In our society we are constantly busy with 101 things at the same time and we are often in a hurry. We want to pursue perfection endlessly. But all those meetings, deadlines, the big pile of paperwork… it certainly doesn't make us happy.

In that respect we can take an example from the Japanese, they are conscious about life and even live remarkably longer and happier. Wabi sabi, the Japanese art of living, could well be the basis of this happy life. But what is wabi sabi net, and how did it come about?

What is Wabi Sabi?

Wabi Sabi is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. Yet it is difficult to give an exact definition for this concept. The Japanese know the concept, but they don't talk about it, it's something they feel deep in their hearts.

Wabi sabi is a certain way of life where you see the beauty of imperfections and accept that life comes to an end. The two words have separate meanings:

  1. Wabi means that you see beauty in simplicity and detach yourself from the material world. We live in a throwaway society where we need more and more: a nice car, the latest technological gadgets, gadgets… with wabi the reverse is important: having less and finding spiritual wealth.

  2. Sabi is about the passage of time, it means that everything comes and goes. With age, the visual appearance of things changes, and beauty is in those imperfections that life brings.

So together, wabi sabi means accepting that life passes and seeing beauty in imperfect things. If something is imperfect, then it is authentic and pure. Learning to deal with everything you encounter in your path, that is also wabi sabi.

Wabi sabi and the tea ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony and wabi sabi are strongly linked, there is a fascinating and long history that precedes it.

In the middle of the 16th century, the tea ceremony was mainly a social event for the elite. The rich could show their wealth in this way. The Japanese tea houses were large and filled with expensive Chinese bowls and tea accessories, because this was really a status symbol at the time. The bigger and the more, the better!

It is through Zen Buddhism that the tea ceremony evolved into how it is still done today. According to the Zen Buddhists, drinking and making tea reflected the Zen precepts. Zen Buddhism emphasizes meditating in austere surroundings, which is why tea master Sen no Rikyu opposed the materialistic side of the tea ceremony.

Sen no Rikyu made the tea room much smaller (half the size of traditional tea rooms) and more austere, removing anything that disturbed peace. The expensive Chinese bowls and accessories were also replaced by bamboo tea utensils. He was left with only what was necessary.

By removing the expensive materials and redundant furnishings, guests could focus entirely on the act of making tea, and simplicity became the new standard for the tea ceremony. Sen no Rikyu thus changed tea culture from worshiping wealth to austerity.

Perfectly imperfect life

Wabi sabi is not only found in the tea ceremony, it is a certain way of life. Living by the rules of wabi sabi means embracing yourself and all your imperfections. In our society we are constantly overloaded with photos of slim models, the most beautiful houses or expensive cars. And that makes us insecure…

But it's not because we own a lot of things or because we're a size 36 that it makes us happy. Beauty is in imperfections and if you accept this, you will also get more peace. Isn't it wonderful to think that you don't have to be perfect?

By the way, you don't have to be Japanese for wabi sabi. You can do it yourself at home. So: you don't always have to walk 'fully made up', it doesn't matter if the tablecloths are not perfectly ironed, and that one crack in the wall turns your interior into something unique. When you see the beauty of these little things, you live your life very consciously. And that's what it's all about, right?

Long live wabi sabi!