|Creating an outdoor sanctuary (with your children)
Published in Spring 2007 issue (Spiritual Gardening) of WynterGreene Pagan Newsletter, Montreal, QC
Every culture gardens. To garden, the simple act of digging ones hands deep into Mother Earth’s rich soil or sweeping a rake over a sandy Zen (otherwise called a Japanese Rock) garden stimulates not only our physical need to nurture and grow, but taps into deep emotional and spiritual levels that need to be fed. We are transformed by these simple actions. We learned them as children. All children love to play in the sandbox or dig in the dirt. Children also know what it means to grow; to transform; to reincarnate, all by holding a tiny seed in their palm. They once were our “seeds” after all; we grew them!
My six-year-old daughter loves to garden with me. She has her own tools, gloves and gardening hat. In the spring we plant new flowers into the ground. In this simple act, we learn the patience of waiting for something to grow and also to be thankful for the bounty. Gardening can teach us about things we’ve long forgot or lost patience with as adults hustling and bustling around in this high tech, speed-driven world.
Making a garden together with your children is another way of showing them how to respect and care for the Earth. You also can help them tap into their spiritual side by having them find the stillness of the garden, listening to the sounds of nature and thinking about how different it is from the city sounds.
While our garden is simple, it is still a sanctuary. Here are several ideas for any budget to create an outdoor sanctuary for meditation, relaxation, craft work or entertaining.
1. Create a meditation path. Ever walked through a forest? Listening to the sounds of the trees and surrounding animals. Or perhaps it was on a sandy beach? Walking between the dunes and listening to the oceans tide ebb and flow. Wherever your path takes you, you can re-create it on any scale. Add a stepping stone walkway or gravel path, or illuminate a pathway with lights, torches or candles. Craft stores offer ceramic tile making kits for making your own stepping stones. Personalize them with a totem animal, garden visitors like dragonflies or even a child’s handprints.
2. Accentuate your garden with things that reflect the sight and sounds of nature. The possibilities are limitless. Garden shops are filled with objets d’art such as gazing globes, statuary, sundials, wind chimes and wind sockets. Faerie lights, which are candles placed in little alcoves of rocks, are nice for night-time meditations. While these items are not necessary to make your garden grow, they can help you make a more peaceful meditation spot, adding both style and energy to your sacred space.
Let the elements be your guide.
Air ~ wind chimes, wind sockets, pinwheels, flags.
Fire ~ outdoor chimneys, fire pits, candles, faerie lights, torches, Japanese lanterns.
Earth ~ statues, stepping stones, sundials, globes, sand and shells, giant rocks.
Water ~ ponds, fountains, water gardens.
Spirit ~ Green Man and Tree of Life symbols, a pentacle made of rocks, etc.
3. Plant with tranquility in mind. Choose easy to maintain plants with the focus of your garden kept in mind. Is your garden for meditation? If so, choose soft pastels and muted colours, as bright colours will stimulate the senses. I’ve seen gardens designed specifically for moonlight and night meditation. If this is your intention, choose lots of plants and focal points with bright whites such as alyssum, irises and daisies, and light-coloured stepping stones. A moonlight garden can be almost iridescent in the twilight hour and is even more beautiful under a full moon’s gaze.
4. Herbs are more than just spices to cook with. Plant some healing herbs in your garden, such as beneficial aloe, chamomile and echinacea (which has beautiful pink flowers), along with common favourites such as rosemary, sage, peppermint and thyme. Basil is known to bring good luck. And dandelions make good tea.
5. Don’t forget the little critters. Butterfly houses are some of my favourite things, as are hand-painted bird houses, squirrel feeders and bird baths. Nothing amuses me more than being outside and having a line-up of hungry animals waiting for seed or fresh water. I know they appreciate the simple gesture, and it’s something the whole family can do. Think of it as having “outdoor pets” to take care of. Plants that attract butterflies include lilacs, asters , marigolds and mint, and make sure your butterfly house has plenty of shade and shelter.
6. Now sit back and enjoy! Whether your garden is for meditation or just to enjoy with friends and family, make it a welcoming spot by adding a comfortable place to sit. Add a bench, or a picnic table, or a giant rock, or a few lawn chairs, or a wicker rocking chair built for two. Just make sure you follow any instructions that come with your outdoor furniture for maintaining it properly in elements.
Creating an outdoor sanctuary can be as simple or as elaborate as your imagination (and budget) allows. I’ve found simplicity speaks volumes when the intention is to create a sacred space. Enjoy this activity with your family.