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Messy wisdom & Wabi-sabi meditation

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This weeks article looks at how to work with the messiness of life through mindfulness. If you enjoy it, then do consider joining us this Saturday for the 
Wabi-Sabi mindfulness – The art of creative leadership and self-leadership workshop

Other news , I’ll be doing a Two day integral meditation retreat on the weekend of 1st/2nd April, click the link for full details!

In the spirit of messy wisdom, 


Messy wisdom – Accepting & working with everyday reality

Were almost five weeks into the new year now, I have a sense of a tidal shift in my work. Things being let go of, new ideas and projects to create and bring into manifestation. It feels like there are a lot of moving parts that aren’t fixed in their alignment, and it’s all a bit cloudy and messy.
For a lot of people, cloudiness and messiness are things that are to be avoided or are irritating and unsettling, stressful even. And yet many passages in our life are characterized by this ambiguity and open-endedness. Our path wanders and meanders through different stages and chapters, if we are attached to things being neat, tidy and ‘controlled’ all the time, we are going to suffer.
In the Wabi-sabi aesthetic we learn to value and be mindful of three messy things: The imperfect, the unfinished and the impermanent. By doing so we accomplish two main things:

  • We gain access to light, peaceful states of body-mind that enable us to navigate the messy patches of our life with a degree of enjoyment
  • We learn to take intelligent initiative within that messy space, developing the capacity to lead ourself and others creatively to our goals and towards order 

Below are three practice pointers for developing your messy, or wabi-sabi wisdom:

The imperfect & unbalanced – Acceptance & caring appreciation of process
By accepting the imperfect, eccentric and unbalanced aspects of ourself, our experience and our world we can begin to care for them and appreciate what they have to offer. Too often and on multiple levels we get caught up in the trap of negative imperfection-ism, that causes us to reject our experience of the moment and what we find there. By accepting what we find in the moment, imperfect as it is, we can begin to care for it, nurturing what is there toward whatever potential is possible.

The unfinished & unresolved – Acceptance or the open-endedness, taking courage and initiative
Our attachment to having things ‘right’ and ordered makes us uncomfortable with all the things that are still forming and finding their place in our lives. When we accept ongoing lack of resolution, we get comfortable with being ‘in process’. We simply and courageously set our own pace and look for the next thing that we can do to move toward eventual resolution, without feeling rushed or panicked.

The impermanent & uncertain – Accepting change & the unknown with curiosity & imagination
Rather than resisting and fearing change, we can accept and flow with it. We can be curious about both the change and our fear of it, allowing our imagination to respond to the possibilities that it offers.

You may notice that each of these practices are really different aspects of empowered acceptance. So, ‘messy wisdom follows on very much from well-balanced mindful acceptance.

Specific things to practice with
It’s good if you can take specific situations and experiences to practice around. For example, today I’ll be dipping in and out of a number of messy, unfinished areas:

  • Around a new retreat project
  • Around some long-term financial investments
  • Around my daughters University application

All of the things in your life today that are messy and unresolved are the practice, they aren’t in the way of it!

Related articles:
Cultivating your positive imperfectionist
Applying the Three C’s of Engaged Mindfulness
A wheel spinning out of balance
Allowing your mind to be messy

© Toby Ouvry 2023, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

All upcoming classes and workshops at IMA:

Ongoing – Weekly Tuesday, Wednesday Online class schedule

Ongoing on Wednesday’s, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby (Bukit Timah)

Ongoing on Tuesday evenings, 7.30-8.30pm – Tuesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby  (East Coast)

Ongoing – Introduction to Integral Meditation & Mindfulness Practice – An eight-week course

Saturday 11th February, 9am-12.30pm – Wabi-Sabi mindfulness – The art of creative leadership and self-leadership workshop

Saturday February 26th, 9.30-11.30am – Monthly Qi Gong & Taoist Breathwork Clinic & Mini-retreat

Tues 21st & Weds 22nd March, 7.30-8.30pm – Spring Equinox balancing and renewing meditation

Sat & Sunday 1st, 2nd April – Two day integral meditation retreat

Integral Meditation Asia

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