A Peaceful Garden

By Sandi Schwartz

Many of us dream about traveling the world to find the perfect tranquil spot where we can feel relaxed and peaceful. But sometimes, as Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” Instead of spending your life searching for that special locale, why not create it right in your own backyard for your whole family to enjoy?
Building a meditation garden is the best way to combine the incredible benefits of both nature and mindfulness activities to reduce stress in our lives. This can also be a super fun way for your family to work together outdoors and plan a very special place for you all to relax together. In addition to the general benefits of being outside while working on your meditation garden, your children will also understand the importance of nature in our life, have a chance to get creative, and gain a sense of accomplishment from their hard work.

What Is A Meditation Garden?
The goal of a meditation garden is to provide a quiet, calm place for you to find balance and reduce emotional and physical stress. Although it is only a few steps from your house, it serves as a welcoming retreat to unwind and practice mindfulness.

Being outside surrounded by nature helps us heal. We, as humans, have a nature instinct known as biophilia—an innate bond we share with all creatures and plants in the natural world that we subconsciously seek. Therefore, spending time in nature reduces our response to stress and allows us to recover from tense situations more quickly. The natural world offers solace and comfort unlike what we find in any manmade environment. In fact, a breakthrough study in 2001 in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that a healing garden at a children’s hospital in California had positive effects on users—about 85 percent reported feeling more relaxed, refreshed, or better able to cope after spending only 5 minutes in the garden.

You can design a garden in your backyard that serves as a sanctuary for your family members. It can turn into the perfect escape from your hectic daily schedule. What a wonderful place to take the kids after school before they start their homework or run off to a sport or music practice. They will feel so refreshed after a long, stressful day. And it will sure help us as parents keep our stress (and temper) in check!

Elements Of A Meditation Garden
Besides being outdoors, meditation gardens typically contain elements that help make it the serene space you desire. A meditation garden should have several components that fill your senses, such as vivid colors, soothing sounds, interesting shapes and textures, comfortable places to sit or lie down, and lovely aromas. The best part is that you can choose the elements that you want for your space based on your personal preferences and goals for the garden.
Here are some of the most common elements found in a meditation garden:

· Greenery. Besides green being a soothing color, greenery can serve as the foundation of your meditation garden. Plants, shrubs, hedges, and trees can be used in a number of ways to create an isolated spot separate from the rest of your backyard. They can serve as a fence, sound or vision barrier, or create an artistic visual interest. If you use native plants, you can even attract wildlife to your sanctuary. Be sure to choose shrubs and trees that are easy to grow and don’t require much garden maintenance.
· Colorful Flowers. You will have a blast choosing the beautiful flowers to plant throughout your garden. From tropical to herbal to desert style, the hardest part will be narrowing down all of your options! Look for shapes, lines, patterns, and colors that make you feel calm. Consider including some potted plants throughout your space, and even planting an herb or vegetable garden there as well. Flowers can also bring soothing aromas to your garden, such as aloe, jasmine, rose, chamomile, or lavender.
· Water. Water is known to give us a sense of peace and serenity. In fact, medical studies have found less cortisol (the stress hormone) and more serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine (the feel-good hormones) in people as they spend time in, on, or around water. We become so focused on the water that we enter a mindful state, which is why adding water elements to your meditation garden is a must-have. The calming sound of running water can mask traffic and other distracting noises. Some ideas for incorporating water into your garden include fish ponds, water bowls, bird baths, a fountain, a garden waterfall, or other trickling water features.
· Shade. It is important to design your garden with some shade so you and your kids stay cool and out of the sun. You can incorporate shade into your garden by adding a canopy, umbrella, pergola, or greenery.
· Seating. Although not required, many people prefer to have a place to sit or lie down in their meditation garden. Consider how you plan on spending your time in the garden. If you intend to read a book, then a comfortable meditation bench or meditation chair is a good choice. If you plan to lie down to meditate or take a nap, then consider a hammock or waterproof outdoor sofa. If you plan to stretch or practice yoga, then leave a clear, flat space big enough for a yoga mat or two, depending on how many people will be there.
· Stones, Pebbles, and Sand. As a contrast to plush elements like grasses, plants, and bushes, these solid materials provide a sense of strength to your meditation garden. Japanese Zen gardens, also known as Japanese rock gardens, include these simple elements to help soothe and heal us. As we see with mini Zen gardens people use on their office desks, raked sand is calming because it looks like water ripples or waves.
·Pavers. Most meditation gardens contain some type of pavers. You can get as creative as you want by making patterns or spiral paths. Labyrinths made from bricks or stones are popular since walking a labyrinth traditionally represents taking a journey to the inner self.
·Statues and Sculptures. Some people like to include different types of statues or sculptures that have meaning to them. There are many possibilities like animals, Buddha images, or small pagodas.

How To Create Your Meditation Garden
When you first start planning your meditation garden, it might feel overwhelming because the options are endless. Gather your family together and talk about what makes each of you feel at peace and what you plan on doing in that space.

Then go exploring to find examples to model your garden after. Look online for pictures, visit gardens at museums and hotels, notice your neighbors’ gardens more closely, and check out Botanical Gardens in your area. Research different styles of gardens from around the world, such as Japanese Zen, Chinese, Southwestern United States, Traditional English, and Middle Eastern.

Once you have a vision of your serene space, visit your local gardening store to pick out materials or contact a landscaper for guidance. You will want to choose plants that are low maintenance to ensure that your meditation garden doesn’t become a new source of stress. Finally, try your best to use eco-friendly garden products to help protect the environment and your family’s health. You wouldn’t want to ruin your special place by spraying nasty pesticides all over the plants!
Once completed, you can enjoy the incredible moments of peace, tranquility, and family bonding from your own backyard meditation garden.