It’s easy to find calm and de-stress when you’re doing your yoga practice on the mat, but you may find it harder to maintain the same state of calm off the mat, with all the busyness and noise of modern life. If you’re craving for moments of Zen, consider a meditation retreat where you can learn how to maintain a state of inner quiet and being present, no matter where you are.
Zen is a Japanese word that originated from “ch’an” in Chinese, which has its roots in “dhyana” in Sanskrit. At its most basic, Zen means meditation and a state of mindfulness and awareness. It doesn’t mean you can only attain Zen when you are in meditation. As long as you can keep a meditative state in whatever you do and are at peace within yourself, you’ve found Zen.
These three places will help you reconnect with yourself and with nature. When you are in rhythm with nature, your mind clears, your heart opens, and you begin to see the beauty of the world around you and the wisdom and goodness of others. That is Zen.
Shunkoin Temple, Kyoto, Japan
What could be more Zen than staying at one of the most important places for Zen Buddhism in Japan? In the center of My?shinji, the biggest temple complex in the historic city of Kyoto, is Shunkoin Temple (Temple of the Ray of Spring Ray.) Five simple, affordable rooms are available to visitors who are interested in studying Zen philosophy and the art of Zen meditation. Find quiet in the main garden, which honors two most important Shint? deities, explore other temples in the complex, go on a meditative walk along carved stone pathways, and let the evening Buddhist chants soothe your whole being. The five rooms are extremely affordable and popular so book early, especially if you plan to visit during Kyoto’s extraordinary cherry blossom season. If you wish to add yoga to your visit, yoga teacher Nicole Porter organizes a seasonal yoga and meditation retreat at Shunkoin. Contact her at her website for dates of next scheduled retreats.
Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Carmel Valley, California
Known formally as zenshinji (Zen Heart-Mind Temple), Tassajara was the first Zen monastery established outside Asia. Located about two hours by car southeast of Carmel, California, the restorative energy at Tassajara is perfect for those seeking to find peace and tranquility away from city life. From late September to early April, student residents rise before dawn for a full day of meditation, study, and work. In the warmer month of April to September, Tassajara is open for retreats to guests. Whether you are on your own private retreat or as part of a yoga retreat program, you’ll have the opportunities to experience Zen Buddhist practice, get plenty of quiet time, and relax and de-stress in the natural hot springs of Tassajara Creek, well known for their healing properties and used long ago for ceremonies and therapies by the native Esselen tribe. Imagine being surrounded by nature, with the sounds of temple bells and soothing river flowing through the creek.
Shambala Mountain Center, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
This mountain valley retreat, affiliated with Shambala International, a path of Tibetan Buddhism, is located on 600 acres of natural beauty in northern Colorado. Join one of Shambala’s yoga and meditation programs or create your own retreat and renewal program. At the heart of Shambala Mountain Center is the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, the largest and most elaborate example of Buddhist sacred architecture in the North America. Take in the energy of the stupa – stupas are said to promote harmony and peace, subdue fear, and bring blessings to those who venerate them. In the Shambala vision, all human beings inherently possess wisdom, compassion and goodness, and meditation is a way to nurture these qualities. Shambala Mountain Center is the perfect sanctuary to bring you to a meditative state and find calm. The pine forest and valley setting of the Colorado Rockies connects you to Mother Earth and her soothing rhythm.