by Michelle, “The Tea Nutritionist”
It is hard to tell from this picture, but I came across this very special monarch butterfly on a walk, recently. What made this butterfly so amazing, was that his left wing was broken. Before my eyes, he flew and landed on the leaf pictured here, and spread his wings, as butterflies tend to do. At first, it seemed like a very ordinary monarch (which in itself was enough for me to take notice). As he pulsed his wings in and out, I noticed one whole chunk of his left wing was missing! I don’t mean at little bit broken, I mean an entire pie shaped section of his wing was completely gone. My first thought was to feel sorry for this little butterfly; however, pity moved quickly to amazement because I had just witnessed this amazing creature fly skillfully and land on a leaf! I hurriedly struggled to pull out my phone to take a picture. As I fumbled with the screen, he proudly showed me his broken wing very clearly one more time. However, just seconds before I finally got the scene correctly into focus, the opportunity was lost. I stubbornly waited several more minutes for it to happen again, until finally I decided it didn’t matter and so I snapped the picture you see above. The monarch had already made his point, loud and clear. Perhaps, I thought, this is how he wanted me to capture him: not to record his wounds, but to record his authentic beauty.
This got me to thinking about the Japanese aesthetic of “Wabi-Sabi” that underlies the spirit of “Cha-do” or the Japanese, “Way of Tea”. The closest literal translation for Wabi-Sabi in English is “beautiful imperfection”. In an article by Robyn Griggs Lawrence she insightfully describes,
“To discover wabi-sabi is to see the singular beauty in something that may first look decrepit and ugly.”
While my first judgment of the butterfly was to recognize its wounds, this quickly gave way to its extraordinary ability to fly in spite of it all, and as if it were as natural as for all other monarchs along the path that day. In a wabi-sabi state of mind, it forced me to ponder – had I not first seen this monarch fly, would I have ever noticed its authentic beauty? Therein lies the spirit and the urgency that wabi-sabi begs of us in the art of the Way of Tea: that we must not only notice, but actively seek the beauty in all imperfection. We must honour it in our lives, in ourselves and in others. For only when you recognize this, will you be able to let go of judgement, and truly recognize and appreciate the beauty in ALL things.
Each of us, goes through times where we feel a piece of us is broken; admittedly, some of us to greater degrees than others. Our very wings, are broken, and we convince ourselves we are no longer capable of flying. Maybe we have suffered a terrible injury or loss. Maybe a situation has not turned out the way we wanted, despite all of our intention and hard work. Perhaps we struggle with a job we don’t like, a difficult relationship or limited resources to live the life we dreamed of. If we are willing to see the wabi-sabi in the situation (and in ourselves), just maybe, we will be able recognize new beauty and new possibility. In the very least, wabi-sabi offers us new place to start from. Maybe you have been focusing on your wounds, instead of your beauty? Remembering the mighty little monarch, maybe flying is possible, if you are willing change the way you think.
Now – go do that miraculous thing you’ve thought about and don’t give excuses as to why you can’t (like, I can’t fly because a piece of my wing is missing). Fly – you are beautiful even with imperfections! You don’t need to make a big deal out of it, you just need to remember your worth and try. When you do, your beauty will shine, and the beauty of the whole wabi-sabi world, will shine with you.
Now go make a lovely cup of tea, and read this again. 🙂
Love your cup.