Where there is clut­ter, even valu­able things lose their impor­tance. Where there is too much, noth­ing really stands out.

The essence of the Japan­ese aes­thetic “MA” (pro­nounced “maah”) — is a con­cept of the pure, and indeed essen­tial, void or space between all things.

MA is the absence or empti­ness that is full of pos­si­bil­i­ties. It brings a promise yet to be fulfilled.

As we close this year and look to the one ahead, clear­ing space for more mean­ing­ful things to exist goes beyond any one culture.

Tak­ing a page from aspects in Japan­ese cul­ture gives every­one a chance to pause in the hec­tic pace of daily life.

MA is appar­ent in Japan­ese liv­ing. Evi­denced by archi­tec­ture, gar­den design, music and cui­sine, to flower arrange­ment (Ike­bana), ceram­ics and poetry.

Far from being sim­ply a philo­soph­i­cal or artis­tic con­cept, MA is ever-​present in all aspects of Japan­ese liv­ing. Delib­er­ate quiet actions have power.

When Japan­ese are taught to bow at an early age, they are told to make a delib­er­ate pause at the end of the bow before they come back up — this gives enough MA in their bow for it to have mean­ing and show respect.
All great cul­tures in the his­tory of civ­i­liza­tion take care to serve a meal in a pre­scribed manner.

No mat­ter how sim­ple the food, we first eat with our eyes. Pur­pose­ful and with atten­tion to detail, the art of meal prepa­ra­tion is like a med­i­ta­tion practice.

The pre­sen­ta­tion of the food, the uten­sils and dish­ware selected, the table set­ting should all be visu­ally appeal­ing. This is a uni­ver­sal thread.

In the way of Japan­ese tea events, guests are invited to rid them­selves of the “dust of the world”. They are reminded through­out the ser­vice, that every human encounter is sin­gu­lar and will never come again.

To sit at a table deserves reflec­tion and grat­i­tude toward the many hands that grow, pick, pack, process, pre­pare and serve our foods.

Make room for new encoun­ters in 2017. Show per­sonal appre­ci­a­tion and respect. Cul­ti­vate rit­ual, mind­ful spaces and a sense of influ­ence on our own well being.