The Wabi-Sabi Path

At this writing I’ve been home from travels twelve days after leaving home nine weeks prior. My pilgrim certificate says I finished the Camino in Santiago de Compostela on June 14, my pre and post Camino not counted. Yet it all seems so very long ago. Perhaps it’s due to an enhanced “now-ness” I’m experiencing. The past having served its significance and the future unpredictable, not yet reality; the present doesn’t feel like limbo but something solid at every moment.

Somewhere along my Camino I realized there were two significant aspects in play. The first had to do with clearing mental, emotional, spiritual elements given perfect opportunity to arise through the physical challenges that came about. In an uncanny way, the walk had become my own personal healing timeline stretching way into the past. Thought forms would come to call uninvited. Some quite old to see if there was still any charge. Others newer to see if I would attach or if resolution had occurred. It was a test, a way to walk out the kinks if I needed to do so. Sometimes I did. Clearing is required before anything new can truly emerge. Otherwise the path remains cluttered with things that should have been ejected long ago.

In the very beginning, I made mention the Camino would show we pilgrims what we’re made of. It does. That’s its gift. I also found what I could depend on within myself, and to the depth I held certain values.

The second thing had to do with such appreciation of simplicity and humility, the imperfect, and respect for the path walked.

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In Japan they have an art form, a practice of embracing the world, as much as it is in the creation of something. It’s about finding beauty—to acknowledge what may otherwise be passed by.

Wabi-sabi is underplayed and modest, the kind of quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It’s a fragmentary glimpse: the branch representing the entire tree, shoji screens filtering the sun, the moon 90 percent obscured behind a ribbon of cloud…Sabi by itself means ‘the bloom of time’.

Within a few days of coming home, the Japanese wabi-sabi art of kintsugi came to my attention. On one level it involves mending broken things, in this case china. On another level it’s so much more. In the three-minute video below young craftsman Shimode Muneaki gives an introduction, “Traditionally, lacquer is used to reconnect shattered pieces of pottery and gold leaf is applied along the repaired fault-lines to accentuate and celebrate the fissure, rather than to hide it.”

View The Art of Broken Pieces.

Kintsugi is a visual manifestation of finding beauty in things that didn’t quite fit, perhaps broken, and putting it back together in a way that’s noticeable and acknowledges a new way of being. In the ways I speak of here, my Camino became—for me—a wabi-sabi path of renewal and simplicity.

All these things have shaped what comes. Whether the Camino delivered me beyond whatever threshold I’d foreseen before beginning my walk remains to be seen…but I believe it has. This imagery keeps coming to me: I’ve got one eye where I place my feet, the other eye given to peripheral vision…while my Third Eye is sensing what’s ahead.

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