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Meditation Teacher Mark's Blog

Lessons From Meditating in the Ryoan-Ji Zen Garden in Kyoto, Japan.

On a recent trip to Japan I found myself sitting in the world's most famous Zen garden, Ryoan-ji. It was a really hot day which meant most people didn't want to sit in the sunshine and so headed into the coolness of the temple buildings and walkways. This meant I was left relatively alone to enjoy the garden as it was intended, in meditative contemplation. First I meditated with my eyes closed to become stiller and get more in touch with my state of stillness. Then I opened my eyes and simply observed.

Zen gardens are symbolic but they are also cleverly designed to help with open eye meditation. In my book I discuss how 'what' you pay attention to will dictate the level of stillness you can explore, and there are limits to what you can discover with your eyes open. However the outside world is a mirror for our inner world and the Zen garden helps with that reflection. The symmetry and simplicity of the white sand is wonderfully juxtaposed against the irregularity of the boulders. Much like the contrast between our inner stillness and the thoughts in our mind!

The stiller you become the more you take in. The garden is approximately 90 foot across and maybe 30 feet deep and when you sit aligned with the middle you can see all of it within your field of vision. The central area of the garden is empty of rocks which are more towards the edges. This in itself is a lovely metaphor for meditation. When we stay centred in stillness then everything is clear and ordered, represented by the gravel. As our attention drifts towards edges we find the boulders and our vision becomes full of irregular shapes and a lack of order. To be really Zen is to be able to take in all the garden and not be drawn to any one part of it and to loose the separation between the observer and the observed.

Open eye meditation allows us to find out more about ourselves and the world around us by becoming still and observing. It's a discipline to simply observe and to be in the moment. It frees us from the mundane repetition of the mind and we can become simultaneously more aware from our higher aspects such as the astral (emotional) body, mind and intuition. As I was meditating on the garden I could perceive different geometric shapes and colours. This was me becoming more aware of the mental (geometry) and emotional (colour) aspects of my being. When I say perceive, I don't mean physically I mean psychically. These sacred geometries and fundamental colours are part of our energetic make-up. In fact everything within creation is made of colour and geometry. In normal everyday awareness we see the result of these. The objects in our world. But as we become stiller we can become aware of the colour and geometric qualities of these things. If this doesn't make much sense then that's ok, because the most important thing is that you find out for yourself because meditation can be done anywhere and at anytime! Athough this was an amazing garden to be in, anyone can experience these things in their meditation whether you're in a Zen garden in Kyoto or a room in Yorkshire, so get meditating.

Posted by Mark Zaretti at 14:58

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