In some cultures, broken glass or a bowl is a sign of good luck that will bring wealth and fortune. In my experience, it is usually a prediction of a trip to a homewares shop and a slightly lighter bank account.
Broken pieces are usually swept on a dustpan and thrown out. On rare occasions, we try to repair and keep damaged things if the perceived value is worth it with one condition. The item needs to be restored to look exactly like it did before it hit the floor falling out of your hands.
I spent a good couple of hours once crawling on the floor and looking for broken pieces of a little clay figurine. Running to the shops would not save me this time. This little trinket in the shape of a fountain face was brought from Naples by my friend.
It was a memory of a great trip to Italy that could not be bought in our hometown and I accidentally broke it while spending time at a friend’s house. But there is nothing that a tube of superglue and a little think-believe could not fix.
After I finished, I gave it back saying, “I did it, looks as new!” We both knew that I failed as the figurine was covered in a spider web of cracks and drops of dried glue.
What is Kintsugi?
Kintsugi translate as Golden joinery is the art of mending broken bowls that became popular in 15th-century Japan. It is directly linked to tea ceremonies that used expensive at the time pottery. Traditionally broken bowls and teacups were fixed with varnish. In Kintsugi a golden paste is used instead to glue shuttered pieces together.
The point of Kintsugi is not to hide the cracks but to fix broken pottery in such a way that cracks are not only visible but emphasized. The breakage and repair is an important history of the object that does not need to be hidden.
The brokenness of a bowl becomes the focus of attention. Masters of art will even add pieces from another bowl with a different texture and colour if the original broken parts could not be found.
What Is Common Between Human Flaws And Broken Teacups
The principles of Kintsugi can be equally applied to human lives and change our relationship with imperfections.
When a person was brought down by major events in life we often refer to them as broken. This ancient art teaches us that stuff in our lives happens but it by no means is the end of a broken bowl.
When a kintsugi craftsman chooses to mend a broken clay bowl with a golden paste, it creates a unique look and increases its value. At that moment the broken bowl ends its life as a mundane and boring utensil and becomes something beautiful.
A Beauty can be born from the state of brokenness just as valuable learning and resistance can emerge from human suffering. But this can only happen if we choose to see the hardship that way.
By mending the damaged parts of us with the golden paste of acceptance we no longer have to hide from the past. By acknowledging the flaws of our character we realise our unique value.
Why We Should Accept Ourselves With All Imperfections
Offer your imperfections a chair at the table and you will see something important. There are no flaws. It is just one quality of your personality traits. Just like one man’s trash is another man’s treasure your personality traits will present themselves as strength or weaknesses depending on the context.
Anxious personalities are masters of preparation and planning. Impulsivity’s twin brother is creativity. Obsessions are twin cousins of perfection. However, by denying the existence of the negative sides of a trait you also lock up its positive cousins.
Carl Jung calls these dark sides of our personality “the shadows”. We are often oblivious to them as denial is ingrained on a subconscious level. This is however not the best way of living and this is why:
- Denial takes an enormous amount of energy. Pretending to be “normal” has an emotional cost.
- It robs you of uniqueness as well as an ability to yield the power of your personality in your career, personal life and creativity.
- The feeling of being an imposter will always follow you around. Deep inside you know that the persona you have to maintain lacks authenticity. What is worse people around you can detect this with their BS meter.
- Your authentic self wants to come out. By shoving your shadows to the storage room again and again you are in a risk of creating a bigger problem down the road.
The realisation of our inadequacy is a pre-requisite to this work. This usually happens when the bowl gets broken. As much as painful that is there is no other way out but through. Your alternative is to remain pretending to be a boring grey utensil sitting on the shelf until the expiry day comes.
Every single clay teacup can be made beautiful by being broken and mended with gold or silver spider cracks. But only a small fraction of them gets into the hands of the Kintsugi master.
Humans are lucky in that we are the bowl and the master. We can break and mend ourselves only if we realise the value of the process. Your life is beautiful but it will take work for you to see it.
Rumi wrote, “A wound is a place where the light enters.” It Is through pain and suffering we are faced to accept the true nature of ourselves. It is thought these cracks in us the light comes in to illuminate what is inside us.
How To Use Kintsugi Principles In Practice
Become clear on your shadows by using the following ways:
- Taking an Enneagram personality test. I recommend Enneagram as it is a comprehensive system that shows the full spectrum of personality qualities. Once you know your personality type look for how it behaves in an undeveloped state. These will point to your likely shadows that will need work.
- Seek feedback from a broad range of people. That list should include not only your friends who are likely to emphasise your best traits but anyone from co-workers or classmates.
- Work with a coach who understands the concept of shadows and can help you to identify those in your sessions.
Reframe stressful and challenging situations as valuable learnings. Recognise these are the breaking process of the clay bowl that can lead to something meaningful. The breakage needs to be followed by mending acceptance and searching for meaning.
Finally, sign up for a Kinstugi class in your city. Create your masterpiece with a knowledge of what it represents. Keep it visible as a reminder of the beauty that can be born out of imperfection through acceptance and learning.