I’m spending next week at my family home in Merville, British Columbia. It’s where I grew up and it’s my place of Zen. If people are the soul of our communities then our souls also connect to physical spaces that shape us in profound ways. It’s important to have places – big or small, natural or built, public or private, lavish or humble – to focus on what matters most. I hope you enjoy this short story about my place of Zen as well as five reasons why you should have a place of Zen in your life, too.
Probably tomorrow evening my parents will call me for a final rundown of the plan for our week at their home. Ferry reservations. Camping equipment. Dinner guests on the docket. Meal plans. And my dad will wrap it up with one of my favourite lines: “the deck is ready for you!” Places of Zen provide us with space to chill out. It’s one of the reasons that the deck under the maple tree is probably my favourite space on Earth.
While I roam the acres of my folks’ homestead I re-live family memories. We share stories of whose doing what over great food and wine. I’m smiling as I write about kissing my wife and lifelong partner, Michelle, under the arbor to the orchard, which is where we got married seven Julys ago. And I also relish the opportunity to make new, lasting memories with my kids.
Find your place of zen
Here are some specific things that places of Zen do to enhance our potential.
They are restful
I’m excited to recharge my body through rest and a different pace (not to mention grandparent help with the kids!). Your place of Zen should reflect the way that you like to relax and make it easy for you to do so. I relax in nature and where things are familiar (newness fosters a need to explore!), but you might find rest within an awesome, noisy café.
They inspire reflection
I’m eager to reflect on the year so far and focus on the right things in my work and life. Robin Sharma locks himself in Italian hotels to reflect, create and write. I like to wake up early (after a couple of sleep-ins) and/or stay up late and write in my journal. Your place of Zen should make it easy to write or record your ideas and think deeply about what feeds your soul, what makes you feel grateful, and what you could’ve done better or differently that time.
They facilitate dialogue
I’m keen to discuss and debate life with family and friends on the deck. We will solve the world’s most intractable problems through conversation! Well, not really. But I am keen to seek and share advice about personal problems or questions that we bring to the deck. My parents are important mentors to my wife and I, so it’s wonderful to have uninterrupted and peaceful moments together to talk through problems and explore new ideas. If you’re open to it being a bit noisy, your place of Zen should inspire dialogue – after all, we are shaped by our conversations and should practice having better ones with the people closest to us.
They enable futureproofing
I’m looking forward to looking forward. Five year plans aren’t my thing. The world is changing so quickly and my interests are changing with it (not always at a matching pace). Rather than plan out every step in my career or for my kids, I prefer to discuss trends in the world, how my interests and skills might align, and what connections, knowledge and/or daily habits I’ll need to be ready for what’s to come. Your place of Zen shouldn’t just connect you to the past. It must enable an inspiring vision of your future and what’s possible.
They shift perspective
Mostly, I’m interested in my ever-shifting perspective. The cool thing about traveling home once or twice a year is that I can evaluate my rate of change based on my relationship to my family home, which has kinda changed, but has mostly stayed the same over three decades. My relationship to the kitchen, living room and my old bedroom has evolved over time. Same with the deck and the maple tree. Your place of Zen should have a bit of gravity that pulls you back so that you can understand what about you has stayed the same and what’s changed. Shifting perspective helps with everything from eliminating biases to being more fully present.