4 ideas.. Holding Space for Wabi-Sabi


I'M THE FIRST BORN. First born grand child, first born girl, first born sibling. My job in the family was to be the leader, to be the most outgoing. I was the one who was supposed to have the answers, who knew what to do, and get it right the first time every time. Is it no wonder I grew up believing perfectionism was just something I was born with. It was engrained in my DNA. “Get used to it.” - was my mantra for decades. Fast forward 45 years and I've finally figured out the meaning of life, well – my life anyway: Holding space for wabi-sabi.

So what is wabi-sabi? According to Robyn Griggs Lawrence; "Broadly, wabi-sabi is everything that today's sleek, mass-produced, technology-saturated culture isn't. It's flea markets, not shopping malls; aged wood, not swank floor coverings; one single morning glory, not a dozen red roses.."

"..Wabi-sabi understands the tender, raw beauty of a gray December landscape and the aching elegance of an abandoned building or shed. It celebrates cracks and crevices and rot and all the other marks that time and weather and use leave behind. To discover wabi-sabi is to see the singular beauty in something that may first look decrepit and ugly.."

"..Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet - that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature's cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time."¹

In other words, exactly opposite from the perfectionistic ideal I've tried to create my entire life.

holding space for wabi sabi
holding space for wabi sabi

For me, wabi-sabi gives me permission to celebrate imperfection. It allows me to honor my mistakes. To find joy and beauty in what I would otherwise categorize as broken, damaged, or disfigured, and instead simply allow it to be as it is – finding it complete, unblemished, and pure in its own unique way.

Practicing wabi-sabi – holding space for the beauty and purity of imperfection - has given me the gift of freedom. Freedom from outside pressure to perform to status quo standards, freedom from internal pressure to be perfect. It's given me the gift of permission. Permission of acceptance. Permission of allowing. Permission to be still and absorb the positive energies around me instead of running to and fro trying to make everything perfect, making myself unhappy as I do so.

Holding space for wabi-sabi has allowed me to quiet my mind and let go. It's made space for forgiveness. Forgiveness to myself for being imperfect, forgiveness to others who've hurt me, and finally created the room I needed to embrace imperfection as a quality rather than flaw. The practice of holding space for wabi-sabi works in my material world, but more importantly, in my relationships. It's improved how I communicate with my spouse, it has broadened the ways I show empathy to my children, and it has welcomed the room for me to not have all the answers all the time. Now I feel comfortable saying “I don't know”, “I don't understand”. I don't have to be that “all seeing, all knowing” mom, wife, friend, daughter, and in doing so, the unintended consequences have been deeper, more meaningful connections with people I love, including myself.

holding space for wabi sabi
holding space for wabi sabi

In Brené Brown's timeless TED talk on the power of vulnerability, she describes the links between imperfection, fear, blame, empathy, and vulnerability. She says “This is what I have found: To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen, to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee – and that's really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that's excruciatingly difficult – to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, 'Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?' Just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, 'I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive..'

"..And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough", then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.”²Ι³

I believe that to be true. So how do we hold space for wabi-sabi? How do we embrace vulnerability and imperfection? I think it is different for everyone, but this is what works for me;


Pay attention to the slight changes in your body. Do you tense your jaw, rub your temple, sigh more? Or maybe you being to chew on your lip, or feel less comfortable? When this happens it's your cue to remind yourself to notice, embrace and allow the imperfections around you. To actively look for its beauty.


At those moments, stop. Maybe even say it out loud. “Stop”, and then breathe. Close your eyes. Breathe in calm and peace, breath out tension and anxiety. Repeat. Repeat again. This will help you open your mind to wabi-sabi and to let go of what's triggering you.

Let Go

Begin trying on letting go of control, fear, expectation, perfection. Fill the space instead with acceptance, with gratitude. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and to be seen. Slow down. Become introspective. Allow.


Spend time for a few minutes each day noticing the beauty of the imperfection around you. Of seeing the ordinary in a new & lovely way, this includes yourself. Love what you find. Embrace it.

Holding space for wabi-sabi is an idea I stumbled into, but I believe it happened for a reason. I'm a more content person having found it. If you're reading this then maybe you've stumbled into it for a reason too.

And so Mamas, I'll leave you with these final words from Brené Brown; "Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we're all in this together."

Namaste ♥

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(1) Robyn Griggs Lawrence from Natural Home | UTNE Article

(2) Brené Brown | TED Transcript

(3) Brené Brown | TED talk on Vulnerability