Traditionally, kintsugi refers to the Japanese art of repairing cracks in pottery by sealing them with lacquer and dusting them with gold powder; but in a philosophical sense, it treats―and celebrates―breakage as part of an object’s unique history. In Kintsugi Wellness, out April 17, Candice Kumai shows us how to apply this loving, common sense approach to wellness in our own lives, drawing on her Japanese heritage, as well as personal journeys in food, travel, and heartache. More in an edited excerpt below.
Kintsugi made me who I am today.
The practice of kintsugi—repairing broken vessels by sealing the cracks with lacquer and carefully dusting them with gold powder—is a remarkable art. The Japanese believe the golden cracks make the pieces even more precious and valuable.
It’s beautiful to think of this practice as a metaphor for your life, to see the broken, difficult, or painful parts of you as radiating light, gold, and beauty. Kintsugi teaches you that your broken places make you stronger and better than ever before. When you think you are broken, you can pick up the pieces, put them back together, and learn to embrace the cracks.
Many of us are struggling to be better, to recharge, or to keep up. We’re constantly searching for the secret to self-improvement. But we know, on some deep level, that there is no secret. In order to heal and feel whole, we have to do the work.
Through kintsugi, we learn it is okay to hurt and grieve. It is okay to be vulnerable. It is okay to accept and allow yourself the time to share, to open up, to exercise compassion.
Wherever you are right now, I urge you to take a solid look back on all that you have experienced, and all that you have healed and sealed from. More often than not, we do not pay attention and we do not track our progress. We live in a culture where we expect perfection and condemn ourselves when we are not perfect or when things don’t go our way. But sometimes, it takes years of persistence, hard work, and dedication to better hone and own your perfected craft before you can see the bigger picture.
Like a map of your heart, kintsugi shows us the lessons and reveals the truth. As much as the struggle, the pain, the trials and tribulations sucked, even when things were not your fault, all of life’s hurt can be mended through golden repair. When we change our mind-set about our past, we have come out of the struggles as a much more beautiful and refined version of ourselves. Your kintsugi cracks become gold by doing the work.
The spirit of kintsugi is also about forgiveness. It’s a practice of self-love. Accepting your cracks means being accepting and loving toward yourself. You must forgive yourself first, before you are capable of forgiving another. As you work toward this, you’ll see that the most beautiful, meaningful parts of yourself are the ones that have been broken, mended, and healed.
Learning is the key to kintsugi, and we never stop learning. I have consistently spoken these soft words to my tough heart, “Candice, you have much to learn.” To practice Japanese wellness, you must approach it with an open and honest heart. I am committed to these practices, and committed to continuously improving every day. But I promise you, all it takes is open-ness, and you can learn.
The physical art of kintsugi is beautiful, but that’s not what this book is about. The part I find moving, and what I want to share with you, is the analogy of embracing your past wounds, scars, pain, and internal struggle, and accepting their value. Your deepest pain, your biggest fears—all the struggles you’ve gone through—have forever changed you. If you could see my heart, you would see there are golden cracks all over it. Some run deep, some are still being sealed, and many more are still to come. Your heart looks very much the same. Kintsugi is life’s way of saying, “nobody’s perfect.” The path is not straight. In fact, your hardest challenges, deepest wounds, and greatest fears are actually among the most beautiful, precious, and admirable parts of you.
What are your thoughts on this Japanese style to healing and wellness? Let us know below.