Lately rumbles of the existence of Meditation Gardens and their health benefits have been turning up in conversation more and more, so we decided to learn more about it: What makes a meditation garden, a meditation garden? Are there any identifiable health benefits to using one? Here’s what we found out:
What is a Meditation Garden?
A meditation garden is just that – a garden! It can be any size, shape, style, or color palette that you like. The catch is: you have to find it relaxing. These gardens are meant to be a place where you can escape from the stresses and pressures of everyday life for a few minutes at least, to spend a little time taking care of yourself. Ultimately, the goal is to create a garden that promotes personal rejuvenation and an overall sense of well-being.
What Characterizes a Meditation Garden?
A few features seem to be universal to meditation gardens everywhere:
- Separation – Whether it’s a wall, a fence, or a hedge of evergreens, separating your space from the rest of your everyday life allows you to feel like you’re getting away – without leaving your property. The sense of privacy is important too. This is a space where you can just be you.
- Simple lines – This feature tends to be subjective to the individual. Typically, complex shapes and lines are distracting, interfering with the relaxation process. However, too little complexity can create a sense of boredom for some. As a compromise between the two, try keeping your lines as simple as possible, but include a greater diversity of plant life to keep things interesting.
- Natural nature – According to an article posted by the University of Minnesota: “Within three to four minutes after viewing nature scenes, blood pressure, respiration rate, brain activity, and the production of stress hormones all decrease and mood improves.” Gardens can be a phenomenal de-stressor – if you allow them to be. It’s hard to relax if you’re spending all of your downtime fretting over that boxwood that needs a new trim or those flowers that need to be deadheaded, again. By using native plant species and allowing them to grow in their natural form (no topiary!), it’s possible to create a low maintenance but visually appealing space that’s more conducive to unwinding. For added benefit, try adding plants with scents that are intrinsically relaxing, such as lavender, thyme, or fir trees.
- Sound of falling water – An inherently soothing and relaxing sound, falling water also serves to block out less relaxing sounds from outside the space such as traffic rushing by or the air conditioner kicking on.
Other features frequently employed:
Labyrinths – More commonly referred to as mazes in the Midwest, labyrinths tend to be a popular feature in larger meditation gardens. Labyrinths come in many shapes and sizes. For our purposes, we’re going to simplify all types into 2 forms.
- The first is a complex series of branching pathways designed to confuse and ensnare the puzzler. (Remember Sarah’s journey in the movie Labyrinth?)
- The second form is less of a puzzle, but rather a single pathway that the walker is meant to follow; in and out of the curves of the labyrinth until it eventually ends in the very center. Over the last several centuries, people of many faiths and cultures all around the world have found the processes of following the path at a leisurely pace to be simultaneously calming and spiritual. This is the labyrinth form we’ve been seeing incorporated into meditation gardens today.
Labyrinths can be created using plants, pavers, or any number of other materials, and have the added benefit of being as temporary or as permanent as you choose them to be. We’ve seen them as attractive brick patios or as patterns traced in the dirt with a stick. To each his own!
Feel like looking at some fantastic labyrinths and healing gardens? Stop by our Pinterest board: Meditation & Healing Gardens to get started!
If you’re working with a small space either inside or out and a walking labyrinth isn’t an option, create a finger labyrinth! Slowly tracing the route with a finger has been found to have a similar affect to walking the path.
During our reading, we also found a number of sites that mentioned the use of symbolism. Whether that’s creating a small stone walkway through a hedge as the entrance to your meditation garden to represent the separation of your physical meditative space from the rest of the yard, or the incorporation of Buddha statues to represent your personal path to enlightenment, symbolism can be both an interesting and helpful tool in creating a restful environment.
Are there any Health Benefits to using Meditation Gardens?
Sure seems like it! But we aren’t health experts, so don’t take our word for it.
However, if you’re interested in learning more about the effects of meditation garden spaces on the human body, we do recommend the before mentioned article: What are Healing Gardens? from the University of Minnesota. In many ways, healing gardens are interchangeable with meditation gardens, and this article does a great job of talking about things in depth.
All in all, Meditation Gardens sound like a pretty sound investment in people – sometimes, it just isn’t about the money!
Other Resources for Further Reading: