Merriam-Webster defines meditation as the act or process of spending time in quiet thought or the act or process of meditating, but in the modern stress filled life that all of us seem to be in, meditation means just a few minutes to ourselves. Meditation has been found to aid in the treatment of depression, reduces blood pressure, and can help clear the mind for the next task at hand so it is important to have a special place that can be dedicated or at least multi-purposed for meditation.
Any outdoor space can be converted into a meditation garden. Backyard, patios, and even an apartment balcony can become a meditation garden with a few basic elements. Meditation garden elements are made up of the four earth elements of water, wind, fire, and earth. Water elements consist of a small fountain, bowl of water, or even a stream. Wind elements are not as simple as placing an item in the environment. Plant material that blows in the wind such as native grasses is one possible component along with wind chimes and windsocks. The fire element while literally can be a decorative outdoor fireplace or fire pit but can also be interpreted as candlelight. But for safety, if candles are used, only light when present and place them in enclosed glass containers such as mason jars or LED lights. The earth element is the most flexible of all the elements. It consists of anything made from earth bound material. This includes plant material dead and/or alive, stone, or wood just to name a few.
To start a meditation garden one must plan the elements of design and how they will fit together. First choose the location of the planned garden. If working with an apartment environment the location can be quite small and slightly challenging compared to a backyard. But regardless of the environment decide how big a meditation garden you will need. Next start planning from the ground up. Gravel, stepping stones, concrete, or mulch can be the base by which the meditation garden is built upon. Then plan what your water element will be and where it will be placed. Apartment dwellers can use a table fountain; barrel fountain/water garden while those working with a backyard environment can use a built-in-the-ground fountain, rain chain or stream. A major part of a meditation garden is privacy but depending on the environment one is working with this can be a challenge. Portable screens and planters full of ornamental grasses can create the feeling of privacy and provide an earth element for apartment dwellers while screens or hedges work well for the backyard meditation garden.
The element of fire can be as complicated or as simple as the garden designer would like it to be. A table of candles or a string of outdoor lights and/or table with a built-in fire pit works for apartment dwellers when it comes to fire. The backyard meditation garden not only can use an outdoor fireplace, fire pit, or candles but also garden lights can be laid to light the way to and around the meditation garden. But regardless of which fire element that is chosen make sure the fire is contained and monitored at all times.
The earth element is the most flexible design element of any meditation garden. Plants can be selected for color, texture, and interest but can also be selected to evoke a certain memory or induce a calming effect. Grasses, trees, and perennial flowers can all be used to create the feeling of being in a lush forests while perennial herbs such as thyme and mints can provide the olfactory stimulation that many find relaxing. Both apartment dwellers and backyard gardeners can use these plants in their design.
Once the four elements have been planned the next part of this plan is to incorporate some type of sitting arrangement and art. Sitting arrangement can be translated into a garden bench, swing, and even a yoga mat. All three plus more will fit into any design or just one will suffice but chose something that is comfortable to you and serves the purpose of the design space. If you plan to start your day with a sun salutation in your garden space then a yoga mat is in order. But if you plan to rejuvenate after work with glass of wine then a comfortable bench or chair is in order.
Art for a meditation garden depends on the gardener. Some meditation gardens are graced with religious icons such as Buddha while other gardens contain beautiful sculptures that produce a calming effect or provide some element that challenges the mind.
When all these design and earth elements come together a meditation garden can bring peace even to the most stressful life. It does not have to be large and grandiose but can be very structured and small as long as all the elements are present. So this year plan your own meditation garden and/or mental spa and see the difference it makes in the quality of your life. And who knows it may become your own little paradise on earth that takes you away to a world of trickling brooks, smells of jasmine, and the solitude that we all need to find in a world of chaos.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.