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Celebrate your broken bits to live longer and happier!

Updated: Jul 11, 2022

The Japanese have much to teach us about life, infact J-Wellness looks set to become the new buzz word in the wellness arena.

With Wabi Sabi, Ikebana, Ikegai, shinrin-yoku to name just a few, I decided to look more closely at Kintsugi, the beautiful practice of the art of fixing broken pottery with stunning gold repair work, and what it means for us in our everyday lives.

The message is so pure and simple and yet vastly ignored in today's world, particularly with the fake world represented in social media.

"We need to break the habit of only valuing the things we typically categorise as ‘good’, such as perfection, beauty and youth, and frowning upon ‘bad’ things such as imperfection, ugliness and ageing.

And we needn’t just learn to accept these things, as our understanding of mindfulness might have us believe. Instead, we can learn to appreciate the beauty, character and story behind any imperfection, and welcome the growth, development and change that comes with it."

Mari Fujimoto, City University, New York.

Called Kintsugi - the art of golden joinery, using gold dust, resin and lacquer to create a unique pattern of golden cracks to repair something broken and make it even more beautiful than it was in the first place.

When a piece of pottery breaks, Japanese artisans don’t try to hide the cracks – they celebrate them.

"It’s a bold illustration of resilience, strength and beauty in imperfection, and a useful metaphor for human healing."

"Kintsugi is an art form born from mottainai — the feeling of regret when something is wasted — and mushin, the need to accept change: the cracks are seamed with lacquer resin and powdered gold, silver, or platinum, and often reference natural forms like waterfalls, rivers, or landscapes. This method transforms the artifact into something new, making it more rare, beautiful, and storied than the original.

"When we expect everything and everyone to be perfect, including ourselves, we not only discount much of what is beautiful, but we create a cruel world where resources are wasted, people’s positive qualities are overlooked in favor of their flaws, and our standards become impossibly limiting, restrictive, and unhealthy."

‘The traditional view in Japan is that people are part of nature, not separate from it,’ says life coach and specialist in the study of Japan, Beth Kempton, who is also the author of Wabi Sabi: Ancient Japanese teachings say perfection, completion and permanence are neither possible nor desirable, since they leave no room for growth. ‘That core teaching – that everything is impermanent, imperfect and incomplete – is a giant permission slip to explore and experiment,’ says Beth. ‘Change is inevitable – be open to it.’

The kintsugi approach instead makes the most of what already is, highlights the beauty of what we do have, flaws and all, rather than leaving us eternally grasping for more, different, other, better.

Psychologist Tomás Navarro, author of Kintsugi: Embrace your imperfections and find happiness – the Japanese way tells us: "Your scars mean you have become stronger through adversity,’ explains ‘Many people come to me saying their heart, their life or their dreams are broken, so I thought I could use kintsugi to work on these broken pieces."

‘Your imperfections are the golden glue that makes you strong, unique and beautiful: celebrate them.’ – Tomás Navarro

Re framing the story behind your own ‘cracks’ and imbuing them with a sense of meaning can bolster your resilience. ‘Don’t rush. You need time to repair and recover perspective when things have gone wrong,’ says Tomás. Get some distance, and then reassess what happened. ‘when you are in the eye of the storm, you make mistakes in your conclusions,’ he explains.

‘It’s easy to feel guilt or shame for something that was just an accident or bad luck. put what happened into context and try not to personalise or dramatise it. If you can learn from it, it hasn’t been in vain.’ The lesson is to appreciate the opportunities provided by failures and setbacks and, ultimately, not to view them in a negative way.

‘Don’t be afraid of pain. Life should be lived intensely,’ Tomás urges. ‘We have everything we need to deal with adversity, but fear of failing often limits us. We need to make mistakes in order to learn.’ It’s the hiccups, knocks and scrapes we encounter along the way that allow us to grow.

Kintsugi was invented when 15th-century Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa refused to accept that his favourite teacup was broken beyond repair


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