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The Soul of a Garden
How To Find Out If a Garden Has Soul

July 3, 2009
John Stuart Leslie

When you observe a Japanese garden (or any other garden that has been formally designed) whether from a photograph or in person, do you wonder, "What is the purpose of this place?" You would probably know that it was a place constructed to be a "garden", but can you sense what the designer was thinking? Does it contain the elements intended?

Your perception of the space has alot to do with your expectations of what the garden is supposed to look and feel like. You may be turned off by a rock and gravel karesansui style garden, thinking "Where is the water, the bridge and stone lantern?"


Conversely, do you need to be informed that the rocks symbolize a turtle and a crane, and that the animals in turn symbolize longevity? Would you have less of an enriching experience if you were clue less of the hidden symbols within the garden?Does this garden have soul?


There is a perception of a space that people can sense that also cannot be (by most people) expressed in words. It is the same feeling you get when you enter a restaurant, a hotel lobby, or any distinct space wherein you can say that it "feels good". You can't really put your finger on it, but it "just does".


Whether a garden has "soul" is not so much contained in the objects contained within the garden, but rather, one's sense of space and appreciation for what they are seeing and feeling. Your ability to "feel" the soul of a place is in direct proportion to what you are allowing yourself to feel. But you must be present, mindful.


There is always soul - or spirit, contained in any garden. How you perceive that soul or spiritual energy, has much to do with your thoughts and feelings at the time.


In other words, if you are in a great mood, your energy level is high, don't you think that you will see the good in the garden? You will be in alignment with that same energy vibration that you are sending out. You will especially notice those certain features that resonate with your vibration.


The words we use influence how we perceive a space as well. If I were to say to you "We are going to visit an ancient sacred Native American Indian burial site", you would want to know why it is sacred.


It may be that the location is where the native people gathered to have 'spiritual visions' or that a famous historical figure was given spiritual guidance that led his tribe out of a dire wartime predicament. 


stonehenge is considered a sacred site


The location therefore becomes imbued with that which historically happened there. Separate from the incidents that occurred in the past, this place now has become sacred and takes on a mysterious aura that also possesses some degree of power that could 'rub off' on those who step upon it.


garden with soul

Upon arrival at such a place, you would probably feel 'priviliged' to be there. You would be open to receiving whatever it is that makes it special. You have prepared yourself to honor the reverence of the place and your awareness of the 'soul of the space' is that much more heightened.


Any garden that has a name has soul. Any garden that is an extension of yourself has soul. Therefore all gardens have soul whether or not you can 'see it' just by looking


Making a garden sacred is not that it is located in a particular place, rather, its what happens there. What happens there is what you put into it, the meaning you create and the thoughts and emotional energy you put into it. You are the garden and you must interact with it to make it sacred.


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