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The great wave off Kanagawa painting that embodies the concept of Yuugen

Yuugen: A Gentle Path to Overcoming Burnout in Today's World

In the hustle and bustle of our post-pandemic lives, it’s easy to feel like we’re constantly running on a treadmill, trying to keep up with the pace of the world. 

Ever felt like the world’s spinning a tad too fast, leaving you caught in a whirlwind of tasks, expectations, and digital notifications? Clearly, sleep deprivationburnout and overwhelm have become all too familiar companions for many of us. 

meme about burnout and impatience

But what if I told you there’s a concept from Japanese aesthetics that could help us find balance and joy amidst the chaos? Enter Yuugen: a beautiful, ancient principle that might just be the antidote we’re all looking for.

What Exactly is Yuugen?

Yuugen is a beautiful and profoundly deep concept from Japanese aesthetics that's a bit tricky to pin down in a single definition because it's all about the subtle and the profound.

It suggests an awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses too deep and mysterious for words. Yuugen reminds us that beauty and meaning often lie beneath the surface, in the subtle shades of life, in the things left unsaid, or in the fleeting moments that stir the soul.

Yuugen in Art, Literature, and Poetry

Throughout history, Yuugen has been a muse for artists, writers, and poets, inspiring creations that evoke a sense of the vast, unknowable universe and our fleeting moment within it. 

One example is the Japanese Ink Wash Painting (Sumi-e). This art form emphasizes simplicity, spontaneity, and the depth of each stroke, often portraying landscapes, flora, and fauna in a way that invites the viewer to fill in the blanks with their imagination.

Also another example of how the essence of Yuugen can be felt in art is The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai. Though not explicitly created to represent Yuugen, this iconic woodblock print evokes a deep emotional response, capturing the powerful and transient beauty of nature.

Meanwhile, in literature, we could say that "The Tale of Genji" by Murasaki Shikibu perfectly embodies the essence of Yuugen. Often described as the world's first novel, this masterpiece of Japanese literature is filled with layers of emotion and subtle expressions of desire and melancholy.

Or maybe think of a haiku that captures the silent flutter of an autumn leaf, the evocative brush strokes of a landscape painting that suggest more than they reveal, or a piece of music that carries you to distant, unexplored worlds.

Watching the moon

at dawn, solitary, mid-sky,

I knew myself completely:

no part left out.

Izumi Shikibu

These are all expressions of Yuugen, inviting us to look beyond the obvious and find beauty in the profound and the incomplete.

How Yuugen Helps With Burnout and Overwhelm

woman overwhelmed by burnout in schedule and deadlines
Phooto by - YuriArcurs

In the realm of psychology, research has increasingly pointed to mindfulness, connection with nature, and engagement with art as powerful antidotes to burnout and overwhelm. Yuugen, with its emphasis on the deep, mysterious beauty of the universe, naturally aligns with these therapeutic practices.

By inviting us to appreciate the subtle nuances of life and reminding us of the vastness beyond our daily struggles, Yuugen can help us step back from the brink of burnout, offering a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of wonder.

Practising Yuugen in Daily Life

So, how do you invite Yuugen into your life? Start by slowing down and paying attention to the world around you.

Take a moment to watch the sunset, noticing the myriad colours as the day fades into night. Listen to a piece of music that moves you, letting the notes wash over you and carry you away. Or dive into a book that speaks to the soul, allowing the words to lift you to new realms of imagination. 

A Person Using a Tibetan Singing Bowl while Sitting on the Floor
Photo by by Arina Krasnikova from Pexels

Here are some concrete and simple steps to incorporate Yuugen into your daily life:

Mindful Observation

Dedicate a few minutes each day to simply observe your surroundings without judgment. 

Focus on the natural world—the shape of clouds, the way leaves rustle in the wind, or the play of light and shadow at different times of the day. Allow yourself to be fully present and soak in the beauty and mystery of these moments.

Engage with Art and Poetry

Make it a habit to engage with forms of art and poetry that evoke a sense of the subtle and the profound. 

Whether it's visiting a local art gallery, reading poetry that speaks to the soul, or even exploring traditional Japanese haikus online, let these experiences open your mind to deeper emotions and connections.

Listen to Nature Sounds

Forest path
Photo by by 시선 from Getty Images

Incorporate the sounds of nature into your daily routine. 

This could be as simple as opening a window to listen to the rain, using apps that play nature sounds while you work or relax, or taking a quiet walk in a nearby park. The sounds of nature can help ground you and provide a serene backdrop to your thoughts.


Woman journaling in bed
Photo by jackscoldsweat from Getty Images Signature

Keep a journal to reflect on your experiences with Yuugen. 

Write about moments that moved you, art that spoke to you on a deeper level, or natural scenes that filled you with awe. This practice can help you become more attuned to the profound beauty in everyday life.

Create a Yuugen Space

Yuugen reed diffuser

Dedicate a small space in your home where you can practice mindfulness or meditation surrounded by objects that evoke a sense of mystery and depth. 

This could be a simple arrangement of rocks and plants, a few pieces of meaningful artwork, a self-care practice that incorporates crystals, or anything else that helps you connect with the concept of Yuugen.

Limit Digital Distractions

Hands Turning off the Mobile Phone
Photo by Ton Photographer 4289

Set aside time each day or week when you disconnect from digital devices and social media. 

Use this time to reconnect with yourself and your surroundings, allowing the simplicity and depth of the world to rejuvenate your spirit.

Practice Gratitude

At the end of each day, reflect on moments or experiences that exemplified Yuugen for you. 

Practising gratitude for these moments can enhance your awareness and appreciation for life's profound beauty. You can also choose the scents to accompany you during this time to complete the ambience. We recommend grounding essential oils like palo santo.

Ultimately, even in the simplest things—a leaf dancing on the wind, the quiet beauty of a rain-soaked street—Yuugen can be found, that is if you're willing to look.

Go Ahead with Your Yuugen Practice

Yuugen scented candle

In our post-pandemic world, embracing Yuugen might just be the antidote we need to the constant pressure and pace of modern life. 

It’s a call to pause, breathe, and reconnect with the deeper, often overlooked beauty of the world around us. So the next time you feel stressed, overwhelmed and on the brink of burnout, remember Yuugen, and let it guide you back to balance and joy.

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