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Creating A Zen Garden or How to Find Peace in Your Own Backyard

I love the image of Buddha.  I have many versions of Buddha in different shapes and forms throughout my home.  A serene, meditative Buddha hovers quietly over my kitchen, presumably willing my cooking to be at least edible; a fat, jolly laughing Buddha beside my computer is my constant work companion, reminding me not to take myself too seriously; and a larger-than-life Buddha print holds court over my backyard, setting the tone for a calm, inviting outdoor living space.

While it’s been a tough year (now that’s an understatement), Spring has indeed sprung, and you may be looking to your backyard or patio as a safe refuge and close-by staycation destination to enjoy the outdoors.  Many are seeking peace and quiet through calm spaces and one of the best ways to achieve that is by creating a Zen Garden. 

If this is an idea you’re interested in pursuing this year, here are a few ideas and tips to meditate on!

Consider the 7 Guiding Principles

Zen gardens are structured around seven guiding principles: Austerity (Koko), Simplicity (Kanso), Naturalness (Shinzen), Asymmetry (Fukinsei), Mystery or Subtlety (Yugen), Magical or Unconventional (Datsuzoku) and Stillness (Seijaku). As you start to envision your Zen Garden, think about how you would incorporate most or all of these concepts.

Find the Perfect Spot

What part of the yard would be suited to a meditation space? How big will it be? Choose a flat, out-of-the-way corner or narrow side yard that is suitable to build a comfortable area to meditate. Make preliminary measurements to help visualize the finished room.

Create A Design 

Draw up a rough sketch to visualize your finished space. For a more elaborate project, you may want to consult a professional landscape designer. If you are using larger rocks, it’s important to know ahead of time where to site them since they are a challenge to lift and set into place.

Keep it Simple.

A Zen space should be simple and uncluttered to promote a feeling of calm. Use a muted color scheme to relax the mind and create a soothing environment.

Key Elements of a Zen Garden

Rocks and Gravel

These two elements are essential to a Zen Garden.  The sizing and placement of rocks represent the human desire for eternity and enduring elements in nature. The raked patterns of gravel have symbolic meaning and the very act of raking gravel is part of the meditative process and an acquired skill that helps improve mental concentration.


To create a secluded outdoor garden room, enclose the area with a wall, fencing, bamboo screening, lattice panels or formal hedging.

Don’t Forget About Buddha

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Dalai Lama

For many, Buddha is the representation of happiness and is often used in the practice of daily meditation.  In these difficult times where we are seeing a rise in mental health and wellness challenges, meditation can be a tool to train the mind not to dwell in the past or the future, but to live in the here and now, the realm in which we can experience peace most readily. 

As I mentioned earlier, simply having the symbol of Buddha, whether a statue or a picture, is a trigger for calm and peace.  And, in my opinion, essential for a complete Zen Garden.


Don’t forget about this often overlooked aspect of home landscaping. Lighting adds aesthetic appeal and allows for time spent outdoors during the evenings. Illuminate pathways, statuary, or uplight trees for maximum effect.

This Spring and Summer most of us will likely find ourselves spending vacation time at or close to home.  So why not make the experience one of beauty, peace and wellness.



Lisa Hartley, Founder of Off the Wall On the Fence