How To Make A Zen Garden At Home [TUTORIAL]
How To Make A Zen Garden At Home [TUTORIAL]

In this tutorial we will look at how to make a Zen garden at home.

There is no better place to meditate than in a garden, whether that be a regular garden meditation area or a proper Zen one.

Imagine if you could step out the front door into beautiful relaxing white sands, where your gardening activity is actually a form of meditation That’s what happens when you make a Zen garden..

Let’s make it happen

By the end And you will know how to make a Zen garden and you might also like to read my article How To Make A Meditation Space At Home)

In this tutorial I will show you how to make a Zen garden

If you love gardening you will get so much out rock landscaping. For starters, there are lots of benefits of rock landscaping.

Not only will you love the experience with all the designing and creating, but afterwards you will have a stunning spiritual space to relax in. You might also like to read my article all about making your home Zen.

What is a Zen Garden / Japanese Rock Garden?

A Zen garden is a Japanese style of landscaping that aims to produce the most relaxing space possible. The process of creating one is in itself a form of meditation.

It creates a wonderful energy, much as Feng Shui does.

The actual space itself is very minimalist. They only contain:

  • Bushes
  • Pruned trees
  • Raked gravel or sand
  • Water features 

They are actually quite small. In fact, you can even get indoor desktop-Zen gardens (see below).

Thing is, this isn’t like your regular gardening process where you’re creating a beautiful arrangement of flowers. The whole point is that you meditate while you make the Japanese rock garden. That’s why you need to know how to make a Zen garden the right way.

The single most important aspect is that you actually meditate on the creative process when you make it. This is a traditional form of Zen Meditation.

What you will need to make a Zen garden

There are a few items you will need when making a Zen garden:

  • White sand
  • Rocks
  • A special rake. Zen rakes have dowel-like rods. These are used to make impressions in the sand. Using the rake you can smooth the sand with one side and make swirling patterns with the other.
  • Perhaps a water feature
  • Bushes or plants
  • Buddha statues

How To Make A Zen Garden Step 1 — Designing It 

Here are some tips on how to make a Japanese rock garden, starting with the design.

How large to make it

Dependent on the space you have dedicated to it, your zen garden may be big or small.

There are advantage of both:

You can make a Zen garden that’s small and indoors. Or you can create one that is much larger, one you can even use for Zen Walking Mediation.

How To Make A Japanese Rock Garden That Suits Your Home

Whether indoors or outdoors, your Zen garden should blend in with the rest of the space so that it looks natural.

You want it to look as though the space is merging from the Zen garden to the rest of your space.

This will help you to feel a sense of oneness when you meditate on it.

Where to put it

When it comes to making a Zen garden, first choice is where to position it.

When Zen gardens were originally conceived they were described in the Japanese garden-making text the “Sakuteiki” [get it on AMAZON].  The book states that “in a space where there is neither a lake or a stream, one can put in place what is called a kare-sansui, or dry landscape”.  [1]

Building It 

how to make a japanese rock garden

So by now you’re buzzing with excitement and looking forward to the actual creative process. So let’s look at how to make a Zen garden.

Set the space you’ll be making it in

Whether you’re creating one inside or outside your house, you will want to get the space set ready for the sand and rocks.

If you’re making a Zen garden outdoors it will require lots of  work because you will need to remove the grass and dig up the dirt to create the space for the sand and rocks to go in.

This is the same process as when you convert a grass yard to gravel in a more traditional way.

For an outdoor Zen garden

  1. Mow the lawn low. Go over it repeatedly.
  2. Cover the lawn with newspaper stacked 12 sheets high. Overlap the edges.
  3. Cover the top layer of newspapers with black landscape fabric.
  4. Add a layer of mulch over the fabric. Rake the mulch until it is evenly spread.
  5. Get rid of any large rocks around the edged.
  6. Pour gravel or sand on top of the mulch. Spread it evenly with the rake. (see point below)
  7. Leave for three weeks. Then spread extra gravel or sand on top.
How to build a zen garden.

For a small indoor Zen garden:

  1. Get a topless wooden box (or create one)
  2. Fill the box with sand or gravel (see point below)
  3. Spread the sand / gravel evenly

You now have the basic space filled with sand or gravel. That’s the hardest part done. The rest is fun.

Add the rocks to your Japanese Rock Garden

One of the most important parts of making a Zen garden is the placement of the rocks. After all, Zen gardens do come from the tradition of Japanese Rock Gardens.

The Sakuteiki text described in detail very specific ways to set the rocks. Not only that, the text said that an ill-fate would befall people who set the rocks in the wrong way.

Here are the most important tips for setting the rocks.

  • The best-looking side of the rock should always be facing the viewer.
  • There should be more horizontal stones than vertical stones.
  • Do not place rocks in straight lines.
  • Use groups one to three rocks.
  • Use rocks of different colours, shapes and sizes.
  • Any rock you cannot find a place for, position randomly. This adds spontaneity.

Fill it with sand and gravel

Follow these rules when adding sand or gravel

  • Today, most people choose to use gravel instead of sand because it holds its position longer—especially in an outdoor Zen garden. This is less important with an indoor Zen garden.
  • When raking the gravel, meditate. The process of adding the gravel is about the mind as much as the actual garden. Zen meditators use the term “Samon” and “Hokime” to describe this act of meditative raking.
  • Use swirling patterns to represent water.

Add decorative features

When you add stones, water features and other decorative items to a Zen garden the aim is to do what Shakespeare said and “Hold a mirror up to nature”.

The best options for decorations are water features, shrubs, plants, moss, and black stone.

Now we’ve looked at how to make a Zen garden, here’s how to maintain it 

Your Zen garden will be maintained using the rake. This can be used to clear away leaves and other debris.

Use the maintenance time as an opportunity for meditation. Whatever actions you take in maintaining it, do so in a mindful way. After all the main point in the process is to train yourself to do tasks mindfully.

Love your garden and enjoy its upkeep. This is a sacred spiritual space that you are designing for yourself. It should be created and maintained with love and affection.

Benefits Of Rock Garden Landscaping

In essence, Japanese rock garden landscaping’s benefits are similar to most other forms of movement meditation.

1: Relieves Stress

No question about it: The number one benefit of rock garden landscaping is that it relieves stress.

When you make a Zen garden you meditate on the raking of the sand or gravel. This is a deeply relaxing meditation. It relieves stress. The repetitive movement calms the mind, help you to find inner peace.

The slow movement of the rake up and down the garden serves to slow your mind down. And the sand create one long sheet of white so that the only thing we see is the sand. In other words there aren’t the usual distractions all around you, just one long wave of white, like an ocean. The visual simplicity of the Zen garden makes it incredibly relaxing. And the gentle bodily movement you make when raking are very calming.

2: Appreciation of beauty

Positive Psychology (a field of psychology that focuses on happiness) lists the “appreciation of beauty” as one of their 24 character strengths and virtues [1]. If you appreciate beautiful things, you are more likely to be happy. This is why happy people tend to appreciate things like animals and flowers and other natural forms of beauty.

When you make a Japanese rock garden you will train your mind to appreciate three particular kinds of beauty:

  • Kanso (simplicity)
  • Fukinsei (asymmetry)
  • Yugen (sutble grace)
  • Read more about these 3 on PresentationZen

Japanese rock garden landscaping benefits us by making us more aware of these kinds of beauty, which in turn leads to increased levels of happiness.

3: It activates your creative brain

Making a Zen garden is a really enjoyable creative experiences.

Whether you have a small desktop Zen garden or a full-size outdoor Zen rock garden, you can express your creativity as you find new patterns for the sand or gravel, and new positions for the rocks.

It isn’t a complicated form of creativity like writing a novel or painting a masterpiece. It is a simply kind of creativity that makes us feel more openly creative, more fun, the same way kids feel when they draw crayon picture. That simple sense of creative freedom.

4: Rock garden landscaping improves your discipline

Making a Zen rock garden is one thing. Maintaining a Zen rock garden is something else

. It takes discipline and patience.

This is especially true if you have an outdoor Zen garden made of sand—in which case the sand will move dependent on weather conditions and you will have to be diligent in maintaining the correct patterns.

5: Slows you down

My personal favorite benefit of rock garden landscaping is that it slows me down. Everything about a rock garden is designed to quieten your mind. That long sheet of white sand. The gentle movement of the rake. The gentle ripple effects that you create, that remind you of the ocean. The methodical placement of the rocks. It’s incredibly simple. And therein lies the beauty. For simplicity makes us feel more relaxed, more calm, and yes, it makes us slow down. After coming home from a hectic day and work, there’s nothing like tending to a rock garden. It’s perfect for slowing and calming the mind.

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Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a meditation teacher and writer. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I love the large area zen gardens , so peaceful looking.
    I am going build a small one first. I have a large area to build my dream zen garden after my prototype. Thank you for the building tips!

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