Zen Ma – The Moon Door

The moon in the water;

Broken and broken again,

Still it is there

— Chōshū

(Trans. R. H. Blyth)

Whilst being warm soft pillow for our dog companion, I decided to write something. That must have created a gap, or opened a door, thru which supporting information started coming in.

On the phone, there was a Facebook post from a fellow astrologer about her missing her new irresistible pit puppy and becoming one of “these people” (the animal lovers), a comment from another astrologer that linked dogs to South Node of the Moon (South Node signifying influences of the past, choices before us, habitual behavior). I suppose it may have been the dog’s ever wagging tail, loyalty, or her love for consistency that made Vedic astrologers think of the link to karma, “habitual behavior” or “tradition”, and then South Node, but I can’t be sure. After all South Node is the Dragon’s Tail.

On TV, there was BBC show on Japanese culture. The journalist James Fox stepped thru a door into a mostly empty room and lowered his voice. He spoke of Japanese attention to empty spaces, the gaps. He suddenly stopped talking mid sentence and kind of froze. This was his way to introduce Silence – often uncomfortable for outsiders, presumably a sacred ingredient for Japanese. He called it “Ma”. That’s when I recognized the connection.

Ever since one of my teachers defined for me the astrological Moon as Silence, I wanted to understand and share this notion. Japanese “Ma” is Moon! That same “Ma” that Zen Ma-sters (the skillful steers and loyal stewards of Ma) stirred in their students by hitting them on the head in most unexpected moments is Moon. Ma and Mother (or Mama in Russian or Italian). Ma as a word for female in India or “Mma” in Botswana. Moon is mom, nurture, childhood, mood, openness, allowance.

I went to Wiki.

Ma () 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.

So space, gap, pause. Awareness of the observer being a key ingredient. I kept reading:

This Japanese kanji “Chinese character” 間 graphically combines “door” and “sun”. The earlier variant character was written with “moon” rather than “sun”, depicting “A 門 door through the crevice of which the 月 moonshine peeps in”.

So Ma is Moon shining thru the door. That’s the very Door (space, gap, pause) thru which Moon comes in. It’s not empty, that’s the point. It is filled with potential, meaning, invisible nurturing silver spirit.

That made my day. It was a Moon to my heart, a Ma to my soul.

I read some more:

In his 2001 book The Art of Looking Sideways, Alan Fletcher discusses the importance of exemplifying “space” as a substance:

Space is substance. Cézanne painted and modelled space. Giacometti sculpted by “taking the fat off space“. Mallarmé conceived poems with absences as well as words. Ralph Richardson asserted that acting lay in pauses… Isaac Stern described music as “that little bit between each note – silences which give the form“… The Japanese have a word (ma) for this interval which gives shape to the whole. In the West we have neither word nor term. A serious omission.

No wonder my favorite art or photography has spaces as a main character. Tarkovsky had space and silence magically palatable in his films. Without silence there is no music. From that silence between the notes, to the silence in the concert hall, to the silence created in the listener.

So without Moon there would be no mood to live, no space to create and no silence to welcome creation.

So when was the last time I payed attention to space – within and without? When did I listen to Silence? When did I let the Moonlight in?

Oh, and how would I know if I did? My guess is – I’d feel the safety, nurture, encouragement of the Moon. I’d feel home. The way I felt as a child, with my parents around me. The way I feel among family and friends. The way I sometimes feel on my journeys into unknown.

Perhaps it’s more than a feeling. Feeling is a signal, but Ma is a state of being. Being content. Maybe it started in a womb? It started with Mother. Between the worlds. Within Ma.

In Hebrew “Ma” means “What?”. That too is a good match. Perhaps with the Moon the answer is less important than the question. Jewish tradition encourages children to ask questions. Questioning keeps the right fertile mood going, keeps the door open.

“What can we do today?”

“What can we dream tonight?”

=>Astrology alert. Emergency exit. 🚪… 🙂

In this, how is astrology helpful? Where is the sacred Door?

Well, now that we established Ma, or Silence, are both connected to Moon, we may be able to glean some hints on how to see these gaps, how to interpret them, how to assign meaning.

Where is the Moon today?

Sites like astro.com will tell you.

Example 1: Moon in Aries – allow yourself to charge forward, Ma favors heroes today. Do not waste Moon on a useless opposition, pointless fight, or uncaring decisions. Listen for the challenge.

Example 2: Moon in Gemini – take that online course you kept postponing, catch up with a sibling or a friend, take that short trip. Moon may wither under too many distractions or worries. Listen for curiosity, for the new information.

Let’s get personal. Where is Moon in your own natal chart?

Same astro.com will tell you that as well, or ask yhs. Natal Moon – that’s how you keep it together. Do you nurture yourself in this style, or do you turn away from yourself, or beat yourself up? Each sign has many sides we can choose from.

Example 3: Natal Moon in Virgo?

You have this fundamental respect for and yearning towards precision, mastery, service. Being useful makes you happy, makes you tick. Being a pro, or just knowing how to handle something, makes you comfortable. You feel that you belong. But what if instead of helping yourself and others you choose a side of Virgo that is so critical, never satisfied, that makes elephant of any misplaced mole hill? What if you set the bar so high you will never touch it, nor will any of your (current and potential) friends? What if you allow yourself to be overwhelmed by details and shove the whole situation aside in despair? Then you are choosing sides of Virgo that are training wheels, that are shadows of the real deal.

Then Ma has little space left to reside in. Then Moon has no place to shine her nurturing light from within you.

Listen for ever changing perfection.

Natal Moon in houses

Then there is an astrological “house” your Moon is in – birth chart as well as how it currently evolves via “progression”. House may show where in your life you are learning to be nurturing, to unlock potential, to open up and take comfort in the loving Ma of creation.

Is it in your fifth house of fun, play and imagination? Listen for the voice of your inner child.

Or is it in the twelfth house of contemplation, isolation and mechanics? Listen for the connecting Ohm, for the humming of the hidden engine.

Contacts with other planets

Then of course there is relationship to other points in the chart and it’s overall set of themes.

Example 4: Moon is connected to Saturn.

Are you courageously opening your heart to (potentially harsh) 3D practical side of the world? Do you claim your innate wisdom, explore your talent to concentrate and willingness to overcome challenges (“work hard”) in order to enjoy tangible results? Or are you just too damn serious, sanctimonious and cautious? Probably a bit of both. I am anyway.

Listen for the precious tone of each sound, and see how each moment flows into next.

=>End Astrology alert. 🚪 🙂

So astrology is what we can go on and on about, obviously. But what if that’s not your cup of tea? Then you are back to experiencing Ma/Moon directly – through your moods, care, music, children, pets and all other kind of disguised Zen Masters in our lives.

How about being your own child? I love the idea! Become your own friend? Some of us may prefer to rely on the omnipresent nurturing light of All That Is – that too is more than enough.

Its Moontime for me. Back to Ma. But before we part ways, here are two quotes from Sufi poets I love. Sufis really felt their Moon deeply too.

From Hafiz:

The small man

Builds cages for everyone

He knows.

While the sage,

Who has to duck his head

When the moon is low,

Keeps dropping keys all night long

For the





From Rumi – and if this is not infused with Moon, I don’t know what is:

Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.


Take care!

PS This post would be amiss without Beethoven’s famous Moonlight Sonata. This performance is by brilliant Maurizio Pollini . I love both the slower magical nurturing part and the fast moving inspiring and encouraging part. Both are attributes of the Moon.

Moonlight Sonata

4 thoughts on “Zen Ma – The Moon Door

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