Summary of Kintsugi – Finding Strength in Imperfection: Céline Santini shares in this powerful book the trials and tribulations that led her to apply the process of kintsugi – a Japanese ceramic repair technique – to her own life, in order to heal life’s wounds.
By Céline Santini, 2019, First ed., 253 pages.
Note: This review is a guest review, written by Sophie Guillou, of the blog “Je déménage au Japon” (‘[I’m] Moving to Japan’).
Review and Summary of Kintsugi – Finding Strength in Imperfection by Céline Santini
Céline Santini introduces her book by defining kintsugi, a Japanese word formed from the two kanjis “kin” – gold – and “tsugi” – joint. Kintsugi has existed in Japan since the 15th century. According to legend, it was created at the request of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435 – 1490), who always used the same bowl for his tea ceremony. One day, the bowl fell and broke. The Shogun sent the bowl back to China – where it had been made – to be repaired, but the bowl came back fixed with unsightly staples, and above all, it was no longer leak-proof! The shogun sent the bowl back a second time and instructed the craftsmen who had made it to find another solution…Kintsugi was born.
Kintsugi is a delicate and precise technique for repairing an object – originally ceramic – that has been broken, using a succession of layers of lacquer and gold paint. This “mending” process can take from several weeks to a year.
Céline Santini bases her entire book around this practice, which is not only an act of repair but also of transformation and sublimation of the object. The practice of kintsugi is deeply rooted in the Japanese notion of “wabi sabi” (“wabi” meaning “humility in the face of natural phenomena” and “sabi” meaning “how one feels about the work of time or of men”), that is, contemplation of the beauty present in simple, imperfect things.
Moving from object to being, the author invites readers throughout her book to engage in the same kintsugi process when we encounter hardship in our lives. A process of resilience she proposes in six stages: break, assemble, wait, repair, reveal, and sublimate.
Stage 1 – “Break”
This first stage is all about hardship, something so difficult that we feel we’ll never get over it, a bereavement, a break-up, a family crisis, a professional failure. That ordeal that makes you think you’ll never be the same again. According to Céline Santini, who recounts how her first divorce was a cataclysm for her as a wedding planner for 10 years, it can only be for the better. The ordeal is an immense source for transforming oneself into a better person. Skeptical? [After all, you’ve survived 100% of your worst trials so far,] she reassures us!
In each of the chapters, Céline Santini invites us to “take action” by carrying out a number of reflective or creative workshops. The first exercise consists in taking the time to list all the trials we’ve already been through, to realize just how liberating they may have been. For Céline Santini, we need to accept our pain, to recognize it so we can better overcome it. At this stage, it’s a question of perceiving the broken jewel within us, which deserves not to be thrown away, but to be repaired with fine gold.
To get a better grasp of the inherent value that each and every one of us has, Céline Santini then suggests that we list, without shame, all our successes, with the help of those close to us if needed.
The next phase consists in identifying the “repair” techniques available around us. Céline Santini lists a number of possible avenues for help in the field of personal development: physical, emotional, sensory, energetic, or artistic.
Imagine and visualize
To imagine your next self, you need to take a step to the side with kintsugi; not to try to hide your flaws, but to live with them and magnify them; by thinking differently and trying not to always make the same mistakes. Are you stuck? Céline Santini offers a number of suggestions, such as the S.C.A.M.M.P.E.R.R. method (creative brainstorming) or the mind map, which I personally use very often. S.C.A.M.P.E.R.R. refers to a series of actions to be taken in order to see situations from a different angle: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Magnify, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Rearrange, Reverse. The mind map is an effective creativity technique in which you write your main problem in the center of a sheet of paper and build “branches” around it, classifying your ideas.
Are you starting to visualize what’s important to you? What would you like to change? Before starting the repair process, the kintsugi master begins by visualizing the shape of the future object. The visualization method, whether realistic or symbolic, can have a real impact on healing, for example. Two techniques are suggested here: mental cinema and the vision board.
Mental cinema consists in picturing yourself in positive, successful situations: the more you repeat these scenarios, the more your brain will register them. The vision board involves making a collage of inspirational images and words cut out from magazines. You then hang this collage in a space that you use every day, to soak it in.
Stage 2 – “Assemble”
The Kintsugi master who starts a repair takes the time to visualize his repaired object as mentioned; but he also takes the time to prepare for it by gathering materials and tools. Céline Santini encourages us to do the same. Take a step back, don’t rush, and get out of the “200 an hour” of everyday life.
After a second divorce, a car accident, and the loss of her mother; Céline Santini decided to take her time, to slow down, to follow the Zen precept “when you eat, eat. When you walk, walk.” Mindfulness meditation can be a great help in this, she believes. This meditation technique involves concentrating, for a given time, on the present, observing what you feel and think.
Now it’s time to put together the puzzle of your life by identifying the patterns that govern you; the beliefs that prevent you from moving forward. Céline Santini offers here a new practical exercise by creating – in real life – two jigsaw puzzles: on the first (which can be bought in stores); we’ll list, on the blank back of each piece, words that are spontaneously important to us; on the second, we’ll keep only the words we want to keep, to get rid of troublesome patterns.
To repair ceramics, the kintsugi master uses lacquer resin – urushi – which is very irritating. What are your demons, the habits that prevent you from moving forward? asks Céline Santini. Try the “alchemical transformation of your poison” by first listing what’s losing you; then changing it little by little before the bad habit takes root.
[Reconnect with your initial promise]
The time has come for the kintsugi master to put the pieces back together using a mixture of flour and lacquer (murugi urushi). In the same way, it’s time, as Céline Santini suggests, to reassemble the pieces of your soul; those that may have faded or disappeared over the years… It’s a question of [reconnecting with your initial promise] to feel anchored, unified, aligned: list what you were enthusiastic about, what you’re enthusiastic about today, and reconnect with those practices to bring you back to that initial vibrancy.
Do you notice gaps in your life puzzle? Like the kintsugi master who fills in the gaps in ceramic, try to establish your fundamental needs. The list drawn up by Marshall Rosenberg, the father of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), can be a great help. Which of these needs – autonomy, emotional security, harmony, etc. – are being met in your life today, and which are not yet?
And why not take inspiration from yobi tsugi, when the master of kintsugi decides to add a patch; a piece outside the original, to the ceramic being repaired? According to Céline Santini, this is a metaphor for all that the Other, the unexplored, can bring us; for stepping out of one’s comfort zone and opening up to new possibilities. Need some ideas? Céline Santini lists a few ways to let yourself be [surprised and carried away] in your daily life: go and see a film that doesn’t appeal to you, or try out a new restaurant, for example.
Stage 3 – “Wait”
At this stage, the kintsugi master removes superfluous material and cleans the ceramic surface. This is an essential step, just as it is for us to rid ourselves of the superfluous; so that we can see more clearly and set priorities. Go hunting for “too much”: too many accumulated belongings, obligations, or responsibilities! Céline Santini urges us to purify ourselves with the “essence-ciel.” What’s weighing you down? List all those things you want to rid yourself of and take action! The first objectives should be within your reach, step by step.
From now on, the pieces of the ceramic must be held firmly together. According to the author, good habits shouldn’t be adopted all at once, at the risk of exhaustion; but rather practiced one at a time, for at least a month, if they are to take root. Anything is possible when we know that our brain is a marvel of neuroplasticity and that its activity changes as we learn!
Breathe and clear your mind
To dry, the lacquer must now breathe in the open air. In the same way, Céline Santini reminds us how central breathing is to any healing process, whether it’s cardiac coherence, sophrology, or other related techniques. It’s time once again to take time for ourselves, by adopting soothing rituals on a daily basis.
At each stage of the repair, the kintsugi master meticulously cleans the tool used. Perform this “kokoro no sentaku” or “washing of life” yourself. The Japanese regularly take hot baths – onsen – to cleanse not only their bodies but also their minds. Without going so far (by plane;)), Céline Santini invites us in the same way; to carry out a body, emotional, or energetic cleansing close to home.
The ceramic should now be left to dry for 7 to 14 days. As Céline Santini points out, you too can learn to slow down your pace by discovering the benefits of Zen walking or qi gong.
Stage 4 – “Repair”
“Nanakorobi yaoki”: as the Japanese proverb that opens this chapter puts it, [such is life: fall seven times, get up eight.]
Now that the ceramic is dry, it needs to be polished to smooth the surface. Here, Céline Santini proposes that we in turn, gently and tenderly; sand down our thoughts and feelings to rediscover the heart of our being, without masks.
Is the surface of the object completely smooth? For that, we need to touch it… And let ourselves be touched, as Céline Santini invites us to do, by discussing the benefits of contact. Treat yourself to a massage or cuddle up to your loved ones!
The cracks in the ceramics are now covered with black lacquer, preparing the way for what’s to come. For Céline Santini, this is a decisive first step that should also encourage us to take initiative and act, rather than putting things off until next time.
Take action today
Why not try the Miracle Morning technique, an ultra-effective action plan described by Hal Elrod in his book; which encourages you to carry out your day’s essential tasks first thing in the morning (Find out more here: Miracle Morning). With the fresh spirit of the morning, it seems much easier to start your day with whatever task you usually put off…
The line of black lacquer should be as thin as possible, before leaving it to dry for two weeks. Applying this lacquer requires great concentration, just as Céline Santini says it’s good to focus on one thing at a time – the do or the way – in order to devote all one’s vital energy – the qi – to it
The ceramic is polished again and a 2nd coat of red lacquer is applied to the scar; the healing of your life is underway! It’s time to say yes to your “en-vies,” to invigorate yourself, to put life back into your life.
Stage 5 – “Reveal”
The still-sticky lacquer is now ready to receive the fine gold dust sprinkled by the kintsugi master. Just like ceramics, this stage should enable us to sparkle again! At this point, Céline Santini tells us she turned to laughter yoga to rediscover the laughing, bubbly little girl she had been before going through all these ordeals. [I’m not laughing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I’m laughing,] writes the founder of Laughter Yoga, Madan Kataria. The aim of this practice is to reconnect with one’s inner child in order to rediscover a sense of levity in everyday life.
Using a brush, the kintsugi master now collects the excess gold powder and dries the object again. For Céline Santini, just as it’s important to reclaim surplus gold for future use, it’s also important to [be far-sighted and take stock of every little aspect of our lives.] The aim is to become aware of how lucky we are, for example by noting every day, as Céline Santini has been doing for the past ten years, the little joys and successes. The wording here is important for “reprogramming” our brains in a positive way; as much as for keeping track of our happiest memories.
Pat yourself on the back
At this stage, according to Céline Santini, it’s advisable to create an “anti-next blues kit” by gathering together all the little treasures in our lives that make us feel good: a book we love to reread, a candle that soothes us, a playlist for the occasion, a notebook for drawing, etc.
The kintsugi master then passes a ball of silk over the object to remove the excess gold powder; and reveal the scars: the object has been transformed into a more beautiful, metamorphosed one …This step deserves to be celebrated, so why not treat yourself, as Céline Santini invites you to do? A new piece of clothing, perfume, a book. etc. Do yourself some good by protecting yourself from the gloom – news, toxic people, etc. – that could cause you to relapse. Learn to say no!
Following the example of the Japanese Shintoists, why not go so far as to set up a small altar in your home – it can include candles, objects that are dear to you, photos – to surround yourself with a halo of virtuous energy on a daily basis?
The object must now be sanded. The choice of tool is variable and will depend on each kintsugi master’s feeling and instinct. In the same way, Céline Santini invites us to listen to ourselves first, to feel free to think outside the box; and to assume our differences so we can shine all the more!
Stage 6 – “Sublimate”
Has the storm passed? Céline Santini invites us to take a step back from this final stage of healing. Preferably alone, she suggests we contemplate the new, stronger person we’ve become. A silent retreat, a meditation course or simply staying at home can help at this stage. Take the opportunity to do the “lifeline” exercise: the aim is to record on a blank sheet of paper all the trials you’ve been through and to note how you felt about each one, rating it from 1 to 10, in order to capture the uniqueness of your journey.
From now on, we need to let go of what needs to be let go, Céline Santini urges; and think that “the best is yet to come.”
Take your lifeline and underline it with felt-tip pen or gold paint … Does it remind you of anything ;)?
The kintsugi of rebirth
Healed and battle-hardened…The steps you’ve taken on this healing path, through the practice of kintsugi; will enable you to acquire and develop great inner strength. Céline Santini draws a parallel here with the Japanese art of burning wood, shou-sugi-ban; wood that has been burned and coated with oil is more resistant…to fire.
To fully connect with this new energy of yours; Céline Santini encourages you to meditate or practice “hug tree therapy” in the forest;by adopting your own tree.
As a final exercise, Céline Santini suggests creating the “kintsugi of rebirth”; choose an object that is meaningful to you, symbolic; whether you already own it or have made it yourself (in clay, for example). Wrap it in a cloth, then break it with a hammer; so that you can repair it yourself by following the kintsugi steps described in this book. The technique can be traditional or modern (glue and acrylic gold paint, for example), depending on your possibilities.
Display this object and share with others, your loved ones, this achievement and everything that brought it about. There are countless examples of artists who have transcended their pain and offered it to the world. Perhaps you too will want to share your experience by blogging about it, or writing a song or a book…
Conclusion – “Open”
Céline Santini concludes her book with this beautiful Japanese proverb: “Life is a candle before the wind” (jinsei wa fuuzen no tomoshibi). She calls us to accept our imperfection and impermanence. How can we predict what’s going to happen to us? For Céline Santini, we must stop being afraid of breaking our “treasures,” and enjoy life, even if it means having to repair them with a stroke of gold! Let yourself follow the path of kintsugi…
Céline Santini offers two extras at the end of her essay:
- A playlist of songs she has selected, all of which she believes have a spirit of resilience. Discover them to immerse yourself even further in her world and add them to your kit for when the blues hit ;).
- A glossary of terms used in the lexical field of kintsugi or, more broadly, Japanese culture.
Conclusion to Céline Santini’s Kintsugi – Finding Strength in Imperfection
As I am interested in Japanese culture, in particular its art, crafts, beliefs, and spiritual practices, I was already aware of the kintsugi technique, which I find aesthetically and symbolically beautiful. So, when I came across this book by Céline Santini in my sister’s personal library, I was hooked and eager to find out more about how she was able to turn a technique designed to repair ceramics into one that could mend the scars of the soul…
The book is well structured into six chapters and sub-chapters, making it a dynamic, easy-to-read, and accessible work. It enabled me to learn more about the kintsugi technique, while at the same time discovering how Céline Santini aptly extrapolates it to the ailments, trials, and scars that we all endure in one form or another. Céline Santini shares the hard knocks of her life, opening herself with indulgence, humor, and tenderness, while urging us to see ourselves, in all our uniqueness, with loving eyes.
“Kintsugi – Finding Strength in Imperfection” is packed with practical exercises to help us move forward in our reflection and resilience process. It also offers numerous avenues for further reflection, as well as a wealth of insight into other techniques and fields of personal development. Last but not least, lovers of Japanese culture will find numerous references – quotations, books – that Céline Santini sprinkles throughout the book.
Director of a network of media libraries, visual artist, and host of the blog Je déménage au Japon ([I’m] moving to Japan), where she offers tips, advice, and personal accounts of expatriates to French-speaking people wishing to move to Japan.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Kintsugi – Finding Strength in Imperfection
- A book in which Céline Santini opens up about herself, and in which we can reflect on some of the ordeals we too have experienced.
- Structured in six dynamic chapters, perfectly aligned with the kintsugi stages as a crafting technique.
- Practical exercises, to be completed in each chapter, entitled “Time to Act,” which Céline Santini also proposes to deepen with the “Go even further” steps.
- An opportunity to learn more about Japanese culture, traditions, techniques, and legends.
- A system of lists to be drawn up in the practical exercises, which sometimes tends to be repetitive.
- A few redundant passages, as Céline Santini follows the actual process of ceramic repair, for which certain steps are repeated several times (drying, polishing, etc.)
My rating :
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) concerning Kintsugi – Finding Strength in Imperfection
1- How has the book been received by the general public?
Published on April 19, 2018 by First Editions, Illustrated and translated into more than nine international languages, the book Kintsugi – Finding Strength in Imperfection has been received with great enthusiasm with bookstores experiencing stock-outs. The book won the Resilience Prize.
2- What has been its impact?
This book has impacted many readers around the world, enabling them to appropriate Kintsugi and apply it in their daily lives.
3- Who is the book’s target audience?
Kintsugi – Finding Strength in Imperfection is a book that is intended for everyone.
4- What does Kintsugi mean according to Céline Santini?
Kintsugi is a delicate and precise technique for repairing an object – originally ceramic – that has been broken, using a succession of layers of lacquer and gold paint.
5- What are the different stages of the resilience process proposed by the author in her book?
The process of resilience she proposes in her book is subdivided into six stages: break, assemble, wait, repair, reveal, and sublimate.
Here are the stages of Kintsugi versus the benefits of Kintsugi
|The stages of Kintsugi
|The benefits of Kintsugi
|Going through life’s challenges
|Gathering the necessary materials and tools
|Taking a step back and not rushing
|Rediscovering the essence of your being
|Practicing laughter yoga
|Becoming a new, stronger person
Who is Céline Santini?
A French national, Céline Santini was born in Tours on May 3, 1976. Creative and self-taught, she has a wealth of experience to draw on. Passionate about the art of Kintsugi, she realized her childhood dream of becoming a writer and went on to author some twenty books on a wide variety of subjects.
She is the author of the book “Kintsugi – Finding Strength in Imperfection,”in which she teaches the different stages of the Kintsugi method and how to apply them to deal with life’s problems.