It feels like we struggle with space, absence, nothingness in English. We tend to prize the visible over the invisible. In ways, we struggle even to know how to think about it. Indeed, telling your colleagues you are “going to do nothing” probably won’t win you many brownie points. Even meditation has been imbued with a sense of doing.

And yet, as Debussy may or may not have said, “Music is the space between the notes”. Without the space, our ears would be unable to distinguish the notes and would only hear noise. The Japanese language concept of “Ma” suggests that the ’empty spaces’ or pauses between actions or objects have their own intrinsic value and significance.

What then about our thoughts? Do we not need “space to think?” It is not so much that we need physical space to actually think – although it can be helpful, but we certainly need emotional or psychological breathers in which to catch our breath. Indeed, in the Irish tradition, “Machnamh” is an invitation to pause for deep reflection and introspection, to contemplate and consider our actions and experiences.

How then might we add more space to our lives? If life has become scheduled, then scheduling what I call “hammock time” is critical. This is time in which you intend to do nothing that would be obviously considered productive. It is time to contemplate, to be, to catch up with yourself. This also gives space for thoughts and feelings you haven’t had time to entertain to announce themselves.

Personally, I schedule “hammock time” each and every day and simply ask myself:

  • What is inviting me now?
  • What’s important now?

Question in the Image:

  • Where is the space in my life?
  • Where is the space in my work?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

Explore the Japanese concept of “Ma”: “The Japanese concept of Ma has been described as a pause in time, an interval or emptiness in space. Ma is the time and space life needs to breath, to feel and connect. If we have no time, if our space is restricted, we cannot grow. This universal principle applies to every aspect of life.” Read More!

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. A message from a friend detailing their recent accomplishments raises questions as to my own. And yet comparing is pointless because I have no interest in replicating their particular accomplishment nor they mine. What then am I comparing? What lessons are to be drawn?

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share? My name is Tom O’Leary, and I envision a world in which curiosity shapes leadership. In this world, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning. My mission is to shift leadership focus from authority, over-measurement and control to curiosity, learning and innovation, empowering leaders to prioritise the essential. My journey, lived in a number of countries and through various languages, has always been driven by a profound sense of curiosity. In fact, life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.