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  • Writer's pictureKhawla Shehadeh

Wabi Sabi

"Did you enjoy your vacation?". I just returned a week ago from a 3-week retreat in the mountains of Andalucia. In a beautiful natural resort overlooking the blue sea, we meditated a lot during the day and watched the stars at night. What a delight. There are photos to admire on my social media, in case you get curious. What the photos don't show, however, is how difficult it was at times. The discipline of getting up early, constantly functioning in a group of people, doing chores, sleeping in a tent, limited facilities, missing home, confronting myself, constantly comparing myself to others, etc. It wasn't always easy. At the same time, there is something beautiful about having to endure. It connects people, it creates inner resilience and self-insight, it provides stories and anecdotes that will stay with me for a lifetime.

In the quest for enlightenment and perfection, we must first and foremost learn to embrace and appreciate the imperfection around us. Therein lies wisdom and beauty. In Japan there is even a term for that: Wabi Sabi.

Wabi Sabi, not to be confused with Wasabi :), is a view where there is appreciation for the imperfect, decaying and incomplete in life. With the idea that everything in nature, including ourselves are subject to impermanence and imperfection, and that there is a unique beauty in that very thing. Literally Wabi means something like old and decrepit and Sabi lonely and melancholic. Wabi Sabi is about embracing simplicity, acceptance of whatever is there in the moment, and love for the soul of things and people.

In the West, it is usually the opposite. We want to live long and keep looking young at the same time. We want the new things we purchase to remain unchanged and beautiful. We think in rigid patterns where everything keeps growing and becoming better. We want to be in control. We strive for infinite perfection and deny and gloss over all that proves otherwise. However, nothing seems further removed from real life. Rather, life is messy, imperfect, changeable and unpredictable. At the same time, the vague and elusive nature of life is precisely what makes it so beautiful. The future is always pregnant with the unexpected.

You go to a funeral to say goodbye and you meet the love of your life there. Or a good conversation with a stranger on a park bench that changes the course of your life forever. Life is not always easy but as a Romanian friend once said: "A difficult life is not necessarily a bad life." Wabi Sabi is an embodied appreciation of this fact.

I long for more Wabi Sabi in my life; to be able to let things be as they are. Letting myself be touched by my own imperfection and impermanence. Slowing down the pace of life, more presence in the moment, deeper connection to the world around me, greater love and appreciation for all that is and what it gives me. But also the humble awareness of my dependence on the elements and on gravity that leave their mark on and in my body.

In short, I long to approach life with more respect and gratitude and to give myself no more credit than I deserve in the totality of what contributes to my happiness.

With this desire, I continue meditation and learn every day to humbly embrace my own imperfection.

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