Put a Little ‘Ma’ into Your Day

September 13, 2012

Have you ever experienced the domino effect in your calendar? One person shows up too late and, because your schedule is so jam-packed, your entire day collapses like a house of cards? You end up racing from one thing to the next. By the evening, you are completely worn out without the feeling of satisfaction such level of effort deserves.

For those of you who have listened to any of the countless executive Webinars I’ve given over the past few years, you will know I often refer to the Japanese term ‘Ma’ as a great illustration for what is required to avert calendar disasters like the one I just mentioned.

‘Ma’ is a theatrical word that translates as the space between things either in music or in theater. It literally means the silence between the beats of the music or that theatrical pause, which keeps you on the edge of your seat. That which comes after the pause has more import because of the pause itself.

The Japanese (who also invented the concept of Wabi Sabi) are just so wise.

When we go from one appointment to the next in a seamless thread of activity, we have no time to digest what we’ve experienced before heaping on the next one.

This is what I imagine, in rather Picassoesque fashion, our scrambled brains look like after a ‘ma’-less day.

Note all the stuff surrounding our minds: the white noise, the distraction, the interruption, the input! I always know I have too much on my mind when I can’t decipher what my kids are saying. Okay, it’s hard enough to translate teen-speak into understandable language. But after a day without pause, I’m toast.

Now imagine your calendar as an open field of opportunity. You get all this time to play with. How will you divide it up? Insert ‘Ma’ between your major appointments. It will give you space to handle unexpected events and the breathing room to sustain your energy throughout the day. So instead of scheduling back-to-back meetings, give yourself at least fifteen minutes between things. And if people show up too late, reschedule if possible so your day isn’t impacted.

We could all use fifteen minutes of breezy nothingness to kick back and simply be. That’s when we are most creative, after all. Our juicy requires that soft crevice between the ‘must-do’s’ of our everyday lives.

Give yourself the gift of ‘Ma’ and tell me how it goes.

You know what? I can see a smile forming on your face already.

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One Response to “Put a Little ‘Ma’ into Your Day”


  1. [...] is a place of suspension, of absolute nothingness, of inner space, of Ma. We can use that space to truly allow things to unfold, then let our brains catch up to experience [...]


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