zengardensMany people associate everything Zen with New Age ideals, or if they’ve read a particular book, the art of motorcycle maintenance. You might picture men (or women) in tie-dye pajamas, with long and frilly locks tied up in a bun atop their head, milling about a garden with a rake, cutting groovy patterns into a giant sand box. Some of these sand boxes might be tiny, while others take up significant tracks of land.

While these images are not necessarily wrong, Zen gardening has a lot of very tangible benefits for the modern man. Let’s start with some of the finer points about what Zen gardening actually is, and is not:

Zen gardening, or Japanese rock and stone gardening, will never yield a crop of edible produce. Rather, it’s a collection of mostly non-organic natural elements arranged in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to the mind and the soul of the arranger. One of the best things about rock gardening is that you won’t have to spend a lot of time dealing with insects and weeds, since rocks and sand aren’t exactly prime habitat for things that buzz or grow.

“Zen” and the meditative practices associated with the word are derived from Buddhist philosophy. This approach to gardening can add a calming element to your life when taken seriously, as well as a perfect excuse to take a breather from an overly hectic world. All you have to do is step out into your soothing garden. What’s even better is the fact that you can neglect your garden from time to time when you become too busy, and you don’t have to worry about something (like a living plant) up and dying.

Running water, fountains, ponds, sand, clusters of rocks, a few hardy plants, small bridges, meandering walkways, gentle lanterns, and subdued lighting are all components that can be incorporated into a Zen garden. In many ways, a balanced rock garden is more like a construction project than it is like traditional gardening. That’s great news for people who lack a green thumb. And if there’s a patch of your yard or outdoor space that requires a lot of upkeep, a Zen garden could be just the trick to give you back some of your time. Once the initial construction labor is finished, you’ll be able to reduce your maintenance hours, and the effort that goes into taking care of a lawn and a bevy of plants.

Apart from some of the eventual time saving aspects that come from creating your own Japanese-styled Zen garden, there is also a certain pleasure in designing balance and harmony in a limited space. This balance might carry over into your mind, and how you order and approach your day-to-day life. The designs you rake into the sand, how your arrange rocks and small boulders, and the tranquility a rock and sand garden offer you should (when done correctly) take away from the stress of modern living.

For those of you with limited space, you can always purchase or set up a miniature Zen garden. New Age, as well as a heck of a lot of garden and knick-knack stores sell these garden sets. They tend to be fairly simple, and some folks do enjoy them, although they are often treated as novelty items. You just can’t step into a small table-sized Zen garden and take in the overall meditative effect, or suck in a breath of fresh, calming air.

Think of your Zen garden as your personal, “natural” Erector Set, if you like, but on a much larger scale, and more in tune with the man you happen to be. Everyone is entitled to a little oasis, in order to escape the prying eyes of the harsh world.

And if, once you’ve regained some of that inner balance your soul has been so desperately seeking, you decide to march back to your office and bang some heads together in order to increase productivity, well, at least you’ll be doing so from a position of meditative peace.