Beth Kempton on the slow way of wabi sabi

Image via Holly Bobbins

“The wisdom we need now is buried in history.”

Beth Kempton

There are so many things I’ve loved about this season of the poggie. The guests, the hostful questions we’ve received (more on those next week), the way each episode has been infused with hope and positivity.

I’ve also loved that this season has been an exploration of slow living through a variety of different lenses, looking at what constitutes ‘slow’ from new perspectives.

Today’s episode, the second-last of the season, is no different as I chat with author and Japanologist Beth Kempton about slow living through the lens of Japanese culture. Or more specifically, through the lens of wabi sabi.

Complex to define, wabi sabi is an exploration of acceptance and contentment. An acknowledgement of the true nature of life and as such is a really powerful way of shifting our worldview.

Beth introduces me to the complex nature of wabi sabi and we discuss how the idea of perfect imperfection can impact the way we purchase and consume things, the way we connect with people and the environment around us, and how it’s a welcome respite in a world that calls us to constant comparison and competition.

We also discuss whether wabi sabi, or any personal philosophy really, has the power to change the world, as well as the beauty of creating and honouring pockets and rituals of slowness in a busy life.

We talk about our favourite experiences from our time spent in Japan and I can’t help but talk about the joyful time I’ve spent in onsens with my daughter. I know I’ve spoken about it on the podcast before, but onsening has had such a lovely impact on my life, both in terms of the ritual of bathing and being intentional throughout what is often treated as a mundane part of life, but also the acceptance of self that comes with the experience. It’s truly been one of the best discoveries of my life.

This ties in to wabi sabi in a way I hadn’t expected, because (from my very limited understanding) wabi sabi seems to offer self-compassion and grace where I’ve previously had self-loathing and discomfort. And if we’re in need of anything right now – in a world that profits off our comparing and competing – it’s probably a little more self-compassion and grace.


Questions featured in this episode: 

  • What is wabi sabi?
  • Wabi sabi is the opposite to many of the things harming people and planet – mass consumption, convenience, keeping up with the Joneses etc. Do you think it has the power to change the world?
  • You write that wabi sabi helps us to seek meaning beyond materialism. How does it do that?
  • Do you think that contentment – as opposed to outright brilliant happiness – is something worth striving for?
  • What are some small rituals that we can adopt in to our lives now that help us to bend and stretch time, slowing it down and making it feel abundant?

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