Meditation Gardens For Peace, Tranquility and Serenity
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 to provide 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 walking meditation.
A meditation “garden” can also be a place to do Yoga or Tai Chi. It may be a place where you perform your ritual ceremonies of prayer and contemplation.
Conversely, meditation gardens associated with churches, temples and other places of worship are often called Prayer Gardens. 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 the space.
To create these feelings, consider elements such as privacy, enclosure, canopy, and 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 form. Listen, it cannot be heard – it is beyond sound. Grasp, it cannot be held – it is intangible.”
In other words, ascribing a label to a garden as that of a “meditation garden” is misleading. The garden’s potential meaning is so broad and so diverse that to label it as such only serves to limit the imagination and to muffle one’s capacity for quiet listening. Therefore, that is why the use of the terms meditation, contemplation, tranquility, serenity and prayer are all used interchangeably when used in the “description” or labeling of such a garden.
If we call our garden a garden for meditation, or a garden for serenity, are we defining its purpose or the state of mind it is designed to evoke? It may look tranquil or serene in its appearance, but the real power is the feeling in one’s mind or thought and attitude while experiencing such a garden.
In Zen Buddhism, if one was to acknowledge while meditating that they are in the meditating posture so that they will ‘awaken’, the mere act of being in a posture of meditation is missing the point entirely. The visitor to a meditation garden will ‘awaken’ at the moment they lose conscious awareness that they are in a meditation garden. Their physical presence becomes secondary.
On the surface, a tranquility garden, serenity garden, or meditation garden is much like a Yoga Mat. It is just a spongy mat I use to lay upon. The mat itself does not perform Yoga nor provide me with a feeling of harmony and balance.
When I leave the meditation garden, is it still a meditation garden? Or does it revert back to its more natural form as a grouping of plants, trees and flowers?