Wabi-sabi: To be in love

Love has many guises; parental, delectable, tempting, childlike, innocent, forbidden, respectful, free… the list does on. Today I’d like to focus on the love, honour and relish of old and broken things. The Japanese call this wabi-sabi, and when you google it you’ll get delightful photos of graceful, previously expensive and delicious items with arty cracks and antiquated imperfections… but I’m thinking of my trusty old VW Touran. It’s rusty, clunky, dirty with stained seats. It used to be nice, but now it’s tired and old. I know others will look at it with disgust or pity or one up man ship. But I feel love. It’s faithful, steady and I can’t describe how at home and how in love I am with it. It’s the same for our surfboard: it’s tatty, has bits hanging off. It was never ‘good’ in the first place. I feel love. I remember all the waves it’s been with me through, how well it’s served me, how much joy we’ve shared.

So how does this relate to yoga? We are all broken, we have stories of joy, tears, pain and journeys. Sometimes we come to yoga and feel not good enough, not this enough, not that enough. Sometimes we beat ourselves up with the words in our heads.

To some, I am old, broken, with wrinkles, age spots, dodgy knee, elbow, hips. My lower back goes out and I’m nearly 50. In some ways I’m broken, but am I also absolutely grand. Put me on a yoga mat, a beginners surfboard or dancing to music I love and inside I’m ageless. Sometimes we focus on our loves, children and friends to complete us, and yet our first love is within. This first love in yoga is to listen to your needs, to hear your body’s language and desires. Some days it will tell you it fancies chocolate, other days it will tell you tales of such woe and suffering. It might tell you you’ve been ignoring it for years. It might tell you no matter what your head says it knows better. It may tell you to lighten up. Whatever it tells you, your job is to listen. Through yoga, you learn how to be, and how that can defy the expected or described. I am my own VW Touran. One day my Touran will die, my surfboard will die and as will my body. Things end, other things start and in between we learn to fall in love.

My challenge to you is to go round your home and possessions and find something showing signs of wear which you adore. Whether it’s a treasured childhood toy, a useful implement or a pair of old worn boots. Something that makes your heart sing. Something when you see it or touch it you feel a bubble of happiness, it might be quiet and comfortable, it might have a gentle wry smile, but it will lift and open your heart. One day this is how I’d like you to consider yourself, your body. Follow your imperfections, soften your focus, and see the love. Your broken body is a wonderful thing, and you are full of life. We are wabi-sabi.

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