There is a concept in Japanese philosophy known as Wabi Sabi. While this term has had many different meanings over the centuries, here in the west we have borrowed the term to express the staggering beauty we find in the imperfections of life. A wander through any forest confirms the wisdom of a Wabi Sabi philosophy. On a recent hike up Camel’s Hump here in Vermont, we discovered fallen trees in various states of decay, leaves in the process of browning, and a path sometimes rutted by the feet of countless ardent visitors. Stepping off the path, looking high into the canopy of trees, and allowing afternoon sunlight to illumine what it would, we were awed by the exquisite harmonies we found there. Objectively, we saw rotten wood, decaying leaves, and churned earth; aesthetically, we witnessed the dance of life in one of its most vibrant and inspiring expressions.
A human life may be likened to a tree in a forest. Each of us go through our seasons, each experience the dead wood falling away, the sunshine filtering in morning, afternoon, and evening, and the wear and tear of others’ visits to our unique patch of ground we call the Self. On our best days, we feel the privilege of change, of evolution, as our lives unfurl in spring, burst with summer life, and then die back in fall and winter, not once, but over and over again throughout our lifetime. Each season brings its own special bittersweet acknowledgment of material life’s impermanence. Physical challenges, emotional scars, psychological confusion, and spiritual emptiness visit our sacred sanctuary of consciousness from time to time. If these visits provoke lasting dismay, fear, and even anger, then we set ourselves up to feel frustration over and over again. If, however, we welcome each visitor as a teacher and potential ally, we move swiftly and deeply into what Marilyn Ferguson has identified as the Radical Centre of our lives.
In this sacred space, whatever is has value, even dysfunctional governments, unspeakable tragedies, and the general angst provoked by the everyday, technological domination of daily life. In this sacred space, we remember to breathe, to keep our eyes on the Reality beneath the reality. In this sacred space, we witness the storms of Maya or Illusion, but we remain steadily oriented to the still point beneath and behind all turmoil.
This Reality, also called Spiritual Truth, prevents us from being caught up in the various dramas that come at us with breakneck speed. When we live from this Reality, we are in the world but not of it. What we are of is the Spiritual underpinning of the world as we know it, the unbreakable web of connections that hold our beautiful Universe – our One Song – in Unity and in Love. Cacophonous as daily life may be, Wabi Sabi teaches us to listen for the harmonies amid the noise.
And when we can’t? When life seems overwhelmingly disturbing and defeating, we can use EFT to tap on our feelings of the moment. Perhaps after listening to the news we feel disheartened about the government shutdown and the intransigence of people who are determined to use the word OR as a cudgel when AND is ever present and ready to join rather than separate. We might tap while saying something like the following phrase: “This distress about our political polarization . . . I feel it in my chest and am afraid my heart will break. There are so many of us in jeopardy, and we all feel so powerless. What on earth is making us become such haters and ego-driven zealots? Why can’t we see the larger picture and work together?”
In my personal practice, EFT has been and continues to be my primary tool for cultivating inner peace and renewed faith in our collective ability to transcend our more adolescent responses to one another. I tap regularly for the grief I feel about ruptures – at home, in the work place, in our political system, and among nations – because the challenges we face as Earthlings require our cooperative brilliance and maturity to address them. And when I have assuaged my deep grief about apparent divisions among people and nations, I begin to tap on the story I know can unfold and is unfolding beyond our media fascination with all that is going wrong. “Even though we seem to lack the ability to work together these days, I trust that many centred and loving individuals are forming partnerships that will provide solid leadership supporting restorative culture in the days ahead. Even though we seem to be devoted to getting and spending to the detriment of our relationships and our habitat, I trust that our human and humane values are acting upon us in the name of justice and peace at all times and in all places. Even though our media suggest everyone in the world is focusing on all that is going wrong in the human and natural worlds, I trust that a rarely publicized vast global network is steadfastly leading us away from our self-destructive impulses and toward forgiveness, inspiration, conservation, generosity, reciprocity, and renewal.”
As I tap while telling myself some version of this story, I imagine people the world over offering similar prayers for peace and healing. We breathe, acknowledge the dysfunction of our families, our communities, our regions, and our nations, and then tell the alternative stories of harmonious and peaceful actions that are happening off the media radar but nevertheless making a difference. How do I know these alternative stories are unfolding? Where does my faith come from? Let us return to Wabi Sabi and the forest trail leading to the summit known as Camel’s Hump.
On forest trails we glimpse the invisible perfection of the energies informing this world. A forest holds true to its template of harmonious, reciprocating relationships, simultaneously providing space for the life and death cycles that come to all its species. Visiting a forest or any natural place that is governed by its own internal wisdom and harmony rather than by human control, we absorb the deep exchanges among those beings in a state of decay and those beings just starting off in life. We see how rocks guide waters into rivulets that ultimately join rivers and oceans. We see how different species of trees form symbiotic relationships with all manner of smaller yet no less vital species that grow in what Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls their Danger, their invisible circles of nourishment and protection. All forest beings, from the most minute nematodes to the tallest and mightiest trees, are working together to create, over and over again, a version of life that is unique. In this uniqueness we see Wabi Sabi – not the artificial perfection that comes with human governance, but the natural workings of reciprocating species that make the steady evolution of life possible.
Using EFT, no matter the extent of our dismay with human behaviours, including our own, we experience a perspective that allows us a glimpse of ourselves as members of a human forest so vast we cannot imagine it. Feeling our membership in this potentially intelligent and harmonious collective helps us to return to Ferguson’s Radical Centre. Off centre, we live from ego and fear. Centred, we sense our connection to the powerful energies connecting all that is. Scientists call these energies fields, actively informing energetic intelligences that birth and maintain the physical world. Our investment in the supremacy of matter for the last century has led to the heartbreak of orphans cast out of the garden of meaning and interdependence. A forest in all its Wabi Sabi glory allows us to experience its various fields as well as their material expression. Standing within a forest’s wholeness we learn that matter is only the visible show.
Taking in the Wabi Sabi lessons of the natural world, we bow our heads and imagine how we may yet come together – despite our imperfections – to address the daily challenges of life at home and all over the world. As we affirm the possibility of togetherness, we move toward manifesting our unique version of it. Feeling ourselves to be members of an interconnected web of positive agency, we experience the rich resilience of life on our planet. We can all choose to become part of the as yet invisible movement to transform our wastelands into metaphoric and actual gardens. With our daily use of EFT, our participation in this movement becomes a way of life.
Until next week