A metaphor with Japanese bowls

Have you ever told yourself or someone else that you’re broken?

If you’ve ever felt as though you were taking a beating from life, that may resonate with you. The negative impact from relationships and experiences and life events can seem to erode a person’s very soul over time, denting their confidence and undermining their feelings of self worth. Look at a rock that has been worn down by water over the years, or flagstones in a very old building which wear the tread of hundreds of years of inhabitants and visitors in their dips and hollows.

When people get damaged

Taking a beating from life can test your resilience and diminish your resources and life force. When you’re at a low ebb, it’s easy just to stop trying, because you can’t see the point. When you refuse to think well of yourself, you can’t see all the things that are so beautiful and useful and marvellous about you. Other people see them, but you can’t. This attitude really becomes a problem when you start to tell yourself that you’re broken, beyond repair, and valueless. That you’re on that metaphorical scrap heap. It’s easy to believe that you’re stuck being that way, that you’re powerless to change your circumstances. Other people seem to be able to get themselves unstuck – you only have to go into a bookshop to find shelves and shelves of books with accounts of people who have overcome extraordinary adversity – but you can’t see how that could happen for you. You’re broken and that’s it.

When things get damaged

What happens to things that get damaged, in our throwaway society? Quite often, things that have got cracked or chipped are deemed by their owner to be beyond repair, and out they go with the rubbish. We don’t always see the value in mending them. So we decide that it isn’t worth trying to repair these broken things, and they end up in the bin, in landfill, discarded and forgotten in favour of the next shiny thing. It’s pretty depressing when you think about it.

Putting us back together again

The Japanese art of kintsugi carries the teaching that broken objects (very often bowls) are not supposed to be hidden away, but to be put back together and displayed with pride. The tradition of lovingly mending damaged bowls by filling any cracked parts with gold can be a metaphor for us acknowledging our wounds, healing them and showing up for life stronger and wiser and more resilient.

And in conclusion

Going through tough times can be the key to discovering your resilience and potential, rather than being a disaster. Beautiful things can emerge out of the deepest, darkest shadows. I’ll leave you with the words of Leonard Cohen


“There is a crack in everything,

That’s how the light gets in”.

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