As we express gratitude for the light in our lives this Thanksgiving, perhaps we should also take a page from the Japanese viewpoint that finds joy in imperfection and send a little nod to the beauty within our own flawed corner of the world.
This aesthetic ideal is known as wabi-sabi and it dates back centuries, emerging as a reaction to tea ceremonies that had become ridiculously drawn out and ostentatious. Some decided to return these communal get-togethers to their roots as simpler, quieter occasions that employed local materials and artisans.
The Japanese have embraced the attitude of wabi-sabi for years, finding beauty in a world that is imperfect, simple, rustic, impermanent and old. Wabi-sabi is not just a style of design but more of a way of life, explains Robyn Griggs Lawrence, who was instrumental in introducing North America to the concept through her two books, The Wabi-Sabi House and Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House.
“It’s not going out and buying hot-house flowers from Brazil but finding native plants from right where you are,” she explained recently from her home in Colorado. “It’s about practicing and developing your sense of gratitude and contentment for what is right there.”
Lawrence believes those who embrace wabi-sabi will naturally learn to become more appreciative of their lives and have more free-flowing gratitude. She believes it can help people to accept and embrace their homes as sacred, nurturing spaces.
“Wabi-sabi is everything that today’s sleek, mass-produced, technology-saturated culture isn’t,” she says in The Wabi-Sabi House. “It’s flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. Wabi-sabi celebrates cracks and crevices and rot and all the other marks that time and weather and use leave behind.”
“Wabi-sabi is all about clearing away the clutter and dreck so that we can appreciate our homes as beautiful, just the way they are,” she says.
Lawrence’s books are laid out in a type of 12-step pattern in which the reader is taken on a journey that covers topics large and small. You learn tips for slowing down, choosing local artisans or handmade items over imports, the art of silence and meditation, the importance of getting rid of clutter and how to offer your hospitality.
“It’s not how to be Martha Stewart and impress the hell out of your guests. There’s a whole piece on soul in the book.”
In an effort to embrace wabi-sabi, you need to accept the imperfection of your home, a move Lawrence says will prove wonderful and freeing because we all know “that to-do list can make you unhappy in your own home.”
Here are some simple steps from Lawrence’s book for incorporating wabi-sabi into your life right now:
- One day a week, wash the dinner dishes by hand. Taking on this task alone allows you quiet, uninterrupted time to think—or not think.
- Pay attention to your daily bread. Is the food you’re eating in season, and is it available locally? Through the meals you choose and prepare, you can connect with the earth’s cycles and with the place where you live—and live a healthier life. Buy food from your local farmers’ markets and ask the produce manager at your grocery store where different items came from.
- Next time you sweep the floor, consider it a meditation. Opt for the broom over the Dirt Devil whenever possible.
- When you’re invited to someone’s house or even just to a meeting, bring a small gift—nothing extravagant, just a small gesture (a jar of homemade jam, apples from your tree or a luxurious bar of soap) that lets them know they’re appreciated.
- Offer everyone who comes to visit a cup of tea. Serve it in pretty cups with a little something sweet. If no one comes by, enjoy a cup of tea by yourself in the late afternoon.
- Keep one vase in your home filled with seasonal flowers.
- Take a walk every day. Let this be your opportunity to open up your senses and to experience the changing seasons.
- Learn to knit or crochet.
- Next time you buy something, stop and ask questions. Who made it? How was it made? Where does it come from?
Who knows? Slowing down a little may give us the presence of mind to appreciate more.
The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provide a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to Realtors across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit www.nagab.org. Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494 Email firstname.lastname@example.org.