Archive for the ‘Mindful Garden Practices’ Category

Finding Peace at the Lake Shrine Garden

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

One of the most intriguing gardens I have visited is at the Lake Shrine Retreat Center in Pacific Palisades, California. Developed and opened to the public in 1950 by Paramahansa Yogananda, the Lake Shrine inspires thousands of visitors each year to be mindful and at peace in the garden.

Only two blocks from the ocean, plants native to the California coast grow thickly amidst the paths, benches and meditation spots found nestled on the grounds around the central lake.

Ghandi Peace MemorialPerhaps the most stunning and meaningful site on the property is the Gandhi World Peace Memorial, a wall-less temple open to the sky. A brass coffer containing a portion of Gandhi’s ashes was enshrined in a stone sarcophagus at the 1950 dedication of the Lake Shrine. On both sides of the Gandhi Memorial are beautiful marble statues of Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Kwan Yin is the Chinese representation of God in the Divine Mother.

The Gandhi World Peace Memorial is incredibly important to the Lake Shrine Garden. In the Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda describes a 1935 visit to Gandhi’s ashram in Wardha, India. At Gandhi’s request, he was instructed in the spiritual science of Kriya Yoga at the ashram. Can you imagine having Gandhi as a teacher?

When I visited the Gandhi Memorial I could almost feel the energy emanating through the ground from the wall-less temple. I stood in front of the temple in contemplation and gratitude for Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence and peaceful change.

Strolling around the lake to the meditation chapel, I was grateful for the absolute silence in which to sit and meditate. The beautiful and inspiring sound of the rushing water from the large waterfall could be heard from inside the chapel, further inducing a meditative state. (Click on the video player to experience the peace-filled sound of the Lake Shrine Garden waterfall.  It is a little escape from your hectic day.)


If you have the opportunity to visit the Santa Monica-area of southern California, be sure to leave a few hours to experience the peacefulness of the Lake Shrine Garden and allow your travel stress to just melt away. You will emerge from the visit re-energized, serene and inspired to continue on your path.

© Rita Perea.  All Rights Reserved.

Philodendrons are Fantastic Indoor Garden Plants

Sunday, March 5th, 2017


When the snow is falling outside, I love to spend quiet meditative time indoors admiring my interior garden.  One of the houseplants that I adore is the philodendron. It can look beautiful in your home or at your office all year round. Timeless and classic, the deep green native tropical philodendrons have been soothing our souls for generations.  This plant is easy to care for and can live for years and years.

Philodendrons are not flashy.  They do not bloom.  Instead, they are vines that climb.  Their common name translates into “tree lover”.   They are tried and true with the ability to survive neglect and adverse conditions.  Even the most inexperienced gardener can have success growing a philodendron as a houseplant.


Practicing Tai Chi in the Garden

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

Think: calm. Think: flexibility. Think: steady breathing. Think about energy flowing through you, around you, within you. Think about connecting your feet to the earth and your hands with the cosmos. Think about the ancient practice of Tai Chi. Now think about practicing Tai Chi in your contemplative garden space.

Tai Chi is a mainstay of class listings at many botanical gardens, but you don’t have to have a grand or professionally landscaped space to reap the benefits of this ancient Chinese contemplative practice.

Tai Chi is often called “meditation in motion.” The mind-body connection and flow of energy remains consistent throughout the practice. The energy is called “Qi,” (pronounced “chee”), and is made up of two different qualities: Yin (solid, dark, cold, passive) and Yang (light, warm, active). The concept of yin and yang—two opposites working together, or soft movements overcoming hard movements—is central to the practice of Tai Chi. Movements are geared toward absorbing and transferring energy. Tai Chi is a whole body spiritual practice that melds the two parts of Qi, the Yin and the Yang together.

The exchange of energy between internal and external forces is amplified when you practice Tai Chi in the garden, as opposed to doing so in an empty room. When you practice Tai Chi in the garden, you’re also adding another dimension—connecting with mother nature and the living beings that surround you. In the garden, the sights, smells, sounds, and gentle touches of a passing breeze or plant waving in the wind remind you that there are other energies coming into contact with your own. As you calmly proceed through the Tai Chi movements, you practice the art of responding to energy directed your way, and allowing it to flow around you. Sounds like a good skill for life, right?


Yoga in the Garden Improves Your Work-Life Balance

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Are you lucky enough to work outside in the sunshine and fresh air? Unfortunately, most likely you don’t have this luxury. Like millions of people around the world, you are probably spending most of your day indoors, which influences your physical and mental health.

Stress and anxiety have become a big part of our daily life causing tiredness, lack of concentration, worry, sadness and in some cases, depression.

How to Calm Your Mind and Release Stress

One answer to stress is yoga. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, and some doctors now recommend yoga to their patients. For example, the renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center now offers yoga at its Integrative Medicine Center.  Dr. Lorenzo Cohen conducted research  found that patients in the group assigned to practice yoga reported better quality of life and reduced fatigue.

Many scientifically valid studies show that mindful yogic breathing can improve the body’s response to stress. One study published by the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons showed that yoga can alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and many stress-related illnesses. The yoga breathing patterns actually reduced the levels of cortisol and other stress responses. When confronted with stressful situations in life, mindful breathing can help you to control your body’s response. Yoga and mindful breathing will focus your attention on your current surroundings, release the stress of a hectic workday and help you to attain better work-life balance.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical poses, controlled breathing and mindful meditation. It can help to reduce stress and lower blood pressure and heart rate. There are a variety of yoga styles-–everything from gentle chair yoga to Bikram (hot) yoga to Vinyasa (power yoga). Anyone can practice yoga and incorporate a contemplative, spiritual practice into daily life to reap the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits that yoga offers, especially when practiced in a garden.

Additional Benefits of Yoga in the Garden

There are many advantages to taking your yoga and contemplative meditation routine outside into a space like your backyard garden. Research from the American Psychological Association shows that simply by moving outside and engaging in some nature therapy, you will become refreshed more quickly.

Being in nature improves concentration and reduces stress. The simple act of spending time in your garden can improve your performance at work and will give you lasting energy throughout the day.

Doing yoga in a garden unblocks the flow of your mental energy. This will unleash your inner creativity and enthusiasm to continue with your practice. It is a very healthy habit to incorporate into your life.

In today’s world, work tends to follow us even when we’re at home. We constantly check our email and respond to texts rather than focusing on our current surroundings. The result is ever-mounting stress and a lack of enjoyment in our personal lives.

By doing yoga outside, you combine the health benefits of yoga and nature, two potent forces for improving mindfulness and relieving stress. The beneficial effects of taking your yoga practice to the garden will help you focus on your job while you’re working and on your personal life when you’re not.

Physical Benefits to Yoga and Mindful Gardening

Performing yoga in a garden will improve your work-life balance by improving mindfulness. While working, your attention stays on work rather than wandering to home tasks. When not at work, you can more easily leave the stress of your job behind and enjoy your time away. You will feel greater enthusiasm for all parts of your life when you are better able to focus.


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