What I really want as a gift for my upcoming birthday is a lush, Zen landscape around my home. For years now, I’ve been admiring and clipping beautifully landscaped yards of all kinds. Recently, I dedicated three vision boards to just our yard; most of the pictures are of Zen landscapes. In exploring Buddhism with 6th graders in our World Religion and Geography class, I’ve had to look more closely at concepts like Zen, which has many fascinating interpretations. In the article “What is Zen?” by Derek Lin, the author states that in addition to its literal meaning of meditation, Zen also means “being aware of your oneness with the world and everything in it, being free of the distractions and illusory conflicts of the material world; experiencing fully the present and delighting in the basic miracle of life itself, and being in the flow of the universe.” Zen encompasses a lot of who I am becoming and what I am creating in my physical surroundings.
In my soon-to-be-manifested Zen oasis, I see ferns, hostas, bamboo, ornamental grasses, stone, slate, wood and water. I witness the beauty of white peonies and lilies and inhale their perfumes. In my Zen landscape as in the herb garden that we planted a few years ago, I nurture culinary, healing bushes like hibiscus, which one of my West Indian friends once described to me as being to Jamaicans what garlic is to the Chinese. In fact, hibiscus, the Spanish word for Jamaica, is not only a beautiful flower, but is also used medicinally to alleviate everything from respiratory issues to hypertension and even weight loss. My daughters and I make hibiscus tea to ward off coughs and colds but most often simply to enjoy. I want hibiscus and other beautiful, healing things that we actually use to be throughout our Zen garden.
As gifts for my upcoming birthday, some guests purchase gift certificates from Meadow Farms, one of my favorite nurseries. Others pass on abundance from their gardens to mine, including pots, plants, heirloom seeds and more. As a thank you, my kids and I find rocks in our current yard and paint on them the names of those who co-created our Zen garden. These rocks become part of the décor of the yard.
We welcome neighbors, friends and family into our new haven, where we enjoy living, playing and just BEING. By this time next year, we are ready to have our very first Zen Oasis Party where guests savor delicious life-affirming food, enjoy live music, and authentically connect with one another.
In this way, we express our gratitude for a gift that, as long as we nurture it, keeps on giving to us.
Read more about the celebration itself at Hibiscus Honey and Jazz: Levita’s Very Special Birthday Bash.