Balance

An example of kintsugi, similar to or an expression of wabi-sabi. Photo by Riho Kitagawa on Unsplash

“Get rid of all that is unnecessary.

Wabi – sabi means treading lightly on the planet and knowing how to appreciate whatever is encountered, no matter how trifling, whenever it is encountered.

[…] In other words, wabi – sabi tells us to stop our preoccupation with success — wealth, status, power, and luxury—and enjoy the unencumbered life.

Obviously, leading the simple wabi – sabi life requires some effort and will and also some tough decisions.

Wabi – sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: to let things be.

Even at the most austere level of material existence, we still live in a world of things.

Wabi – sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things.”

Leonard Koren

I wonder about that last line. Did he mean, “freedom from things”? As in too many things? Or freedom to have things without being burdened by them? I suppose they’re both similar concepts.

I often feel like I’m trying to do too much in too little time and I’m constantly working to pare down what I have and what I do. I think that if I focus more precisely on the things that are actually meaningful to me, I’ll get more enjoyment out of life.

And, importantly, the paring down process helps me to fully realize what actually is important to me, because it removes things that obviously didn’t make the cut from my life and my mind.

Things that we own, plans that we worry about making or keeping, items on our to-do lists, they all have weight and are a burden on our minds, even when we’re not actively thinking about them. I want to live a life where I’m not constantly worrying about stuff and things that I need to do because the stuff and things that I need to do are proportionate to my ability to manage them in a meaningful way.

As an aside, the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic is really wonderful and worth the time to learn about.

The Revelation of Sonmi-451

“To be is to be perceived, and so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other. The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequences of our words and deeds, that go on apportioning themselves throughout all time. Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

Sonmi-451

That’s a very dark and simultaneously hopeful message about personal responsibility and duty to others. Our lives are not our own. We exist in relationship to other people and everything we do affects everyone and everything around us now and in the future. Those that came before us influenced us. What an interesting idea, that we’re like ripples in space and time that never end.

Maintaining inner peace through right speech and action

When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.

The Dalai Lama
Photo by Sunilkumar Krishnamoorthy on Pexels.com

When I read this quote by the Dalai Lama, I thought about the times that I’ve lost my patience and said or done something that I immediately regretted. The embarrassment and guilt from those types of situations can sit with me for days while I rehash them in my mind and wonder about possible outcomes.

Obviously, there’s another problem there of living in the past instead of living in the present, which isn’t healthy on its own, but all actions have consequences. I think this is something the Buddha was aware of and is an important part of the idea of karma. The things we say and do that we might wish we could take back not only create guilt and bad feelings between us and other people, but, according to Buddhist teachings, they also add negative karma which can come back to visit us in this life or the next.

So, sure, live in the present, but it’s also important to help that along by not doing things that anchor us in the past. In other words, spending more time listening and thinking before speaking or doing so that we don’t get stuck in a cycle of worry and anxiety. I’m not saying that to preach to anyone. It’s more of a personal reflection and a reminder to myself to be vigilant as a means of improving my mental clarity, focus, and quality of sleep.

I’ve come to believe that simplicity is best, and the simplifying process doesn’t have to be restricted to discarding or giving away unused goods, it can also be a simplification of mental burdens by removing unnecessary worries and stresses by doing and saying the right things at all times. It’s like that old adage about not lying, so you don’t have to maintain the mental burden of remembering which lies you’ve told to which people.

As for what the right thing to do and say is, well, that’s more subjective and depends on context.

Being happy with enough

A lot of the problems we have in the world right now are because people want things that they don’t need, like a new phone every two years for example, and it creates a constant dissatisfaction with the present.

I wonder if this is why rich people kill themselves? They have so much, and not knowing what to do with it and not having time to use it must create additional layers of dissatisfaction.

The focus on living in the present moment that Marcus Aurelius wrote about reminds me of Buddhism. Aurelius even says that we shouldn’t worry about the past or the future because they do not exist.

The True Self

Photo by Jay Castor on Unsplash

…the True Self is the self that existed before the division of heaven and earth and before one’s father and mother were born. This self is the self within me, the birds and the beasts, the grasses and the trees and all phenomena. It is exactly what is called the Buddha-nature. This self has no shape or form, has no birth, and has no death. It is not a self that can be seen with the aid of your present physical eye. Only the man who has received enlightenment is able to see this. The man who does see this is said to have seen into his own nature and become a Buddha.

The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman by Takuan Soho

“If Man-Bat dressed up as a man to fight crime, would he be Man-Batman?”

“The Big Bang Theory” Season 9, episode 21. In the comic book store:

Sheldon: I have a question about Batman. Batman is a man who dresses up like a bat. Man-bat is a part man, part bat hybrid. Now, if Man-Bat dressed up as a man to fight crime, would he be Man-Batman?

Leonard: No, he’d be Bat-Man-Bat.

Raj: But wouldn’t Man-Batman just be a Batman that was bitten by a radioactive man?

Howard: But Batman is a man. You’re talking about a man who would have the powers of a man. That’s just Man-Man.

Sheldon: Well, isn’t Man-Man just Man?

Leonard: But what if Man-Man dressed as a bat?

Raj: Well, that’s just Batman.

Leonard: No, if a man dresses as a bat, that’s Batman, but if Man-Man dresses as a bat, that’s Batman-Man.

Howard: So does that answer your question?

Sheldon: Oh, I haven’t asked it yet.

If Batman is a man dressed like a bat, then wouldn’t a Man-bat dressed like a man actually be Manman-bat?