Wabi-Sabi In My Cup

It was the first outing in a really long Covid stricken time as I walked into this secluded, exclusive artistic store. Admiring a creatively laden aisle of exquisite porcelain cups, the intricate patterns on the fine gilded edges and smooth contours seemed to tell stories from my life. Overcome by a sudden rush of emotions, I remembered the times gone by and loved ones who had moved on. Still reminiscing, I wandered to the far end of the aisle where a lone abandoned cup pushed against the back of a shelf caught my eye. I reached out for it carefully, picking it out of its hidden nook, marveling at the beautiful golden pattern that was made on it. I thought it a little strange that such a work of art was being ostracized. I had my answer as I turned the cup over and spotted the minuscule perforations and almost invisible “hairline” fractures on its base. To me the pattern they made, crisscrossing delicately across the surface of the cup, were as much a part of the beauty of the cup. I felt a strange pull, as if the cup were calling out to me, and in that moment I found wabi-sabi in my cup. I guess I must have been staring at the cup for long as I saw the store-keeper hurrying towards me.

Her face showed the embarrassment of being caught trying to hide a cracked cup as she began her apology speech, “My staff missed removing this cup. Really sorry.” She offered to show me the finest array of porcelain, afraid that her brand and credibility might get tarnished.

I smiled to allay her fears and pointing to the cup in my hand, I said, “I would like to have this cup please.” 

She insisted, “This cup is cracked and it will leak and ruin your furniture.”

But I wasn’t going to let anything come between my cup of wabi-sabi and me! I used the best of my convincing skills and walked out of the store as the proud owner of a cracked porcelain cup. Once at home, I poured a strong, roasted bean brew into it and placed it on a coaster. I did not sip it, instead, I watched the vapours fill the air with an aroma that would delight any coffee drinker’s heart. Before long, the gradual trickle of brew made its way through the cracks in the cup, leaving a brownish circular imprint on the coaster. The old me would have got triggered at this sight, but wabi-sabi had given me a new lens to look, observe and perceive. I learned an important lesson from the wabi-sabi in my cup – to shed the armour and façade of “forever perfect” to “imperfectly perfect.”

So, now when things don’t go exactly as planned, I find myself allowing things to flow out from the cracks and going with the flow. Some of the webinars hosted by me recently, bear testimony to the wabi-sabi approach of embracing imperfection. The technical glitches, sound issues, log-in bloopers, and situations that were far from “perfect”, which would have normally got me exasperated, actually felt so real and authentic that it was liberating! One such webinar, titled, “Emotional balance in turbulent times” truly tested my own balance with all the turbulence around, but I sailed through with an exuberance that comes from just being present to what is present. My wabi-sabi cup is a reminder that imperfect is beautiful and as I breathe this emotion, I feel unchained and set free. I read somewhere, “It’s the coffee that matters, not the cup.” For me, it is definitely the wabi-sabi in my cup that makes even the most imperfect coffee taste perfect.

Sonia Mehta
Sonia Mehta

Sonia, a lawyer, driven by her passion to help people unleash their potential, followed her heart and became a Leadership Coach and Facilitator. After 34 years of serving hundreds of clients globally, today she is her own brand www.soniathecoach.com A woman who wears many hats and each with equal elan – she sings; writes poetry; has acted in a German film, done web series and several plays. An ardent coffee drinker and avid traveller, she’s based in Gurgaon.

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Picture Credit: Larisa Birta on Unsplash,
samer daboul from Pexels

31 thoughts on “Wabi-Sabi In My Cup”

  1. It’s not only the beautiful cup that’s wabi sabi, each one of us are wabi sabi, but how many of us are ready to acknowledge that , is the question. Great read Sonia.

    1. Thank you for such a powerful and liberating perspective Simi. Indeed we are all Wabi Sabi.And we need to cherish that.

  2. Yes… A gentle reminder to oneself ,to embrace the imperfections in ourselves ,our lives and others …. And enjoy that .
    Perfect can be boring .
    Great piece ..👏👏👏

  3. Thank you Divvya. Yes, there is beauty all around in the imperfections. We need to accept and embrace.

  4. Very good read son di …my take away was … how an acceptance of things ..is a sign of growth , maturity and inner peace … just like a good mature cup of coffee !!!! Lol 😂!!! Looking forward to more articles by u .. 👍🏻

      1. A lovely read Sonia! It is a great achievement to embrace imperfections specially in oneself!! Enjoyed it!

  5. So true Sonia….after reading this beautifully written anecdote by u I realize that actually perfection at times nags u to no limits….from today I will try and follow your wabi sabi approach…..

  6. Nothing is perfect in nature.. It’s all flawed beauty. So why look for perfection and permanance in our lives. Just go with the flow.. Nothing lasts forever, so enjoy the autumn leaves, the old photos, the vintage pieces, the tarnished silver.. Whatever brings a smile and tranquility to you. Life is so beautiful because of wabi sabi.. Such a nice reminder, Sonia. Enjoyed reading it.

    1. Priya how beautiful are your analogies of autumn leaves, vintage pieces and tarnished silver and to find tranquility in what is. Thank you for sharing your rich thoughts.

  7. Well written and a wonderful approach to life, allowing us to embrace the imperfections that are part of everyday life rather than hankering for a miraculous re-boot. Thanks Sonia!

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Sanjay. It’s work in progress for me as far as Wabi Sabi is concerned. I do find it liberating and real hence worth emulating.

  8. Enjoyed reading the article. It truly is liberating to accept and see the the beauty of imperfection. Comes with some level of wisdom ,or spiritual maturity,I think. Looking forward to the next article.

    1. Thank you for your gracious comment Eera. As I said in my previous comment it is work in progress for me. But I find it so liberating. Thanks again.

  9. Imperfectly perfect…. such an exhilarating phase !
    Needs some work to translate into reality, some acceptance and lots practice.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. I agree it does need practice. Our default settings keep showing up. Consistent and constant practice helps us change the wallpaper. Thanks for sharing Nomita.

  10. Beautifully expressed Sonia!! We are so busy trying to be perfect that somewhere we loose the exuberance, the spontaneity and simplicity of life!!!I would rather be “ imperfectly happy” than to be perfect, impeccable but unhappy and mechanical !!!”

  11. Really loved the article Sonia. It is the wabi sabi that makes life real, authentic and interesting. Perfection can be a myth because even the moon which is an epitome of beauty is not flawless.

    1. Beautiful expression Shilpa. Yes the moon is a classic example of “imperfectly perfect” and perhaps that’s why it epitomises the ultimate beauty.

    2. What a wonderful piece. If only one could live with, and not just live with, but celebrate imperfection (in ourselves and the world around us), how perfect and uplifting it would be.

      1. You said it Vinita. Embracing imperfections can be so uplifting. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  12. Dear Sonia,
    Loved the read and way you wove it with a personal story. IMO, perfection is a myth, and often people get stifled / caught up in getting things perfect.
    Grocery stores have in the pursuit of getting the perfect fruit and vegetables on the aisle, been irresponsible in throwing out perfectly edible food, which could have been food for millions! Well, some seem to have woken up and are selling imperfect food now.

    I guess this could be used to fix relationships that are fixed, the crack being the reminder, of the repaired fence or the lines that need to be respected to maintain a cup that is not going to leak.
    My take would be to find a balance between, quality and acceptability and move on…life is too precious to be chasing the perfection myth. Sonia, would love to see the picture of the cup – was it Red?

    1. Thank you Rajesh for making the time to read and respond with such rich examples of the grocery store and our relationships. Perfection as you rightly pointed out is a myth, perhaps a mirage. Regarding the colour of my cup, your question made me smile. After all these years you remember! For a change it wasn’t red. Thank you.

  13. It is our constant search for the perfect and the best which causes so much anxiety and stress! Thank you for the reminder that there is beauty and meaning in brokenness, in fact, perhaps that which is broken is the most beautiful of all.

  14. It is our constant search for the perfect and the best which causes so much anxiety and stress! Thank you for the reminder that there is beauty and meaning in brokenness, in fact, perhaps that which is broken is the most beautiful of all.

  15. Thank you for your enriched perspective Maureen. Life is so beautiful if we don’t add unnecessary stress and anxiety of “getting it perfect” as you aptly described. Broken is beautiful. Somewhere we all our broken and aren’t we beautiful?

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