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How to Wabi Sabi Love: The Best Kept Secret of Relationship Advice (Part 2)

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This article is the second in a three-part series about Wabi Sabi, a philosophy for living that has its roots in a 15th century Japanese tea ceremony. Practitioners of Wabi Sabi learn how to embrace imperfection as a path to greater happiness. We hope these posts will inspire you in your relationships, while entertaining, or simply lying around the house.


Our relationship with ourselves is the most important of all.


"Wabi Sabi is about celebrating or accepting imperfection, impermanence, and incompletion," explains health coach Kim Klein. "Whether it is in nature, like the ravaged branches of a tree, the crumbling facade of an old building or age spots on a mother's hands, aren't we all imperfect, impermanent and incomplete? Yet so beautiful. Our very existence is miraculous and beautiful, in spite of all our imperfections."


"Most of us don't have a good relationship with ourselves because we're always falling short of our own expectations," states Klein. "But none of us is perfect."


Appreciating imperfection is the foundation of the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, and the inspiration behind Klein's Facebook group, Wabi Sabi Women.


Loosely translated as "finding the beauty in imperfection," Wabi Sabi was popularized in the west by architect Leonard Koren in his 1994 book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. The philosophy of Wabi Sabi can be traced to the 15th and 16th centuries, when Japanese monks performed ritual tea ceremonies using simple, locally crafted utensils as a counterpoint to the more ornate Chinese aesthetic that prevailed at that time.


Klein adds that embracing our own authenticity and imperfection gives us the freedom to look at others with less judgment and less expectation. "If we look at our relationships with a Wabi Sabi mindset, we will place more value on them and not take them for granted, because we know they won't exist forever. And because they are imperfect (and we are, too) we make allowances, and forgive."


Or, in other words, notes Klein: "A Wabi Sabi woman practices acceptance. She practices forgiveness. She messes up, she falls down, she gets up, and she knows it will happen again. And it's all okay."


To create a more loving relationship with ourselves, advises Klein, we need to let go of fear, whether it's of other people's judgment or our own fear of not being good enough.


Arielle Ford agrees. When the author of Wabi Sabi Love notices she's running herself down, she stops and asks herself, "Is that really true? Am I really an idiot?"


"Sure, maybe I've done something stupid," she says, "but then I tell myself, 'Most of the time you're pretty darn brilliant.' And then I stand in front of a mirror and blow myself a kiss."


Not only will we feel better when we stop judging ourselves, describes Ford, but we'll stop judging others. "If we expect perfection in others, we're setting ourselves up for anger, disappointment and frustration," she explains. "We need to give people space to be who they are and love them because—or even in spite—of their qualities."


That doesn't mean turning a blind eye to the idiosyncrasies of others, whether it's a co-worker, a friend or partner. Ford's husband, for example, is a neat freak, while she's the slob. But her husband decided that instead of being critical of the coffee cup in the sink and the crumbs around the toaster, he was going to "Wabi Sabi love it" and clean up himself.


"Use your sense of humor and creativity to come up with solutions that embrace your imperfections," suggests Ford. "Being messy is not a reason to not love someone."


Ford first learned of Wabi Sabi when she came across a photograph of a large Asian urn with a long, crooked crack down the middle. Ford discovered that art lovers considered the urn even more beautiful because of its imperfection: "... 'There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in'," says Ford, quoting poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen.


To apply that principle to relationships, Ford suggests that when you start being critical, imagine filling your partner's cracks with 24-karat gold. "Remember to find the beauty and perfection in the imperfection," she advises. "It is there, if you are willing to peer through the cracks, we all possess."


Like many of us, Ford acknowledges that she had a perfectionist streak, which left her frustrated with herself and her relationships. "Bringing Wabi Sabi to my own life came about out of my need to change things," she shares. "It brought me a whole new way of life."


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