For 7 years, from 2007 to 2014, I paddled 100 lakes on Vancouver Island seeking sabi in the ancient tradition of kanjaku.
Kanjaku is a Japanese word that joins leisure or idleness (kan) with loneliness or stillness (jaku). Lonely idling, or leisurely stillness. This was the term that the renowned Japanese poet Basho declared should be the state in which “one’s mind should stay.”
Peipei Qiu writes in Basho and the Dao:
“Sabishisa in Basho’s poems is often not a landscape infused with the sentiment of loneliness but the fundamental tranquility found in the harmonious fusion of the external world and the poetic mind.”
Not merely loneliness, sabi is a mood experienced in solitude, that fosters a clear awareness. In this state nature is accurately perceived through the serenity of poetic vision and a type of Kenshō is possible.
My exploration of sabi increased this kind of vision and started my journey out of clinical anxiety towards freedom.
In the process of writing two books on Wabi Sabi, practicing Kanjaku, and applying skills gained in Schema therapy I shifted long held beliefs and ways of thinking. From 2015 to the end of 2018 I used what I had learned to successfully manage my anxiety and reduce my own suffering.
I learned that journeying really is the best metaphor for life. We never arrive because we are always here. We have always been arriving. Curiously the act of travel, of seeking, of going and finding, of uncovering and experiencing, is what it is all about.
I learned that for me, that means learning and growing. I’m not fully satisfied unless I’m challenging myself to know in a deeper or richer way.
I learned that achievement is important. I need to have goals, long stretches of time to pursue them, and no deadlines. If there is no end to the journey, there is not finish line or time limit, but it helps to have some scope and parameters.
I learned that kanjaku and sabi are not enough. Nature is a deep source of restoration and renewal, but suffering is an inseparable part of nature. Most creatures experience a lot of pain and suffering in their lives, most are eaten by someone else and die horribly. The depth of suffering is inconceivable.
The problem of suffering, is the most engaging problem for me to solve. I don’t expect to solve it, but I need to try because it has puzzled and engaged me for over a decade now.
Besides suffering, I also learned that several activities and places remain consistently interesting to me: writing, photography, wetlands, forests, and the inner world. Along with those, I remain interested in the platonic trinity of truth, beauty, and goodness.