Meet the Expert: Dr Fleur Sakura Wöss
“Doing nothing has tremendous power,” says Japan-born, Austria-based Zen teacher and author Dr Fleur Sakura Wöss. She refers to the Japanese saying, “He who has no spaces is a fool.” It’s a sentiment that rings true for many aspects of our modern lives. “Multitasking, a word that didn’t even exist in the past, has become the norm; today we’re all multitaskers,” she says. “It overwhelms us, and puts us in a constant state of inner turmoil. Even when we can relax, we no longer feel calm. Because our list of tasks accompanies us mentally, even in our spare time.”
The week Fleur was born, Japan’s cherry blossoms were in full swing. Hence, Fleur’s middle name (the first her parents gave her) to honor her birth country’s famed yearly event. Fleur fondly remembers her early childhood and its serenity: her mother’s weekly Ikebana floral arrangements; how their minimalist interiors taught her to respect space. “My mother explained to me that the emptiness between the branches and flowers was the most important thing,” Fleur recalls. “That the space in-between makes the whole thing.”
How is today’s world different? “It’s louder, everything is moving faster, and we constantly face endless opportunities,” she answers. After completing degrees in Japanese studies and Buddhism in Tokyo and Vienna, Fleur researched and lectured several aspects of Japanese society, philosophy, and religion at Vienna University for 14 years. She also studied meditation in various forms since 1973, and partook in scientific research at a Buddhist temple in Japan. Together with her husband and Zen practitioner Paul Matusek, she founded the Vienna-based meditation center Misho-an (‘Temple of Smiles’) 15 years ago. “When I lived in Japan, I got to know a term that became my magic formula: ‘interspace’, or ma in Japanese. It led me to a clearer and more serene, but also more abundant life – and is something I always have with me and can use at any time.”
Today, with the concept as her guiding star, she intuitively follows her natural rhythm: she sleeps, wakes, and eats at the same time, for instance, and carves out time for herself whenever possible. Her practice, in turn, shows you how regular “micro-breaks” can enrich your daily life, too. It empowers you to really switch off, look inward, and, ultimately, let your senses rest without compromise.
“Doing nothing has tremendous power”