Archive for February, 2013

Japanese gardens ask that you go beyond the garden spiritually, that you look at the garden not merely as an object but also as a path into the realms of spirit.” 
— Makoto Ooka

Art in the human experience stretches back to the beginnings of time. From cave paintings to modern abstract design, art offers representative interpretations of the human experience and invites the viewer to delve into the inner depths of the psyche. Gazing into a mirror, Alice wondered about the differences between her world and the world beyond the looking glass; would the books have the words going the wrong way or if milk exists and what it tastes like. Alice took the plunge and stepped into the world to explore the differences but many people stay on the surface level and view only the image itself. Visual images may enhance our perception of ourselves and the world around us if we look beyond the reality of the image presented and allow our mind to turn inward. Experts in the field of psychology theorized an evolutionary process of individual growth possible through transcending our everyday consciousness to higher levels of consciousness.

Various cultures and religious philosophies integrate a level of introspection within the art as a tool for meditation and introspection. Utilizing art as a medium for reaching an inner stillness and peace allows individuals to deepen their level of consciousness and progress towards enlightenment, individuation, self-actualization, or inner peace. For the next few posts, I will explore several different types of artistic mediums designed with objective of taking the individual on a journey past the visual imagery of the artwork to explore the individual consciousness; Japanese gardens, mandalas, and labyrinths.

We recently visited the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix. The garden was nice but was missing an essential element for me, the dry rock garden. If you want to visit a nice Japanese garden, check out the garden in Balboa Park in San Diego.

 My interest in Japanese garden designs spans many years and integrates not only design work but the ideas of energy flow or ‘qi’ as a protective and calming element within the confines of the garden. The design of Japanese gardens provides a pathway to reconnect with our inner consciousness and the natural world.

Japanese garden design spans centuries of Japanese history with influences from China.  The initial Japanese gardens were built as shrines to honor the kami, spirits that inhabited the natural landscape and the basis of the Shinto religion. To create areas for the kami to manifest, the early Japanese people cleared an area within the forest by performing purification rituals and covering the area in white sand. One specific type of Japanese garden is the Zen garden, a dry garden consisting primarily of rock formations and raked gravel.

In 2006, following the completion of building our house in Ephraim, Utah, I cordoned off the front yard as a blank palette to design and construct our own personal Zen garden.

My interest in construction of a Zen garden was twofold. First, I was fascinated with the beauty and simplicity of Zen garden design. The interaction of textures, colors, and materials woven into the design of the garden would promote peace. I especially admired the garden design of Ryoan-ji in Kyoto, Japan, particularly the rock garden outside of the tea house. Five clusters of larger rocks are spaced within the confines of a square gravel filled area. I had read an article that talked about the symbolism and placement of the larger rock clusters. The placement of the larger rocks approximated the branches of a tree that reach out of the temple, the trunk of the tree, into the garden. The symbolism of deeper meaning with the rock placement resonated with me.

Secondly, personal research had brought me to the point of learning about the Chinese concept of ‘qi’, the life energy that surrounds us and the ability to manipulate the qi through feng shui, principles of design to maximize the flow of qi for optimum health, wealth, and wisdom.

Ryoan-ji, along with being one of the inspirations for my Zen garden design, is Japan’s most famous Zen garden and on the UNESCO world heritage list. The rock garden consists of fifteen stones placed within a gravel area. The gravel is raked around the stones in concentric circles. What is interesting about the garden is the conjecture surrounding the symbolism embodied in the placement of the stones. The most common theory is that the stone represent islands and mountains rising out of the sea. Other observers believe the mountains correspond with mythological locations specifically Mount Sumeru, a mythological mountain shared by Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It is also known by a second name, mutei, in Japanese meaning the “garden of nothing.” The second descriptive name of garden of nothing is significant in illustrating the power of the rock garden to promote the connection within the individual with the cosmos and reach a state of inner peace. The garden at Ryoan-ji is a work of abstract art, regarded as the revealing the essence of Zen Buddhism. The lack of preconceived notions or specific interpretation of the meaning of the rock placement allows the observer to look deeper and see beyond the visual imagery of the garden itself and reach for a higher level of consciousness forging a possible path to reconnecting with nature through meditation within the depths of inner consciousness.



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My family and I just finished watching the annual Groundhog Day celebration (all 3 minutes) filmed in Pennsylvania yesterday and I am speechless. I am definitely good with the prediction of an early spring. However, I am disappointed to discover that in the 127 years of weather prognostication, the most famous weather animal in the United States is only right 39% of the time. So according to the data, more than likely we will have at least 6 more weeks of winter. But this fact is not what left me speechless, no there is a more sinister game at play here.

There is an organized group calling themselves the Inner Circle who keep poor Punxsutawney Phil in captivity all year round, possibly feeding him an immortal elixir prolonging his torture. This is conspiracy at the highest levels. How can anyone in our country sit back while this grave injustice is perpetrated on this poor aging animal? Not only is this Inner Circle subjugating this defenseless creature to permanent captivity but also claims to speak for said animal on the one day a year Phil is allowed to see the light of day. I demand an independent third party translation of the weather prediction. How can we trust such a group? Every year Phil’s words may be a desperate cry for help not a tryout for the Weather Channel.

It makes one wonder if this same Inner Circle is also behind other animal/holiday conspiracies like the Easter Bunny and flying reindeer. What about the decimation of the turkey population every November, maybe the Inner Circle is to blame for the propagation of the animal /holiday connection? I propose a boycott on all holidays in which animals are featured as key players. Unite and show this so called Inner Circle that their 127 year reign of poor weather predictions, fashion ineptitude, and false sense of importance is at an end.

Free the groundhog and liberate the world!

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