Through the centuries gardens have been experienced as heavens of serenity and pure expressions of natural beauty in Japan. They have been conceived as spaces for the contemplation of life and time.
The meditative quality of the gardens are a simple result of walking paths designed to release one’s mind from the objective world and into the evergreen trees, the shifting textures, and the subtle murmur of running fountains. For those who slow their pace the Japanese garden becomes a delicate space which nurtures and heals the soul.
Our Zen Garden flowed from the same stream of inspiration. It was built with the purpose of serving as space for the contemplative arts, and a refuge for one to seek the divine in their journey. The building exterior follows a Santa Fe Pueblo architectural style with earth-toned walls. The interior, however, is Japanese in style and tone. Beautiful sliding shoji doors open to a grand room and an expansive garden designed to reflect the aesthetic arrangement of traditional Japanese architecture. The grand room flowing into the garden, a unique conception of the Japanese culture, is a vehicle that sets a mood of harmony with nature.
This conception has deep roots in the soil of Zen Buddhism, as many of its priests were the designers of temple gardens and influencers of Japanese landscape practice. Sobin Yamada, abbot of the Shinju-an Temple, says ‘in Zen we don’t look outside for Buddha, where we live is the Buddha realm; paradise is where we live, so we keep (the garden) always clean and beautiful.’ This is an awesome and liberating realization. Through the contemplation of nature, the garden becomes a path into the realm of spirit.
The theme of the garden centers on the concept of deep soul healing. A large flagstone-carved OHM sign at the entrance (on order) sits on a large raked gravel bed setting the character and purpose of the building. The OHM sound is both, according to tradition, an aspect of the Absolute and a source of healing. The intent was to capture both aspects in the design. The visitor, continuing on the path will hear the water sounds running from a waterfall only partially visible. The hide-and-reveal principle is key to Japanese garden design. Only when one gets close to the end of the pathway the rock formation becomes visible and the water stream comes into sight. Each angle of the garden is expected to offer a different experience as if a series of framed pictures were slowly unveiled. Of course, the full realization of the view will take another 10 years of plant growth and tree styling.
For yoga or meditation groups, or any other contemplative art for that effect, this is a very special place. Outside of Zen monasteries in secluded areas, possibly nothing will make such a lasting impression in the heart of a practicing person.
One weekend a month the space will be available free of charge for workshops (up to 40 participants) by instructors whose goals and instruction resonate with the vision that we are pursuing.