In the 15th Century, Japanese Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke his favourite tea bowl. He sent it to China to be fixed but was disappointed to see that it came back held together with unsightly metal staples. He then asked his Japanese craftsmen to repair the bowl more aesthetically.
The general tendency is to repair broken things with the aim of concealing the flaws and make them look as good as new. Interestingly the Japanese craftsmen filled the cracks in the bowl with lacquered resin and powdered gold, transforming the cracks into little rivers of gold. They actually highlighted the brokenness of the bowl. Now that broken bowl had not only become a stunning piece of art but had also become stronger at the cracks. This is how the Japanese art of Kintsugi was born. It is known for celebrating breakage as an integral part of the history of the object, rather than something to disguise.
This creates a radical transformation from Broken to Newly Whole, from feeling useless to Being Priceless.
Are we any different from that bowl?
In the pursuit of achieving our goals and aspirations, did we not experience some of the following:
- Friendships that went awry
- Heartaches and heartbreaks
- Some relationships that turned sour
- Unfulfilled dreams
- The feeling of not being understood
- Vulnerable moments
- Hurts, judgments, or seemingly unfair treatment
- Failures, betrayals, and traumas
These are essential ingredients in the journey of life. We may understand that conceptually, yet when we are in the midst of some challenges, it can often feel like the end of the world literally.
What really matters is how we respond to challenging experiences.
- Do we get stuck?
- Does our resilience show up?
- Do we go in denial of what’s happening?
- Do we feel like a victim?
- Do we get sucked into blame, anger, hatred, guilt, or maybe self-pity?
Even if we have a great coping mechanism, something does seem to feel broken inside. We cease to feel whole and complete, often accompanied by a concern that cracks could now show. Thus arises a desperate need to fix so that we can take our life back to how it used to be. But is that possible?
Remember the broken bowl did not become how it used to be, instead, it became better than new.
Similarly, if we observe, all those challenging experiences we went through have invariably made us stronger, more resilient, compassionate, courageous, understanding, empathetic, and wiser. They even pushed us to go into uncharted territories, and often surprised us with our own abilities and strengths. Our actual potential got revealed. Had it not been for my traumatic relationships and the ongoing high levels of anxiety, I probably would not have found my voice, courage, and the levels of empathy that I now have. I would not have explored the multiple dimensions of the human mind and its infinite potential. I may not have connected to my life purpose.
When things seem to be falling apart, how can we apply Kintsugi to:
Cultivate acceptance and appreciation of our perceived imperfections and flaws.
Believe that we can heal, and celebrate our scars as key milestones in life.
Develop compassionate sensitivity towards ourselves.
Recover from adversity to not just survive, but even thrive.
Professional guidance is undoubtedly the key.
Interestingly no two Kintsugi pots are ever alike because each pot develops its own unique cracks. So each Kintsugi pot develops into a unique piece of art.
Likewise, it is the uniqueness of our struggles, failures, rejections, heartbreaks, and traumas clubbed with our unique overcoming techniques, behaviour patterns, achievements, and successes that make each human being a true masterpiece.
Celebrate your journey through Feeling Broken to Being Newly Whole.