The Grace of Imperfection

Hand-painted Kintsugi Pottery Bowl Photograph by Ruthann Hurwitz  Used under Creative Commons license from Wikimedia Commons

I began yesterday with the mindful eating of an orange; I ended it with a reverent brushing of my teeth.  My commitment to experiencing everything as if for the first time, the first of the “Music as Spiritual Practice” Journey I described yesterday, varied in-between, but it was a good practice nonetheless.

I really enjoyed finishing off the practice with a rediscovery of the joys of brushing my teeth.  I had purposefully not brushed my teeth during the day so that I had collected a residue of the day’s consumption–not nasty, but noticeable.  I ran my tongue over my teeth, recalling the delicious food and drink I had tried to eat or imbibe thoughtfully.  Then I enjoyed rubbing my all-natural toothpaste over my teeth, introducing a slight mint taste for my tongue, and tickling my inner cheeks as I created foam.  I brushed and rinsed and brushed some more and rinsed, enjoying the slick enamel I encountered when I ran my tongue over my teeth a second time.  What a great way to turn a daily chore into a sensory experience!

Our Day 2 experience is gratitude, which for me is a natural extension of yesterday’s practice.  (I know they have the qualities listed on their website, but I am deliberately not looking ahead so that each morning’s email brings me a surprise for that day’s focus.) For me, living yesterday in Reverence brought up a lot of gratitude.  For example, as I really enjoyed the taste of the cool, fresh, filtered water I drank, I couldn’t help but think of the statistics that say that 1 in every 10 people do not have access to clean water close to their home, let alone indoor plumbing or filtered water jugs like I use.  So I was really thankful that it is so easy for my family to have abundant and healthy hydration.  Some other small things that made me really grateful were:

  • I went to exchange a Christmas gift and the store had my size in my preferred color to what I had been given–and gave me an extra $50 back because the item was now on sale!
  • I returned a library book and on the “Your Lucky Day” shelf, I discovered a single copy of The Testaments,  Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, which I have been wanting to read for quite a while.  My lucky day indeed!  I snatched it up and had the luxury of completing reading it that very day, due to a lack of other obligations.  I really appreciated being able to spend much of the day reading a book that I had been looking forward to reading for so long!
  • I had just returned from grocery shopping and begun reading when my son came home asking for ginger ale or tonic water because he had an upset stomach.  We don’t typically have that around since we don’t drink it regularly, but I told him I would go back to the grocery store and get some of the “healthy” variety (it uses sugar rather than corn syrup at least) for him.  This could have been an annoyance, since I had just been at the store.  But when I went out, I realized the car door had been left open, and if I hadn’t been making this trip, when I wanted to use the car the next day I would have found the battery to be dead.  So once again, I was grateful for the need to run that additional errand.

Therefore, I think I came into today’s practice with momentum.

After following Bob and Shannon’s suggested practices, I did my own gratitude meditation, inspired not only by their song and words, but a realization I had when I was brushing my teeth.  I generally enjoy pretty good health, and I think one reason for that is that I regularly practice gratitude to my body parts.  But as I was brushing my teeth, I realized that usually I was just grateful for my mouth.  Maybe I was occasionally thankful for my teeth, or maybe my lips.  But what about the inside of my cheeks?  Mostly, I only think about them when I’ve bitten them by mistake and they are hurting, or I’m having an allergic reaction and they are itchy or have hives.  Or what about my gums?  I have been so blessed with healthy gums that I never have to worry about.  But where would I be without my gums?  No gums, no teeth–no teeth, no chewing–no chewing, no solid food.  What a big oversight I’ve been making all this time!

So this morning, before I got out of bed, I had a long gratitude meditation for my body. I tried to really focus on all the small things that I hadn’t appreciated in a long time.  For example, I always am grateful for my feet and my toes…but what about my toenails?  I actually took a break and looked up what toenails do for us.  It turns out they protect our toes when we drop things on them (which I know I do a lot).  How many more broken toes (I have one now) would I have without my toenails?  They also provide some resistance on the other side that helps to make the underside of toes more sensitive and more stable–how cool is that?  And I don’t think I’ve ever thanked that body part before.

However, I also had an added sensibility due to Shannon and Bob’s Day 2 instructions.  I spent a lot of time being grateful for the body parts that I judge negatively–my fallen arches, my left knee that has never fully recovered from a sports injury, the thighs that I have always thought were too large, my belly fat, or the large scar that runs along most of my midriff.  I tried to see the beauty, the benefits, the blessings that each of those also convey.

My father lives in Washington DC, so my son and I had just been up there for our Cross family Christmas.  My son is an artist, so along with visiting family, we also visit as many of the magnificent museums in that city as we can.  He is really into Asian culture right now, so saw a wonderful retrospective of a Japanese-American artist, Chiura Obata, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as (along with many other exhibits) one of the most iconic and internationally renowned Japanese artists, Katsushika Hokusai (he did the famous  The Great Wave off Kanagawa wood print) at the Freer Gallery of Art.

Beautiful art aside, this recent exposure to Japanese culture made me think of their concept of wabi-sari–an appreciation of the beauty of imperfection.  What a wise and wonderful way of looking at the world, I thought, and one I needed to incorporate into my own life more.  I also thought of their practice of kintsugi, in which they use gold to repair cracks in broken pottery.  It is an art of drawing attention to the beauty and the value in what we might think of as “damaged” or “imperfect.”

So that is what I’m adding to my gratitude practices today.  I’m looking for wabi-sabi, for kintsugi–for the grace of imperfection.

My resource for today is a wonderful organization called HeartMath.  Their work is all about enabling people to connect their hearts to their minds, as well as to the hearts of others.  There is a deep scientific basis to their work, which proves that people can be taught to turn away from unhealthy thoughts and feelings of stress and upsetting emotions to a healthier, more balanced state of personal coherence that benefits not only the individual, but the planet in general.

Their work is deep and too complex for me to explain, but I recommend you check them out at  I particularly associate them with gratitude because one of my great teachers at our spiritual center who utilizes Heart Math regularly says that gratitude is perhaps the quickest way to get into personal coherence.  I got a HeartMath device to monitor my personal coherence as a Christmas present, but I haven’t used it much yet.  However, I plan to have it be a tool to maintain my coherence–and my gratitude–in the coming year.



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