Wabi Sabi People...

(...places and things.....etc.)

The community of people who share an appreciation for wabi sabi is greater than might first be thought. The aesthetic is part of the human experience, and people all around the world and at most points in history, sense its importance. Here are just a few of the people who exhibit wabi sabi in their art, teaching, or lifestyle. Following the list of people is a list of places, objects, and activities that will help give an idea of where you might look to find it.

Wabi Sabi People | Wabi Sabi Places | Wabi Sabi Objects | Wabi Sabi Activities

Wabi Sabi People


Sen No Rikyu 16th century Zen priest and poet Rikyu developed the Wabi style of tea in Japan, bringing to fruition an understanding of Tea as a form of meditation.
Jane Goodall Jane has practiced careful mindful noticing in a natural setting for over 45 years. Her quiet, authentic personality compliments her work and demonstrates the best of a wabi sabi lifestyle.
Epictetus A slave who was freed in order to teach stoic philosophy, Epictetus lived a life of reason which, for Stoics, meant living virtuously and ‘according to nature’. His teachings bear a striking resemblance to Buddhist Dharma and focus on ethics as a path to serenity.
Francis of Assisi Rejecting a life of wealth in his fathers fabric trade, Francis embraced poverty and nature as a path to individuation.
Gautama Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) Upper class prince who left luxury and privilege to explored strict aestheticism in a search for a way to deal with suffering. Received enlightenment on a middle path between the extremes. Taught that the way to deal with suffering was to accept impermanence and imperfection. His down-to-earth teachings provided the basis for Zen Buddhism which informed the tea ceremony and the development of a concept of wabi sabi.
Henry David Thoreau Writer and naturalist who lived wabi sabi on the edge of Walden Pond, guided by the maxim "Simplify, simplify." He strictly limited his spending, his belongings, and his impact on the earth. His goal: "To live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach."
Rene Girard Historian and linguist, Girard identified the mimetic mechanism that underlies much of human culture including our tendency to compete and go to war. Profoundly wabi sabi because awareness of memesis contributes to individuation and acceptance of others in their imperfect, transient state.
Mahatma Gandhi Legendary human rights leader who worked for non-violent solutions to social problems and advocated simple living, unvarnished dialogue, and a recognition of the impermanence of all solutions.
Thomas Merton Modern contemplative who lived as a Trappist monk and wrote about the deep poetry contained in simple daily occurrence such as rain and cooking. He successfully demonstrated a connection between his own mysticism and his experience of nature.
Annie Dillard Author of books that ponder the facts of nature in such a way as to reveal beauty and grotesqueness, Annie was named the first living Earth Saint by Earth Light magazine. Her unflinching honesty about nature, humanity, and God rank her as one of the most authentic writers today.
Matsuo Munefusa (Basho) Japanese poet who influenced the development of Haiku. He emphasized the color of a poem, or its sabi. Born into a samurai family he rejected the trappings of wealth and became a wanderer, studying Zen, history, and classical Chinese poetry. He lived serenely in relative poverty with spare resources, relying on a modest patronage and donations received from his many students. Basho: "Where there is no sabi, there will be
E.F. Schumacher Challenged "bigger is better" and began a movement towards an economic understanding of human-scaled technology. This movement produced the body of knowledge behind the overworked but never the less valid idea of "sustainable development."
Leonard Koren
Author, architect, publisher, and artist, Koren brought the concept of wabi sabi to the west with his book, "Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. Still one of the most interesting and insightful books on the subject.
George Fox A man of limited education who wandered the English countryside in search of answers, Fox came to realize that the the inner light of Christ was in all people and was a sufficient and adequate authority to guide everyone to the truth. This simple conviction lead him and his followers into conflict with authorities in church and state. Stressing equality and the virtue of honest direct dealings, Fox and his fellow friends influenced a generation with an alternative to hiarchy and elitism. Fox's life mirrors the Buddha's in many ways.
Ansel Adams Known for his black and white masterpieces, Adams was a powerful advocate for the preservation of wilderness and nature. His ability to see wabi sabi and capture it with the camera is unrivaled.
Richard Foster Modern day Quaker who turned many towards authentic lifestyles with his popular books, "Celebration of Discipline" and "Simplicity".
Sam Gamgee Gardener and friend of Frodo Baggins. Sam's longing for his home in the Shire and all the simple beauties of rural life is a clear example of someone who appreciates the wabi sabi characteristics of country life.
Mary Ann Evans (George Elliot) Filled her books with details and melancholy reflections on the daily duties and joys of life. Several of her characters chose wabi sabi values over wealth and status.
Shoreline Large bodies of water produce fascinating shorelines. Be they ocean cliffs worn from the pounding surf or lake shores who's reedy edges host dragons flies and water bugs, the intersection of water and land at these places is particularly wabi sabi.
River Bank Rivers wear away the land, and in so doing reveal fossils and ancient stones. The banks of rivers are often lush with foliage and fauna. One of the three sweet spots of wabi sabi river banks are worth visiting.
Stream Edge The third of the wabi sabi sweet spots can be the sweetest of them all. Common and often subdued, stream edges lack the grandeur of shorelines and river banks, but hide small intimate areas where each step can reveal new beauty.
Worn Stones Especially those which reveal patterns, imperfections and "li".
Bonsai Small potted trees which capture the look of ancient weather worn ones.
Drift Wood Worn by water, sand and wind, the grain and pattern of the wood is revealed in interesting ways.
Used Tools Showing the wear of time and the use by human hands, tools that have been cared for and maintained over time take on a certain distinction. That "in the state of wearing out" is wabi sabi.
Beads The ones made of stone, shell, seed, wood, or other natural substance. Keeping them with you as an aid to prayer or meditation also allows you to remind yourself of the need for natural products in your life.
Aquariums A way to bring fish into your life. These living jewels are calming to the heart and good examples of wabi sabi, always in transition, growing and dying. Creating underwater gardens inside your aquarium can be similar to maintaining a zen stone garden.
Wabi Sabi Activities
Fly Fishing "I have always felt strongly that in order for our planet to survive, children need a means of immersing themselves in the middle of God’s creation," Says the 'fishing Nun, Sister Carol Anne Corley. "Fly-fishing is something you cannot do in an ugly place or with an ugly spirit."

Walking Dr. James M. Rippe, cardiologist, director of the Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center ran psychological tests on 36 volunteers who walked for 40 minutes on five separate occasions at slow, moderate, and fast paces. Results showed that at any walking speed there was immediate and significant reduction of anxiety, and an improvement of mood. Walking in nature reconnects you to the patterns and images that can reset your inner idea of beauty.
Pottery To a potter working with clay is more than playing in the mud. The tactile encounter with elemental substances and the process of creating with your hands is deeply wabi sabi. Raku pottery was developed to meet the requirements of the wabi tea masters.
Paper making If you haven't tried it you don't know what you are missing. Incorporate flowers, seeds, and other natural fibers into your slurry and the result will be good enough to frame and hand on the wall.
Tai Chi The ancient exercise and spiritual discipline that helps you slow down, release stress, and experience the joy of symbolic movement and balance.
Archery Classic Japanese Zen practice. Read Zen in the Art of Archery and you may be hooked.
Canoeing Any small water craft can take you to the sweet spot of wabi sabi, that place where water, air, and land all meet. The shore from the water can be rich in wabi sabi experience. Paddle with your eyes wide open.
Meditation Adze or various other form of meditation have actual measurable effects on brain states, allowing the wabi sabi attitude to grow and develop.
Writing Poetry, such as Haiku, can help shape your mind towards seeing, recording and sharing wabi sabi moments.