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  • 5 min read

    How To Find Your Zen with a Zen Desktop Garden

    The busy pace of school and work is the source of a lot of frustration and stress for people all over the country.  Too much stress is a health hazard.  Anything you can do to release it will keep you more productive and put you in a better frame of mind come home time.

    Every so often, you need to take time out to contemplate your navel with meditation.  Many people swear by meditation as a great stress reliever.  While that may be true, sitting at your desk with your eyes closed and chanting mantras may not be your best look if the boss or family happens to pass by.

    Zen gardens are also a great stress reliever. You may not have any room for a sandpit, a rake, and a collection of nicely shaped river rocks. But you should have a few square inches of real estate on your desk for a stress-reducing, mini zen garden desktop kit.

    What is a Zen Garden?

    Zen gardens, also known as Japanese rock gardens, are a style of carefully controlled garden.  In the typical Zen garden setting, you will find carefully placed rocks, expertly clipped shrubs, and areas of raked sand.

    There are three principles ascribed to zen gardens, including:

    • Naturalness (Shizen)
    • Simplicity (Kanso)
    • and Austerity (Koko)

    Buddhist monks created the first zen garden as far back as the sixth century, which they used as a serene location to aid in their meditation.  Later, the gardens became locations for teaching and reinforcing zen principles and concepts in students.

    The designs and structures of zen gardens have been developed and refined over the years, but the three basic principles of naturalness, simplicity, and austerity still feature prominently.

    In a real-sized zen garden, the main feature is raked sand or gravel, with precisely placed rocks.  The sand is typically raked into soothing, rippling patterns. You will see plants used in many zen gardens, but they are always optional.

    The symbolism of the stones is the most critical design consideration. Horizontal stones represent water, upright stones represent land, and arching stones represent fire.

    Many zen gardens will feature a small arching bridge or path created from stones. These elements are a source of focus during meditation. They are also a means to create the illusion of the garden carrying on into the distance. This concept is known as 'borrowed landscape,' or shakkei.

    Zen gardens should never have a pond or be created near a body of water.

    The principles of a zen garden are easily miniaturized into zen garden desktop versions you can use to bring peace and serenity into the modern-day's often stressful environment.

    How to Use a Zen Garden Desktop Kit

    A zen garden desktop kit has everything you need to find your zen when the chaos in your office or home is getting a bit much. If you were wondering, no, you don't need to spend years in a monk monastery contemplating the nature of reality to benefit from a mini desktop zen garden. Still, you will want to know at the least the basics.

    Learning How to Rake Your Zen Garden

    The Japanese have spent centuries teaching themselves the fine art of raking sand to reach a meditative state. Fortunately, it's not all that difficult, and you can use your zen garden desktop kit to achieve a comparable level of bliss as those ancient monks.

    Get ready to rake the stress away.

    It's a lot easier to use a miniature garden because you don't have to worry about clearing away any leaves or debris. We will skip that step because your desktop garden should already be filled with pristine sand.

    The other great thing about a desktop zen garden is you don't need to worry about your footprints messing up your design.

    Take your miniature rake and use it to smooth out the sand, ready for your first pattern. You want to make sure you have a reasonably flat surface before you start.

    Your desktop garden will have arrived with a variety of stones you can lay around the sandy area. Have a clear idea of the pattern you want to create before you start laying out your stones.

    Most new zen gardeners start with the water drop wave pattern. It's a classic design that is referred to as the maru-uzu-mon in Japanese. You draw straight lines across the garden with your rake, which are broken up with circles of rings around the stones.

    If you haven't guessed, the circles are representative of ripples on water.

    Start on one side of the garden and use your little rake to draw straight lines from one side to the other. When you reach a rock, place your rake on the other side, get as close as possible to the edge, and continue raking.

    When your garden is filled with straight lines, it's time to start on the circles. Carefully place one edge of the rake close to a stone and draw as neat a circle as possible. Draw circles around all of the other rocks in the garden.

    Remember, you only have a relatively small space, so make sure you leave adequate room between the stones for the rake to pass through.

    Rake and Breathe, Breath and Rake

    The patterns you can create will often evoke a certain sense of tranquillity all on their own, but zen gardens are more about the journey than the destination.

    Don't worry about the state of your pattern. Just focus on the calming sensation produced by the raking of the sand.

    As you rake, remember to focus on your breathing. Use deep breaths and keep your focus on the rake while you let all other thoughts drift away.

    Try Other Designs

    Once you have mastered maru-uzu-mon, you are ready to move on to different patterns.

    Another favorite among zen gardeners, life-size and miniature alike, is the wavy lines pattern. This design takes a little more focus and precision than maru-uzu-mon, but a gentle toing-and-froing of the rake will produce a wavy design reminiscent of a babbling brook meandering through the forest. In Japanese, this is called Kyokusen-mon.

    Mori-zuna are raised mounds you create in the sand, and simple straight lines all the way across are called chokusen-mon. Zen gardens are a personal journey, so you don't have to stick to protocol all the time.

    Experiment with your own patterns to see what feelings they might evoke, but most of all, forget for a while all the stresses of the day while you find a few moments of inner peace in the sand.


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