Looking for a way to energize your mind?
This past spring my wife, Wendy, and I were in Kyoto, Japan and had the opportunity to visit five different "Zen Rock Gardens." If you're unfamiliar with "Zen Rock Gardens," here's a little background. A typical one is a simple rectangular area comprised of several groups of rocks (and perhaps a few plants) which are surrounded by rake-lined sand (or fine gravel).
The garden works on two levels: a meditative one and an imaginative one. First, it provides the visitor with a place to quiet his mind and get away from the distractions of the everyday world. No cars, no commercials, no Internet!
And second, the garden can be a source of mental stimulation: the visitor is invited to look at the garden's simple shapes and objects and use his imagination. Do the rocks look like islands rising from the sea? Puffs of smoke? Clouds?
Of the five Zen Rock Gardens we visited, the highlight was the one at Ryoan Ji Temple. It consists of 15 rocks arranged in 5 different groups. It was laid out by the Buddhist painter Soami in about the year 1500.
It's rectangular and measures about 30 meters by 10 meters. There are no trees. Shown above is the central grouping of 3 rocks at Ryoan Ji. This is probably the most famous of the five groups. I liked this one a lot, and spent quite a few minutes contemplating it. What story does it tell? How does it fit into the other four groups? People have been asking these questions and others for five hundred years.
Wendy and I liked the Ryoan Ji Temple so much that we came back another day so that we could spend more time there. On our second visit, we arrived when it opened at nine, and had the whole place to ourselves for nearly forty-five minutes. And, course, the light was much different in the morning.
I have purposefully not shown you a photo of the entire garden with all 15 rocks. That's so you'll be motivated to go there yourself and experience its wonder first-hand.
Here's a little fun. At a different rock garden, I couldn't resist "entering into the frame" and posing the amazing Ball of Whacks on one of the rocks for a few moments. The rock garden smiled when I did this.