our five senses to live life as it hapens. This can take us away from our thoughts, internal dialogue and mental chatter and free us up to connect with our environment. By totally engaging in our experience of our world through sight, sounds, smells, tastes and touch we can escape the distractions of agonising of the past or worrying about the future and enjoy the beauty of everything around us. To help this process explore textures, subtle shades and hues of colours, the effect of natural light on different surfaces, shadows and the way natural materials fade and age. Try to be aware of the smells and tastes of foods and drinks. Make a point to lose yourself in the smell of flowers and scents. Try to completely and solely listen to friends resisting the temptation to think of a reply or your next sentence.

In some ways wabi sabi is the artistic expression of Zen. It explores the beauty in simplicity, emptiness, imperfection, asymmetry, change and acceptance. It originated out of using tea for meditation in Japan. Here all five senses can be engaged by listening to pouring the tea, looking at the colour of the tea and watching the steam rise, feeling the warmth, texture and shape of the cup, smelling the tea and finally tasting the tea. It is my favourite meditation and one I easily do twice a day. I particularly enjoy sencha, oolong and gyokuro. Legend has it that originally this meditation was performed with more exotic Chinese pots and cups, however, a Zen monk, Sen no Rikyo thought to use a material similar to roof tiles, as it would be more in keeping with the Zen aesthetics. He found what he considered an example of this on a trip to Korea. This gave birth to the expression of Zen through wabi sabi.

Practically, you can bring wabi sabi into your home through using natural materials that will fade. Bare woods, fabrics, paper would be examples. Also decorations using flowers, leaves, branches and stones will bring the transient beauty of nature into a room. Some Japanese people claim wabi sabi is the soul of Japan and I found that it helped me better understand the wonderful Japanese teachers we have enjoyed in macrobiotics.

 

Simon Brown

Simon Brown is the author of Practical Wabi Sabi and a macrobiotic author, teacher and coach. He runs year long macrobiotic courses to train people to become macrobiotic health coaches and cooks.

For more information,
visit www.chienergy.co.uk
or email simon@chienergy.co.uk.