Zen Gardens - The Art of Wonder Since Zen is philosophy of the Zen, we can think of Zen Gardens as gardens of the mind. They are philosophy made visible. Their purpose is to exalt the consciousness, and free the spirit, not feed the emotions. They are gardens not to walk in but to observe, to meditate upon. And the root principle is "less is more." The ideal Zen garden is never crowded or rushed, and brings the same sense of peace and serenity in midwinter as is does in spring. Like a the steady mind of Zen, the Zen garden may reflect the seasons, but it not changed by them. Zen Garden Design plans always include a border or enclosure. The Zen garden is a thing apart and should be distinct from any other part of the lawn. Gates and a fence or walls are essentials. To think like a Zen gardener, begin not with flowers and earth, but with rock and sand. In Japan, where Zen was developed, avid gardeners haunt "rock nurseries" where a single unusual stone may cost thousands of dollars. Good Zen garden design plans include rocks that evoke mountains, waterfalls, or even animals like tortoises, birds, oysters - even the Buddha himself. The rocks are never oiled, polished, carved, or treated in any way. The older and more "natural" they are the better. They are usually placed in groups of 3, 5, or 7. They can be classified according to: • Place of origin (mountain, river, valley) • Shape ("master rocks"," pillars, branches, root, and water) • Symbol (natural, moods, spiritual, idea, or melodic) In Zen garden design plans, once the proper rocks are selected, the next step is to position them. They are never simply plopped down on the ground but buried about two-thirds into the soil, so that they give the impression of rising powerfully from the earth. This is not a willy-nilly procedure, but a carefully thought out design. Every rock has a natural energy which must be honored by placing it in a way that the energy flows through the garden in mystical "dragon veins" or channels. The center of a Zen Garden should remain empty - it is the place for the mind alone to play in. The second element is sand, which represents water, raked according to various curving patterns that suggest waves and movement. The wonderful thing about this is that the pattern can be changed whenever you like - to reflect a new insight or even a different mood. It is not wrong to include a shrub or statue if it adds meaning to your garden, but it is very important to keep the garden uncluttered. Remember that the garden is a reflection of the your mind - and a cluttered mind is a hindrance to enlightenment. Most wonderful of all - you don't need a lot of space of create a glorious Zen garden. A simple box, a few interesting stones and a miniature rake (all available in a kit form) can transform an ordinary tabletop into a place of contemplation - even wonder. Wendy Pan is an accomplished niche website developer and author. To learn more about zen garden design plans, please visit How to Design a Garden for current articles and discussions.