Posted by: Dahni | February 20, 2008


HarmonyThere is no need for something equal to the artistic touch of a master’s hand. There is no sense for drawn out detail or the requirement of a lot of time. In our busy lives there greatly exists the need for some corner of the world with a comfortable chair for us each to sit. There we can reflect and dream, catch a breath or some moment of peace. We each seek some measure of success and abundance, something more than we need to keep in store for the future and to give to others. We each seek a life well lived and good name and a name respected and a name that pours from the lips of others, long after we have gone. We each seek to love and to be loved. But more than all of this and more than all our seeking, we each need some measure of harmony.

This harmony could be with self, with others, with nature, with God or all of the above. Focus is singularly imortant , for what we focus upon we tend to aim towards or become. To accomplish the movement towards harmony, many use some visible aide to focus. It could be a favorite plant or flower. It could be some landscape and I suppose the list could be endless and dependent upon an individual’s likes. As this focus becomes a habit, whenever we look upon the object it wll often move us to this place in our mind we seek to become harmonious. The object then is like a mirror and will reflect whatever state of mind we associate the object with.

Perhaps there is no greater example of an object to focus upon that will reflect harmony than a simple Zen garden? Perhaps there is no greater example of quality and quantity of the art of Zen and rock gardens than the country of Japan? A Japanese rock garden (枯山水 karesansui), sometimes mistakenly called a Zen garden, is an enclosed shallow sandpit containing sand, gravel, rocks, and occasionally grass or other natural elements.

The origins, meaning and purpose of both the Zen and Rock gardens have been debated and argued for centuries. I found my own reaction to these formations of stone or gravel to be quite simple.

These Zen or Karesansui gardens were seen almost everywhere I went in Japan. They were seen inside and outside of museums, arenas, temple areas, monasteries, parks, businesses and private homes among others.

I believe the one event which helped me understand them was what I call a Zen driveway. For sure it was a driveway which appeared to have been raked like any of the other gardens I saw. It started me to think, now why would anyone do this? Why would they take the time to rake the gravel in their distinctive rows? Every time a vehicle rolled over the driveway they would have to rake it again. As I thought on the matter and stared at the driveway, both the meaning and purpose seemed crystal clear to me. The stones were from nature and the raking of the stones was man-made. It was a visual reminder of the ‘Harmony’ between the two.

Some believe the rocks in these gardens of Japan are symbolic of the islands which make up the country. Some believe the gravel or sand patterns represent the ocean surrounding the islands. Others believe something entirely different. It has also been  suggested by the scientific community that these patterns form a tree that is only recognized by the subconscious mind and the tree pattern is what produces the calming effect experienced by many that look upon these gardens. I have no clue as to the validity of any of these claims or do I offer any opinion here. But I do know this, there is indeed something calming about looking upon or into to these gardens. I can only imagine that those that rake these patterns experience the same. I do know that both nature and man are involved in their construction. I do know that there is something beautiful about their simplicity. I do know that they arrest the attention when seeing them. I do know that they could become symbolic of harmony and a focal point to meditate or reflect. I do know for those with limited means, a rock garden could be inexpensive especially if one uses materials on hand.

I think other aspects of Japanese gardens would support my belief that these rock gardens are indicative of harmony or balance. Plants and often trees of these gardens have been injured or damaged through some event occurring in nature as lightening, drought, wind, rain, pests or something else. Rather than remove, cut down or cut out the damaged species, the Japanese will continue to support it as long as it is alive. The native American Indian, of every tribe had similar beliefs. They as the Japanese, honored and respected nature. Each needed the other. I like that! I like the thought of something that causes me to think, to reflect, to mediate and has a calming effect, especially in our busy, often loud and full of distractions, world in which we live. Make your own garden.

 Rock Gardens

For myself, I would really love to have a Zen or Rock driveway, but I just cannot figure out how to maintain it in the winter in western New York. Every time I would have to shovel the driveway or have it plowed of snow, my Zen or Rock driveway would be gone. I suppose in spring I could just rake some Zen or Rock piles?

Click any image above to enlarge 

Just Imagine,


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