In Japanese, the term ma – ‘interspace’ – means pause, break, interlude, and rhythm.
Think the space between people and objects, the pause in a chat, the break between musical beats. It’s a period of nothingness: inactivity, decision-making, moments before and after the completion of a task that tend to vanish in today’s hyperconnected, digitized world. In Japanese culture, the space in-between is never empty but always full, equal to the things it gaps, granting them a special quality.
While living in Japan, Zen meditation teacher and author Dr Fleur Sakura Wöss discovered the concept as a magic formula that she can always access, wherever she is. As a practice, these micro-breaks enrich her daily life in myriad ways. They unlock thoughts and feelings you may usually disregard, and can ultimately lead you to achieve inner peace and clarity.
But when can you really forget your thoughts, and find your body and mind to be completely in the present? Start by noticing when your body needs rest. Then allow yourself to do nothing. Here’s when and how.
01 Use any waiting time – at a bus stop or in a doctor’s waiting room, for instance. Don’t read and check your phone. Just be there. Daydream.
02 Take 15 minutes before a meeting or an appointment to ease into the topic; afterwards, use the time to reflect on what was important, take notes, and enjoy a break.
03 Your home is your safe space. After work, settle in comfortably and practice a daily ritual. Cuddle your pet, cook, watch a movie, or exercise. Or simply look out the window, or into an empty space.
04 Notice gaps. Look between the clouds, not at them. Pay attention to how undeveloped spaces, like stretches of nature or uninhabited areas, affect your breath.
05 Carve out time to be undisturbed: shut down, tune out, and inhale and exhale deeply for a few minutes. Let your senses rest.
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