A Zen Garden Equals a Zen Mind

Many of us have seen a Zen garden before and some of us had the chance to rake the many lines. Are you one of those lucky ones? If you are, leave a comment below to tell us about your experience! If you know little about Zen or what Zen gardens really mean, read on and awaken your more spiritual side. After all, Zen gardens are so much more than a pretty artwork.


Zen means Concentrated Mind


Zen Garden_Ryoan ji temple
A dry Zen garden at the Ryoan-ji temple.


To understand a Zen garden, you must first understand the word Zen. Zen is a simple, three lettered word, yet it holds a particular meaning that also includes certain emotions and rhythms. The word itself can be considered as a state of mind. You place yourself within Zen. Your mind is focused and yet open. It is a state of awakening. It’s within this state that you find yourself in harmony. But why does a Zen garden look the way it does?


The Zen Garden Creates Breathing Space



There is a reason that Zen gardens are often in a small, developed area. Meditation is the key. It’s entire history lies within the art of meditation. Zen’s past teachings expected a student to meditate under a tree. This tree had to be in a secluded area. Where Zen has developed to include sitting or walking in meditation halls or small hermitage huts meant for individuals, true Zen should be sought outside whether you walk or sit.

Meditation outside allows the mind to seek the rhythm of nature to find harmony. You can only find this within nature, where you can be alone, yet completely surrounded by life. Nature is vast and full of mystery. By being quiet in this vastness, you delve deeper within yourself, your emotions and thoughts, to make and find peace.


The Common Zen Aspects

Already two important parts of a Zen garden came to mind: the tree and nature. Most Zen gardens have similar aspects in common. You can usually find a tree or at least wood within the garden. Rocks are also placed around the gravel. The gravel is raked into round, harmonic lines. We already know that meditation took place underneath a tree within nature. This explains the use of trees or wood, but what about the rocks and raked circles?

The simple answer is that they act as a metaphor for natural landscapes. Within nature you find mountains, trees, hills, lakes and more. The Zen garden imitates the landscape you need to meditate in to reach Zen. The Zen garden is your private area of nature, a place you can be in harmony. As artists we learn that certain lines can help create the sense of harmony. The curves you create every morning using the rake allows you to not only feel the harmony, but create it.


Zen Garden Harmony and Healing


The harmony you create takes you away from your current troubles, and allow you to escape to nature instead. You work with the land as you focus your attention on it. By focusing your attention on the given task, you are meditating and healing through finding the rhythm of the land. Therefore, not only are you creating something beautiful and artistic, but you are also placing your mind in Zen.

Perhaps if you will find yourself outdoors today, find yourself a secluded tree and meditate underneath it. Have you ever walked a labyrinth or meditated in a Zen garden?

If you would like to see South African land artist, Strijdom van der Merwe’s Zen garden, Stone Garden, you can view it here.