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Full of Nothing by Theresa del Tufo

Full of Nothing by Theresa del

Full of Nothing

By Dr. Theresa del Tufo

The concept “Ma” is a Japanese word, which can be roughly translated as
“full of nothing.” The concept is predominant in Japanese art, music and
culture. In art, it can mean the space between two structural parts and is
referred to as negative space. In music, it is the pause—the silence in
between musical notes that gives it substance. In Japanese conversation, there
is that short silence that allows both the speaker and the receiver to reflect
on what was said. The only equivalent of the concept of “Ma” in English is
the word “empty.”

Applying the concept of “Ma” to life’s transition can be useful,
transformative and healing. Anyone who has experienced a major life transition,
such as death of a loved one, losing a job, moving to another location or any of
life’s major changes, has gone through the disrupting feelings of confusion,
disorientation, anxiety, and anomie. Author William Bridges (1980) identified
this descent the “neutral zone.” This transition phase can be a productive
interlude if we think of it as “full of nothing,” instead of “empty.”
Dr. Bridges pointed out that “…this seemingly unproductive time-out…is
really an important time for reorientation.” Although it appears to be a dark
and dormant period, there is often an invisible growth during this short and
sterile interlude. It is a time for reflection, introspection and growth, much
like the darkness and lack of activity during the dead of winter, that blossom
into the hope and promise of a bright and vibrant spring day. The take-away here
is to embrace the fullness of nothing and use this dormant period to journey
into the wilderness of your spirit. Face the fear, go with the flow and accept
the darkness that will eventually vanish. The source of your unhappiness can be
the source of your new found peace, meaning and purpose. I experienced this
gaping, dark hole when my husband died. At first I resisted living in this
temporary neutral zone, that’s enveloped by darkness, fear and anxiety. I
tried to convince myself that “Quick action, jumping back into the fray and
some random activity” should propel me to snap out of this dark and spiraling
vortex. It didn’t work, so I had no choice but to accept the “fullness of
nothing.” Looking back, I can say with conviction that I wouldn’t be the
person that I am today, if I didn’t take a respite from ordinary life, plow
through the neutral zone and embrace the empowering “fullness of nothing.” I
leave you with the final stanza of the poem (del Tufo, 2010) that I wrote to
mark this triumph:

Embrace it, be comfortable with it,
Be patient and try to move from within.
Once you know what you really want,
The Universe will conspire with you
To make the great leap,
And achieve your predestined purpose
And reason for being.
Welcome, receive gladly this stranger,
Embrace the exquisite and elegant fullness of nothing!


Bridges, William. (1980). Making Sense of Life’s Changes: Transitions.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books

Del Tufo, Theresa. (2010). The Exquisite Fullness of Nothing: Poems About
Survival, Emptiness and Meaning. Personal Collection.

Dr. Theresa del Tufo
Del Tufo Consulting, LLC
“Empowering Minds”

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