What is the Purpose of a Zen Garden?

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I had always been intrigued by Zen ideologies. I first discovered meditation through gurus like Jon Kabat-Zinn, and eventually came across Zen Gardens.

Of course it piqued my interest, and after my experience I can tell you the purpose of a Zen Garden is as a Meditation Aide.

That’s what it means for me. For you, it can be drawing in sand or anything you want. There’s no right or wrong answer. With that said, let’s look a little bit further into Zen Gardens and their elements. 

Elements of a Zen Garden and Their Meaning

The foundational parts of a Zen Garden are the sand, the container, rocks, and tools

These apply only to desktop versions of course. 

If you ever thought of creating a full fledged garden in your backyard, you might include the elements I’ve listed below. 

Water– This symbolizes life in many cultures of course, and the theme pervades here as well. Backyard zen garden are becoming a thing for some homeowners, having a designated “meditation space”. Water fountains are a popular choice.

Tiny plants– Easy to care for plants that can be grown to add green to the color of your design. Succulents are a popular choice for their ease of care and hardiness.

Grass– In spaces between rocks and other elements of your garden, it’s an option to include artificial grass or the real thing. If you’re going for a super easy to care for option, artificial is the way to go.

Wood– Incorporate wooden elements whenever you can. Tiny breaks of space using wood adds a visual sync to the design. 


Zen Sand and Rocks - Types

The traditional sand for Zen gardens will be white. But, of course with the internet there are innovations bursting out of every corner.

Like magnetic sand. 

If you ever find yourself bored with your usual Zen Garden, you can give it a try. Or it could be perfect for kids. 

Other types of sand available for sale are black and brown. There are artificially colored types of sand, but I prefer the natural stuff unless it involves magnets. Because magnets still trip me out to this day(in a good way).

As for rocks, if you don’t like the stuff that came from your kit or outdoors, there are “rock lots” for sale. River rocks are always a popular choice. 

Zen Garden ASMR

A big part of Zen Gardens is the relaxation aspect. So here’s a plug for my “ASMR” video I made featuring my Zen Garden.


Zen Gardens for your Desk

Ah yes, the increasingly common use for Zen Gardens is to give us a mental break during our work day. And who doesn’t need that?!

Desktop Zen Gardens are a fun distraction that I enjoy using. I was a bit skeptical at first but once I sat there and committed to the nothingness, I see the appeal.

I can only recommend one Zen Garden for purchase, and it’s because it is the one I bought. The Toysmith Zen Garden which I review here. 

Why are Zen Gardens Relaxing?

I think it’s similar to any meditative task. If you’ve ever seen Karate Kid, you’ll remember the scene of “Wax on, Wax off”. Although a garden provides a little more freedom than one motion, it’s essentially the same.

Regular meditation can be good too. But, this is better suited for people who need to get their hands on something. It probably took me a good ten minutes to relax and get into the groove with it.

After a while you’ll find yourself not thinking consciously and just making all sorts of shapes. I remember as a kid for recess how much I loved just pounding sand. 

We were on to something with that!

Further Thoughts

If you’re considering adding a zen garden to your work space, I hope this will help you make up your mind. And if you’re considering adding one to your backyard… I want to see!

Thanks and have a good one 🙂

Author Picture - Conor


Hey everyone 🙂 My name is Conor. I'm passionate about technology, zen, and improving the quality of life so many of us share at a desk!

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