You’ve seen zen garden designs before, but what exactly is a zen garden used for?
Simply put, zen gardens provide quiet places for meditation, self-reflection and mindfulness.
It is all about finding balance and pondering about life and all its beautiful mysteries.
What is a zen garden
Zen gardens are dry gardens meaning they do not contain any water features or elements. In fact, zen gardens are supposed to be abstract representations of a water scene where the sand or gravel represents the water. The patterns made in the sand are meant to simulate ripples in the water.
Zen gardens originated in Japanese Buddhist culture around the 4th century. Among Buddhists, the gardens were designed to be a calming, harmonious place for meditation. As a result, the gardens were intentionally and purposefully designed to be pleasing.
White sand and gravel were chosen as white signifies purity and goodness. The majority of the garden is usually sand or gravel for a minimalistic feel. Empty, uniform space – free from distractions – is always ideal for meditation.
The rock and green elements in a zen garden generally represent mountains, islands and land masses. They are placed in such a way as to draw the eyes from one point to another in a very pleasing way. When studied, most placements seem to follow the rule of odds and golden ratio.
Raking the sand around the rock elements are meant to be an exercise in mindfulness. And the patterns simulate ripples, gentle waves and rough waves. Again, there is great beauty in the simplicity of the raked designs. They all promote a sense of balance and harmony.
What is a zen garden used for
Zen gardens are used for mindfulness exercises, as well as meditation, and self-reflection. Now, mindfulness is where you intentionally become aware of your senses, thoughts, feelings and emotions and being present in the moment.
Meditation and mindfulness have well documented benefits and are effective for dealing with stress, pain, anxiety and depression. So, zen gardens are used for resetting the mind and body and contemplating all that life is and beyond.
How to use a zen garden
There are a number of ways to use a zen garden.
Pray or repeatedly chant a word or phrase that can calm and comfort you.
You can meditate. This can take on many forms from deep breathing exercises to focusing exercises where you try to build your concentration and gently prevent your mind from wandering.
Quiet reflection is another ideal way to use a zen garden. You can deep dive into the essence of life, current affairs, your own relationships and explore the perspectives of others. Doing this can give you remarkable insight and help you transform your mindset in profound ways.
Being mindful by focusing on the zen garden is another great exercise. Explore the principles of zen philosophy by looking on at the garden. The principles include naturalness, gracefulness, asymmetry, subtlty and tranquility. Explore the quietness of the space, the shape of the rocks, the gracefulness of the lines in the sand, and so on.
Forming the lines is another exercise in mindfulness where you could stay present in the moment, focusing on creating gently lines in the sand. Buddhist monks actually do this exercise to build their own concentration and focus.
What do you use your zen garden for? I’d love to hear more in the comments below.