WAWAZA: MA is the Japanese word for the pure, and indeed essential, void between all things. A total lack of clutter, MA is like a holder within which things can exist, stand out and have meaning. Where there is clutter, even valuable things lose their value. Where there is too much, nothing stands out. MA is the emptiness full of possibilities, like a promise yet to be fulfilled.

Look at it this way: When you feel there is too much clutter, it is not because you have too many things, it is rather because you don’t have enough MA. The presence of MA makes the minimalism of a Japanese tatami room so serene. However, minimalism is limited to physical form and space, where MA is not.

It is in the purposeful pauses in speech which make words stand out. It is in the quiet time we all need to make our busy lives meaningful, and in the silence between the notes which make the music. MA is what creates the peace of mind (called heijoshin in Japanese) we all need, so that there is room for our thoughts to exist properly, and to thrive.

When Japanese are taught to bow in early age, they are told to make a deliberate pause at the end of the bow before they come back up – as to make sure there is enough MA in their bow for it to have meaning and look respectful.

MA can best be explained by Lao Tse’s poem:

Thirty spokes meet in the hub,
though the space between them is the essence of the wheel.
Pots are formed from clay,
though the space inside them is the essence of the pot.
Walls with windows and doors form the house,
though the space within them is the essence of the house.

More like this? WAWAZA

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