From Hinduism to Buddhism, meditation has been the central ritual of many Eastern religions and philosophies. Through mindfulness and breathing control, the practitioner stands to gain a lot in terms of health, both mental and physical. No wonder then that many Westerners have started meditating every day. Instead of a stuffy yoga studio, you should create a mediation garden for the entire family to enjoy!
Go for natural scents
When meditating in an enclosed space, lighting incense gets you in the mood for meditation. However, aromatherapy in the open shouldn’t be artificial but natural. There are so many fragrant plant species that you can plant in the garden to enjoy their scent. Some of these plants include Cherry Pie, freesia, tuberose, roses, mock orange, Sweet Olive, Jessamine, etc.
Build a green wall
After you have ensured that your garden is fragrant, it’s time to protect that fragrance from outside smells. If you live in an urban area, then smog and exhaust gases from cars are probably an issue. Luckily, you can shield the garden by planting a tall and dense hedge that will act as a green barrier against air pollution.
A green wall acts as a filter, stopping fine dust particles from getting inside your backyard and ruining the lawn. Finally, hedges act as sound mufflers, enabling you to meditate in the peace and quiet of your home.
Various water features
It’s a centuries-old fact that running water calms us down. There is something deeply serene about the burble of water, so a water feature is an ideal addition to a meditation garden. Luckily, there is an endless selection of water features for every budget.
A fountain coupled with a stream
Perhaps you cannot divert a river to run through your backyard but you can excavate a small trench to act as a rivulet. First, you need to transform the garden tap into a fountain to act as a spring for the garden stream.
If you’re crafty, you can sculptor the fountain yourself or you can order one from a stonemason. When the fountain is positioned, just connect the drain to the canal you dug out and you get a personal river.
A bird bath
Another kind of fountain is not intended for humans but birds. When coupled with a treehouse and a feeder, a bird bath is ideal for attracting colorful bird species to your backyard. Once their melodious twitter mixes up with the burble of water, you will get the ideal acoustic setting for meditation.
A fish pond
Speaking of animals, birds aren’t the only animal species you should rear in your garden. The aforementioned rivulet can feed a small fish pond. The design is typical of a Japanese Zen garden. Koi fish are ideal for a small pond, as you can feed them breadcrumbs in-between meditation sessions.
Don’t remove moss
In a regular garden, moss would probably be considered an invasive species, much like weeds. People often use pressured water to remove moss from the driveway and the walls of the house. However, a meditation garden would not be complete with a lush moss deposit. If you see moss occurring naturally, then nourish it with enough sun and water.
The ideal place for moss (where it doesn’t present a slip hazard) is on rocks and boulders. Here, they are representative of tenderness and tranquility and stand in stark contrast with the jagged rock face; as perfect symbols of how a serene person gets through life.
Finally, moss is ideal for miniature Zen gardens, so you can offer excess moss to friends who are just beginning to garden.
Bamboo is a universal building material
The global bamboo flooring market had been growing steadily during recent decades. The reason for this is bamboo’s affordability and eco-friendliness as a building material. In China, which is among the top producers of bamboo on the planet, a new bamboo forest ae constantly planted to make the production sustainable.
You should make use of this trend and use bamboo in various sections of your meditation garden. The bamboo plant is wondrous, as it gently sways in the slightest breeze, although its root runs several meters into the ground, making it extremely hard to break it.
In the case of the bamboo, nature’s design coincides with the Zen philosophy of bending without breaking and flexing but remaining firm. In the yard, bamboo can be used for fencing, making a fountain, a green wall, a bridge over the stream, and a screen to increase privacy.
Statues and statuettes
We will mention later on how you can introduce custom artwork into a meditation garden but first decorate the garden with sculptures of all shapes and sizes. Anthropomorphic ones are the usual choice of homeowners but why not add a touch of exotic by erecting a stone pagoda.
In the same spirit, a Buddha statue or an abstract sculpture is also suitable for a meditation garden. You can draw inspiration from the way yoga studios are decorated, albeit their ornaments are cheaper and probably made from glass and plastic.
Although Mount Fuji is by far the most famous mountain/volcano in Japan, the whole county is hilly. Such a landscape is reflected in the layout of Japanese Zen gardens which include large, mossy boulders and stones.
Such rock formations should crisscross a meditation garden with sandy patches in-between. The boulders you haul to the bathroom should be cumbersome and as tall as possible, symbolizing relentlessness and stability in the face of difficulty.
When you come to think of it, sand is nothing more than finely crushed stone, so why not include pebbles in the meditation garden as well. You can buy several sacks of gravel and pour them across the garden to create crunchy causeways.
Getting rid of clutter
Serenity is unattainable in places plagued with clutter. This is true broth indoor and outdoor spaces. However, getting rid of clutter outdoors is harder because of the larger land area you need to declutter. Start by fixing the old shed to serve as an exterior outdoor unit, as you cannot cram everything in the garage, as most homeowners attempt.
Store only the items you know you will use in the future, such as lightweight garden gloves or the garden hose. Old chairs missing a leg, rusty sheets of metal, and cardboard boxes should be discarded if you have no plans to reuse them.
Everything can become artwork
When you visit your friend’s home, they probably tell you to “feel at home.” However, you can truly feel at home only on your own property. That’s why meditating in the garden behind your house is better than a downtown yoga studio.
To make the surroundings more familiar, you should display the artwork you and the members of your family created. These art pieces don’t have to be masterpieces, as a framed drawing of your ten-year-old is enough to make the outdoor space homely.
In fact, you can start a workshop with all the family members to create artwork for the meditation garden. Children should be given watercolors to decorate vases and other disused items you plan to place in the garden.
Since they are going to sit outside, make sure they are waterproof, so the elements don’t damage them overtime; you want your outdoor gallery to last for decades.
Adding a fire pit
The Twitter of birds and the burble of water are appeasing sounds but why not add another soothing sound: the crackling of a fire. Building an open hearth, i.e. a fire pit is most definitely a DIY that won’t cost you anything if you repurpose some of the rocks you have left from landscaping the garden.
After placing stones in a circle, place the kindling inside and voila, you are ready to mediate to the calming sound of the crackling of a fire. We will mention at the end possible light sources but a bonfire is a fairly decent lighting option for meditating at night.
Meditating with the whole family
A meditating garden doesn’t have to be specially adjusted for family yoga sessions, as the concept is already family-friendly. However, you need to make sure there are enough yoga mats and that they are of the right size for every family member.
There are cute-looking plush chairs ideal for children. If some family members want to relax while the rest of the family mediates, then tying a hammock between two trees will allow them to rest and watch the group meditation.
Maintaining a verdant lawn
Often enough, homeowners get carried away with landscaping that they forget to spruce up the actual spot they are going to mediate in. If you want to live and meditate in accordance with Nature, then the lawn is the ideal setting for reaching nirvana.
Now, you can always place a yoga mat on the ground but isn’t it more pleasing to meditate sitting on a bed of luscious green grass? Mind you, planting and maintaining a verdant lawn isn’t easy, as it requires a lot of care.
For instance, you should never cut more than a third of the blades’ length, as any more than that and the lawn will soon turn yellow and brown. After you’re done mowing the lawn, you should put on lightweight garden gloves and trim any blades that the lawnmower missed. Also, don’t throw away the clippings, as they make for great organic fertilizer.
Finally, the healthy green color of the lawn is made possible through a combination of sun and water. The hotter the day, the more frequent the watering. Never water in the evening, as the ground won’t have enough time to take in the water and the grass’s root system will rot away. The ideal time for watering is early in the morning, so sunlight has plenty of time to dry the lawn.
Another great way to protect the lawn you have nurtured so well is to build gravel pathways. As previously mentioned, gravel is made out of pebbles which fit the bill of a rocky formation that goes so well with the overall concept of a mediation garden.
More important than selecting the paving material is the direction and the shape these pathways should take. Instead of a liner layout, a Zen garden should have curvy winding paths. The walkways would still allow you to traverse the yard without destroying the lawn, yet their design would be more inspiring.
If there are tall trees in your garden, their stature can easily offset you in the effort to find inner peace. There is no need to take a chainsaw (remember, you are one with Mother Nature), all you need is a bag of colorful mulch.
Used by gardeners to prevent weeds growth and preserving the moisture in the ground, mulch has a decorative purpose as well. Garden centers have a wide selection of colorful mulch that is ideal for a meditation garden. If you want a more eco-friendly alternative, then you can reuse tree bark and pine cones as organic mulch.
Fine grains of sand
We’ve stated earlier that sand patches are ideal buffer zones between boulders and the lawn. However, the symbolism of sand in a meditation garden goes further than that. Sandboxes act as gigantic canvases you can draw upon using a rake. Whether you like circles or more elaborate patterns is entirely up to you, but raking sand is an almost meditative activity.
If you draw concentric circles around boulders, they will represent ripples on the surface of the water, adding another dimension to the existing water feature. Sand grains are easily disturbed by wind, yet they glide smoothly through space, which is at the heart of Buddhist philosophy.
Although hedges are planted along the outer perimeter of the garden, that doesn’t mean that you can’t plant a bush or two inside the garden as well. Just like trees, such as bonsai tree (ideal for miniature balcony gardens), Japanese maple, or cedar tree, bushes add to the diversity of flora in a meditation garden.
With all the different plant species inside it, just imagine how multicolored your garden will look in fall. The period is ideal for home improvements that go well with the meditation garden.
Symbolism of trees
Having mentions several tree species, a meditation garden differs from other types of gardens in the sense that every plant has its symbolism. For instance, evergreens are ideal for the aforementioned green barriers, while Japanese maple is planted solely for aesthetic appeal.
Further on, the cedar tree ushers in an image of strength and ferns represent transformation and the renewal of life. If you are interested in the topic, we recommend leafing through (pun intended) Robert Graves’ The White Goddess, where you can find a Celtic tree calendar. It is not necessarily accurate but it will give you a rough idea of which plants should be included in a meditation garden.
A secluded area
The primeval forests of Japan you are trying to emulate in your backyard are usually far away from civilization. Placing the mediation garden in a far corner of the backyard successfully recreates this effect of remoteness.
As stated earlier, bamboo is the ideal material to make a screen that would separate the garden from the remaining outdoor area. The corner of the garden you select should be quiet and easy to fence off. Of course, it shouldn’t be too far from the water feature as you need to listen to the calming sound of running water as you meditate.
Meditation séances at night are useful for battling incoming and increasing the overall quality of sleep. However, you cannot meditate in a pitch-black garden, nor can you concentrate in a place awash in light. Temperance is the keyword when selecting the ideal lighting level for meditating after dark.
Solar-powered lamps are a costly but a great solution. They are not too strong, yet they illuminate the whole garden just enough to see what’s in from of you. The best thing about them is that they are eco-friendly, as don’t waste power, ideal for zero-waste people.
Another cute solution are paper lanterns and scented candles. The former can be hung across the garden, as for a birthday party. Just handle the lantern with care, as they pose a fire hazard. Candles can be placed on tables, boulders, the fountain, etc., to create a play of shadows inside the garden. The scent they give out calms you down additionally.
Bird song is something a meditation garden is not complete without but you can always add some extra, artificial sounds. Wind chimes can hang from the porch, producing a different melody every time the wind blows. Modern wind chimes are made from metal but there are also wooden models, including bamboo ones. If you are into Native American arts and culture, then you can hang a dreamcatcher as well from the porch. The final alternative to a melodious garden is to install speakers in tree canopies and operate them remotely.
A comfortable seating area
Apart from meditating, you will want to sit down and unwind in the garden as well. The patio is the ideal place for this purpose, so the garden furniture should be placed here. If you have a large family, then even a dining table can be set here.
When it comes to choosing the ideal furniture, it should be comfortable before all. A sofa adorned with several cushions is the ideal setting for lounging. Of course, the patio should have a roof, so you don’t have to bring the furniture inside every time the weather turns bad.
Simplicity is the key
If you wish to know the main secret behind the best meditation gardens, don’t look beyond simplicity. In the world of Zen Buddhism, simplicity equals perfection. With its intricate design, a complicated meditation garden losses its practical and artistic value.
In this sense, the perfect garden should confine each component to its assigned area to create an overall sense of spatial cohesiveness. Selecting pieces that make sense assures that the entire space “flows” logically and harmoniously, just a wild stream.
Furthermore, each feature inside the garden should be composed and focused, serving a single function, yet fitting it well with other features. If you execute everything correctly, your friends and family will get a clear enough picture of what the garden represents as soon as they set foot in it. Of course, we are referring to spirituality expressed through cunning exterior design solutions.
Creating the perfect meditation garden is foremost a process. Just like meditation itself, you might wander a bit before you come up with the ideal design. We have listed the most common features a meditation garden should incorporate but it’s up to you to implement them. After the garden is complete, it will become a social hotspot of family life.