2019 – My Year of ‘Ma’

I am sitting here on the couch, looking out of our large glass window at another grey and calm winter morning (quick snapshot below) – just the sound of a single bird highlighting the stillness and one of our dogs still sleepy in the corner. This is what I love about winter it is the perfect time to give myself space, not only physically but also mentally. 

2018 was not really a good year but now that I finally found the leisure to reflect I realize that it has taught me a lot. Once I listened I began to understand how to include these learnings into my goals for 2019 but more of that in the coming days and weeks as I want to continue to keep my blog posts short (just long enough ;-)) and focussed.

This post is about my guiding word for 2019 which literally dawned on me this morning. Probably not surprisingly the word comes from Japanese philosophy and it looks like this. 

Ma (ι–“) is a Japanese word which can be roughly translated as “gap”, “space”, “pause” or “the space between two structural parts.” The spatial concept is experienced progressively through intervals of spatial designation. In Japanese, ma, the word for space, suggests interval. It is best described as a consciousness of place, not in the sense of an enclosed three-dimensional entity, but rather the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form deriving from an intensification of vision.
Ma is not something that is created by compositional elements; it takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements. Therefore, ma can be defined as experiential place understood with emphasis on interval.
Ma has also been described as “an emptiness full of possibilities, like a promise yet to be fulfilled”, and as “the silence between the notes which make the music”…

(From Wikipedia)


Ma brings the concepts of minimalism and lagom (Swedish for ‘just enough or just the right thing/amount’) which have accompanied me over the last years to a different level, changing the focus from reducing (mainly physical items) to providing – space and in addition time.

I read somewhere (but cannot find it for reference) an explanation that I translated for myself as “Ma is the time and space for life and creativity to grow – an emptiness that is filled with feelings and energy”.

So for me Ma means that I will give myself and my creativity – which includes a long list of creative explorations and experiments which I hope you are interested in reading about on this blog – space and time.

I will take a pause from Social Media and also from my business. 

Unlike last year where I wrote down my New Year’s resolutions but then basically forgot about them until much later, in 2019 I want to give my goals more focus, following up on them in my newly started handwritten journal and on this blog. No resolutions but just goals for 2019 – and yes, for me there is a big difference. πŸ˜‰

I like the Japanese kanji for ‘Ma’ as in addition to the written meaning it also  has a visual impact – I feel there is a balance between the elements and the space between them. It is such a balance I seek, giving all the important aspects of my life adequate space and time, creating an environment for reflection and growth (personally and creatively).

‘Ma’ consists of the kanji symbols for door and light – a door of which I don’t know where it will lead me but that I will step through, a light that I hope will shine on all of us…

How about you? Do you have a guiding word for the year 2019?

Finally I am wishing all of you a wonderful start into a new year – full of promises and possibilities.

Give yourself time and space to be YOU! 

Happy 2019!


  1. Scott Hays on December 28, 2018 at 16:13

    So so nice. Wishing you the very best with your new focus in 2019.

    • Isabel on December 28, 2018 at 16:26

      Thank you, Scott πŸ™‚ I hope your 2019 will also be better than 2018 πŸ˜‰

  2. Folker on December 28, 2018 at 17:30

    All the very best to you in 2019, Isabel!
    By the way I love this photo above very much.

    • Isabel on December 28, 2018 at 18:05

      Vielen lieben Dank! Auch Dir die allerbesten Wuensche fuer ein wundervolles Jahr 2019!

  3. Steve Marmion on December 28, 2018 at 18:02

    Isabel, very best wishes for 2019, I like that word Ma and your description of it.
    I hope the door you go through is a good one.

    • Isabel on December 28, 2018 at 18:13

      Thank you, Steve! It will be a good one no matter what as I don’t try to fulfil expectations – especially not other people’s – so no stress but instead the joy and challenge of the journey. The process and that I learn from it is more important than any specific results. It is truly a break, a pause… πŸ™‚
      All the best and have a lovely New Year celebration!

  4. Wendy Chapman on December 28, 2018 at 18:50

    Best wishes Isabel. You are on your journey and it will be a joy to follow each curve and side path you explore. Happy New Year.

    • Isabel on December 29, 2018 at 08:30

      Thank you, dear Wendy. And that is what I will do…looking forward to sharing all the curves and dead ends and side paths… πŸ˜€

  5. John on December 28, 2018 at 18:51

    A wonderful article Isabel!

    • Isabel on December 29, 2018 at 08:30

      Thank you, John πŸ™‚

    • Isa Cienfuegos on May 23, 2020 at 22:43

      Finally reading a little about Ma. Now I see how your recent work is linked to this word. It has reminded me a little of a passage from Tao Te Ching where it says that not overdoing, gives space for doing something. There is a sort of parallelism there.

  6. Euan on December 28, 2018 at 21:25

    Best wishes for 2019 Isabel and I look forward to following your work, writing, images.

    • Isabel on December 29, 2018 at 08:32

      Thank you, Euan – it is wonderful to have you on board for the journey. How is your book-making coming along? πŸ˜‰

  7. Niger Cooke on December 29, 2018 at 00:06

    A lovely and thought provoking piece Isabel. The idea resonates as I’ve been trying to create a little ‘me space’ in the midst of a very busy corporate work life; far less ambitious than the journey you are seeking, but nonetheless a step towards a more balanced me. I hope 2019 brings you whatever it is you seek and need for your own personal fulfilment and happiness.

    • Isabel on December 29, 2018 at 08:35

      Me space, ma space…all the same πŸ˜€
      I hope you will be able to make it happen – actually I am sure you will! I know 2019 will bring me what I seek as it is the journey and not the destination I am looking for and that I will ‘find’ no matter what πŸ˜‰

  8. Luca on December 29, 2018 at 00:16

    Hi isabel, I hope you’ll have a good 2019
    I think yars could be classified in 5 classes: normal, bad, good, wanderful and horribles. For me 2018 was horrible (my father died) but luky, horribles years are rare, like wondefull are rare they don’t depend from us. So, i wish for you a good one. In good years the work done, the dreams and the Efforts achieve practical results..
    Have a good new Year Isabel!

    • Isabel on December 29, 2018 at 08:45

      Dear Luca, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I lost my mom years ago and my dad was very sick this year but is luckily still with us…
      I hope you have many wonderful memories of him as that way he will never be truly gone.
      For 2019 it will not be about results for me but about enjoying the dreams and the process of creating – that is what I had lost.
      Wishing that in 2019 you will have ‘Ma’ to do whatever you put your mind on and achieve whatever you would like to achieve. All the best!

  9. CWDaly on December 29, 2018 at 02:43

    Beautiful & wishing you a great 2019 as well

    • Isabel on December 29, 2018 at 08:47

      Thank you, Clay – hugs from Denmark πŸ™‚

  10. Paul Bullock on December 29, 2018 at 18:03

    Lovely thoughtful post Isabel and who knows what will grow into the space you create, I’ll take note and try to find a few more little spaces and utilise these – hoping 2019 is a wonderful year for you All the best as ever!

    • Isabel on January 1, 2019 at 21:44

      Thank you, Paul πŸ™‚ Also to you amd yours a wonderful year and I guess we will (have to) find out… πŸ˜‰

  11. Ivana on December 29, 2018 at 20:09

    Best wishes for the 2019 Isabel! Love your guiding word for this year and the beautiful image πŸ™‚

    • Isabel on January 1, 2019 at 21:47

      Thank you, Ivana. Wishing you an amazing 2019 with lots of ‘Ma’ to just BE! Big HUG from Denmark.

  12. william eiffert on May 28, 2019 at 13:45

    A truly stunning image!

    • Isabel on May 28, 2019 at 14:45

      Thank you very much, William πŸ™‚

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