wabi-sabi painting

The Wabi-Sabi Philosophy

Wabi-sabi bowl

Wabi-sabi, with close ties to 15th century Japanese tea ceremony and Zen Buddhism, is a way of life conducive to simplicity, mindfulness, and harmony. It’s an ancient outlook, with roots extending as far back as 10th century Taoism. (1)

The word, “wabi” is derived from the Japanese root “wa,” which means “harmony and tranquility.” The word “sabi” means “blossom of time.” (2) Taken together, the phrase wabi-sabi signifies an embracing of natural simplicity in light of how fleeting and ephemeral life is.

A wabi-sabi home strives for simplicity and acceptance of the materials in it. Broken bowls are mended. Classic clothing is purchased in lieu of trendy garments. Natural materials, like wood, are incorporated. Basic cooking tools are used instead of electric appliances (when possible).

Like a haiku, less becomes more. Having fewer items distills the preciousness of the ones that you have. Simple design begets serenity.

It’s the opposite of grandeur and perfection, and an outlook I am coming to internalize more and more as time goes on. Wabi-sabi manifests in the mindfulness that enters life when the space is made for it. It’s handing someone a book with the cover facing towards them. It’s the delicate tissue that packages a ripened pear. It’s being mindful of the small details that dissipate within a moment’s notice.

It’s not a look or a style — it’s a mindset.



(1) Wabi-Sabi: the Japanese Art of Impermanence, by Andrew Juniper

(2) Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, by Robynn Griggs Lawrence


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