THE SANCTUARY GARDEN
"The kiss of the sun for pardon
The songs of the birds for mirth;
You are nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on this earth."
- Traditional saying
You sit, in perfect balance, embraced by nature's beauty, your senses come alive, you come fully home to yourself, and your very heart flowers with joy. You know the experience of which I speak. Every time we take the time to be fully present in the natural world, whether in the wilderness, a tended city park, or our own backyard, we return to our inner stillness. Peace fills us as we drink in the colorful flowers, the standing trees, the singing birds, the blowing breeze.
Your own garden can be transformed into a sanctuary, a place of respite and relaxation, of healing and inspiration, of balance and natural rhythm.
I specialize in this type of garden design. The creation of a sanctuary garden is in some ways simply a matter of intuitively listening to your own land, honoring what is already there, and enhancing it with other naturalistic or exotic elements to create the effect you desire. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, I highly recommend the excellent book The Sanctuary Garden by Christopher Forrest McDowell and Tricia Clark-McDowell.
For many people, though, there simply isn't enough time to really devote the necessary energy and resources, nor the technical horticultural and geological know-how, to really make your space into the holistically healing sanctuary it can become. And there are many considerations. In sanctuary gardening, in addition to the usual factors of space, topography, style, house and other structures, lighting, color, usage, irrigation, fire safety, local ecosystem including geology, flora and fauna, etc. you also need to consider your spiritual practice and healing needs. Are you looking for a place where you can meditate? Do art? Conduct rituals? Family gatherings? Do you want a small, closed feeling or an open space? What about privacy? Also consider your relationship with the Earth, rocks, plants, animals, natural elements such as wood, stone and water, and garden art.
This checklist of sacred garden features may help you decide what you want in your sanctuary garden design:
o An entryway that makes your sanctuary garden feel sacred
o A secret garden
o Herb garden or scent garden (aromatherapy)
o Garden features to attract butterflies, birds, or wildlife
o Meditation area or elements that invite sitting
o Pond or waterfall
o Healing garden
o Sound elements such as wind chimes
o Garden for romance
o Garden for prosperity, health and success
o Children's garden
o An altar or shrine area for sacred objects (statues, cross, etc.)
o Proper placement of all elements for optimum harmony and beauty
o A strong, central "sacred symbol" such as a labyrinth, mandala or medicine wheel
So many of us spend most of our time in the garden, well, gardening! Pretty soon your garden can feel like just another project, a never-ending chore. We may forget to stop, sit, smell the roses, and just be. Psychologist and doctor Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the best selling Wherever You Go, There You Are, asks: Are you a human being, or a human doing?
"When we give ourselves the gift of sacred time in a special place, we are feeding our spirit with love. Indeed, to sit in sanctuary is to love ourselves anew. It is to allow orselves to be one with, aware of, and witness to Creation that IS an act of love." - The Sanctuary Garden.
I'd like to address two other important points in sanctuary gardening: the art of placement, and sacred patterns.
The ancient Chinese art and science of harmonious placement is called Feng Shui. I am not a Feng Shui practitioner but have researched and do apply some Feng Shui principles, which creates spaces that are both imminently practical and aesthetically pleasing. Garden Feng Shui emphasizes the relationship between humans and nature. The Chinese have observed this relationship in great detail for thousands of years and created this system based on those observations. Feng Shui practitioners believe that "if you live in harmony with the living earth, you will lead a life of contentment, happiness and abundance." (Feng Shui in the Garden by Richard Webster).
Sacred symbols such as labyrinths (European), mandalas (Indian) and medicine wheels (Native American) are circular patterns with a strong central focus which can be used for meditation and spiritual practice. I specialize in incorporating these into garden spaces. They can be small or large enough to walk through, made of flowers, rocks, shrubs, plants, wood, et al., usually are laid out to align precisely with the four compass directions, and can be designed and constructed to enhance your personal spiritual path. Call me for more information
If you choose to consult a professional landscape designer to help you design and/or create your sanctuary garden, find one who recognizes the importance of garden spaces that invite you to just sit and be. One who shares your reverence for the Earth, for all of Nature, and for your little piece of it in particular. Blessings to you and your sacred space.