With meditation so popular these days (there are countless numbers of CDs, DVDs, Podcasts, and books available on the subject), we here at Cross River Design are seeing many clients ask that mediation gardens be incorporated into their master plans.
For anyone practicing meditation, it’s easy to understand why being outside in nature makes meditating easier. When inside, we have complete control of our surroundings – everything is pre-programmed from thermostats to lighting. Even our coffee makers know what time we like our coffee brewed.
When we walk outside, things are a bit more unpredictable. Being outside awakens our senses – the sudden changes in temperature enlivens our skin receptors. We feel the sun on our faces, and we become acutely aware of birds chirping. We hear the sound of the wind as it makes its way through the trees.
Being present and connecting with the moment, getting in tune with our senses helps us quiet the monkey brain inside our heads.
When designing a space outside for meditation, like this meditation garden in Princeton, incorporated into a larger master plan (above), we like to incorporate some or all of the following:
Water in some form. This shouldn’t be a roaring fountain or heavy torrent of water (we’re trying to evoke calmness after all), but rather something more subtle that resembles a babbling brook or water trickling into a vessel or small basin. The emphasis is more on acoustics than the visual.
Privacy – preferably with an evergreen hedge or plant massing. Feeling secure is a primal necessity for most people, and a privacy enclosure helps people feel more secure. If a vegetative enclosure isn’t practical, a wood fence or masonry enclosure can be substituted.
Specific plantings that invite birds, and provide fragrance is a big plus. Lilac and Viburnums are both fragrant, and many shrubs and plants produce fruit that attracts an assortment of songbirds. Choose plants that are easily jostled about by the breeze such as ornamental grasses, nandina, and specific birch tree varieties. Certain seed pods can rattle in the wind producing interesting sound effects.
A pathway. We like to incorporate a pathway leading in and out of our meditation spaces. A pathway emphasizes the feeling of leaving one space and entering another. Sometimes we create a path that meanders or jogs its way to the final destination to make the experience more meaningful.