“When a garden is used as a place to pause for thought, that is when a Zen garden comes to life. When you contemplate a garden like this it will form as lasting impression on your heart.” ~ Muso Soseki
“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~ Bruce Lee
Your mind is a wild, overgrown patch. By taming this land you can strip away all the clutter and create a space of beauty and serenity. A Zen garden is a wonderful example of mindfulness that you can cultivate to bring more joy and freedom into your daily life.
“A well-constructed Zen garden is an evocative work of art that draws the viewer into a state of contemplation…and the viewer’s mind eventually comes to rest in a state of emptiness, which is the goal of Zen practice.” ~ Chris Deziel
The best way to construct your mental Zen garden is meditation. Meditation is as simple as setting aside twenty minutes each day to relax, close your eyes, and quiet your mind. It is an act of acceptance and stillness. You will have thoughts, and that’s ok. Just allow those thoughts to float into your awareness and float away. Keep coming back to a space that is uncluttered and serene, just like a Zen garden.
The most important aspect of this practice is repetitiveness. The more you do it the greater the benefits. For example, imagine your mind as a plot of land with large boulders. These boulders are anger, resentment, judgment, and past pain. Without meditation your mind is full of thick vines that are interwoven with these boulders, using them to prop themselves up. When you have a situation arise your mind reacts from this overgrown, entwined place. Meditation goes in and clears away the vines of your busy “monkey mind” and creates rivulets so when a situation arises your mind can bump up against these boulders and effortlessly go around them, like the flow of water. You now react from this open, flowing space to the events in your daily life.
What does that look like on a day-to-day basis? Here are three benefits for cultivating a mental Zen garden through meditation.
- You Glean The Gifts Before You Right Now
“Zen lives in the present. The Whole teaching is: how to be in the present; how to get out of the past which is no more and how not to get involved in the future which is not yet, and just to be rooted, centered, in that which is.” ~ OSHO
A Zen garden is fully formed right now. Since there is nothing planted, there is no waiting for growth. Why is that important? Because it is perfect in the present moment. There is no need to travel to the future to imagine growth, or cast back into the past to remember it’s full glory after everything has died. Right now is all there is. Right now everything is perfect.
Often when you experience any feeling that limits your freedom, constricts your body or mind, or causes you anxiety you are not in the present moment. By being here now and you are able to experience the perfection before you. Meditation helps retrain your mind to be present instead of wandering all over the place.
- You Radiate & Reap Stillness
“An outside enemy exists only if there is anger inside.” ~ Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Have you ever experienced someone who was angry when they entered a room and then got everyone else in the room angry? That’s because we are vibratory beings and the vibration we send out affects others. You can have that kind of power, just on the opposite end of the spectrum. As you cultivate a mental space that is uncluttered, serene, and quiet, you radiate stillness. When you walk into a room you will elevate the energy with your energetic transmissions of peace and serenity. Practicing meditation allows you to be in this still place for longer and longer periods of time, until it becomes your default.
- You Harvest A Sense Of Serene Detachment
“I have lived with several Zen masters — all of them cats.” ~ ECKHART TOLLE
Cats are wonderful role models of detachment. They just watch what goes on around them with an amused coolness. They don’t take on what they see, they just observe. You too can go through your day without taking everything personally by landscaping in some space between what you see and how you interpret it. By putting in a gap between action and reaction you create a pocket of serenity.
What does it take to be good at this practice? Concentration. The act of raking the gravel in a Zen garden is an act of concentration for the monk. It is not easy to get clean, straight lines out of rocks. So the monk must really concentrate on the task in order to have a great outcome.
In the same way, if you concentrate on taking a breath before launching a reaction based on the knee-jerk assessment of your monkey mind, the more beautiful your outcome will be.
Meditation helps slow down your racing mind so you are able to pause for a breath before reacting. It is the rake you use to tend your Zen garden.
Meditation is simple but often not easy. However the benefits of a consistent meditation practice are worth any initial discomfort you bump up against. If you’d like an experienced Master Gardener to help you weed out your vines and clear your space, please let me know.
Top Photo Credit: Zen Garden by Nina