Zen Garden

February 23, 2012

This recent site specific work is a tiny Zen garden. I say Zen garden, but in reality, even though I followed as many rules as I could to create this piece, it will never compete with the wonderful Zen Gardens of Japan. It is more about the act of raking the stones once/twice a day in order to get oneself into a meditative state and to have a place to go away from the crazy world we’re in and to concentrate on our mere existence.

This garden is placed in a natural circle formed in the grass of All Saints Park, Manchester. I put down some white gravel then decided that in accordance with my research, I should wait for the central stones (not that I knew they would be placed in the centre at the time) to find me. I had spent a little time actively looking before this decision, but found absolutely nothing. So, I let go of any anxiety towards finding these stones before the day I had to present my work, then on that very day I walked down a pathway to find three stones of the perfect size and shape for my garden. I took care to position them as I found them, not placing them standing up if they were originally on their side.

I spent about half an hour each day for a week raking the stones, come rain or shine. To many, I looked a bit mental, but it worked a treat to clear my mind and get into a meditative state. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to lose a sense of ‘self’ and just started to watch the continuous flow of the stones, like water when being raked (stones like these often represent water in typical Zen Gardens). I know half an hour is not a long time to some, but to an unseasoned person in meditation with a busy schedule (the garden was meant as a chance to take a break from busy schedules), this was enough to get in the right frame of mind for the day.

The garden was meant to be a temporary installation, but is still there at the moment, ready to be raked by anyone who would like to. For those who know me, just ask to borrow the rake I store in my studio, for those that don’t, then feel free to bring your own rake! I’d like nothing more than to come across someone using their own rake on the garden and getting something out of the repetitive motion of raking in a circle.

Thanks to Helen Wheeler who took the photo of me raking away.

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