Wabi Sabi For Writers
Find Inspiration. Respect Imperfection. Create Peerless Beauty.
by Richard R. Powell,
published by Adams Media
What if deep poetry flowed through your day-to-day life? What if writing that poetry was a path to enlightenment? Basho, the grandfather of haiku poetry, named this path, “the Way of Elegance” because it connects you to grace and fills your life with subtle beauty.
I began writing Wabi Sabi for Writers, to communicate the significance of this path for writers, but I ended up with a book for anyone who wants the poetic light inside them to penetrate the darkness that surrounds them.
Basho knew the central defining quality of his culture was: “a sensitivity to things,” and he deliberately and thoughtfully crafted practices to support and deepen that sensitivity. These practices allowed the quality to expand his life.
Unfortunately he found that while “a sensitivity to things” expanded his awareness of beauty it also expanded his awareness of suffering. This heightened awareness of both beauty and suffering leads some people to despair. This is because our capacity to tolerate suffering in those around us seems to decrease as our awareness increases. When faced with an increase in awareness of suffering, many people instinctively turn away from sensitivity and become hardened, detached or distracted.
The Buddhist culture around Basho taught non-attachment as the correct approach to suffering. Non-attachment was not a turning away from suffering, but a calming of the emotional reactions to suffering through practice of the eightfold path. All other solutions were seen as delusions or deceptions.
Contrary to this prevailing belief, Basho demonstrated that we can avoid developing hard hearts without practicing non-attachment if, instead, we experience our attachments in a deeper way. Basho’s interpretation of wabi sabi made this possible.
One way to understand Sabi is to see it as a step beyond sensitivity to things, to see it as a deep awareness of the poetry at the heart of all things. The curious magic of this literary awareness is that while you are focused on the poetry in each object of attachment, your ego is quieted. To have a sabi mind you allow ego to rest in this un-voiced poetry. This new understanding of Sabi as an antidote to despair was Basho’s most important discovery. Sabi, he realized, was central to the Way of Elegance.
The Way of Elegance encourages a creative response to challenge and difficulty and produces eccentricity, pluckiness, fortitude, and resourcefulness. Yet sabi by itself can be overdone. The depth and character that comes from this clear-minded approach to life can make you feel mature, seasoned, and even superior. This is where wabi comes in. Wabi is the humbling factor, the stabilizing reality of the vastness and complexity of nature and our own place in it. When the two are balanced, they produce a lightness in a writers work which Basho called “karumi.”
Wabi Sabi for Writers, presents wabi sabi as a balanced set of principles that help a person face into the winds of change, look on the imperfect world with acceptance, and find, mixed within the dark elements of existence, bright strands of joy. Through examples and stories the book illustrates how to expand your sense of beauty until each moment brims with light.
One of the key concepts on the way of elegance is “furyu.” Basho discovered in his life of reading and thinking and wandering and teaching and writing that all of these things contributed to Furyu which literally means “in the way of the wind and stream”. It is putting yourself in the traffic, launching yourself into the action, not necessarily as a player, but deliberately, as the eyes and ears and taste buds and sense of smell. Furyu is a powerful tool that shows you what you like, and also what you love.
Basho adopted Furyu as his central attitude and orientation and found that it generated inspiration, poetry, and enlightenment. An ancient Japanese word with roots in the Chinese language, Furyu describes a stance or approach that puts a person on the path of elegance. If you would like to learn more about how to develop Furyu in your life, about how to naturalize your creative activities and find transcendence through harmony with nature, then Wabi Sabi for Writers if for you.
Wabi Sabi for Writers is divided into 9 chapters. Chapters 2 through 5 discuss ways of being that are mirrored in chapters 6 through 9 which discuss acts of doing:
1 – Wabi Sabi for Writers: an introduction
2 – Inspiration: to make an impression, write with your feet
3 – Education: find your voice by moonlight
4 – Wabi Sabi Beauty: let poetry flow from your attachments
5 – Enlightenment: lose yourself in writing with a language older than words
6 – Motivation: imitate a yak and share something wild
7 – Community: in a group of friends you can write from the heart
8 – Wabi Sabi Elements: flowing words reveal constant content
9 – Craft: guidelines for developing a saving style
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