Meditation & Contemplation Gardens
Now more than ever we need to be able to find a place of peace and tranquillity. Being out in nature can really help still the mind and calm the body.
In this article, I’m going to explore how I would incorporate a meditation/contemplation area into your garden from a designer’s perspective.
Whilst I am a big fan of contemplation, I am certainly not a meditation expert – my mind is about as still as a monkey on a trampoline! So adjust these recommendations to suit the form of meditation you practice.
For me, the most important elements are being in a space that isn’t overlooked, away from man-made noise, in a relaxing semi-enclosed space.
That combination may seem near impossible in our busy, crowded and often overlooked urban environments. With a little imagination though, some or all of those elements can be easily achieved.
As we spend the vast majority of our lives sitting in concrete or brick built boxes, for an outdoor meditation area, I prefer creating a circular shape for its perimeter.
In the centre of the circle, I like a focus point such as a cairn (balanced rock pile), water feature, Buddha etc. If you have great views across the natural landscape at the end of your garden, then those can be your focus point.
If you’re in an urban environment then try to create some screening which helps block it out. It can be in the form of trees, tall grasses/bamboos or a physical structure that enables you to be away from prying eyes.
A shelter will also enable you to do meditations on days when the weather isn’t great.
Simple bamboo poles can make a great structure – again, circular would be my preference but if that’s too complicated to find or construct then square or rectangular is fine if the sides are open enough.
A simple timber construction, nicely painted with a bamboo or willow roof can do wonders for blocking out the neighbours.
I’ve written a full article on the best way to screen out the neighbours here.
The next element I would incorporate is some form of sound to help combat the noise pollution that nearly all of us contend with.
Whilst you may not be able to completely block out traffic noise if you can create your own sounds that soothe you, that’s the next best thing.
You just need something to focus on that is more relaxing than traffic and other people generated noises, especially if you are new to meditation.
If musical tones are not your thing, then add the element of running water which can be relaxing and another point of focus.
Gentle water flowing sounds are recommended, anything that generates more of a waterfall than the image below on the left will make you constantly need the bathroom!
If you’re a sunrise or sunset meditator then adding the element of fire is a lovely addition to your meditation space.
Many traditional meditation forms use the flame from a candle as a point of focus. This isn’t always easy outside where the flame can easily be blown out, so creating a small enclosed section or placing a candle in a lantern will solve this.
If you love fire ceremonies or being by firelight there are plenty of beautiful and safe fire pits available in garden centres and online.
If you don’t have the space to create a separate meditation area in your garden then the next best thing is to have a meditation corner.
You can incorporate as many of the elements discussed above that will fit. The area doesn’t have to be huge, large enough for a yoga mat or large cushion and something meaningful to focus your attention on.
Taller plants in pots can be placed around the area to help give it an enclosed feeling.
But if you do have space and sitting down medications aren’t your thing, then my final suggestion is to create a small labyrinth.
Moving meditations – Labyrinths
For centuries walking the labyrinth has been used for contemplation purposes – there are many beliefs and reason associated with it. Everything from it representing the journey within to spiritual awakening to balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain to fostering creativity and relaxation.
The most important part…
Whatever form of meditation/contemplation area you decide to create in your garden, one thing that is critical to get right is incorporating it in a way that works with your whole garden.
Actually, that rule applies to everything. Never just add a pergola, water feature, gazebo etc without doing an overall design layout first. This is the main mistake that nearly everyone makes – not having a coherent overall design.
If you’d like to learn more about how to do that – sign up for one of my FREE garden design web classes.
What’s your favourite way to meditate outside?
Please share your tips and garden meditation ideas in the comments below…