RESTORING WELLBEING: THE WABI-SABI WAY
Benefits of Understanding and Embracing Wabi Sabi in the West
20 April 2017
“My argument to anyone who states they make their own reality, is this:” says my drawing professor as he points to a small dirty section of the classroom floor, showing us how the quality of the color gray seems to change -- growing warmer or cooler as he covers up various specks and splatters of paint. He points to the white of the wall -- different in almost every corner -- slightly yellow, hints of violet, whispers of blue. “Context activates that which exists within it. You are constantly being affected by all that surrounds you.” This conversation coupled with our class contemplation of the stark studio reminded me of a Japanese aesthetic I briefly learned about a while back -- an aesthetic that is less of a style than it is an experience of finding beauty in the ordinary, the imperfect, and the broken -- a process of accepting and even embracing the perceived “ugliness” and often uncomfortable emptiness inherent in our day to day lives. As we stared at the floor and at the walls -- whose fundamental function and dynamic form we so often take for granted -- I found myself trying hard to hold back a grin. There we stood, enlightened by what we discovered in a couple square feet of concrete and drywall, made all the more beautiful and striking by the unusually empty and uncluttered state of the classroom. This was a welcome relief from the constant spatial and social chaos of modern day American life where just about everything is commercialized and the onslaught of consumerism clutters every corner of our lives. Unfortunately, as the rate of consumption in the United States rapidly increases, there is a parallel increase in the risks of depression and anxiety among the younger generations raised in more affluent homes. All the while happiness and well-being rates sink downward, buried beneath the things we buy without thinking. If we do not turn to other cultures and learn to live with less, we will continue to confront consequences that negatively impact our health and wellbeing and that of our planet. The unfinished, ephemeral, and imperfect nature of wabi-sabi promotes strengthened human vitality, engagement, and connection. Moreover, appreciating wabi-sabi requires the individual to accept and embrace the beauty in the flawed, irregular, and incomplete, thus opening one up to experiencing and seeing extraordinary beauty in the ordinary, combating the consumerism and inauthenticity abundant in material culture and strengthening consciousness through the recognition and cultivation of restorative spaces. Ultimately, embracing the wabi-sabi aesthetic in life and design can positively impact the mental health and well-being of westerners overwhelmed by the chaotic context of our culture.
Wabi-sabi is inherently simple but its definition is not so straightforward. Even while traveling in Japan and interviewing locals, Robyn Griggs Lawrence, former Editor and Chief of Natural Home magazine and author of “The Wabi-Sabi House,” struggled to get a clear definition of this aesthetic tradition that permeates Japanese life and design. Many would tell her that wabi-sabi is so ambiguous that even they still had difficulty defining it. Moreover, some claimed that words were not enough to fully communicate the nuances of wabi-sabi, and only visual imagery and metaphors could truly capture the concept (Lawrence 13). Although a key component of wabi-sabi is simplicity, Lawrence’s struggle to clarify its meaning shows that this cultural aesthetic is quite complex and multifaceted. That said, other scholars and researchers prior to Lawrence have attempted to explain wabi-sabi, as they know it, to the west so that Europeans and Americans might benefit from the cultivation of values and principles that have accompanied wabi-sabi thought since its beginnings in Zen Buddhism. Leonard Koren, American artist and aesthetics expert, first introduced the concept of wabi-sabi to the west with his book Wabi Sabi for Artists, Poets, and Philosophers. His widely used definition of wabi-sabi as a “beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete” -- a beauty found in “things modest and humble,” and “unconventional” insists that wabi sabi is extraordinary beauty found in ordinary or simple things (Koren qtd in Martin 15). Some examples of wabi sabi could include scratched and dented wooden floors that capture the history an old home, a dandelion determinedly growing through a crack in a sidewalk, a broken vase holding crooked sticks, and even the frayed edges of a hole in well-loved pair of jeans. The list continues on and on to include things we see everyday that tell a story through their wear and tear or humble uniquities.
Early attempts at defining wabi-sabi to the west by breaking down its key concepts and explaining its practical roots, illustrates that the general essence of wabi-sabi is the appreciation of beauty in simplicity and in things as they are in the natural cycle of growth and decay. In his book “Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence,” Andrew Juniper, owner of the Wabi-Sabi Art Gallery in Sussex, England explains that the origins of the aesthetic embrace of this imperfect, unconventional, and natural beauty can be traced back to early Buddhist monks who “in a very practical and Chinese way, [tried] to make the most of their lives by living in harmony with nature.” According to Juniper, the Japanese appreciation of humble and rustic objects comes from a time when Buddhist monks could not afford fine or fancy art to decorate their temples, so they used the natural elements most accessible to them. The monks quickly discovered an “innate beauty” in the simple and ephemeral elements of the natural world (9). Juniper also attempts to define wabi sabi by explaining what it is not. The aesthetic traditions and values that continue to hold strong in American art and architecture such as “permanence, grandeur, [and] symmetry” stem from principles of power and perfection exemplified in the works produced in Ancient Greece and Rome. Although not all art in the “west” falls under this umbrella, for the sake of this argument, the terms “traditional” and “western” will carry the connotations generally opposed to those qualities of wabi-sabi which Juniper outlines as “impermanence, humbleness, asymmetry, and imperfection” (Juniper qtd. In Martin 18). It is understanding that wabi-sabi comes from a place of poverty, humility, and bare-bones ingenuity that begins to show the layers of this seemingly ‘simplistic’ aesthetic. The definitions and origins expressed by aesthetic scholars such as Juniper, Koren, and Lawrence continue to clarify wabi-sabi for the west and help to demonstrate that wabi ways of thought and design are not limited to the elite and erudite, but rather those who are mindful of the natural world and open to seeing more in less.
Having an idea of the typical materials and characteristics of wabi-sabi can help to form a clearer picture of wabi-sabi and develop a greater understanding of where to find it and how to look. Lawrence, whose research and writing primarily focus on how to bring wabi-sabi thought and design into American homelife, claims that wabi-sabi is “simple, slow and uncluttered--and it reveres authenticity above all.” She goes on to say that wabi-sabi objects are those found in flea markets, worn and well-loved with cracks and scratches and rust and chipped paint that contribute to rather than detract from their beauty when looked at with the right perspective (17). Similarly, Richard Martin, independent photographer and regular contributor to Photo Life Magazine, argues that embracing wabi-sabi allows an individual to find pleasure in little things that often go overlooked (15). Sometimes the small and simple things can reveal the most profound beauty. Moreover, taking the time to ponder what would normally go overlooked and underappreciated can give us poignant moments of pause. Juniper speaks to the important psychological relationship between person and object inherent in wabi-sabi when he writes “if an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of melancholy and spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi” (Juniper qtd. In Martin 15). His description of a wabi-sabi object implies that wabi-sabi is less about what the object physically is and places greater emphasis on the ability of that object to evoke certain emotions and thoughts. That said, although authors like Lawrence argue that wabi-sabi is generally limited to raw and natural elements such as wood, clay, and stones, it can also include man-made objects, items, and structures that have weathered over time at the hands of humans or in the face of nature (16). Every crack and flake and dent in an object or building are all confessions of its vulnerability to world around. It is these imperfections that intrigue, engage and ultimately heighten the potential for a contemplative conversation to be had between man and material.
Our visual and sensory experiences with natural elements and materials--the key media of wabi-sabi--can be both vitalizing and stress-reducing. Several recent studies show that simply viewing nature and natural elements can have a positive impact on human health and well-being. The NiCHE Research Group, a team based at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia explores the beneficial effects of nature on mental and physical health. Their study conducted in prison environments found that the “cell window views of nature are associated with a lower frequency of stress symptoms in inmates… with fewer sick calls overall by prisoners,” (Maller et al. 48). This finding supports the point that mere visual contact with nature is important for human health. Additional research cited by Holli-Anne Passmore, Assistant Researcher and Supervisor at the University of British Columbia, and Andrew Howell, Professor of Clinical Psychology at MacEwan University, found that “regardless of the influence of social, physical, and outdoor activity, behaviors involving nature predicted greater vitality” and “demonstrated how the cognitive aspect of relating to nature...has a vitalizing effect.” (Passmore and Howell 374). This research concludes that simply relating to nature through cognition and visualization can not only help reduce stress but can also boost energy and motivation. All of these findings help illustrate the “vitalizing” and stress-reducing abilities of both viewing and contemplating nature. According to the American Psychological Association’s most recent “Stress in America” survey, increasingly high levels of stress are having a negative impact on Americans’ mental and physical health (2015). As stress levels rise in the US, the results of this research illustrating the positive impacts of exposure to nature on mental health prove extremely relevant. Because wabi sabi works natural elements into design and sees the hand of nature as an artist that enhances and deepens the beauty of what is left at its mercy, increased incorporation of this aesthetic value system into the American mindset can help heal modern generations plagued by stress simply by encouraging individuals and families to make time to enjoy nature and bring it into their homes. Too often, spending time observing nature -- dreamily staring at the tree outside the window, intensely studying a found seashell, simply taking a moment to admire the wildflowers along sidewalk -- is considered a distraction or leisure activity that should follow work. However, nature’s stress-reducing and vitalizing effects should make even simple visual interaction with nature a priority that promotes productivity and wellness rather than an afterthought.
In addition to seeing and contemplating nature, our physical experiences with certain natural or nature impacted materials can prove vitalizing. Adrian Stokes, British poet, painter and influential art critic during the 1950s, speaks to the relationship between human and material that, ironically, largely gets left behind in our “materialistic” society when he says “material interacts bodily, and it is deeply rooted in our memories with strong sense of tactility.” He goes on to claim that “the perfect sculpture needs your hand to communicate some pulse and warmth to reveal subtleties unnoticed by the eye; your hand enhances them. Used, carved stone, exposed to the weather, records on its concrete shape in spatial, immediate, simultaneous form, not only the winding passages of days and nights...but also the vitality even that each successive touching has communicated” (Adrian Stokes qtd. In Kim 47). Stokes’ words supports the notion that physical interaction with certain natural materials like stone and concrete can give life, energy, and depth to both the human and the material. Similarly, Adam Silverman, a contemporary wabi-sabi ceramicist who is best known for his irregular and unusual forms and glazes, claims that in this digital age we increasingly “feel the need for warmer things in our hands” (Adam Silverman qtd. In Treffinger 1). Where Stokes explains that material needs the human hand to translate warmth and life, Silverman claims that the digital era directly impacts the increasing human desire for more authentic and “warm” tactile experiences from material interaction. Both of their claims support the idea that the material world impacts us as much as we impact it. Both of their arguments, derived from their experiences and observations as professionals and scholars in the art world, underscore the vitalizing and authenticating powers of sensory experiences with wabi-sabi objects and materials.
In order to cope with the demands and inherent inauthenticity that accompanies a “digital overload” and the rapid advancement of tools and technology, Americans long for greater exposure to more authentic and imperfect objects and design. Marc Kushner, co-founder of HWKN New York-based architecture firm, speaks to the increasing prevalence of “natural” and “salvaged”- looking materials and wabi-sabi aesthetic in commercial interior design/decoration in the US as a result of an “architectural desire on part of the public for something less than perfect. He uses “hipster coffee shops” and “even Starbucks” as primary examples of community and corporate establishments taking on a more rustic look and striving to use more natural elements and sustainable materials (Kushner qtd. In Treffinger 1). Along with the use of these natural and recycled materials come the inherent flaws -- a result of the process of time and nature -- that make them “wabi-sabi.” According to Kushner, people are longing to see and interact with objects and spaces that are not computer designed and mass manufactured, but unique and authentic in their quirky imperfections. Melanie Courbet, owner of the upscale furniture store Atelier Courbet in New York also speaks to the “overwhelming experience” of our society’s inundation with technology and the comfort we find in “[surrounding] ourselves with handmade objects and tactile experiences” (Melanie Courbet qtd. In Treffinger 1). The current excess of often stress-inducing and anxiety provoking digital media and constant virtual connection in our lives leaves people longing to connect with the material world in a more authentic, real way. Affiliated Copenhagen-based designer and co-founder of Japan Handmade, Thomas Lykke also claims handmade objects have a “soul” to them that manufactured materials and technology lack (1). Wabi-sabi recognizes that the “soul” of an object or material exists in its unconventional, humble, and imperfect character.
With that in mind, it is important to note that objects and spaces of a wabi-sabi nature are also more than what meets the eye. David Harvey, architect Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the City University of New York also speaks to the lack of “soul” and authenticity in modern structures when he explains that “the loss of temporality and the search for instantaneous impact” in contemporary design have in turn created “a loss of experiential depth” (Harvey qtd. In Kim 13). Wabi-sabi spaces contrast with those of the west that Harvey describes because they are impressive not in shape or size or buttressing boldness, or perfect perspective, but in the way time has taken its toll and tells a story on the surface about the soul of the piece. Juhani Pallasmaa, Finnish architect and author of The Eyes of the Skin, goes on to explain that contemporary architecture in the west so often uses the formal elements to garner an immediate but superficial reaction instead of engaging the senses beyond what the eyes can capture and “igniting the imagination.” Additionally, he explains that the “homogenous bright light” prevalent in the architectural interior design of the west “paralyzes the imagination” and the “homogenisation of a space weakens the experience of being and wipes away the sense of place.” He claims that the flattening of contemporary architecture is a result of a modern society flooded with two-dimensional images. Emphasizing the clarity of what is seen has become a number one priority of contemporary architects (Pallasmaa qtd. In Kim 13). In spaces washed out by bright fluorescent lights there is little room for the ambiguity that wabi sabi design welcomes and there is also little feeling of place or presence in the somatic sense. Objects and spaces with wabi-sabi design usually have an incomplete element that forces the viewer to engage and “finish” what they see in their mind’s eye. In this way, wabi sabi design does not give away everything all at once, but tends to require an individual to actively engage both mind and body in order to see true beauty and find peace and understanding in the profundity of the creative and destructive process.
Furthermore, unlike the bold clarity of contemporary architecture and industrial design, the ambiguity of wabi sabi objects and spaces require active viewer engagement thus strengthening human connection to the material and natural world. When explaining the origins of wabi-sabi Juniper writes that “Brevity and simplicity of the work required ample space for mental collaboration of the audience” (9) and continues to explain that “Zen monks strove to produce objects and environments that used these characteristics to elevate one’s state of mind” (Juniper 11). This intense viewer engagement stemming from practices of minimalism and meditation in Buddhism is an essential aspect of wabi sabi. Unlike art in the western world that often strives to awe and intimidate, to elevate itself or its subject above the viewer, wabi-sabi seeks to heighten the potential for a contemplative conversation to occur between the viewer and the object -- whether an art piece, functional item found in everyday life, or a sanctuary space. In his book “Housing the Environmental Imagination,” author Peter Quigley makes reference to philosopher Michel Foucault’s concept of a “Heterotopia” to help explain the role of nature as a refuge from society and a place to “rethink our relations with the world.” Foucault defines a “Heterotopia” a space of “otherness” that is simultaneously mental and physical (Quigley 73). This term “heterotopia” is especially relevant as it illustrates the impact of external space on internal space, connecting back to the central concept of wabi-sabi. An object or space which possesses or is perceived to possess wabi-sabi qualities can induce intense contemplation or meditation, ultimately connecting consciousness to the tactile and natural world. Additionally, Yoonjin Kim, architect for renowned Japanese architectural firm, Kengo Kuma and Associates, specifically discusses how the “incompleteness of form” in a asymmetrical tea room with “unfinished wattle windows” requires the “active participation on the part of the observer.” Kim further explains by quoting Kakuzo Okakura, Japanese scholar and major contributor to the development of the arts in Japan, that the act of “mentally completing the incomplete” is integral to wabi-sabi (44). This underscores the wabi-sabi aesthetic as a transportative medium that helps create a “heterotopia” -- or an imagined refuge -- via mental engagement.
Moreover, Kakuzo Okakura claims that “the sympathetic communion of minds necessary for art appreciation must be based on mutual concession” (Kim 44). The words of Kim and Okakura illustrate that wabi sabi is unique in that it is an active appreciation of beauty, encouraging the viewer to look deeply with compassion and an open mind. Shiho Kanzaki, a Buddhist Priest and potter who makes traditional wood fired bowls and cups that embody wabi sabi in both “form and function” also asserts that compassion is a critical component of wabi-sabi that expands beyond human-material relationships to also encompass interpersonal relationships when he tells Lawrence that “manner and behavior is most important” and continues to claim that a true understanding of wabi sabi is “always thinking of other persons” (Kanazaki qtd. In Lawrence 14). It is this considerate attitude that Kanzaki speaks of that ultimately incites creative contemplation and greater overall awareness of the world outside oneself, thus shedding light on compassion and service as fundamental components of the wabi-sabi way.
Wabi sabi spaces which emphasize quiet, emptiness, and organization while rejecting clutter and noise can enhance charitable tendencies, focus, and healthy decision-making in addition to reducing stress. When explaining wabi-sabi, Juniper emphasizes “the importance of space and nothingness as juxtaposition to things that presently exist” (Juniper 9). Essentially, he asserts that the emptiness around something simple can draw attention to its inherent beauty. A study conducted by Kathleen Vohs, Professor of Psychology at McKnight University supports this idea that the lack of clutter and level of organization of a space can have a powerful psychological impact on the person within the space. Vohs and her fellow researchers found that “participants who completed the study in the orderly room donated more than twice as much as those who completed the study in the disorderly room” (Vohs 3). The results support the authors’ hypothesis that an orderly space would be more conducive to generosity and charity than a disorderly space. Eighty-two percent of people in the orderly room choosing to donate versus the forty-seven percent of people in the disorderly room illustrates that the physical order of a space can have quite the profound impact on behavior. The wabi-sabi aesthetic supports simple and humble design to promote greater viewer engagement, compassion, contemplation, and peace of mind, and it does not take much for a simple room to be organized and orderly.
Additional studies have shown that spaces perceived as more peaceful positively impact the people in those spaces. Darby Saxbe, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Southern California and Rena Repetti, Professor of Psychology at the University of California Los Angeles, explain the results of their study on how perception of home space correlates with well-being and stress levels. They explain that the “wives who described their homes as being more stressful (that is, who talked more about clutter and unfinished projects) had marginally lower marital satisfaction.” Moreover, Saxbe and Repetti find that the same women who use specific red-flag words connoting a stressful home environment when giving home tours also report greater unhappiness in the their marriages compared with the marital satisfaction reports of women in more restful, restorative home environments. They also have flatter diurnal slopes which indicate chronic stress (Saxbe and Repetti 78). It makes sense that wives who perceived their homes as more stressful showed signs indicating higher levels of stress on a daily basis. The Saxbe and Repetti study supports the claim that physical space, specifically the home space, can impact one’s psychological state. Moreover, it illustrates that the impact of such space can vary depending upon the individual (and their investment in the home). Ultimately, the condition of a home impacts the health and wellbeing of the entire family. Similarly, Arline Bronzaft, environmental psychologist and Professor of Psychology at City University of New York, reports that cluttered and noisy homes “don’t foster parent-child interaction” and most modern American households “don’t value and esteem quiet and serenity” which are “important not just for mental health and learning, but for spirit and soul.” Her research on how noise affects children reveals that most high achievers and successful students do not grow up in cluttered, noisy homes where the TV, computer and stereo constantly create distractions, but in more peaceful homes where families turn off technology and take the time to come together and have a quiet dinner (Bronzaft qtd. In Lawrence 135). Once the clutter and the noise goes away the peace, quiet, and simplicity of wabi sabi spaces can help people to feel more present and real in daily their actions and interactions. Ultimately westerners can begin to incorporate wabi sabi design into their way of life by simply reorganizing and rethinking home space. Carefully considering design and even decoration can turn the home into a sanctuary space rather than a source of stress and thus positively impact the mental health and wellbeing of those living in the space.
Escape into or the cultivation of wabi sabi restorative space can ultimately provide relief from societal excess, obsolescence, and constant stimulation to refresh and strengthen consciousness. David Pearson, Chartered Psychologist and Reader at Anglia Ruskin University states that restorative spaces are those which include elements of “being away” (some degree of feeling isolated) and “fascination” (a curiosity or intrigue about the space), and although usually found in nature, these spaces need not be completely natural (1). Pearson references a study conducted in 2001, where students were asked to describe their favorite places and many detailed a man-made structure in the midst of a natural setting such as a “cottage surrounded by trees next to a lake.” Although not completely natural, the common “get-away” satisfies the key factors of being a simplistic yet inspiring escape from society. He also mentions monasteries as an example of a man-made restorative space (1). Pearson further details restorative spaces as “residential and leisure environments” that “reduce demands on executive attention and thereby promote psychological restoration” (Pearson 1). These attentional restorative environments expand beyond natural settings to include places of living and leisure. This is where wabi-sabi design comes into play. The home has even greater potential to be a restorative environment if approached with wabi-sabi principles and mentality. Where time spent in and interacting with nature and natural elements is proven restorative and vitalizing, then the incorporation of natural elements into the home via wabi-sabi design can have a positive impact on the well-being of those who dwell within the space. Wabi-sabi could prove especially helpful for creating sanctuary spaces in urban environments where people struggle to find the time or means to access nature. That said, Lawrence urges westerners to remember that “Wabi Sabi is not a decorating style but rather a mindset” and that “creating a wabi sabi home is the direct result of developing our wabigokoro, or wabi sabi mind and heart: living modestly, learning to be satisfied with life as it can be once we strip away the unnecessary” and most importantly “living in the moment” (Lawrence qtd. In Kim 45). She urges the importance of understanding wabi-sabi as a system of values that one can choose to embody in order to enrich her life in the most simple of ways. Such a lifestyle encourages seeing the beauty in things as they are versus always trying to have something brand-new or in perfect, pristine condition. Wabi-sabi also promotes getting rid of things you do not really need or things that simply do not bring you joy so that the pathway to living in the moment is uncluttered.
While embracing the wabi-sabi mindset requires very little money or resources, there are substantial psychological and societal barriers to entry when it comes to adopting the wabi-sabi way -- especially at this time in the US when arguments for both consumerism and minimalism are at the forefront. According to American industrial designer Brooks Stevens, planned obsolescence, or the intent of companies to create products that will only last but so long,“instills in consumers the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary” (Stevens qtd. In Paris Innovation Review). This production strategy prevalent in the design of mass-manufactured goods in the United States ensures a wide consumer market for future products. Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, claims that this strategy that consumers often see a manipulative mass-market ploy is, in fact, “the working of the competitive and technological forces in a free society—forces that lead to ever-improving goods and services” (Kotler qtd. In The Economist). In other words, Kotler argues that planned obsolescence paves the way for progress and forces producers to constantly create new and innovative products. In his essay entitled “Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence” published in 1932, American writer Bernard London also argued in support of such strategy writing that worried consumers used “their old cars, their old tires, their old radios and their old clothing much longer than statisticians had expected” and that the American economy and employment rate suffered “untold loss in foregoing the workpower of ten million human beings” (London qtd. In Paris Innovation Review). He essentially writes that it is the unpredictability of consumers that can have grave consequences on our country’s economic health, and that planned obsolescence can help control for continued consumption and prevent future economic paralysis. The planned obsolescence that keeps consumers consuming goes against the wabi-sabi way of keeping something old and worn if it still functions and continuing to fix it when it breaks. Kolter’s argument and London’s example raise questions about the practicality of wabi-sabi in the west and whether it is truly feasible for an economy that thrives on an enduring consumer market to cut down on consumption without creating a crisis.
Where consumption of commercial goods in our country is ever-present and promoted via all forms of mass-media, minimalism --as an alternative lifestyle to that driven by consumer culture -- is also gaining traction through social media. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have inspired millions of people with their books, lectures, podcasts, website, and documentary on minimalism to let go of their things and simplify their lives. Nicodemus and Millburn urge that “Minimalists search for happiness not through things, but through life itself” (The Minimalists). This mindset has proven especially appealing to the current generation of young adults. A Harris Poll study referenced by Sofia Costa in her Bloomberg article entitled “Millennials Are Starting to Change the Stock Market,” reports that “78 percent of millennials would rather pay for an experience than material goods” as opposed to 59 percent of boomers surveyed (Costa). Where minimalism argues that things do not bring us happiness, wabi-sabi supports the concept of “material joy” -- reaping the benefits of cultivating a more profound connection with the material world.
To a certain extent, wabi-sabi brings together materialist and minimalist mindsets approaching a balance of both ways of thought where an object is, ultimately, an experience. Wabi-sabi brings with it a sense of awareness of the way physical spaces and objects constantly affect our mental and emotional health and, in turn, could do a world of good by simply making westerners more mindful of the true costs of their consumption and encouraging a strengthened relationship between human consciousness and the natural physical world. Having a deeper understanding of how certain contexts--compositions of matter, space, and time--so profoundly impact our capacities for compassion, connection, and clear-thought may also encourage Americans to find happiness in an active willingness to see beauty in the ordinary, imperfect, and impermanent. Through this wabi-sabi way of thought and experience, we ultimately authenticate and learn to accept ourselves and others by embracing flaws, brokenness, and ephemerality as those qualities which makes us so beautifully human.
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