How to See the Stunning Beauty in Imperfection
Do you ever feel that no matter how much you strive for perfection, there’s just no reaching the place you have in your mind for what PERFECT looks like?
When I don’t achieve my idea of PERFECT, I partake in what I like to call my daily beat-myself-up practice. You know, it’s like a meditation practice or daily exercise, except that it’s the repeated inner gloomy spiels and negativity I throw at my self, much like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks. Well, let me tell you that this criticism REALLY sticks! Even when I scrub the wall (of my soul...whimper), there’s still a residue of YOU BLOODY SUCK, LISSA!!
Though, even better (or worse), imagine that knives are being thrown your way. You’re the lady on the wheel spinning round and round as part of a travelling circus act, and some guy (who looks a lot like you) is throwing knives while a rapt audience watches. GULP! How do you like that, self??
I've spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect and I know that I’m not alone in this. Many people strive for perfection and when they don’t achieve it, feel disappointed and beat their beautiful selves up. “Send your inner critic on a permanent vacation,” said one friend recently. “That's what I do.” Well, that may work for her, but I know that mine would take a pass because she’s a workaholic. Heck, she'll do time-and-a-half if you let her.
SELF FLAGELLATION. PICK ME.
Of course, this narrative runs through our creative work. If you believe that this daily practice of self-flagellation serves you when you're creating something, then please stop reading right here. Although, if you suspect that it may be hindering you and your artistic endeavours, then please continue...
The question that may be preying on your mind at this stage is—dear Lissa, how the heck do I embrace what I perceive to be my flaws, my incompleteness and my impermanence and still get shit done?
You’ve probably heard of wabi-sabi, an ancient philosophy within Zen Buddhism. During a Japanese tea ceremony, the bowls are oddly shaped, have an uneven glaze, and contain cracks. The Japanese philosophy celebrates beauty in what's natural, flaws and all. The antique bowls are prized because of (not in spite of) their rough texture and blemishes.
Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, says, "Appreciation for imperfections in others, and even in yourself, is the essential wabi sabi frame of mind.”
So, what if we applied this ancient aesthetic to the rough edges of our selves. If we learned to EMBRACE, not throw knives (or spaghetti) at the blemishes and cracks in our crazy messed up lives?
I find that simply reading about something doesn’t always help me to put it into practice, so...I have an exercise for you to try, which can help you live or experience this idea more readily.
What if you wrote for 10 or so minutes and didn’t censor yourself or worry about the end result, just took pleasure in how you were experiencing that moment of putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard while tuning into your senses and surroundings?
Below is a meditation from my 21 Day Writing Meditation course to help clear your mind and connect with your body before trying out the exercise below.
Open a notebook or your laptop. Write down 10 observations about your surroundings that are connected to your senses. As an example, “the leafless tree out my window,” “the cloudless sky,” “the hardwood floor beneath me,” “the colourful books on my shelves,” “the soft cushion at my back,” “the citrusy, warming tea I’m drinking,” the fragrant candle on the table.” As I’ve shown here, these can be in point form; the idea is just to get them down.
If you’re feeling really groovy and in the flow, then you can put your observations into a juicy poem. No pressure! Whatever you do is great and just the way it should be.
SPACE TO CREATE
I hope you enjoyed the meditation and the writing exercise. While these two things won't directly help you to finish that half-written novel or copy for your website, it can give you some breathing room to go about your projects without being pummeled with insults from your critical self. The more you allow yourself to see the imperfect beauty of who you are and what you produce, then the less you'll worry about your rough edges and cracks, and the more space you'll give yourself to create and enjoy the process and flow of your life.
Wabi-sabi is focused on seeing the beauty in simple things like the curve of a fork, turn of a phrase, a piece of stoneware or piece of writing, and using these things to better engage our senses. I think Stephen Hawking says it best when he relates imperfection to the universe: “One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist.....Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.”