The 5&1 Step-back

On the Japanese island of Okinawa people start a meal by offering a piece of advice: hara hachi bu. It means eat until you’re 80% full. Don’t eat until you can eat no more, but eat until you’re not hungry. The Incredible Shrinking Man understands this advice as relevant cultural heritage to be be practised not only in how we eat but in how we live.

To transform what is principally eating-habit related advice to a more general spatial outlook on life, we created a small exercise. The 5&1 Step-back is a simple choreography to inspire the hara hachi bu mindset. To execute, place both feet next to each other and take 5 steps forward. Stand still, observe the space, then take one step back. Observe. Now you have executed the basic one-dimensional lineair movement. It is possible to extent the exercise to explore the space in a second dimension. For this you turn to your left, take 5 steps, observe. Take one step back, observe. Turn to your left again, repeat. Turn to your left again, repeat. Turn to your left one more time. You should now be back in the original starting position. Although it is possible to add the third dimension by bringing a 5 step ladder into the exercise allowing you to move upward, we prefer to focus on the fourth dimension, time. To do so we slow down the entire proces. Where the linear act of taking 5 steps forward would normally only take a few seconds we now slow it down considerably by a factor 5 or 10. The slower you do it the more it will influence how you experience space.

The exercise can be adapted to fit the available space. If you are in an apartment with furniture the square might not work. If you have just a little space, take little steps. However the 5 to 1 steps ratio should be maintained as it represents the 80% Hara Hachi Bu principle and allows us to experience the 20% space it gives.