How to Embrace Wabi-Sabi

You walk into your office and there are a couple of blinds that are off kilter. You huff in frustration and try to line them up. You get in the shortest line at Lowe’s only to find out the folks in front are waiting for a price check. Sigh. This is going to be a long wait. You finish your laundry for a long business trip, only to realize that you forgot to wash your favorite slacks. Ugh.


The answer to all this frustration and gnashing of teeth is embracing wabi-sabi. So what the heck is wabi-sabi? It’s a Japanese term which means – to embrace imperfection. So, if your favorite coffee cup has a chip, you find fingerprints on your dashboard, or the graph you just made doesn’t have the font you prefer…you accept its imperfection. Wabi is defined as – a quality of austere and serene beauty expressing a mood of spiritual solitude, recognized in Zen Buddhist philosophy. Sabi is defined as – things that come with age or time and taking pleasure in that which is old or well used. Put them together and it means acceptance of things as they are including imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness.


Here is how to embrace wabi-sabi:


  • Accepting others and ourselves.  Quit judging the imperfections of others and yourself. As Barbara Scoville wrote for Tiny Buddha, “Flaws are the leveling field of humanity. We all have them, rich and poor alike. It is our blemishes that connect us with our humanness.” Judgment is debilitating. I can get caught up in judging what someone else is wearing or my jeans fitting too tight. None of this really matters in the grand scheme of things, so let it go. Spend your judgment on important things, like whether or not you should invest in your 401k.


  • Accept impermanence.  Buddha wrote, “All conditioned things are impermanent — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.” This has been a glaring reality as I am into my fifth month out of my house, after our house being flooded by Hurricane Matthew. I thought I would be in that house until I retired. Every week as we rebuilt, there seemed to be another setback. Another wall, cabinet or door removed. I have adopted the phrase, “This too shall pass.” Getting caught up with the way it was or should be is a mirage and only causes more suffering. Let it go.


  • Accept what is incomplete.  There was a time where I had a complete set of dishes, silverware and glassware. Over the last twenty years things have broken, been lost or float away to one of my kid’s dorm rooms. My daughter embraces this “incompleteness.” She frequently wears two of my earrings that I was discarding  and are unmatched. One is a blue parrot and the other is blue stone. She wears them at the same time. It’s perfectly incomplete. My trash is her beauty. There is beauty in the absence of perfection.


  • Set your intention.  My husband and I headed out to check on the status of a cabinet that was lost in shipping, and selected grout for the kitchen and bathroom floors. We had been frustrated with the cabinet because it was likely going to hold up the entire project for six weeks. Before we left the house, I said, “This is going to be a great day.” It was. The cabinet is being rushed and will be here in two weeks instead of six. I feel like having a positive outlook had an impact on our Karma. If you look for things to go your way, they will. As we both said by the end of the day, “The light at the end of the tunnel is a lot brighter now.”


  • Accept what is now.  My dear friend Susannah has been facing impermanence as she and her husband weigh job prospects across the United States. She has lived in her community for twenty years and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Fretting over what might be is causing her to suffer. It is all one big unknown. The wonderful thing is that she has a meditation and yoga practice, which can center her and bring her back to the now. Don’t look back and don’t worry about the future. Embrace the now.


This is all a work in progress. We are all works in progress. It’s not easy, but understanding and embracing wabi-sabi in your life can bring freedom from suffering.

6 Techniques to Boost Your Personal Power.

You walk into a conference and don’t recognize a single soul.  You quickly grab a seat in the back for an early escape and avoid making eye contact.  You sit down and focus on your only available friend…your phone.  Instead of reaching out to your neighbor sitting next to you, you shuffle your papers and check out Facebook notifications.  You are isolated and feeling small.  It’s time to regain your personal power. Personal power

I just finished giving a webinar yesterday on communication skills.  The way it was set up was that I had to talk continuously for 75 minutes without a break with my slides.   The only way to have interaction with the attendees was through a chat box.  The first time I gave one of these presentations, I swore I would never do it again.  It feels like talking to a lamp post.  So why did I do it again? I decided to power up.  My performance did a 180 and so did my reviews.  It was the exact same presentation but this time I brought my power.  So how did I do that?

Here ya go:

  1. Take on a power pose. I take on a power pose every time I have to speak or lead an important meeting. As written in the 3 Elements of Charisma, “Studies have shown that by simply standing in a Power Pose for two minutes, testosterone levels increase, while cortisol levels decrease, making you feel more confident and less stressed. When you feel more confident, you act more powerful.” So my default is to stand like Wonder Woman with my hands on my hips for two minutes.  I suggested this to my webinar participants forgetting there might be men on the line and one of them sent a message “Is Superman OK?”  I had to laugh.  “Sure!  Superman, Batman, The Hulk.  It’s all good.” Pick your superhero and power up.
  1. Walk with purpose. I recently read Adam Braun’s Pencils of Promise, in which he starts each chapter with a mantra and in that chapter describes how he used it. He found himself trying to get out of Thailand and on to Nepal to meet his dad when he was gravely ill.  He was sweating profusely and when he went through security his body temperature set off an alarm.  The authorities told him he had to go to the hospital and pointed him to a woman.  He mustered up his confidence, put his shoulders back, walked with purpose and approached the woman.  He told her that the authorities wanted her to take him to his flight.  She did.  Crisis averted.
  1. Where you are, is exactly where you need to be. One of the most frightening experiences of my life was getting disoriented when I got off a subway station on the west side of Manhattan. Instead of heading to West End Avenue on 104th street, I headed towards Amsterdam Avenue. It was a hot, humid summer evening and EVERYONE was on the street.  A crowd of young men started following me and were speaking a language I didn’t understand.  When I realized I was going the wrong direction, I decided it would be a really bad idea to turn around.  So I ended up putting my shoulders back and acting like I knew exactly where I was and ended up walking the full block (and it was one of those double wide blocks…it felt like an eternity) taking a left and walking all the way back on 105th street.  The men eventually faded back and I made it to my destination.  So when you walk in that conference and don’t know a soul; you’re exactly where you need to be.  Own it.
  1. Set your intention. At a conference with Christine Kane before going on stage, she goes off alone and centers herself. She sets her intention.  I now do the same thing.  I set my intention that it’s all about my client.  It’s all about the participants.  I want them all to take at least one thing and find it useful.  My intention is to serve.  When I do that, it takes the fear away.  My focus becomes about them and not me. Set your intention for your audience’s best outcome.
  1. Smile. I had the privilege of having Jackie Kellso instruct me at a Dale Carnegie class. They videotaped us speaking.  Jackie kept emphasizing that I needed to smile.  In the end, there were 7 video clips of me and the metamorphic change that happened after three days was amazing.  When I smiled?  The entire speech was enlivened.  My body language changed dramatically.  So when you walk into that interview?  Or that high stakes meeting?  Be sure to smile.
  1. Have a talisman. I have strange little habits. I drink coffee from a red cup when I have a big meeting planned. I have a particular necklace that my husband gave me that I wear when I need to feel powerful.  I try and wear red if I’m going into a negotiation.  I seem to recall that Ronald Reagan would call on the women in the press core that wore red.  A talisman is a ring or stone that is believed to have magical powers.  It’s like a rabbit’s foot.  It doesn’t matter if does or doesn’t have actual magical powers.  It just matters that you feel more powerful.

Using all these techniques to power up before and during a presentation is why that dreaded webinar turned around.  I now look forward to it.  I sit up in my chair with my headset on and smile.  I know the folks on the line can’t see me but I am positive they can feel my power.

Got Horsepower? Found Mine With A Horse Named Lollipop.

I had the great privilege to work with Renee Sievert and Michele Woodward at an Equus Coaching outing (a methodology created by Koelle Simpson) a few weeks back in the hills of Northern Virginia. Equus Coaching involves interacting one on one with a horse and, through that experience, have a better understanding of yourself and how you “show up” in the world. I thought I was going to be learning about horses but the horse held up a mirror to me.

My past experience with horses had been at camp when I was about 8 and a few trail rides. I always felt disconnected to horses. I felt like they were leading me and I had little to do in directing the path. I was just the terrified kid bobbing on top hoping we ended up at the end of the trail in one piece. I am happy to report that the Equus experience brought about a new appreciation for horses and a new self-awareness.

Rusty on the move.
Rusty on the move.

This is what I learned from my teachers, Lollipop and Rusty:

1. Attention. I love to be the center of attention. Lollipop came right over to me as I went into the round pen. He is a smaller, younger horse and he made a b-line for me. I had ten minutes to spend with him, and I think I would have been happy just petting him the entire time. I realize now, it’s one of the reasons I adore my dog, Baci, because she will follow me around the house and lay at my feet wherever I land. I feel a bit guilty, but I love the attention.

2. Intention. I need to be clear in my intention. Renee initially modeled how to lead a horse in the round pen. She stood alone in the pen with Coco (a horse she had never worked with) and through focus, attention and directed arm movements, Coco magically moved in a circle around the pen. No harness. No whistling. No strings. It was amazing (I had goosebumps). By just telegraphing her intention to the horse, she got her to move wherever and whenever she wanted. You have to know what you want to get done so if you want to be the world’s best purple squirrel catcher, set your intention and get started. Be clear in your intention.

3. Focus. I can’t lose my focus. I was amazed that I was able to move Lollipop in the same way around the pen that Renee had moved Coco. I focused in, moved my arms and he followed my intention and focus. Pretty soon he was galloping around the pen in a circle….magic….but….I lost focus. The very second I took my eye off of Lollipop, he came over to me like a moth to a flame. I lost my focus and Lollipop came back to me to find it again. This shows up everywhere in my life: unfinished books, deserted projects, languishing relationships. Stay focused.

4. Sync Up. When you are working in a group, sync up. This is going to sound crazy (cause I thought it was crazy) but I was on a team of three women that had to herd a handsome, albeit obstinate horse named Rusty without communicating using the most obvious of skills, spoken language. Using hand jesters, hope and a little bit of grit, we had to decide where we wanted Rusty to go and then go make it happen. In the end, Rusty didn’t do exactly as we expected but that was largely due to the fact that all three of us had slightly different agendas. Where does this show up for you? Did your assistant put in too much detail maybe because you didn’t communicate your expectations? If all three team members are on even the slightest different tangent, the horse does not know where to go. Sync up your team.

5. Power. I need to find my power. At one point, when we were trying to move Rusty, he stood there; and.would.not.budge. My teammate tried and then she motioned me over. I went over and got behind Rusty. I started slapping a rope against my leg. He.would.not.budge. Ugh. I was getting frustrated. I was going to move this horse. I summoned my power. My energy. I put it into my entire body and slapped the rope against my leg with full force, intention and focus. Magic. Rusty started to move. I stayed on him focusing all my intent and energy forward. He moved. I moved a 2,000 pound beast by finding my power. You cannot phone it in. If you want to move mountains, you need to find your power; FIRST.

It’s amazing how much Nature can teach us if we just pay attention to the lessons. Having a facilitator like Renee was really enlightening. She was constantly observing and saying things like “what’s your body saying to the horse?” or “where is your focus?” Think about how you show up in the world and how you are being observed. Pay attention. You can change more than you think you can.