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
Conversely, meditation 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
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.