COMFORTABLE SPACE

Everyday is Starbucks day. Caramel macchiatto on Monday and cake, cappuccino and cake the next day, Asian Dolce Latte the next.

Everyday is Starbucks day. Caramel macchiatto on Monday and cake, cappuccino and cake the next day, Asian Dolce Latte the next.

It doesn’t have to be extravagant although I wouldn’t mind if it was. Simplicity is the key word for my panacea for blah days. When that moment hits me, I retreat to my comfortable space. It’s a space swathed in tranquillity and devoid of officious people. It’s a space solely open to me and others who value solace. There is one strict rule in my comfortable space for those who want to enter: venal thoughts are grounds for disbarment.  My comfortable space can be amidst a crowded café; there’s always this spot that nobody seems to want, but seems to have my name emblazoned on the chair and table. Chaos is at arm’s length when I plunk my bag on the other chair and my tray on the table. Or it can be an oasis filled with pungent fragrances that melts into a mild scent as the hours go.

SPA SPACE

The stultifying summer heat is just one of the reasons that drive me to seek my comfortable space. It’s the least, if truth be told, but when it converges with daily work stresses, disappointments and utter frustration), there’s no way simple meditation or breathing exercises can dodge the universe’s spanners. I make a dash for one of my havens. There are two ways to get to the spa on the eighth floor. First, you literally go through the hotel entrance or, second, if you’re in the mall it’s adjacent to, you go down the basement, look for the sign that points to the hotel, make a right then a left and head for the lift.

The minimalist decor of the spa's lobby is a clear indication of the serenity waiting ahead.

The minimalist decor of the spa’s lobby
is a clear indication of the serenity waiting ahead.

“First we make the world revolve around you then we gently slow it down”, tag line of The Spa & Health Club at The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place, appealed to my frazzled senses. Quite apt, I mumbled to myself as I perused the extensive spa menu.  Divided into three categories, couples looking for a refreshing time together can go over the Ancient Healing Traditions that include, among others, Rainforest Magic, a 180-minute therapy, that involves anti-aging skin treatments, facial and traditional massage with red ginger poultice. A favourite is Ancient Royal Ritual, which harks back to the heydays of the Javanese royalty. It’s a luxurious melange of a footbath, a traditional Javanese massage, white lulur (body scrub) and body mask of Jasmine buttermilk and fresh honey.

A trip to tranquillity begins with a relaxing  foot bath.

A trip to tranquillity begins with a relaxing
foot bath.

A body scrub and body mask is good but I needed a strong massage that would unravel the tight knots on my body and get the blood meandering smoothly through my system.  Massages were under Body Wisdom, which featured a Polynesian technique in the Pacific Mystique, Swedish strokes in the Stone Massage, Japanese magic in Shiatsu, and combined Chinese and Tibetan massage techniques together with sounds of a Tibetan singing bowl in the Tibetan Moxa and Singing Bowl. I wasn’t sure how I’d felt about hearing the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl wafting through the air. Thoughts of the old Lily Tomlin movie All of Movie where she played an ailing dying heiress who stipulated in her will for her soul be transferred into another body filled my mind. A Tibetan bowl figured prominently in the soul-transfer ritual.

I settled for a 90-minute detoxifying deep tissue and pressure massage to relieve muscle tension, detoxify the body and alleviate fatigue.

My therapist petite structure belied her power. Her tiny but mighty fingers travelled up and down without respite; her strokes were firm and strong as she worked on the tightly knotted muscles on the upper and lower back, neck area, shoulders, and legs. After each stroke traversed the gnarled area, a whisper of calmness and comfort blew over rapidly changing into a billow that followed my every exhale. There was no need to remind her to adjust her pressure or to focus on a particular spot. She, amazingly just knew.

Dimmed lights, music overhead and clean spa beds - my idea of a comfortable space.

Dimmed lights, music overhead and clean spa beds – my idea of a comfortable space.

Before I knew it the 90 minute was up, leaving me wondering where it went. I searched for the old familiar aches and the stagnant energy but they were gone. To make the moment last a little longer I was shown the relaxation room where I spotted a tray on a table.  It was for me said my therapist who quickly disappeared. Settling down on the chair, a little sip of the freshly made ginger tea and, within minutes, I drifted into further bliss.

COFFEE SPACE

Most of the time a café is where I head to calm my frazzled nerves. Starbucks figures prominently in my list of comfortable spaces. In Singapore, it was where I sat and read or processed thoughts and events, wondering if I should stay or leave. In Indonesia, it’s where I sit and read or take a breather from the routine, which, at times, can be suffocating. Over a cup of new favourites like the Asian Dolce Latte and a slice of the White Chocolate Red Velvet cake, I let my thoughts run helter-skelter and channel the vibe of Dalai Lama, going “placidly amidst the noise and haste” as Desiderata prudently advised.  The results are 50-50: eureka moments get me all excited about teaching and blogging or, conversely, I simply block thoughts of the annoying creatures surrounding me, mentally uttering “They don’t matter to me.”

TABLE SPACE

When being a recluse becomes an encumbrance, when I don’t want to hear my other me’s chatter anymore I seek the company of good people. By good I mean straight in their thinking (read: with a modicum of intelligence), humorous, and sincere. The three traits are important because they can make or break an experience perhaps not now but later. It’s hard, for instance, to carry a conversation with a person whose topics for discussion run the gamut of other people’s lives. Gossip does make for good conversation but it shouldn’t wallow in pedestrianism. Idle chatter, in fact, shouldn’t be allowed to sit very long at the conversation armchair.  Add in a hint of psychoanalytical babble, which might help in unlocking the key to understanding a colleague’s very slow pick-up or a boss’s off-putting cowboy demeanour or being patient with the witless wonder. Ideally, a good conversationalist also has a healthy sense of self-worth and it isn’t afraid to make comments on mundane things such as where to eat or beg off an invitation honestly without having to either annoyingly apologising profusely or create an excuse.

Freshly made noodles with savoury dumplings make for a great lunch or dinner.

Freshly made noodles with savoury dumplings make for
a great lunch or dinner.

With or without soup inside, dumplings by Din Tai Fung are scrumptious.

With or without soup inside, dumplings by Din Tai Fung
are scrumptious.

Conversation and food is an ideal pair and Din Tai Fung at Plaza Senayan was an excellent choice for an impromptu gab fest with friends. Over dim sum (the one with soup inside it) and bowls of noodles (spinach noodles was a revelation), chuckles and guffaws rang loudly in the restaurant with nary a complaint from the staff or the other diners, and chatter continued until a decision had to be made on where to go for dessert.

Comfortable spaces are custom-made because it is your space to unwind, soothe the ruffled feathers and let things fall where they should without intrusion. It’s also your choice to put up a “No Entry” sign.

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