Wabi-sabi is the term for a Japanese world-view which is centered on the acceptance of transience and based on a beauty described as imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. The aesthetic principles of wabi-sabi include asymmetry, a roughness and unevenness of surface, simplicity, modesty, and the suggestion of a natural process.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy is always interested in exploring the world of design, and was more than happy to recently stumble upon this concept of the beauty of imperfection. He also finds it interesting, the ease with which one can get caught up in the pursuit of perfection – when in reality there is no such thing as perfection.
Is it not better to achieve the possible instead of continually trying to attain what is impossible?
During the past few months it has been very difficult at times to look at my hands and feet when they are experiencing moments of extreme inflammation, resulting in their temporary disfigurement. During some of the earlier episodes I blocked the mental image so completely that it did not pop back into my mind until a day or so later. When this mental image did come back to my mind, I still had a hard time accepting that my hands and feet could indeed really look like that, even temporarily.
I don’t think I have reached full acceptance yet, but I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that any deformities caused by my rheumatoid arthritis are a thing of beauty, something that makes me unique. They are my imperfections.
A couple of days ago my yoga instructor called me to see how I was doing. She knows that I have rheumatoid arthritis, and saw firsthand my physical decline during the past few weeks when it came to my hands and feet. I had not been in class for about two weeks, so I guess she figured it was time to check in on me and see how I was doing. (I just found out today that the entire class was huddled around the phone as she called me, but unfortunately I had not yet woken up that day and ended up having to return her call later in the day.)
After bringing her up to date on the latest, I was surprised when she told me that I was more than welcome to continue going to class. She told me I could follow the routine during the parts that I was able to do, and I could make my own modifications during the parts that I was not able to do.
This morning I went back to the gym. With my crutches tucked away on the side and a folding chair set up for me to use during the standing part of the class, I returned to my yoga practice. The synchronized nature of the room – with lined up exercise mats and people performing the routine with almost perfect timing – was definitely broken. (At moments I am sure it looked like a frat boy doing his best synchronized swimmer mock-impression.) I was originally concerned about the impact my presence might have on the environment of the yoga studio, but I later thought to myself – this is a moment of wabi-sabi, and it sure is beautiful.
After class the people who know I have rheumatoid arthritis told me it was great to see me back in class. A few people who did not know I have rheumatoid arthritis approached me to inquire on my condition. I gave them a short explanation, and they too told me that it was nice to see me back in class. One of my classmates has a mother who lives with RA, and I really appreciated the words of support that she gave me.
I had gone into the class wondering how much of the routine I was going to be able to follow, in terms of a percentage. I left with the knowledge that I got to know my body a little better this morning – and perfect or not, this is definitely not something that can be summed up in a number. And in focusing on my body instead of an ideal, I probably learned just a little bit more about the true nature of yoga practice.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!