People who regularly meditate are drawn to intimate settings, including special meditation rooms, gardens, holy places, and along rivers, and Kyoto, Japan has it all.
Famous for its 2,000 Buddhist temples and shrines, Kyoto, along the Kamo River, is as Zen as it gets, embellished with imperial palaces, lush, sprawling public gardens, and the magnificent backdrop of the nearby Higashiyama Mountains. If you’re not surrounded by the sound of pure nature, you could be lulled into a peaceful state with traditional Shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) seemingly everywhere.
I spent hours wandering Nanzen-ji, the most famous Zen temple dating back to the 13th century, as well as the iconic Golden Pavilion, a temple made completely out of gold leaf towering over a tranquil pond. Like me, most visitors will make a beeline to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, one of Kyoto’s most photographed attractions, which offers paths for meditative wandering.
A wonderful way to see Kyoto is with Inside Japan Tours, which offers self-guided and group trips. Various itineraries offer special ways to connect with Kyoto and with yourself, like visiting an onsen hot spring bath and meditating with a Buddhist priest in a temple.
Kyoto has long been famous for traditional ryokan inns, but luxury hotels have been opening throughout the city, like the Four Seasons and Ace. Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, however, was the first to arrive in 2012, offering 134 tranquil, Japanese-style rooms with furnished decks, high-end restaurants, and an intimate spa.
In a place like Kyoto, simply watching the locals around you brings clarity. I felt a particular awe and respect for their appreciation of culture, history, nature, family, and spirituality. This grew on me and made me reflect on my life in a way I wouldn’t back home. Traveling allows one to grow, learn, absorb and appreciate, and in places like Kyoto, Maldives, Sedona and Riviera Maya, I was able to make a special connection with each destination. More importantly, each place provided the perfect setting for me to spend alone time, relax my brain, and remember to take a deep breath. I now meditate every day in New York City, whether during walks with my dog or on my yoga mat in the morning, but I truly commit and reach my personal best when I’m in these stunning destinations.
Ananda in the Himalayas. The Palace Estate, Narendra Nagar, Uttarakhand 249175, India. Tel: 91-1378-227-901. Award-winning, Oprah Winfrey- approved wellness retreat in the Himalayas. anandaspa.com
Banyan Tree Mayakoba. Carretera Federal Chetumal-Puerto Jaurez, Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Tel: 52-984-877-3688. Five-star resort in Mayakoba with excellent spa and luxurious villas. banyantree.com
Nizuc Resort. Boulevard Kukulcan Mz 59 Lote 1-03, Punta Nizuc, 77500 Cancun, Mexico. Tel: 52-998-891-5700. 274-room luxury resort with a private beach, tropical gardens and gorgeous ESPA spa. nizuc.com
Palmaia – The House of Aia. Paseo Xaman, Ha Late 1, Playacar, 77710 Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Tel: 52-984-877-3830. 314-suite, all-inclusive eco-resort specializing in wellness. thehouseofaia.com
L’Auberge de Sedona. 301 L’Auberge Lane, Sedona, Arizona 86336. Tel: 855- 905-5745. Intimate, 83-room property with luxury lodges and cottages and vortex treehouse. www.lauberge.com
Kudadoo Private Island by Hurawalhi. Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives. Tel: 960-662-2000. Five-star, 14-villa resort equipped with a pampering, bilevel spa (unlimited treatments) and butler service. kudadoo.com
Inside Japan Tours. 1738 Pearl Street, Suite 302, Boulder, Colorado 80302. Tel: 303-952-0379. US-based tour operator providing seamless journeys to Japan. www.insidejapantours.com
Ritz Carlton Kyoto. Kamogawa Nijo-Ohashi Hotori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604-0902 Japan, Tel: 81-75-746-5555. Intimate, five-star hotel located on Kamo River. ritzcarlton.com