When the world outside is spinning uncontrollably in unfavorable directions, Eastern philosophers say the trick is to go inside yourself and create your own parallel universe. Here, in a little world of your making, you can edit and arrange everything as you wish so that your world will be perfect. Having your own universe of happiness will enable you to tackle the trials and tribulations of real life.
At no time has this life philosophy or coping strategy been more necessary than now. Most of the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and the future remains uncertain. It is in times exactly like these that you must have a retreat you can always escape to. It is a haven when reality becomes too unbearable.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN ZEN ROCK GARDEN
It is was this spirit of creating a perfect world that we signed up for a private session with Suzuki-san, the master gardener of the Ritz Carlton Kyoto. Within the safety of the hotel, and yet with views of Kyoto all around, we learned to make our own Zen garden.
This hands-on tutorial is just one of the many unique guest experiences this hotel offers to guests wishing to experience Japan from another dimension. Of course, it’s always nice to sightsee and to learn about Kyoto from a visual viewpoint. But it definitely goes one dimension deeper, to sit with a master and create an artwork next to him.
ABOUT THE ZEN GARDENS OF KYOTO
Kyoto, too, is known around the world for its Zen gardens. The most beautiful Zen gardens in the world are minutes away from the Ritz Carlton Kyoto. These include the rock garden of the Ryoanji Temple, the Shogun garden of the Ginkakuji Temple, and the moss garden of the Saihoji Temple. The rock garden of the Tenryuji Temple is also considered one of the best in Japan.
At the same time, the hotel even has its own Zen garden on the ground floor for inspiration. Suzuki-san, the master gardener, maintains this Zen garden by redrawing the lines in the sand every ten days.
CULTURAL ACTIVITIES FOR HOTEL GUESTS OF THE RITZ CARLTON KYOTO
So Kyoto is the perfect venue to learn the art of making a Zen garden, and the Ritz Carlton Kyoto is the best luxury venue for a session with instant impact, learning from the best.
At the start, Suzuki-san said: “A Japanese garden is a combination of moss, rocks and white stones. The creator uses these in a balance to recreate the beauty of Japan’s natural world while creating a tranquil retreat for the mind.”
Finally it was time to start. In front of me was a wide ceramic dish and within reaching distance were bags of soil, a table of rocks, a tray of moss and bags of white sand. I asked Suzuki-san: “Where do I begin?”
HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN WORLD
“After looking at some examples, please create something with your free thought,” Suzuki-san replied. “There is no correct or wrong way. Follow your inspiration to create your own world with mountains out of rocks, earth out of moss, and terrain out of white sand.”
Suzuki-san showed me the rock garden he had made, with rocks as mountains placed to one side. It was very beautiful. However, I decided to do something different. I placed a large mound of soil in the center of the plate and placed a nice grouping of rocks on top of it.
“That looks more like an American mountain scene,” everyone around me commented. To which I replied: “Actually, I was thinking of the hills of China.”
ELEMENTS OF A TRADITIONAL JAPANESE ROCK GARDEN
Meanwhile, the workshop itself was so enjoyable. Midway, I was already in my zone and considering a serious career change from magazine editor to Zen landscape gardener. Creating something with one’s hands is always deeply satisfying, after all. Furthermore, the interaction with nature and the embodiment of the principles of Zen in this case, as I advanced into the creative stage further enhanced the experience on a spiritual level.
Making my own Zen rock garden proved very therapeutic. It was indeed a way to escape the reality of the large world, and to create a much bigger world from inside my mind via a blue dish in front of me. This represented my universe at that very moment, and it was perfect. As was my Kyoto holiday at the Ritz Carlton Kyoto.