Wabi-Sabi : the beauty of change.

Authentic, imperfect, the kind of beauty only time acquires, are qualities true to the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi celebrates the inevitable changes that occur through the natural process of growth, decay and renewal, seeing the beauty in every phase. This outlook on life has been found to date back as far as the eight century when referenced in poetry as “wistful, exquisite beauty that vanishes with time”.

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.
Izumi Shikibu (974 – 1034),
translated by Jane Hirshfield.

Wabi-sabi recognizes that as life unfolds, it continues to develop. The changes we experience are welcomed because they add to our story. Each moment is savoured without the longing for it to last forever – this is the wabi-sabi approach to life…



Taken individually, wabi and sabi are two separate concepts:
Wabi is about recognizing beauty in humble simplicity. It invites us to open our heart and detach from the vanity of materialism so we can experience spiritual richness instead.
Sabi is concerned with the passage of time, the way all things grow, age, and decay, and how it manifests itself beautifully in objects. It suggests that beauty is hidden beneath the surface of what we actually see, even in what we initially perceive as broken.
Together, these two concepts create an overarching philosophy for approaching life: Accept what is, stay in the present moment, and appreciate the simple, transient stages of life.

​Jane Hirshfield shared the poem above a few time ago and said it really changed her life.
“With this poem, I intuited it did mean something. The images deeply spoke to me. The poem changed my understanding of the place of the difficult in my life. A house in a poem is like a house in a jungian interpretation of a dream, it almost always stands for the self, for your own life, your own inhabited life. If you want to have a full human life, being permeable to what is hard as well as what is wanted, is something that can’t be denied. You cannot say “no” to any part of the whole if you want to experience the whole. So I understood why it might be preferable to live in a ruined house rather than a completely protected one, and that was life changing for me.
May your house be a little ruined, a little leaky, and may your whole life enter through those spaces.” (Jane Hirshfield).

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: change.

9 thoughts on “Wabi-Sabi : the beauty of change.

  1. Your post reminded me that some time ago, the Lens-Artists had a Wabi-sabi challenge. After reading your description, I realize how close my topic of change relates to the concept of Wabi-sabi. Your photos illustrate your points beautifully. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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