April 17, 2018

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.

Kintsugi teaches you that your broken places make you stronger and better than ever before.
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Kintsugi is my life’s anthem—it made me who I am today. On the surface, it may seem as if I am confident and perhaps even strong. But the truth is, I am still working to fill my cracks. Across my heart you will find cracks caused by heartbreak, not feeling accepted by society, feeling “different,” and childhood memories of never feeling good enough.

For many years, living with these cracks made me feel incomplete. For the first twelve years of my career, I never took a break. In perfect Japanese form, I worked hard and gave only my very best. But I wasn’t taking good care of myself. I was afraid that if I stopped, others would catch up to me. I constantly felt as if I needed to keep going. I was very hard on myself. Inside, I carried a lot of lingering anger, sometimes sadness, and, almost always, a feeling of needing to belong. I never, ever felt quite “good enough,” and was always seeking validation from outside.

Through kintsugi, I learned it’s 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.

Here are four reasons the art of kintsugi is worth practicing—and the ways it changed my life:

1. It Teaches You to Be Kind to Yourself

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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.

2. It Marks Your Progress

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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 mindset about our past, we come out of the struggles as a much more beautiful and refined version of ourselves. Your kintsugi cracks become gold by doing the work.

3. It Promotes a Learning Mindset

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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 openness, and you can learn.

4. It Reminds You That Imperfections Are Golden

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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.

Your hardest challenges, deepest wounds, and greatest fears are actually among the most beautiful, precious, and admirable parts of you.
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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. 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 before you can see the bigger picture.

You already have many cracks that have been honored and sealed. Have a think on that, and give yourself credit for going through this journey of life. It’s a pretty amazing feeling when you finally realize you are right where you’re meant to be.

From the book Kintsgui Wellness: The Japanese Art of Nourishing Mind, Body, and Spirit by Candice Kumai. Copyright © 2018 by Candice Kumai. Published on April 1, 2018 by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Now available. Reprinted by permission.

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Read next: Shikata Ga Nai Is the Japanese Art of Letting Go—and It’s Glorious


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