August 1, 2010
A meditation garden can have
different meanings for different people. When you think of a meditation garden, do you think of a Zen type
Japanese garden with raked gravel and an island of stones? Do you envision a secluded, private retreat
surrounded by lush tropical
growth as in a rainforest? Or perhaps you see an area in a
traditional yard that has
been designated for the purpose of meditating or just sitting
in contemplation with a
bench or chair or comfortable mat.
Meditation gardens can take
many different forms, but their primary purpose is toprovide a vehicle for mental, emotional and physical
benefits. A place that can offer refuge from a hectic lifestyle, a sanctuary for soul rejuvenation, a spot
conducive for actual
meditation practice. Meditation itself can be sitting meditation or
A meditation "garden" can
also be a place to do Yoga or Tai Chi. It maybe a place where you perform your ritual ceremonies of prayer and
gardens associated with churches, temples and other places of worship are often called Prayer
Thus a meditation garden can
take on myriad forms of expression depending on the desires of the user. The process of creating or designing
the space starts with identification of the purpose of the space.
Of course, an otherwise
simple garden that just
happens to have a bench strategically placed near a waterfall can
also serve as your
meditation garden. Especially if you realize that it really
does function as such and
has the right "feeling". The space, as designed, must be conducive for meditation, yet allow
the spontaneity of the mind to ascend to its own levels, irrespective of the aesthetics of
To create these feelings,
consider elements such as
privacy, enclosure, canopy, exposure to the elements,
amount of plantings,
sounds, scents, color and proximity to your main house.
As I ponder meditating
outdoors, I am reminded of something said in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu:
“Look, it cannot be seen - it is beyond
Listen, it cannot be heard - it is beyond
Grasp, it cannot be held - it is
In other words, ascribing a
label to a garden as that of a "meditation garden" is misleading. I wonder how much more
insight I would gain if I stop thinking that "I am meditating now". My legs are crossed in a
sitting position, and therefore I must concentrate so hard that I block out all extraneous
thoughts in order to experience something I know not.
The purpose of a meditation garden therefore is not to focus on the label,
but to experience the inner calm and peacefulness one receives from the mind state of deep
relaxation when one can experience the vibration of a hummingbird flying near your head.
When one sits like a Buddha
in a meditating posture or in their meditation garden in perfect Lotus position, they may
hear the sound of the wind, or see the green of the leaves, but they are not seeing and they
are not hearing. These things did not come into existence as a result of your meditating.
You became awakened to their existence because your thoughts were silenced. Your thoughts
say things like, "Does the wind make a sound when I cannot hear it?
Perception is just a way to
make sense of reality around us. Our state of awareness is transient. It comes and goes
like clouds in the sky.
Therefore, we may loosely
use the terms meditation, contemplation, tranquility, serenity and
prayer when "describing" or labeling these types of gardens.
Labels are like badges. They
help us identify what something is all about. The state of mind of meditation and
contemplation however do accurately describe the intended qualities of the garden, that of a
flowing stream, meandering peacefully among the pebbles of consciousness.
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