Starting a Meditation Garden

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Everything in the garden offers some form of nurturing, whether it's food or something visual.

For years we’ve been seeking to create a sanctuary in our built environment that reflects the need for relaxation, contemplation and escape from stress. A garden, balcony or an indoor urban jungle does just that.

People are starving for more nature and serenity in their lives, the great thing about a meditation or a zen garden is that you don’t even have to know anything about meditation to create one.

It doesn't take years of study under a zen master, though, to feel the calming effects of spending time in a garden or in nature—if only to enjoy refuge from the constant sensory bombardment of urban life. Just being outdoors elicits more awareness of what the world is truly made of.

There is no right or wrong way to make a meditation garden; the whole goal is to make a garden that both calms and inspires you, and when you open your eyes, inspires you even more.

No one knows exactly why gardens have such healing and stress-reducing properties; it seems to be at least partially a primordial reaction wired into our central nervous system. Researchers have found that the more a garden engages the senses, the stronger its ability to distract us from the stressful whirlwind of our thoughts.

The gardens that work best are places that facilitate awe and fascination, bringing you in touch with yourself and your surroundings at the same time. The best way to establish this is to try to see your garden space as an “outdoor room”. It’s a place where you’ll go to relax, rest, and recline, so it will need to have features in it that you find comfortable, uplifting, and secure.

It could also be a place to incorporate your daily yoga routine, or where you spend time with family, either gardening or just enjoying your morning cup of coffee.

If you are going to share this garden with family or others, get their ideas and input too. And always remember that this is your garden; it’s your intent that counts when creating a meditation garden.

You might find really good inspiration in traditional gardens from other parts of the world. While there is no need to follow a theme, having one can instill a sense of calmness through orderliness and focus.

Start a plan. Incorporate all the positive attributes of your existing area and being aware of the size, sound levels, terrain and views of your existing garden (for example, you might already have a pleasant quiet area or a fish pond that you can work around). Begin planning for the desired features that you haven’t yet got. Draw an outline of how you perceive your garden, including the features you intend to add. This plan can be updated and changed as you proceed, but it’s a good idea to begin with a basic idea to work from and incorporate plants in the plan to make sure they work in harmony with each other and the environment.

Use eco-friendly garden solutions and products. A meditation garden is a place to be at one with nature and the Earth; it wouldn’t make sense to drown it in chemicals such as pesticides (insecticides), fungicides, anti-microbials and rodenticides. If you are practicing a philosophy of non-harm, using such toxins can affect the quality of the garden and plants as your well-being. Instead, look for the eco-friendly options to keep weeds and other pests under control within your garden, as well as using eco-friendly plant nutrient options, such are incorporating a worm farm and a compost bin.

Keep updating and changing your garden to suit your needs. As with meditation itself, you to grow and change over time, so your garden should not be stuck in time. Replenish and refurbish your garden as your own needs and wants evolve, just like you would any other space in your home.