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Wabi sabi is a philisophy that Beth Kempton describes as ‘Japanese wisdom to live a perfectly imperfect life’. This is done by embracing simplicity, nature and the fleetingness of life. Beth’s book is beautifully written, inspiring and quietly transformative.

There’s a big section on the ancient ceremony of drinking tea in Japan and it’s relationship with wabi sabi.  This stripped back and slow ritual of tea drinking allows people to take the time to connect in a serene environment.  The simplicity, grace and soulfulness of this ceremony is at the heart of what wabi sabi is about.

Mug of tea in shafts of sunlight.

My English version of a tea drinking ritual

Beth talks of how the Japanese prioritise spending time in nature and that ‘forest bathing’ is a big thing in the country. Not literal bathing, but hanging out in a forest and bathing in its beauty and peacefulness.  This represents another aspect of wabi sabi – the importance of spending time in nature (which has also been scientifically proven to be very good for health and wellbeing).

Looking up at trees.

We could all benefit from a bit of forest bathing.

Beth frequently mentions the ageing process and the value that wabi sabi places on the beauty of the old and weathered. As she rightly points out, the world we live in makes a lot of money from convincing us that youthfulness is something we should all strive for. There’s profits to be made in selling youth defying creams, make up, diets etc. But what if we all learnt to be a bit more wabi sabi and appreciate the elegance and character of age?

Wabi sabi doesn’t shy away from death. It actively contemplates it. Which is in fact a healthy thing. The more we appreciate how brief our existence is, the more we can cherish the world around us and be in the present.

Beth has a lovely practical exercise in the book to do, that asks you to make plans for your life if:
1) you have a full life ahead of you
2) you have ten years left
3) you have just one year left

Katya Willems writing a list.

What are my goals if I die in a year’s time?

I have never done an exercise like that, but it makes absolute sense. Any of us could die any day. We have no control over that. But planning a shortened future actually makes you feel more joyful and appreciative of that time. And I hope going forward I can hang onto that outlook of trying to soak up every day as if it’s my last.

I’ve noticed since reading the book that I am looking at the world differently. I’ve slowed down and made a point of going for lots of walks in nature. And I’m figuring out how to have richer, more soulful days in 2019. Hopefully the wabi sabi effect will stick with me.

If you enjoyed reading this, you might like New Year’s Resolutions With a Difference.

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