Having recently returned from a mini-vacay in Singapore, and having a slight obsession with Eastern Philosophy, I thought it appropriate to incorporate a bit of Asian-inspired wisdom into this blog post...
Wabi Sabi: The Japanese art of appreciating and loving the beauty in our naturally imperfect world. In other words, loving the perfection of our imperfection.
I first came across the term Wabi Sabi last year when I was doing some reading on Japanese furniture design (don't ask me why) and was naturally intrigued as I hadn't heard of it before. After doing a little bit of research on the topic I came across this synopsis:
"According to Japanese legend, a young man named Sen no Rikyu sought to learn the elaborate set of customs known as the Way of Tea. He went to tea-master Takeeno Joo, who tested the younger man by asking him to tend the garden. Rikyu cleaned up debris and raked the ground until it was perfect, then scrutinized the immaculate garden. Before presenting his work to the master, he shook a cherry tree, causing a few flowers to spill randomly onto the ground."
Rikyu, apparently, has fully understood and embodied what it means to live a Wabi Sabi way of life.
While no direct linguistic or cultural translation exist in Western society, Wabi Sabi celebrates authenticity, transience, decomposition and the natural effects that time has on objects and life. Perhaps the most common exposure we'd have in the West to this philosophy is through Japanese pottery; ceramic tea cups and bowls that are asymmetrical, chipped and weathered are objects that embrace the underlying themes of acceptance and appreciation in this philosophy.
But beyond being just about pottery and gardens, from what I have read, Wabi Sabi is a state of mind through which one can experience the world.
And Wabi-what's this got to do with my body?
If it's not obvious already, the art of loving and appreciating the perfection of our imperfect bodies is perhaps something we could all practice a little bit more.
As a personal trainer, I am all about achieving results and making improvements. If you want to lose weight/gain muscle/tone your bum/whatever - GREAT! Let's do it and smash it and annihilate ourselves in the process (fun!)...
...But if the intention behind the desire to improve is something along the lines of "I hate my body and I desperately want to look like <insert name> on instagram," AND this is causing you emotional or psychological pain...
...then Houston, we have a problem.
(I made that super big/colourful because when's the last time you thought about what your intention is behind exercise?)
For some of you reading this, that may seem really silly and you might be thinking "thoughts like that never cross my mind." But for many others out there this is a real and daily struggle, triggered off every time they look in the mirror, or jump on their instagram newsfeed, or contemplate what to eat for lunch.
I work with a lot of people, all with varying degrees of acceptance of their body. No matter where you sit on the scale, bringing a little bit of Wabi Sabi philosophy into your life, and into how you view your body and the natural ageing process, may bring you some much appreciated peace of mind. Practice seeing the beauty in other peoples' flaws, and in your own. Maybe those smile lines aren't so bad after all. Maybe having one bicep bigger than the other is actually quite endearing. Maybe no matter how long you exercise for your thighs will always touch and that is perfectly ok.
And maybe none of this actually needs to be considered imperfect - maybe all these little 'flaws' are actually perfection, you've just never thought of it that way.
If you feel you face challenges with your body image that are causing you pain, please know there is help available and this is an unnecessary suffering that you can work to overcome. I offer Love Yourself Coaching and work specifically with women who are ready to free themselves from the pain and social/personal implications caused by self-judgement, body comparison and an incongruent idea of how they 'should' look as opposed to how they actually do. If you would like to know more about this service please contact me directly. I offer a free intake session to give us both an opportunity to see if we would work well together.