Exercise Extreme Mindfulness with These Calming Zen Rock Garden Videos

The Inter­net is a place where the ancient past and the mod­ern and trend-dri­ven can col­lide and pro­duce won­drous things. The con­cept of ASMR (autonomous sen­so­ry merid­i­an response) took off in 2007, describ­ing the plea­sur­able tin­gling response from var­i­ous stim­uli, such as whis­per­ing, or qui­et­ly being read a sto­ry, or lis­ten­ing to the close­ly mic’d sounds of paper. There are cur­rent­ly some 13 mil­lion ASMR video chan­nels on YouTube.

Mean­while, the idea of the Zen gar­den is about 800 years old, and at the cen­ter of its care and upkeep is a qui­et, mind­ful prac­tice that mir­rors med­i­ta­tion. Unlike clas­sic West­ern gar­dens that brought sym­me­try and math­e­mat­ics into their design, Japan­ese gar­dens recre­at­ed a sort of curat­ed chaos. A Zen gar­den takes this idea fur­ther, mak­ing its cen­ter­piece a rock gar­den that is raked into pat­terns to mim­ic water. They are also small and meant for indi­vid­ual con­tem­pla­tion.

Artist-Design­er Yuki Kawae com­bines the two with his series of videos on his YouTube chan­nel. In close frames, he takes his rakes and cre­ates pat­terns and frac­tals in sand around a series of stones. The sound of sand and rake and ring­ing bowl make for a very med­i­ta­tive expe­ri­ence. The con­fi­dence and beau­ty of his steady hand are mes­mer­iz­ing, but you could also just lis­ten to the audio.

Kawae is based in the Bay Area and told Colos­sal that the prac­tice came out of the anx­i­ety of life in 2019:

I was quite over­whelmed with day-to-day tasks and what are the ‘expect­ed’ next steps in life…One day, I real­ized all of those thoughts were com­plete­ly gone when I was gar­den­ing, prun­ing, water­ing, and re-pot­ting the soil. That process let me be clear-mind­ed some­how, and it was very calm­ing and refresh­ing.

You don’t have to be a Zen monk to real­ize the calm­ing effects of gardening—-ask any­body who tends to their gar­den week­ly. But there is some­thing spe­cial in the min­i­mal­ism of the sand and the rake and the rock. Kawae’s “gar­den” is only cof­fee table sized.

Sand is also a good mate­r­i­al in which to prac­tice muta­bil­i­ty, says Kawae: “All the zen gar­den pat­terns are not per­ma­nent, and they get erased to start a new one. It is tem­po­rary like many things in life. It taught me about what not to over­think as what I am stress­ing about may also be tem­po­rary.”

Mean­while on YouTube there are oth­ers work­ing on Zen gar­dens. The Kikiyaya For­est Dwelling and Zen Gar­den is actu­al­ly locat­ed in the Nether­lands and the own­er posts her rak­ing adven­tures on YouTube.

And for those who would like to hear from an actu­al Zen mas­ter and gar­den­er, this hour-long pre­sen­ta­tion from Shun­myo Masuno—one of Japan’s lead­ing land­scape archi­tects and an 18th-gen­er­a­tion Zen Bud­dhist priest—will fill in the philo­soph­i­cal details.

I’ll leave the last word to 13th cen­tu­ry Japan­ese Zen mas­ter, writer, poet, and philoso­pher, Dogen Zen­ji: “Work­ing with plants, trees, fences, and walls, if they prac­tice sin­cere­ly they will attain enlight­en­ment.”

See you in the gar­den!

via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Is a Zen Koan? An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to East­ern Philo­soph­i­cal Thought Exper­i­ments

Take a Break from Your Fran­tic Day & Let Alan Watts Intro­duce You to the Calm­ing Ways of Zen

The Zen of Bill Mur­ray: I Want to Be “Real­ly Here, Real­ly in It, Real­ly Alive in the Moment”

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.