As someone who studies the impact of Zen on our modern society, I am always amazed when I see an object or practice that influences many different cultures. Until recently, I suspected that the rock cairn was something invented by ancient Zen practitioners, but it seems to be a trend that circled the globe.
Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category
A weekend getaway is a great way to unwind and reenergize. A popular alternative to the traditional hotel is a Bed & Breakfast. Bed and Breakfasts often provide a much homier feel as well as personal touches and attention. Nestled on 175 acres of beautiful forest and surrounded by mountains is The Pembroke Springs Retreat. Located in Star Tannery, Virginia, this serene B&B provides a country feel with distinctive touches of Japan.
The Retreat features five rooms, each with gorgeous mountain views. Each room is decorated in a separate theme and has its own bathroom. Guests are provided Yukata (Japanese bathrobes) to enjoy during their stay. In the morning guests are treated to an authentic Japanese breakfast. This typically includes grilled fish, rice, seaweed, vegetables, egg, miso soup and fruit. Guests may request an American style breakfast and the innkeepers will accommodate vegans.
During the day, guests can enjoy nature walks on the miles of trails on the property, observing the abundant wildlife and taking in the amazing views of the mountains. Play a game of tennis on the all-weather tennis court or fish in the pond for bluegill and bass. The area is rich in history, from both the French and Indian wars to the Civil War. There are endless antique stores in nearby areas.
One of the highlights of the retreat, are the two large Japanese baths which are fed with their natural spring waters. The ofuro has been used by the Japanese for centuries to alleviate both physical and spiritual maladies. This ancient technique of immersion in hot water removes tensions, stress and soothes muscular pains.
While each of the five rooms has a variance of features, the Sunrise room brings Japan to you. Facing the east and overlooking the forest, this splendid room features shoji screens, tatami mats and a horigotatsu or sunken table.
While the area hosts a variety of restaurants within a half hour drive, guests won’t want to miss dinner service (check availability). You can view images of the tasty meals presented by an obviously very talented chef on Facebook [www.facebook.com/pages/Pembroke-Springs-Retreat/107360610655]. These dishes are as beautiful to look at as they are delicious. The innkeepers of this Bed & Breakfast jewel are Walter and Taeko Floyd. The manager is Lisa Floyd. To learn more about Pembroke Springs Retreat, visit their website http://pembrokesprings.com.
It’s time to shine with the Sun and communicating Mercury both in sunny Leo this month. Leo is the sign of self-confidence and self-expression. Under the influence of Leo we get in touch with our need to be our authentic selves and to be appreciated by others. You don’t’ need to be born under the sign of Leo to help yourself to a heaping helping of attention and recognition.
This month we will also be treated to a New Moon in Leo on August 6th reinforcing our desire to get in touch with the innocent but precocious side of ourselves. The energy of this Lunar Cycle conjures up images of a young Shirley Temple – adorable, talented, outspoken and not afraid to be seen. Now you may not sing and tap dance, but you were born with innate and unique talents that when you allow them to shine, they contribute to the light of all consciousness.
The Full Moon in Leo’s opposing sign Aquarius on August 20th balances the potentially aristocratic Leo energy with a healthy dose of appreciation for differences and the unique qualities of individuals. Ruled by the revolutionary planet Uranus, Aquarius is the sign of originality, humanitarianism, and social reform.
The first few weeks of August are the perfect time to take a good long look at your environment and think about how your home or office does or does not support your sense of self. What does it say about you? Use the Leo energy of self-expression to rearrange, re-design and re-create your environment to reflect your unique personality. After the Full Moon, take your cue from Aquarius and give away or donate those gently used clothes and home furnishings to a good cause. Your choices and possessions speak to the world about you. Make sure they are representing your most authentic self!
C.A. Brooks is a clairvoyant astrologer, writer, speaker and coach
You can find her at 12Listen.com and read her weekly astrology column in Mark’s Power Peek at 12House.com. She hosts a daily radio show “A Course in Miracles Daily Lessons” on 12Radio.com at 7am Pacific – 10 Eastern. You can also tune into her weekly Astrology radio program, Simpletales, on 12Radio.com every Tuesday 11am Pacific – 2 Eastern.
We’ve all heard our super-tan friends bragging about how dark they get during the summer months, but they may not realize how “leathery” their skin will someday become. It may be nice to have some “color” on your cheeks or a tan-line after vacation, but consider how all this sun exposure may affect your skin. The sun’s rays can do more than cause wrinkles and age spots; overexposure to ultraviolet rays is also the number one cause of skin cancer.
Just browse the aisles of any local garden center and you are likely to find plenty of stone statues to accent your garden. Depending on where you shop, these “statues” may range from small ducks and frogs to large gargoyles and lions. As someone who has never been a fan of garden ornaments, I never expected to find a genre of garden sculpture that intrigued me, but that was before I found this unique collection of volcanic stone statuary. It may be difficult to find these spiritually inspired monuments in your typical garden center, but they are available online at Chopa.com.
In case you’re not familiar with the concept of a Zen garden, let’s just say “it’s not your grandmother’s garden,” and probably not your mom’s either. As nontraditional as Zen gardening may be to the Western eye, it has an effect on people that borders on transformational. One visitor who sat in the Zen rock garden at London’s Three Wheels Temple said this: “It is very hard to explain… suddenly you feel a great peace and you feel just completely happy sitting there. All your mind wants to do is be there, taking in the tiny details like the shapes of the rocks and little patches of purple in the dark green of the moss.”
True inner peace and serenity is hard to come by these days. With all the distractions from the media, cell phones, job stress and jam-packed schedules; it’s no wonder we have so little time left over to relax. People need to find quick and satisfying ways to decompress and detach from the outside world, and Zen gardening is a great way to do this.
Unlike traditional American gardens which consist mainly of flowers, a Japanese garden maintains a much lower profile. Tranquility is the primary goal of a Japanese garden, so it’s just as likely to contain fountains and rock sculptures as it is to be minimalistic.
Creating a peaceful oasis in your own backyard is every homeowner’s dream, but it is not something that occurs without effort. Spring is the best time to get started on a Japanese garden project and pick up Zen fountains, Buddha statues and other supplies. But you may not be aware of what Japanese garden is supposed to look like. Fortunately, there are countless books available on this subject alone.
The Japanese take their gardens and Zen décor very seriously and they go about the design of a garden in very deliberate ways, but there is no one method for creating your own. Your backyard garden may look very different from someone else’s, depending on the space you have available.
The symbolic meaning of the Sakura or cherry blossom can be traced back centuries to the core values of the Japanese culture, simplicity and purity. It is also closely tied to Buddhist teachings; reminding us to treasure each moment in life as they are as fleeting as the life of the delicate cherry blossom.
When in bloom, Japan celebrates as a nation. The media provides regular updates on the “Sakura Zansen” the cherry blossom front to allow the nation to prepare for “Hanami” the viewing parties which fill the squares with dance, food and music when the blossoms peak.
Cherry blossom trees first came to America in 1912 when the mayor of Tokyo donated 3,000 trees to Washington, D.C. as a gesture of friendship. Today, they line the tidal basin and are enjoyed by thousands of people each year. In 1926, Japan also donated cherry blossom trees to Philadelphia to commemorate the 150th anniversary of our freedom.
Stretching across centuries when the ancient Samurai proudly wore the Sakura blossom on their uniforms, often reflecting their own brief service and life, to the enduring symbol in Japan’s modern culture, the cherry blossom is seen as a time of new beginnings. Schools open for new sessions, employees start new jobs and many couples wed. The Sakura blossom can be found in business names and logos, home décor such as shoji screens, tea sets and kimonos and is also present on the 1,000 yen bank note.
No matter where you live in the United States, it seems like spring is starting a little earlier this year. As a result, homeowners are starting to look outdoors for weekend projects and thinking about the condition of their garden. Once you clear out the leaves and weeds, why not consider something to make your garden more inviting? Japanese water fountains make the perfect focal point and they help you enjoy your garden even more. Adding a fountain to your garden gives it the added dimensions of movement and sound.
Even if your garden isn’t large enough to sit in, Japanese water fountains can bring the feeling of your garden into a sunroom or enclosed patio. Most of the fountains on sale today are made for indoor use because the motors require electricity. Attractive enough to stand on their own, they also coordinate well with Bonsai trees, Ikebana vases and Buddha statues. These Zen design elements are surprisingly simple and easy to find at Chopa.com.