First and foremost, impermanence shades everything. Personally, I find that comforting, and instructive. It reminds me, for example, that the brilliant orange poppies that are blazing in our front yard now (and, indeed, are starting to go to seed) need to be regarded, enjoyed, savored, because they won't be here long. And when the work of removing them comes—starting next week—I can keep the memory of their glory in the back of my mind, making the task perhaps a bit less daunting.
In a nutshell, wabi-sabi means an acceptance, even appreciation, of imperfection and impermanence, of rough earthiness. It is closely associated with Zen Buddhism.
Wabi-sabi entails seven key ingredients:
fukinsei: asymmetry, irregularity
kanso: simplicity, unclutteredness
koko: a basic, weathered quality or nature
shizen: unpretentiousness, naturalness
yūgen: subtly profound grace, circumspection, unobviousness
datsuzoku: being unbounded by convention, freedom from habit
seijaku: tranquillity, energized calm or stillness
Here are some other terms that are worth pondering, both in one's own creative work and as one goes through the world and interacts with people, places, and things:
|An example of yūgen: |
what is causing the smoke?
the painting gives no hint
shibui simplicity, subtlety, unobtrusiveness; allowing things to speak for themselves
iki originality, uniqueness, in an uncomplicated, measured, unselfconscious manner; implies purity but also an appetite for life
jo-ha-kyū a tempo: start slowly, accelerate, end abruptly (e.g., tea ceremony, martial arts)
yūgen mystery, holding back (suggesting that which is beyond what can be said, though it is not an allusion to another world)
geidō discipline and ethics; the term is applied to arts that teach an appreciation of the process of creation, through kata, or forms (e.g., tea ceremony, martial arts)
ensō the void, often represented by a circle: infinity/nothingness (Only a person who is mentally and spiritually complete can draw a true ensō; some artists will practice drawing an ensō daily, as a spiritual exercise.)
And because shibumi or shibusa (n.), with the adjective shibui, is a concept most of us are familiar with, here, courtesy of Wikipedia, is a brief outline of its essential qualities:
we once had two Bizen teacups;
And last but not least, there's mono no aware, or the pathos of things or sensitivity to ephemera. One might call it the human condition (for those humans who are paying attention, at any rate).