Zen and the luxury of less !
For some years now, I have been trying to pin down the essential attributes of luxury in context of the times we are in. And I can tell you that I am far from clear or clever answers, infact I have more questions. And in the questions I have found more questions.
- We covet the most luxurious car that guzzles fossil fuels and belches out toxic fumes yet fresh air is a luxury we crave and would travel for.
- We awe at a cuisine that is alien to us but can’t help the burp of satisfaction of a comfort food that reminds us of our mother’s or spouse’s simple recipe.
- The sensual feel of handmade earthy fabric feels like heaven yet our wardrobes has strange fabrics of fast fashion that sit uncomfortably on us.
- We love space, the feel of sand, fresh air and sea water on our body but clutter our lives with things that we probably don't look at a second time. It is for others to come home and see.
- We expect the luxury of super thick towels and Snow White fresh linen that are changed everyday.
- Bath Tubs filled with water and sprinkled with rose petals that may not be used and then flushed down the drain is questionable luxury ? Isn't it ?
- Breakfasts by definition are something which should energise you for the day. Luxury looks at breakfast to be many layered and made to satisfy palates from every corner of the world. And anytime breakfast that moves to a brunch or lunch ? Is that luxury, I wonder ?
- Envisaging every self-indulgent demand of a guest is a luxury. And to have everything one could possibly desire, the hotel should be able to provide. Luxury ?
On a recent visit to London, I walked into a luxury brand store that made bags. Each design was a handcrafted beauty, marrying cloth and leather to perfection. When I heard the price and quickly did a mental math, I was stunned. The amiable sales woman told me that - their bags were a lifestyle choice and are passed down generations. I’ve heard of people with a line of branded bags and shoes that could line the shelves of a store. Our financial freedom and the charm of spending with money that is not ours is so enticing that we have willingly become slaves to credit and hence the thoughtless excess which we carry as our luxury travel premise. Besides even if you have all the money in the world it can't buy you fresh air, healthy soil and good weather.
Towel Menus, pillow menus, everyday gifting and monogrammed linen are big in the world of luxury. Many of these pass off as details. What then is luxury ? Is unforeseen excess the answer, does it not have to change with the world around us ? In these times of stress shouldn’t luxury be revisited to derive a more sensitive connotation. To move from rajjasik to a more sattvik mindset, or a zen vision of luxury - the planet is demanding this. Every industry is grappling with the monsters of waste and unsustainable growth plans they have envisioned for themselves. We can all close your eyes and make excuses but the next Tsunami, forest fire, drought or floods may be right next to you !
Given that the minute we step out of our homes on our travels we begin with a score that is Carbon negative ! So what would conscious luxury look like ? And why should we bother ?
Very simply we have consumed more than we can grow, taken more than we can give and created more than that can be destroyed, naturally. The cyclic natural process of destruction and rejuvenation has been impacted in such a way that the natural process is ‘haywire’ and struggling to bring about balance.
Conscious luxury in travel may defer to the idea of ‘zen’ and create luxury as breathable spaces, minimal handmade furniture, locally sourced organic linen and amenities, curated personal meals, quiet fireside chats, gentle explorations and experiences that transform. This is yet an uncoded space with the potential to expand beyond imagination and be able to include much of what the present climate change scenario can possibly imagine, it also puts you, the luxury traveller in control of your actions. Central to the idea is how to balance excesses that are not in your control with what you can, your own conscious view of ‘less is more’. You may begin by looking within, consciously !