With the dawn of a new decade, many of us may find ourselves groping for stability; reaching for touchstones of constancy to keep us grounded in the tumultuous adventure we call life; seeking people, objects or ideas that will ensure our security amidst an ocean of uncertainty.
But according to the millennia-old teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, all this yearning for long lasting steadiness and reliable permanence will be done in vain. One of the greatest keys to peace of mind lies in the acceptance of transience, and feeling otherwise will lead only to misplaced attachments and identification with illusions, or what another tradition might call the veneration of false idols.
In Japan, this easy acceptance of all that is imperfect, incomplete and impermanent goes by the catchy name of Wabi Sabi. But don’t confuse it with the minty green paste in the upper corner of your sushi plate. Although Wabi Sabi — like a good dose of horseradish — does have the potential to clear your head of turbid congestion.
The cornerstone of Japanese aesthetics, Wabi Sabi reveres beauty that can be seen in its natural state, flawed and ephemeral. In art, landscaping and architecture, one may spend years trying to reproduce this state of simplicity, with a carefully manicured bonsai tree, for example, or a meticulously arranged rock garden.
Such is the great paradox of Eastern philosophy, for the quest for simplicity is anything but simple. Learning to accept the people, objects and circumstances that surround you, in their natural state of imperfection, may require diligent mental and spiritual training. But once you recognize that less is more, you will find your heart and soul running over with abundance.