Tabletop Zen Garden

Zen, in Japanese, means meditation. So essentially Zen Gardening is using gardening to calm the mind and body, enhance focus, and contemplate the metaphors within it that are linked to living life.

My kids loved to play in the sand when they were little. I must admit, I still love to play in the sand as an adult. There’s something so soothing about swirling around in it, feeling that soft grit between my toes, and being able to mold and shape it into wondrous creations!

What I love about the Zen Garden is that it is available right at my desk or the coffee table, it’s indoors so we can use it whatever the weather, it’s calming to my mind to swirl that rake around and around the rocks, it’s infinite in that I can continually create again and again and again, but maybe even most of all– it awakens my imagination into far off worlds.

The rocks become mountains, the sand a river of flowing water, and I am off in a far off misty Asian land, navigating and exploring and having an adventure in my imagination, while at the same time: RELAXING!!

Zen gardens can help your child to center and ground excess mental, emotional and physical energy. There’s something mesmerizing about swirling those rakes and tools around and around in the soft, white, fine sand.

And, there’s many metaphors for living life that can you can discuss with your child along the way. For instance, when you come to a rock in the path, how will you navigate it? Will you jump your rake over the rock, breaking the flow or will you swivel and swirl around it and keep on flowing along?

This is much like life. Unexpected “rocks” or difficulties arise along the way and while we often don’t have a choice to avoid a rock in the path, we do have a choice in how we respond. We can jump up and down and cry and resist the rock or we can learn to flow along the way, quickly changing our course around it, breathing, relaxing, and deciding how we want to respond. Our relaxation tools help us to move around the rocks.

The Zen garden also helps us to realize that life, like the sand, is constantly changing. Your child will realize that he can’t hold on to a pretty creation and save it forever, but he can continually create new creations, trying out new tools all the time to see which ones work best for him.

You can make a DIY Zen garden at home!

You will need the following materials:

  • a small box or container
  • 1 cup of soft sand
  • a flat rectangular square of wood or cardboard (for smoothing the sand)
  • some toothpicks, fork, spoon, cookie cutters, other tools for making designs in the sand
  • a few rocks or pebbles
  • a small origami or toy bird (optional)
DIY at home Zen Garden (created by my spiritual center’s youth department #milehichurch)

First, gather all the materials. Help your child to put the sand inside the box and to experiment with making designs in the sand. Try out the following relaxation ideas:

  • Breathe in, make a line in the sand. Breathe out, make another line in the sand. Breathing in say, “I am calm.” Breathing out say, “I relax.”
  • Read or create a relaxation story while you are experimenting with the Zen Garden.
  • Talk about a time when a “rock” was in your path and what you did. Share a time when you would have liked to do it differently and then practice using a relaxation tool instead. Discuss how it’s possible to “re-live” moments in our mind, like a “do over” to help bring peace and calm to those memories.
  • Make a design in the sand and then brush it away. Talk about how it feels to not be able to “save” it. You can use your relaxation tools to help adjust to changes in life. When was a time of change that you needed a tool? What calming tool is your favorite and why?
  • Invite your child to tell you a relaxation story about the Zen Garden. Listen with full attention and share specifically what you liked about it.

May this garden bring a flowering of peace and love to you and your child– mind, body and spirit. Calm and Centered, Carry On…

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Filed under Educator Resources, Emotional Regulation, Family Relaxation, Mindfulness Practice, Parenting Resources, relax where you are, Relaxation Practice, relaxation resources for children, Uncategorized

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