Travel

Be still: How to experience the unexpected Zen of a staycation

Author: Elle Canada

Travel

Be still: How to experience the unexpected Zen of a staycation

I’m game to travel and explore just about anywhere – and I’m fortunate that I get to do so for my job. But, recently, I decided to take the advice Pico Iyer offers up in his book The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere...and do just that. He advocates periodically taking what he calls a “secular sabbath” – a time out from not only our daily lives but also our high-octane travel adventures – as a way to revitalize and more fully appreciate all of life’s journeys. With that in mind, I arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto – which is just a 10-minute cab ride from my house – for my own little retreat: a weekend stay to try the property’s new “Detox Box” experience. I set aside my to-do list, put my phone on “mute” and didn’t pack much beyond pyjamas and Iyer’s book.

I felt stillness descend upon me the moment I entered my suite. Sunlight, softened by sheer curtains, streamed into the room, making the minimalist muted-yellow decor feel both bright and calming. Immediately, I noticed that the mini-bar had been emptied of the regular temptations and was instead stocked with a supply of cold-pressed juices from Greenhouse Juice Co. The only things on my agenda were an “energizing” massage at the spa and two roomservice deliveries: a fresh salad for dinner and a lemongrass- and ginger-infused tea before bed. I spent my day nestled in the couch or curled up on the bed thinking, reading, dozing a bit and not paying particular attention to the time. The break helped me refocus my priorities and rediscover the value of letting my mind wander – and let me reflect on how grateful I am for everything I have.

In the book, Iyer writes about singersongwriter Leonard Cohen, who has famously spent significant portions of the past 40 years studying Zen meditation. He credits Cohen with describing the act of sitting still as “going nowhere.” While he has travelled the world extensively, Cohen told Iyer that his greatest journeys are inner ones. I’m certainly up for more of my own inner trips.

ANOTHER SWEET PERK TO GOING NOWHERE
Cherry blossoms are one of spring’s simple pleasures. Each deep breath you take while in the company of the soft pink petals can be a calming moment of olfactory meditation. But because the trees only bloom during a short window every April or May, travelling to see them can be a bit tricky. How disappointing would it be to go all the way to, say, Japan to experience them in their full glory and then miss their peak bloom by just a few days? But if you stay close to home instead and visit places like Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden and Toronto’s High Park, which have significant cherry-blossom gardens, that ephemeral bloom becomes much easier to enjoy. The only trick is finding a quiet, crowd-free moment to take it all in. We recommend an early-morning weekday visit—think of 10 minutes beneath the branches as a mini-retreat from your workweek.

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Be still: How to experience the unexpected Zen of a staycation