Ma and Ki 間と気

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I live in Canada. Whenever there is an opportunity to learn something in Japanese, I try hard to attend.

It was 2-3 years ago. Sadly I don’t remember what the title of the event was, or who the instructor was, but I went to an interesting presentation that made me think.

The talk was about ‘Ma’(間). ‘Ma’ is a tricky Japanese word, hard to translate exactly right into English. It sort of means ‘empty space’ or ‘space of nothingness’. The lecturer drew three circles like below to explain why ‘Ma’ is important.

She said, the characters for ‘Human being’ are 人間, ‘Time’ are 時間, and ‘Space’ are 空間. You can see that there is a common character in these three words. That is 間 which can be read ‘Ma’. Human being, time, and space are the key factors connected by empty space ‘Ma’. She said, when ‘Ma’ from these three factors meet, there is an encounter, and encounter brings opportunity. For example, when you encounter someone, the two people both have to be in an open mindset. If you are preoccupied with some intense thoughts, you might not notice the other person. And, the two persons have to be at the right place at the right time. When you are there a few minutes later or earlier, you might not meet that person. If two persons were separate from each other by a few meters, they might not encounter. So human beings, time, and space have to be just right for the encounter to happen and to bring opportunities.

So why is Ma so important?

Ma, according to this instructor is a space where there is no obstruction. it is important because that is where ‘Ki’ flows. Ki is a Japanese word for energy or Qi in Chinese. When Ma is stuffed, lost, stuck, or too full, Ki can not flow smoothly. Clear space is necessary because that is where energy flows. If energy cannot flow, there would be no encounter, thus no opportunity.

Hmm hmm…. the instructor continued….so try to have clear space in your heart and let your energy flow, try to have flexibility in your schedule so you are not tied down to minutes and seconds, and try to get rid of unnecessary unwanted stuff from your home and make a clean open space, so your energy can flow….. my brain stopped at that moment.

I raised my hand and asked her. “What if I don’t have anything I can get rid of? I have tons of unnecessary things or things I don’t particularly love, but they were passed down from our parents and they bring so many memories…. I can not get rid of them.”

Then this cool woman instructor said, “well, then you do Ha Hu Ki!” “What? I’ve never heard of such a word!” She smiled and said, “Ha is short for Haku (sweep), Hu is short for Huku (wipe), and Ki is short for Kiyomeru (purify). This is a Japanese ancient wisdom.”

Wow…I see…really?…. I came back home with so much reflection. I tried. I swept and wiped my stuff-filled house. I have to say….I was truly surprised how different I felt. I could feel that the energy inside the house has shifted. She was right! Sweeping and wiping did purify the house! Positive energy is now flowing in the house and I was so happy.

So ever since, I try every morning, sweep and wipe, whispering the word to myself “Ha Hu Ki” over and over.











Author: Haruyo Abramson

I'm a musician, mom, and grandma, living in BC, Canada with my husband and three dogs.

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