Wabi-Sabi

Are you wabi-sabi about your golf swing, or do you strive for constant perfection? Wabi-sabi is a philosophy that has its roots in Buddhism and is the Japanese philosophy of embracing the beauty of imperfection. It embraces the qualities of awareness, humility, imperfection and transience. It honors the inherent cycle of life with its imperfections and impermanence. It tells us to appreciate the natural things with the flaw not in spite of the flaw. It looks at the imperfections as opportunities to “go a little deeper.”

From a golf perspective, I look at wabi-sabi as an opportunity to use each experience as an opportunity to “go a little deeper” – to learn. From a golf swing perspective, wabi-sabi suggests awareness and presence in order to be open to learning from both our “perfect golf swings and perfect golf shots” and from our “awkward golf swings that produce clunkers” – with humility for success and non-judgment for the clunkers. For our golf swings, we can ask ourselves what worked and what didn’t work? What did each golf swing feel like? In order to learn and improve a physical motor skill such as a golf swing, we need to activate our awareness of the kinesthetic feel of both the “perfect golf swing” and the “awkward golf swing.” Wabi-sabi teaches us that each one has its own inherent beauty. That beauty is the opportunity to learn from each.

From the Buddhist perspective, wabi-sabi teaches us the benefit of non-judgment and an understanding of the nature of suffering. From a golf swing perspective, when we mercilessly judge ourselves, our golf swing, the results, the imperfection of our performance, and we get angry, annoyed, impatient, and we wish that something performed in the past was different, we set ourselves up for suffering. The Buddhist philosophy tells us that all suffering comes from an attachment to a desire for something to be different. Wabi-sabi encourages acceptance and an understanding of the impermanence and imperfection in the natural flow of life. When we can let go of our desire for perfection and let go of the clunkers we hit on the golf course, we open ourselves to learning. As PGA Master Professional and author of several books on the nature of learning, Michael Hebron, has said, “There are no mistakes, only learning!”

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