As the weather starts to turn and outdoor spaces are beginning to blossom into color and life, we think there's no better time to devote a portion of your yard or garden to a Zen sanctuary. Reminiscent of a Japanese rock garden, a Zen garden is a calming, serene space designed to facilitate thought and meditation. It's simple and fulfilling to make, with only a few guidelines to add an ancient space for revitalization of body and mind to your home's outdoor space.
The first Zen garden was designed by Zen Buddhist priest in the 14th century, built as a place to appreciate aesthetic beauty and to facilitate meditation. After these models, a Zen garden is meant to, initially, appear simple, while the complexity and detail of the space is only discovered upon further study. While many other elements can be added, the basic design hinges on two main elements—rock and sand. For the original Zen gardens, sand represented water and was (and can be) raked into ripple formations.
A Zen garden is a personal place of imagination and creativity, and as such there is no one right way to do it. The entire design of the space depends on the creator. Simply, it is meant to contain a few core components.
—Stone: Stone is considered the structural basis of the garden's landscape, serving as islands or stepping stones.
—Pebbles: The size of the pebbles can range from pea- to potato-sized. Use them to create serene fields or pathways or simply as a base for a piece of art.
—Sand: Use sand (gravel can work too!) much in the same way as pebbles, but as a metaphor for water in spaces throughout your Zen garden.
—Bamboo fences and/or panels: Structural elements made from aesthetically pleasing bamboo can help further enhance a visual pattern.
—Buddhas: Place figures of Buddhas from various cultural traditions around the space to bring a further sense of serenity and center.
You can also add other elements like ornamental plants, paying great attention to selecting plants that well represent the seasons. For spring, choose a stunning flowering tree that greens up nice for the summer, and for fall look to add a tree or plant that will change along with the season's colors. But, be sure not to overwhelm your space with too many flowering or colorful items. To maintain the space throughout summer and winter, try to base your landscape choices on evergreen plants, providing a naturally beautiful place in all seasons.
Meditation is linked to better health through decreasing stress. The deep breathing during meditation decreases the body's required amount of oxygen, and blood is directed away from the sympathetic nervous system—that which is responsible for human's fight or flight instincts—in favor of the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing down your heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure. The results of soothing meditation for the body, mind and soul include lowered stress, greater energy conservation, increased creativity and decreased depression. And there's no better place to discover the benefits than in a personal space designed precisely to bring balance to your lifestyle!