Bowl plus rice plus cards = instant vista with endless possibilities!
To create a three dimensional symbolic landscape.
The Zen or “rock” garden was originally developed by Buddhist monks in Japan. Meant to encourage contemplation, the naturalistic simplicity of this kind of “outdoor sculpture” is deliberately designed to evoke feelings of relaxation and tranquility.
Called karesansui in Japanese (often translated as “dry landscape” but literally meaning “dry mountain water”), this type of garden consists of two main components: Sand (or gravel) and rocks. As its name suggests, this kind of garden is a metaphorical representation of the interplay between land, sea, and sky.
In addition, carefully pruned trees, bushes and moss often are placed in and around the garden in order to add to its sense of harmony and contrast. The Zen garden is structured around the principle of yin and yang, which is based on the dynamic relationship between opposing forces: dark/light, dry/wet, soft/hard, linear/circular, low/high, firm/malleable, irregular/patterned, flat/uneven, textured/smooth, large/small, clustered/solitary, broad/narrow…
Serving as a palette, the sand serves as a background upon which rocks are artfully placed to symbolize the contrasts between different elements of nature. The act of raking the sand or gravel into wave-like patterns is an important one, as doing so provides the opportunity for developing mindfulness and concentration.
Today, small table-top versions of Zen gardens (complete with small tray, sand, tiny rocks, and a small rake) are widely available as stress-reduction tools. Some people find it very relaxing and meditative to “play” with their mini-oasis. By slowly and gently manipulating the sand and objects in the garden, a quiet state of inner peace can be achieved.
At the same time, Zen gardens work on another level: Creating something tangible from scratch can be a fun and stimulating multi-sensory activity. The connection with early life experiences in the playground sandbox – pouring, sorting, burying – often awakens the imaginative inner child in all of us.
The nature of this activity also provides an opportunity to connect deep within the psyche. By using the creative process to manifest a miniature metaphorical world, the subconscious self is able to communicate and collaborate with the conscious mind.
Find a tray or bowl that you feel is a suitable size for the garden you’d like to create. This container can be wooden, metal, ceramic, plastic, or glass. If you like, you can paint the bottom and/or inner sides of the tray.
Next, add a layer of sand or rice. If you are using a deep glass bowl or tray, colored sand will create a nice effect.
Now you can begin to create wavelike patterns on the surface using a fork, small comb, or miniature rake. If you want to make more detailed designs in the sand or rice, you could use the tip of a closed marker or pen. Have fun experimenting with this part of the project, since it’s easy to smooth out the surface and start over.
Once you are finished with your surface, it is time to add objects to your garden: Stones, rocks, pebbles, twigs, pieces of wood, shells, small figurines, a tiny cactus or two…You are only limited by your imagination! As you plan where to place things, think about the kinds of contrasts and complementarities you would like to compose within the landscape.
Your tarot cards will be an important part of this creative process. Remember that if you are using the Waite-Smith deck you have four size options: mini, small, regular, and giant. Go through your decks and choose one or more cards whose energy you feel lends itself to the vista you are creating. You might pick one particular card to be centrally placed, which would act as a focal point. Or your might choose a series of cards all related to a common theme.
Experiment with your placement of the card or cards in the sand or rice. Depending on the size of the bowl or tray that you are using, you could vertically insert a card to varying depths. Consider what part of the card you would want visible, and which part buried. You could also lay the card horizontally or at an angle. Another option is to ring your container with cards, either completely around or at various points, with the cards placed horizontally or vertically.
As you build this unique self-contained world, you may want to think about what each element symbolizes to you. What kind of metaphoric language can you create as you compose your garden? What would you like to communicate, either to yourself or to others? Are there meaningful objects from your life that you feel drawn to including? If so, what would those objects serve to represent?
Also consider how you position your materials. For example, you might align objects in a linear fashion, create a circle or make a spiral design. Do the arrangements of objects into specific shapes have some deeper meanings for you?
On the other hand, you don’t have to think about interpreting your actions. You could just let your intuition guide you as you construct your landscape, letting your left brain (the logical side) take a break.
When you have finished your project, consider what to do next. One option is to make it a permanent display somewhere at home or at work. Another is to think of it as a temporary piece of art that you can assemble and disassemble as you wish.