Kintsugi: The Beauty of Broken Mended

Over the last few weeks the phrase “Broken Mended” keeps following me around like a puppy. And just like a puppy, it won’t be ignored for very long. At some point, you just have to stop and pay attention to figure out what it is trying to tell you. Recent posts have focused on tending to our hearts needs: grief, betrayal, facing our shadow selves, and courage. Today is about being broken; as to be human is to have experienced the breaking of our hearts. 

 So, how do we mend our hearts and what do they look like once we piece them back together? 

 The Whidbey Island sculptress, Sue Taves, held an exhibition several years ago titled “Broken Mended Hearts.” She spent many hours carving beautiful hearts out of various pieces of stone: granite and quartz. Each heart was perfect in the skill level required to craft it. There were no cracks or chips, a hard feat to accomplish in any stonework. Sue could have easily sold each heart as a perfect object or displayed them in a fine art gallery. Instead, she chose to blow them apart. And then restore them. The results were dynamic.

 Kintsugiis the Japanese art of taking broken pottery and mending it with silver, gold, or platinum. Often, the new piece is far more breathtaking than the original, assumed-perfect item. Kintsugistems from the 15thcentury and is closely associated with the Japanese philosophy wabi-sabi, which, in short, underscores the innate beauty of that which is imperfect. Instead of striving for perfection, an understanding and acceptance of the flaws in nature, and ourselves are acknowledged. Sue’s exhibition was a take on this ancient practice but instead of using pottery, she used the symbol of the heart.  

 Perfection, I believe, is a dis-ease within American culture. Having grown up in Australia and having lived in both England and the Netherlands, the push for perfection seems to be predominantly forced upon American children, where it continues to grow along with them into adulthood. Here, children are pressured to fill every waking hour with a variety of extracurricular activities, leaving them both stressed and exhausted at a young age. 

 The culture as a whole is also out of balance with an unrealistic need for perfection, resulting in the fragility of soul. Challenges will always present themselves and we often need to dig deep inside of ourselves to overcome them. But working with unachievably high expectations and crammed calendars, where perfection without failure is the path does not make for a healthy child or for a healthy nation. The dis-ease, is the inability to be at ease, with imperfection yours or mine.

 When we are told by society that the broken or wounded parts of ourselves are unacceptable, we remain fragmented. Society teaches us to toss those parts off onto the scrapheap, like broken plates. But we cannot just abandon certain aspects of ourselves; so instead, we shove them down into the cavern of the unconscious where they lurk like deep-sea monsters. 

There were years when barbed wire and silk threads held my brokenness together. Each twisted strand whether it be bitterness, anger, sadness, or frozenness poked out from my facade. And just like agricultural fencing, that which contained me it also made sure no one could get really close. To heal, I had to gently take that barbed wire, pull it apart, remove the silk threads interwoven with the metal, and determine what aspects they contained. This rewiring or restoration process takes time. First, is the acknowledgment that what has happened to us- has impacted us in ways that we may have difficulty articulating or talking about. Then the grieving process can take over and begin the healing process. As a result of this process, we will never again be the way we were before the situation. We will never again be whole, unchipped or uncracked vessels. And that’s the point. 

 Transformation happens when we find beauty in the broken pieces of our hearts and souls; when we learn to gather them up, lay them out bit by bit and examine them to see where they fit. But as importantly, it happens when we determine what material we are going to use to reconfigured our wholeness. Japanese artisans use gold, silver, or platinum. We can choose love, compassion, and joy. Or we can choose a mixture of many things, for example, by using our well-placed anger as the heat of the pottery kiln to fuel the transformation process. Hopefully, included as part of the mix of materials we choose, is also an acceptance of others and ourselves as this is a precious healing agent in itself. 

 We are imperfect, perfect human beings, in an imperfect, yet perfect world. 


 Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Place your hand on your heart and just take a three (3) slow deep breathes in and three (3) longer breaths out. Ask your heart what holds it together. Remember metaphor and imagery are the languages of the heart. Listen closely, if you are not used to conversing with your heart it may be a little shy to speak up, so you may hear it just like a whisper. Alternatively, an answer may come as a fleeting image in your mind's eye, catch it if you can and hold it as if it were a butterfly.

Once you have an image, a word, or a sound, you have found some valuable information towards your continued process of healing and imperfectly perfect wholeness. 

Compassion and patience with yourself and the process are key. Our hearts hold an incredible amount of wisdom for healing ourselves and the planet. 

 Citations and Links where available: 


Sue Taves.