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Trisha McNally

Mini Mindful Garden workshop

Trisha McNally

In this workshop we will create a Mini Mindful Garden. These gardens take inspiration from traditional Zen gardens, aiming to show appreciation and respect to the tradition and culture of their origins. Zen is a very complex subject that encompasses a wide range of religious, philosophical, and cultural topics, in respect of that we will be referring to our gardens as Mindful Gardens and acknowledge the deep cultural origin of Zen gardens without reducing them to aesthetics.

Zen Gardens, also called Karesansui or Rock Gardens, have existed for nearly 3,000 years in monasteries, temples, public gardens, and private homes throughout Asia and recently, the Western world. With the rise of Zen Buddhism, Zen Gardens expanded beyond the palace walls and became a popular meditative exercise in temples and homes.

Zen traces its origins to India, but it was formalized in China. Chan, as it is known in China, was transmitted to Japan and took root there in the thirteenth century, developing into various schools. Zen, a school of Mahayana Buddhism, emphasizes the value of meditation and intuition. Taking this philosophy and the tradition of letting go and quieting the mind we will create our own Mini Mindful Garden and bring some of those ideas to life. With sand, stones, and a few simple details, you can create a tranquil space for relaxation and can bring calmness and mindfulness into your day.

Traditional Zen gardens don’t include plants or water. As such, the placement of the stones and sand in Zen gardens has lots of meaning, symbolism and intention.  The landscape is set in a base of sand or gravel which is raked to imitate the flow of water, rocks and stones represent islands or mountains, greenery is symbolic of forests.

One of the most important benefits of a Mindful garden is stress relief. Mindful gardens are great for kids as they encorporate three aspects of mindfulness- focus, creativity and calmness. By methodically arranging the stones, raking the sand and creating patterns, you can begin to relax. Focusing on the repetitive physical movements quiets your mind and enables you to be present in the moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future. Aiding in evoking a feeling of stillness, tranquillity, and peace in your daily life.  They canprovide a great way to clear our minds and reflect on our thoughts and also serve as a gazing point while meditating or doing breathing techniques.  Making Mini Mindful Gardens are a great activity to unwind during times of stress and doubt, an escape even if it's for a few moments.

To create a Mini Mindful garden, you'll need:

  • Container - (You will need a shallow container e.g. a wooden, plastic, cardboard, ceramic tray or box.)

  • Sand - (Fine grain sand shows patterns better, but you can use beach sand or coloured sand.)

  • Natural elements- (Decide on what you want in your garden e.g. pebbles, rocks, shells, bark, small drift wood, polished stones or grave. l)

  • Mini Rake - (Small twigs, mini back scratchers, skewers, toothpicks, and forks can all serve as rakes. You will also need a stick for smoothing the sand, a craft lollipop stick, or a straight twig could be used)

  • Crystals (optional) - (Geodes and crystals are popular alternatives to traditional stones because of their energy boosting and healing properties).

  • Essential oils (optional) -– Add your favourite essential oils to enhance the relaxing benefits of your mini garden. You can add a few drops directly to the sand.

Your Mini Mindful garden can be unique to you, you can use coloured sand and even paint the pebbles but keep in mind that you are creating a relaxing and mindful space and everything you add should complement and heighten those emotions for you.


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