“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places”
– Ernest Hemingway
Most of us are broken, wounded or hurt in some enduring way.
I love Hemingway’s assertion that we can be strong in the broken places.
It reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s famous line in his song Anthem,
“Forget your perfect offering,
there is a crack, a crack in everything –
that’s how the light gets in…”
We cannot avoid pain – it’s an essential element in our inner guidance system. We need it. How we relate to our pain, on the other hand, is a different story.
I can constrict with pain, brace against it, resist, fight, deny or repress it – but each of these simply leaves me more brittle, more rigid, more fearful, more guarded, more disconnected, more isolated.
More than ever, I find my ability to feel into it, to sit with the discomfort, to track the sensations moving through me is a foundational part of living a courageous and loving life.
For me, the trick has been in learning how to have a loving relationship with pain – whether it’s connected to fear, grief, anger, helplessness or shame.
My inner journey continues to be be about relaxing into life on its terms, cultivating love and finding beauty in all of it.
It’s no wonder then that I have been so drawn to contemplating the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi – a philosophy that encourages us to embrace imperfection and to find beauty in the imperfections to find the beauty in what is messy, broken, old – and more specifically of Kintsugi, or Golden Repair – the art of repairing broken cups, plates and pottery with gold.
Each broken and cracked object is put back together using gold dusted epoxy and lacquer – making the objects whole, more beautiful and more valuable than before.
We are like this.
Cracked and broken, we are also healed and made whole again with the golden balms of compassion, understanding, truth and love.
When our brokenness and pain gets met with the illuminating beams of love, truth, compassion and understanding, we become stronger and more beautiful than we were before.
Deep change doesn’t come about because of clever treatments, scientific evidence, moralism or rules.
When we are judged, berated, imposed upon, forced to do something, manipulated or lied to … we tighten up, we constrict, we resist. Pain increases.
Deep change is a side effect of deep, gentle, compassionate relationships that inspire us to reach for our highest potential, on our own terms.
Healing needs a gentle, discerning hand, not forceful demands.
When we are loved, we awaken.
When we are loved, we change.
When we are loved, we heal.
When we are loved, our hearts open.
Brokenness is necessary for illumination.
Cracks let the light in.
Melt the barriers in your heart.
Now it’s your turn …. I’d love to hear from you:
Have you been made more beautiful and stronger by painful experiences in your life?
Embrace imperfections in yourself and others?
What gets in your way? What helps?
Leave a comment below …
This is exactly the lesson my life has been teaching me over the past two years, in multiple and intense ways. I have even taken to calling the fried eggs I cook each morning for me and my husband “wabi sabi” eggs because the pan I prefer to cook them in is really too small for 4 eggs. But they taste yummy and are spectacularly gorgeous in their flipped and broken messiness if seen through a “wabi sabi” lens. Going to work on adding kintsugi touches now (and not just to the eggs).
Thanks for this post. It’s inspiring.
LOL – I’m going to start calling my eggs (and multiple other food item attempts) my wabi sabi eggs as well – I love that!
meeting my need for integrity and authenticity, nvc and you have gifted/taught me the wisdom and capacity to "cherish all my feelings…" even the painful ones. The light and curiosity have been new invaluable tools to feel the painful feelings and then translate them into needs. However I am still a beginner. But it makes so much more space for the positive feelings that i was keeping out. Yes i can apply it to others if i try. Old habits get in the way such as self-righteousness. But nvc and pausing and friends and mentors like you help. EG What would Yvette say/do. Thanks so much again. suzanne
Hi Suzanne … we are all on this journey together; I love knowing that you continue to practice cherishing all feelings! YAY!
I forgot. I use/ believe WABI SABI since many years when I found a little book about it. Most days i look around my condo and say Wabi Sabi. Thanks
Love it Yvette… have you heard the Pete Mayer song, Japanese Bowl?…It speaks of the same thing you are writing about. I have been cracked open in a variety of ways…leaving the priesthood, and the love I lost in all of that was one of the biggest for me…..still on the mend, like the rest of us… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOAzobTIGr8
Love the song Tom – Thank you! And I’m right there with you … on the mend!
This is lovely. I just brought up Kintsugi in a presentation on recovery this morning, on the wholeness of self. In my own life sometimes I sometimes feel as though there might be more gold than original material. I often describe my heart as a vessel that has been pieced back together like a beautiful mosaic…and where once there was a smooth surface there is now a multifaceted reflection, crafted and cared for…created with the desire to yet have the capacity to hold love. I also know, on a deeper level than before, that it needs to be protected against those who would break it…and have developed trust in the ability to hold that boundary of protection. No longer am I reckless in the offering up of my heart.
I love the image of being almost more gold than bowl 🙂 And especially appreciate the learning about when and to whom to offer up our hearts 🙂 Self trust is a precious learning.
I enjoyed your writing this week, and love that quote by Leonard Cohen.
Nothing to do w the cracks being dusted w real gold ("goldish") or my husband’s given name, Leonard Marshall Cohen!! And yet middle name Marshall, to boot!!! Am I blessed, or what?
And I love the beauty, brilliance and richness of the photo of the Kintsugi piece!
I wondering if you are having the Coachning Q & A Tele Phone Call this Friday. I didn’t see it mentioned in your last group message, and I know registration is requested or required.
I hope to be w you and others then, over the computer.
Love, Lisa Goldish
Hi Lisa! I love your story about the name! Wow — Also … I put the coaching calls on hold temporarily as I have been trying to get more clarity on where I actually want to spend my energy … I will bring them back at some point, but we won’t be meeting online in February … Hope that at least clarifies for now! Warmly, Yvette
Hi Yvette– I had written the response below before reading the other comments. I see that Tom Esch is a Peter Mayer fan as well. Maybe I’ll see you at a concert someday, Tom!
Thank you, Yvette; beautiful metaphor.
Are you familiar with Peter Mayer (local singer/ songwriter)? I believe I am one of many who would like to claim him as a personal muse. 🙂
Here are the lyrics to one of his songs, Japanese Bowl; I thought you might like it.
I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
That were made long ago
I have some cracks in me
They have been filled with gold
That’s what they used back then
When they had a bowl to mend
It did not hide the cracks
It made them shine instead
So now every old scar shows
From every time I broke
And anyone’s eyes can see
I’m not what I used to be
But in a collector’s mind
All of these jagged lines
Make me more beautiful
And worth a much higher price
I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
I was made long ago
I have some cracks you can see
See how they shine of gold
I continue to work on embracing my imperfections. Shadow work, the scars and cracks… diving into the pain and brokenness… therein lies the gold. Your words and Peter’s song help, as does this experience that lives in me: several years ago, after completing a week-long training in CA near the Golden Gate Bridge, I drove north to Stinson Beach. Across the street from the beach entrance was a home, and at the end of the driveway the owners had placed a beautiful full-length mirror. It had a large crack toward the bottom. On the mirror, written in large, bold letters was a sign: FREE. I took a photo of myself reflected in that mirror. Broken. Broken and Free. When I am able to accept my brokenness, to humbly admit my faults, to know I am worthy even when I fail, it is then that I am free. There seems to be so much I still need to un-learn to truly integrate this-!
With deep gratitude,
A related story. When I was 6 years old, my maternal grandmother died. (1955) 15 years earlier, she had breast cancer, and recovered after she had "gold treatments". This was the story my mother passed down. My mom didn’t have any details about what a gold treatment means and I haven’t been able to find any reference to it. I’ve been having pain in the back of my leg that wakes me at night and affects my walking. About 2 weeks ago when I awoke in the night, I somehow thought of my grandmother and her gold treatment. I visualized spreading gold on my leg. The pain subsided and I was not bothered by it the next day. And a few days later, I come upon this post!
I so appreciate your lessons, Yvette. Thank you.
In the Loving Kindness meditation at Common Ground last Friday night the talk was about forgiveness of others and yourself as imperfect humans. As an inperfect (but as beautiful as the bowl) person I ask your forgiveness, I forgive you and I forgive myself. The hardest for me is forgiving myself.
My lullaby to myself and others:
May you be safe and protected
May you be healthy and filled with peace
May love and happiness surround you
And each day have ease and joy.
Ivette, as I explore deeper into your blog, your website, your videos, I am just amazed at how much resources you lovingly offer. A true giving of the heart and soul it seems, for anyone who is willing to receive, I am truly grateful . I seem to always feel more empathy, interest for everybody and everything that has a story, that carries blemishes, cracks, scars and wounds. Undoubtedly we all carry wounds that leave a mark, a trace and a clear evidence or path for growth. I feel warmly accepted and cuddled here, but most importantly guided in a forgiving and joyous path. I don’t find it hard to embrace my imperfections and others. I can’t seem to be willing to live with someone now, no matter how I´ve tried. Attachment is a force to be reckoned with and I can’t seem to overcome it. I will definitely try to use all of these resources you offer. I hope my english is good enough, I am mexican and it is not my first language. Peace and warmth, Alejandro