In the dictionary it is translated as “gap”, “space”, “pause” or “the space between two structural parts.” The spatial concept is experienced progressively through intervals of spatial designation. In Japanese, ma, the word for space, suggests interval.
There is no better way of describing its intrinsic meaning than the way it is said by Unique Japan
“The Japanese concept of Ma is something that relates to all aspects of life. It has been described as a pause in time, an interval or emptiness in space. Ma is the fundamental time and space life needs to grow. If we have no time, if our space is restricted, we cannot grow. How we spend our time and shape the space we live in directly impacts our progress. These principles are universal, when applied effectively they enhance the way we think and how we engage with our surroundings.
We can visually identify with the meaning of Ma from its Japanese kanji symbol.
Ma combines door Door-Kanji-Character and sun Sun-Kanji-Character
Together these two characters depict a door through the crevice of which the sunlight peeps in.
We see in this symbol not only the outline of a door but a door that is open to light, thus enabling growth, sparking creativity, permitting freedom. This is Ma – the space between the edges, between the beginning and the end, the space and time in which we experience life.
Ma is filled with nothing but energy and feeling. It speaks of silence as opposed to sound, of lack as opposed to excess. It is the momentary pause in speech needed to convey meaningful words, the silence between the notes that make the music…
There is a need for Ma in every aspect and every day of our lives.”
I always had a yen for things Japanese, be it food ,décor or philosophy. For me the breakdown to simplicity and the basics was fascinating. I totally bought into the minimalist argument and believed in the years I was on earth that too many of us clutter up our space with unnecessary stuff, leaving no breathing room. Murakami was my favourite author. His piercing insight was breathtaking.
Space is not just a void but a courtesy in its giving to others around you. Whether family or friends we tend to choke each other with proximity and invade this sacred space.
Let the sun in, let there be a comfort in reducing clutter. And I do not just mean the rooms at home or workplace. I mean most importantly your mind needs to be decluttered. We do that and we think clearer, our relationships come into focus and we can arrange our priorities sensibly.
It is possible that if my Mom names the facility Ma it will in India be interpreted as mother. Which is fine by me because a mother knows instinctively all about space and clarity.
Whether I was in New York or Dubai, I had worked out the practicality behind common items like the tooth brush holder,travel scissors,inch tape,sitting cushions,study table and how a Japanese mind would look at each one[.I bought all of these and many others from Muji my favourite shop.
Ma is a beautiful philosophy and one that anybody can espouse. It requires nothing more than dropping stuff you do not need and clearing your mind for the vital space.
What is Ma? Is it the word for mother? Or could it have several other meanings? I believe in the art of less. Less is more. The less things we possess, the more free is the mind and hence the spirit. I am not trying to preach to you. That was never my goal. I just want to engage in a moment of silence, peace, calm. A moment to pause. A moment to breath. As rushed as we all are, to sit in the front seat and feel the rush and adrenaline behind the wheel of life, we also need to pause on the road and watch the moment go by. That is Maah. The Japanese word for the space. The meaning of the pause and a moment to breath. I too was driven to achieve, to have the highest grade, to use every waking minute to good purpose. How often would I stop to pause or reflect? In this generation, are we more driven to keep on going and going until we just cannot go on? I feel we have become muted zombies, to our own desires to run and achieve. On and on in this cycle of prescription drugs, anxiety, depression, even more labels until we just stop going. What comes next? Looking within the inside of ourselves, by taking a moment to breath can bring many wonders to the current moment. Whatever our state of agitation, anxiety, depression or our innermost battle, we can overcome with a moment to breath, live and remember that the essence is the self and to believe what we are made of. Hence the meaning of Ma.