Americans have less free time than ever in our history. Schedules that are jam packed, constant and instantaneous cyber-connectivity, families and engagements take a toll on our peace of mind and inner peace. Studies show that illnesses related to stress are skyrocketing, but the percentage of people who describe a happy and comfortable life is declining at free-fall rates.
This plight doesn’t have to be your plight, however. Experts in mediation and those who study it have long known that it can help recovery and prevention from mental and physical conditions. In fact, our overall health is greatly improved through deep breathing, relaxation and time to reflect. If this all sounds good to you, maybe come spring you can create an outdoor meditation space that will help you find mindfulness and inner peace anytime of the year.
Distance your meditation space from the hub of your home and yard
Distance doesn’t have to be in linear feet. In this context, it means separation. To find real relaxation, you should remove yourself from the sights, sounds and smells, yes smells, that trigger your daily stress. The barking dog, the dishes that need to be put in the dishwasher, the bleeping smart phone. These are distractions that make up your daily life, but that intrude on your moments of meditation.
One of the best ways to escape these is in your yard. A pergola or gazebo is a great place to find peace and distance. If winter won’t make these feasible, a cabana or pool house could give you the right amount of shelter and solitude. Whatever space you have or choose, the point is to create a space where your worries and cares of the day are just plain not allowed.
One really cool concept is from ancient Japan and China – the garden bridge. The symbolism is that when you cross the bridge, you cross to a peaceful place. Install a garden bridge, even if you don’t have anything that needs bridging, to give your mind a barrier that changes your outlook once you walk over it. Another ancient concept is some sort of zig-zag pattern in the walkway that gets you to your meditation space. Evil spirits of folklore could only travel in straight lines, so they can’t follow you to your serenity. It may sound silly in our modern world, but you don’t have to believe in evil spirits to make the concept work for you. It’s no different than how an athlete warms up to get his muscles stretched before a match. You need that time to get ready to work and stretch your mind and soul.
Create your connection with nature
Nothing is more peaceful than the sounds, sights and smells of nature. Your home may be comfortable and cozy, or elegant and impressive and a source of great pride. But it’s not nature. Your yard is probably natural, by definition. But if you pick a spot for a pergola or gazebo that doesn’t particularly have much lushness, invest in some flowers and plants. Not only do they provide soothing comfort, if you can plant some with your favorite aromas, they help you find the inner peace you are seeking. If your space is enclosed, like a cabana or pool house, make sure you have windows to let in the outdoors. Or, bring in bonsai trees and other foliage.
But wait – you say you have a brown thumb, so how are you going to keep all this plant life alive? Well, studies show that a connection with nature brings peaceful thoughts and calms the mind. Do some research and find plants and flowers that even your skill level can tend to.
Water is soothing
Sound can be enormously soothing or incredibly stressful. Car horns, sirens, construction noise. These sounds can grate your nerves and send you into a near anxiety attack. On the other hand, water is incredibly soothing and can wash away your stress and frustrations. Whether it’s waves sloshing on the sand or gentle rain or a fountain.
Incorporate a real water feature into your meditation space. You don’t have to hire a landscape architect to build you an expensive mini-waterfall and babbling brook in your back yard. A simple table top fountain might be all it takes. They are not that expensive and run on either battery or wall power. Position it close to you so that it covers neighborhood cars or planes overhead.
Don’t go overboard decorating
The most peaceful meditation spaces are minimal. Clutter, to some people, in and of itself is a stressor. A comfortable chair or soft floor cushion, possibly a side table for a sound machine, incense burner or meditation bells is likely all you need. This is not where you’ll place your expensive outdoor dining set or pool bar. Create your meditation space away from those distractions. Even with your eyes closed, you’ll know they are there and it can disrupt your mindfulness.
Even if you can’t meditate, you can still find inner peace
Novices at meditation often give up early because meditation takes practice. Some never really master it. If you’re one of them, fret not. You don’t need to be an expert mediator to create a space to find peacefulness. A hammock, a porch swing or a rocking chair might be all you need a few minutes a day to create your meditation space. Or even a reading nook, deep in a corner of your yard that gets great morning sun, can become your oasis of solitude. The true key is to pick a place that separates you from your stressors and allows you to connect with nature and your inner peace.
As Americans become more and more connected, and as our lives get faster and faster, finding mindfulness and inner peace might seem more and more difficult. But that inner peace doesn’t have to be. Recognize what is already in your yard, maybe make a few modifications and create an outdoor meditation area.