The Art of Silence in-between
Silence, space and emptiness in-between.... We, the Japanese, love that and what is very distinctive aspect in Japanese aesthetics. it is everywhere in the Japanese way of life, in our conversation, in Japanese art, music, and architecture. You see in Japanese Zen gardens, Japanese tea houses, Japanese rooms with Tatami and in traditional Japanese performance.
“Ma” (間), means “in-between”. Ma is used to describe the essential space which holds silence and inner peace. Silence in physical form and non-physical form. We respect this space of silence, the silence in between. It is a sacred and important part of our living.
Silence during a meeting...
But this silence, in business meetings, always made my European clients uncomfortable and frightened. You may recall feeling awkward and urged to break this silence. This space of silence in-between our activities seems confronting but it is the gate to feel the truth. The words can only deliver a fraction of what we intend. In silence, we can tune into our unlimited power and unveil the truth.
In Japan, like a tribe culture, we have a strong sense of belonging to a social group, such as a family, company, university, schools etc. Some of the rules and etiquettes are born without being spoken or confirmed, without vocalising them.
If it is not spoken, how can we know?
Connect to the unlimited power
We are all born to feel and sense beyond our five senses. It is our instinct, primitive skill that human-being possess. But along the way, as we grow up in this civilised society, we put this gift in sleep. And then maybe later in life, we try to awaken it by practicing yoga and meditation. Sounds familiar?
Not only during these practices but also we can become more aware of our gift by tuning into this field of energy in our daily life. We can become aware of “the silence in-between our thoughts”. Even if there is noise outside, we can keep our mind in silence, without our internal chatter. In silence, there is stillness, there is space. There is tranquility. Not positive, or negative, not plus or minus, but when we are at the point of Zero, we are at the portal to the field of Ki, our life force energy.
There are many moments of silence in the way Japanese greet and communicate. We bow to greet each other with a few seconds of silence. We exchange business cards again with a few seconds of silence to tune into. During the conversation, there is silence and we connect.
If you face this silence in a conversation, it is an opportunity to ride on the wave of silence where you can let yourself connect with the others. Well, think of the lovers who are totally in love. They are in silence and stillness gazing each other and totally in the moment to connect. Recognise that? This applies to any of us in any culture, I guess.
In music, we tend to focus on the sounds. But in fact, the silence creates music. Silence bridges the sounds. If there are no silence in-between sounds, there is no music. How about the principle of Legato then, to play smoothly connecting each note? Such as Chopin's nocturne which is known to play with Legato. In the smooth connecting sounds, tune into the occasional silence in-between. This makes the piece breathtakingly beautiful.
In dance, in Tango, the moment of stillness and silence in between the movements is the most exciting part. It is the moment of opportunity, potential, possibility filled with all the emotion where unlimited power unveils and a story begins.
In dance, in Tango, the moment of stillness and silence in between the movements is the most exciting part. It is the moment of opportunity, potential, possibility filled with all the emotion where unlimited power unveil and a story begins.
Truth in silence
There is a saying by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, one of the most celebrated Japanese dramatist Joruri, kabuki, scenario writer from the 18th century,
There is the truth in between skin and membranes.
There is the truth where there is nothing.
In silence in between, there is truth.
"Ma" 間 in Spring/Summer 2020.
This lockdown of Corona outbreak was the "Ma" for many of us, although all the doctors and medical professionals have experienced the opposite. "Ma" is also a disruption as it is a gap. The world media tends to highlight on the negativities of the lockdown, the unprecedented situation, and the downfall in our economy. Not only the virus, but feeling such as fear, worry and anger became infectious. However, if we see the situation on a grand holistic scale, we were in space of silence in-between our all activities. As the world stood still, we are in this "Ma" the silence in between. This has been a god-given opportunity to tune in, take time to hear what our heart is saying, and embrace the very feeling we encounter.
The truth always emerges.
Maybe one door closes and another door opens. Maybe a new path appears...
Thank you for reading!
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Azumi Uchitani is an intercultural business consultant, writer, artist and founder of Japanese SALON, a private art gallery where she hosts monthly open house and Inner Peace retreat with Japanese tea ceremony, calligraphy meditation. Sharing Inner Peace and Japanese wisdom is her passion. She is a TEDx speaker and gives lectures, workshops and seminars.