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  • Writer's picturedrwendyross

Embracing Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese concept that has no direct translation into English. Roughly, Wabi represents “deliberate simplicity in daily living” and Sabi - “appreciation of the old and faded”.

Legend has it, that way back when, a young man called Sen no Rikyu wanted to learn the intricate ceremony of Way of Tea so he travelled to apprentice with a Tea Master. His first task before getting anywhere near a tea leaf, was to tidy the garden. After removing all visible debris and raking the ground until it was immaculate, Rikyu surveyed the perfect scene. Then, before asking the master to inspect his work, he shook a cherry tree, allowing some blossoms to cascade to the ground. To this day, he is revered by the Japanese as one who truly understood the concept of Wabi Sabi - the art of finding beauty in imperfection.

Wabi Sabi is the art of being at peace with yourself and your surroundings - a difficult task in todays world of FOMO (fear of missing out) where people on social media post carefully edited pictures portraying an idealized version of their lives.

So why am I talking about this today? We cannot talk about health without discussing mental health. Constantly coveting new possessions can lead to a state of dysphoria. Instead of wishing for a new sofa/bigger TV/expensive coffee table - why not look around and appreciate all you do have. I have a lovely pine table I bought when I first moved to Australia from South Africa. I have pictures of my daughter at the age of two, propped up on the Yellow Pages, painting happily at that table. Years later, when she was 9, she spent a wonderful day with her “adopted” grandpa, transforming it by stripping it down, applying a clear coat of varnish to the top and painting the legs cream to give that French farmhouse feel I wanted. Now it has some turquoise paint splotches from the time we painted our dining room a perfect shade of Caribbean blue. I love that table with all its history more than I ever could a glossy expensive new one.

Another area where most of us could do with a healthy dose of Wabi Sabi - is in accepting the physical changes of aging. Working in the cancer clinic for nearly ten years has given me a whole new appreciation of my wrinkles (smile lines), extra freckles (many happy beach holidays) and grey hairs - yay - I got to live to see another birthday! Too many of my patients never had that joy! We have so much to offer as we grow older, lets enjoy our hard gained wisdom and be happy that our faces show the marks of a life well lived.

Leonard Cohen said it best:

"Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That is how the light gets in."

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