Calming Effects of Japanese Rock Gardens


Some Japanese rock gardens, such as the Shitenno-ji Honbo Garden in Osaka, Japan, are more than 1,000 years old, Dragonfly Tours Japan explains. The visual stillness of these minimalist settings -- old, new, large, small, in your backyard or across seas -- produce calming effects. Calmness aids in relaxation techniques and meditation, and helps you to achieve clarity and intellectual rejuvenation.


  • A Japanese rock garden’s design may or may not include a gurgling water element, such as a fountain or circulating stream. However, even as a dry arrangement, the garden is meant to signify water. In many cultures, water is sacred, a symbol of life or held in high regard, Dr. Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe of the Department of Art History at Sweet Briar College explains. In this Zen setting, raked lines and rings in the sand or gravel denote ocean waves. Rocks represent islands, mountains or boats. Moss may encircle the “islands,” and limited, neatly trimmed greenery could appear in the background, but living elements are not the focus. Ultimately, the minimalist landscape is about relaxation and tranquility, such as you would experience if enjoying an ocean view.

The Meditative State

  • Achieving a meditative state is one way to attain calmness. Prior to or during practicing Tai Chi, you’d enter a meditative state, explains the Patience T'ai Chi Association. It’s not about leaving your body, but more about quieting your mind or grounding yourself. Without a scattered mind, you feel relaxed, at peace and more able to concentrate. Even if your Zen space doesn’t have a viewing platform -- a low or in ground deck nearby or within the setting -- position yourself from a good vantage point where you can overlook the garden. To begin meditating, consciously release tension from every part of your body, the Yoga Journal suggests. Breathe naturally, listening to every breath. Make your breathing your only focus; don’t allow thoughts to enter your mind. Do this a few minutes each day or whenever you desire a sense of calmness.

Enlightenment and Clarity

  • An enlightened or clear mind is a calm mind. When thoughts are in order or clarity is achieved, the mind is at ease. To realize clarity or to sort out a problem, visualize the rocks as islands and the gravel or sand as water lapping against the islands. Just as the tide would gently flow to and from natural shorelines, allow your thoughts to come and go, washing clean or becoming organized with every wave envisioned. Imagine the waves carrying any negative thoughts out to sea, for example. Let each breath you take signify each wave as you work to achieve enlightenment to a baffling situation or to clear your mind of unnecessary baggage.


  • The feeling of relaxation produced by mental stillness, clarity or meditation can be invigorating or rejuvenating -- the way your muscles feel after a massage, a swim or a soak in a hot tub. This feeling of renewal offers a calmness or sense of inner peace. Take this soul-soothing peace and do with it what you will; attempt bigger challenges at work, set higher morals or standards for yourself, or simply allow yourself to see the beauty around and within you.

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