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Japanese Zen gardens and spiritual gardening, and the lifestyle of Japan, with elements like antique tansu furniture, Japanese art and fairies, the Japanese kimono and obi.
Margareth Lee, 2003

My fascination with Japan began before I discovered my passion for gardening.
First I discovered the Japanese lifestyle and home decoration that is a part of it, then the antique Japanese tansu furniture. You can still buy oriental antiques for very affordable prices. An example are the lacquer boxes.

I began to read books on Japanese furniture. Here are some titles.

At an internet dealer in Oriental antiques I read the following text:
To the Japanese, with their reverence for space and the respect for the natural beauty of their materials, Tansu represents all their cultural values - simplicity, balance and utility.  Custom and formality have ensured that the Japanese have probably the world's greatest array of cabinets, each with a specific purpose, 'a place for everything and everything in its place'.
To this eloquent description of their cultural values I would like to add: elegance, quality and timelessness.

Ever since that time always at least one room in my house is decorated in an oriental style. Not completely Japanese, because I also like some Chinese design motives very much. At the moment I have some Chinese luck signs in my oriental bedroom.

What are the elements of Japanese home decoration and furnishing?

On the floor, for instance, there are tatami. These are mats on which it is best to walk barefoot, because they are easily damaged. At night there is also a futon, a Japanese bed to sleep on. It can be stored away during the day in a Japanese cupboard, maybe an antique. I hide my futon behind a simple room divider.
Decorations are silk paintings, that can be used on the wall as well as for the room dividers.

Hanging scrolls, flower arrangements (ikebana), figures, porcelain and cloisonné, and lamps contribute to the special atmosphere.

Stunning Japanese Lacquer tea tray. In a room like this there should also be a kimono or obi, preferably antique.

Elements which I have not used are the heatable table (kotatsu) or sliding paper doors.

Japanese Zen gardens and spiritual gardening

It should not be surprising that the Zen garden was my first acquaintance with the concept of 'spiritual gardening'.

What is that, spiritual gardening? To me it is more than ecological gardening. Also more than creating a meditative atmosphere.
It is designing your garden in such a way that it totally appeals to you and expresses important aspects of yourself. For instance, in the BBC program 'Garden Invaders' I once saw the garden of a man who loved trains. He had built a train track in his garden and enormously enjoyed playing with his trains.

Most of all spiritual gardening is your contact with your inner, true self, teaching you through your garden to use your creative faculties. Yes, to me my garden is a place to gradually get in touch with my creative abilities and learn to control them again.

Maybe you wonder what I speaking of. Well, have you ever desired something and seen it in your minds' eye and believed you could have it and in a little while it somehow appeared in your life? That is called visualizing and we all do it subconsciously all the time. When you are about to cook a meal, you visualize it first, by asking yourself 'what shall we eat' and collecting the ingredients and imagining how it should be prepared and how it will taste.

All of that is not done consciously and it is done in the blink of an eye, contrary to practicing conscious visualization. The unconscious visualization is very on the target. Everything you imagine in that way, with faith, comes into your world of experiences.

I have to say something about that faith. Many people, including yours truly, did not understand the role of this. There are millions of people trying to visualize consciously that they have the relationship, the car, the boat, or the house of their dreams. Then they talk to someone about their desire and say: 'I am always unlucky. I am constantly attracted to the wrong person.'

Or an unexpected bill from the gas or electricity company arrives and immediately they feel poor. So while they visualize consciously that they live in their ideal home, at the same time their subconscious belief is that they are too poor to pay their gas or electricity bill. The feeling of being poor also influences conscious visualization. How can you believe you can afford your ideal home, if you believe you can't even pay a bill?

The solution is of course to be aware in situations in which your belief in abundance or in love is tested. Be happy with your gas, your electricity, your water and even your taxes!
It enables you to watch tv, to listen to complete concerts in your livingroom, to use clean water, even to keep your body clean, to do your laundry in a washing-machine, to cook on modern devices and enjoy the infrastructure of modern society, like roads, public transportation, schools and much more.

Remind yourself of the way people used to live when they did not have all these things. Would you want to fetch water from the ditch? Or cook on coal? Wash your clothes in rivers, where crocodiles are waiting for prey?
In parts of the world this is still going on. Those are the places where people incarnate who do not want to spend money for these living arrangements, who feel too poor even for those basics. Would you like to live this way? If that is the case, it will surely happen. In fact it is already happening, for we are one. There is no experience that is not shared.

If you don't see a possibility to pay your bills, do some energy healing training (for instance the Trans4mator ) to clear the blocks in your mind and emotions and affirm that your affairs are in divine order. Divine Providence will surely supply your every need. First you have to develop your faith in divine guidance and power, and let go of your faith in evil powers working against you. All the evil in your life is only there because of your belief in it. It has no Source other than you, and it has no power other than what you give it.

So belief that you can have something is crucial, but love for it is also important. In fact every emotion you feel for the things you want or don't want, is of the utmost importance.
The rule is 'anything you can imagine, filled with feeling (for which you feel an emotion, be it fear, or love or appreciation), and believe you can experience or have it, is attracted and comes to you.' That may take some time, because we have made time and place it in between everything.

Maybe these statements will be incomprehensible for some. Try to imagine that there are ideas outside of your thought world that you cannot begin to envision, but that can let you experience a completely different world. Of course I also know the 'normal' human thinking, I have wasted more then 40 years of my life anxious and confused on it. Until I discovered the Truth: WE ARE DOING IT TO OURSELVES. Nothing and no one outside of you can save you. You are your own savior and the savior of your world.

I had the luck that I realized that our human experience of life is not normal. I simply knew there had to be another way. I had no image of it and in the 'normal' human thinking everything that is outside of our imagination is judged against. Since we always can experience only what we believe in, most 'sensible' people remain in the same old tread mill.

Fortunately my desire for liberation was greater than the rejection of my so-called sane mind. I wanted another world than the world of sickness, pain, old age and death.

When I realized that I see and experience all these horrible images through my belief in horrors, I saw at the same time there has to be a higher power. Before that I totally denied the existence of God. But suddenly I saw the light! God is! There is a higher power.
I could write thousands of pages about this, but in my book 'Activating the Light in the Lord's Prayer: the Infinite Course' I have already lifted a tip of the veil (read a description here or download a couple of chapters on the page with free downloadable ebooks). And of course there is the book 'A Course in Miracles' in which Jesus dictated in his own words the Truth to his scribe, Helen Schucman. It is the door to another world!

But we were talking about spiritual gardening and the value of the garden for learning to use visualization techniques. My garden is truly a lab to test my creative abilities.

I will give some examples.
A few years ago I looked in a garden-catalogue and saw a bush, that is called a Mahoney bush in Dutch. In those days I was not yet aware of my faith in poverty and lack, that had controlled my entire grownup life, so I sent the thought 'what a beautiful bush, but much too expensive' unrestrained in the world of thought forms. From this day I kept noticing the plant when I was outside. Each time I admired its qualities in my mind. Dark blue berries in autumn, always magnificent green and beautifully formed leaves, yellow flowers in the very early spring, in fact practically in winter!

In the next spring there were suddenly four Mahoney bushes in my garden. I gave two of them away, and now I enjoy the ones left very much. Especially because of the way they appeared.

Something like this you can attribute to chance and as a psychologist I learned to be very careful with superstitious behavior, so I did not allow myself to get too carried away by this. But the next year I allowed myself the delusion that I had no money for the annuals with which I filled my pots and hanging baskets every year. And it was too late to sow them. Now every time I looked at my baskets I thought of the flowers I had in them last year, especially the beautiful petunias that had such a wonderful fragrance (a quality I had only noticed that year).

Can you imagine how surprised I was, when there suddenly appeared one flower in a pot? I was very excited and kept looking for more. And more and more petunias began to grow in my pots and hanging baskets. Dozens of little plants appeared. In a short time there was a sea of flowers in my garden, even more abundant than the year before!

The explanation that the human mind suggested was that the flowers of last year had sown themselves. Last winter had been very severe and in the years before that in which the winters were a great deal more temperate, the seeds of the annuals had never survived. And they suddenly would? Whatever the explanation, I believe, no, I am convinced that my visualization caused the plants and flowers I desire to appear.

A less fortunate event, that was another confirmation of the power of my mind, is the following: years ago I planted a eucalyptus tree in the garden. It was only 50 cm tall when I bought it and in three years time it towered over the house. I called it my miracle tree. No one could believe this tree was so young.

Then I began to think about removing it. Every time I looked at the tree I thought 'what am I supposed to do with such a large tree in such a small garden. I should have kept it small. I should have planted a little fruit tree, instead of such a giant.' I have to admit unconsciously I did not look at the tree with love. And next season all the leaves suddenly dried up. Now you can attribute that to a long dry period that preceded it, but all the other trees and shrubs around this tree underwent the same fate and still kept on growing. For me this tree demonstrated the power of my thoughts.

Of course I know everything about 'magical thinking' as it is called in psychology. I think that you should call it magical thinking when it does not work. Usually then it is just a wrong use of the faculty to see in your mind's eye. Since it does work for me, another label would be more suitable and this bromide is only a blunt ego-weapon, as far as I am concerned. I give three examples here of the consequences of my subconscious thoughts for my garden and I could give thousands more for all areas in my life.

'Miracles' are very natural, once your thoughts are purified.
If miracles do not occur, I am surprised and wonder what went wrong.
I probably am not able to see what something is good for. So I always just apply the rule that everything is for my highest good.
Like the time I was on my way to a meeting in Amsterdam from Tilburg, the city I then lived in and met a former colleague I hadn't seen in years. He stopped me and I was on the verge of telling him that I was in a hurry because I had to catch a train, when my inner voice said; 'speak with him'. I obeyed and finally gave him my address and phone-number. Then I went to the meeting, where I was late. I was very annoyed.

A few weeks later, however, this young man called me and introduced me to someone who meant a lot to me. A young Japanese woman, who wanted to study the piano in Tilburg for a year. Her name was Maki and she was graceful and refined. She was looking for a room and lived with me a couple of months, then returned to Japan, because her Dutch teacher was more interested in his own career than in teaching. Maki represented everything I assumed about Japan: very sensitive and gentle. In that short period she was a blessing to me in many ways.

There is also the example of my daughter, who was a student at the university in Rotterdam. One day she was ten minutes late for college. She then found out that ten minutes before she rode on her bike to university, two men had been a shooting at each other across the street she rode on. She would have been caught in the middle, if she had not been late.

So miracles are natural, but your thoughts have to be purified first. The rubbish you allow to go uncontrolled in your mind, brings you the experiences you do not want. No one else is doing it to you, you are the cause of all your experiences.

To be able to envisage the garden I would be happy with, I needed divine help. For I realized I did not just want a beautiful garden. The garden had to add a dimension to my life, that I did not know. But how can you visualize something that is completely new for you? You can't. You have no image of it. If you really want to experience something new, you need divine help. A power is needed, that has such images available and that can fulfill your desire for them.

Therefore I began to affirm that my garden is perfect and in divine order and contributes to my peace. That I had my ideal garden.

My inner guidance was quite amused and reminded me that again I was asking far too little! I was aware that it was ridiculous to call that patch of land my garden, while the universe was my garden. But since I am confined to this experience of the concept 'garden' in this physical appearance, I wanted to experience that as complete as possible. So various possibilities were presented to me. After all, I can choose what gives me joy and what I value.

The whole year my garden in Almere is crowded with birds, even in the first years, when I did not feed them. When I noticed how many lovely birds came, I took the advice of a friend and began to feed them. Now my life is filled with various extraordinary and common birds.
I even see them everywhere I go. I live by a canal, and there are quite often a lot of swans there. All of Almere enjoys these beautiful gracious beings with me. By showing that I appreciated the birds when they appeared in my life, more came and I developed a very special connection to them, For what you focus your attention on, with feeling, becomes more in your life.

Just like most people I started with placing my plants with appropriate amounts of space between them. That created a sense of order. However, in these spaces undesirable plants kept coming up. It was unpleasant for me to have to take out good plants and I decided to fill those spaces with plants that were welcome in my garden.

Low plants and ground creepers, like forget-me-nots, aubrieta, vinca, sedum and much more. The effect is that every inch of my garden is overgrown or filled with gravel.
Quite a new interpretation of the concept “maintenance-free”!

The jungly look takes a little getting used to. I had to let go of my traditional ideas regarding beauty. However, I found that it looks a lot like the 'garden' in Surinam in which I grew up. I lived on what was called a plantation, with orange groves and a couple of cows, chickens and meadows.

In this way I was guided to introduce elements from my childhood in my garden. The woodwork in our garden was painted a brownish red and darkbrown and I repeated that.

Gradually I introduced more and more elements in my garden that had a special meaning to me.
Many ferns and flowers like dahlias and roses, that also grew in Surinam, but also plants I first saw in the Netherlands, like hydrangea, pyracantha (firethorn) and other berry bushes. Including irises, because they reminded me of several plants in Surinam.

I also like it very much that my garden is very green in winter. It has really become a garden for all seasons.
It is a garden that is completely adapted to me and my taste, and that expresses more and more aspects of me, including the changes I undergo.

In that respect it diverts from the Japanese gardening conventions. In Japan also more elements and objects were introduced in the garden that had a special meaning. This meaning was formalized, however, and obeyed strict traditional rules.
Some of these traditions are very valuable to me. Like the use of stones (some books on this subject) in the garden as spiritual symbols.

It is also important that these elements contribute something to your life.

To me mere visual pleasure is insufficient. I don't just mean that my other senses should also be stimulated by the garden, though that is definitely of great importance. I enjoy the sounds of birds, water, frogs and insects, like grasshoppers in the garden, very much. Smell is also very important to me. The amazing diversity in leaf structure also satisfies my tactile senses. Some plants can really be called strokable. And of course edibility always plays a major role for a gourmet like me. Because of lack of space that is limited to some blackberries, strawberries and herbs, like rosemary, mint and basil. The smell of fresh rosemary is really an intense sensual experience. I take care to always plant them around my seating areas. I use the mint for tea, in meals and for mint sauce, which I prepare with some salt, sugar, boiling water, vinegar and pepper.

It is amazing that I have always felt so connected to nature, for as long as I can remember. In Surinam the people I knew during my childhood were constantly battling nature and the ideal garden consisted of a sand plane, with a modest little fruit tree at the most.

Fortunately I did not grow up in such an environment. On our land there were banana's, coconuts and other palmtrees, a soursop tree, mango trees of different varieties, papayas, orange, pomelo and grapefruit trees, and in our pleasure garden croton, canna, phlox, passionflower, coleus, roses, hibiscus, ixora and jasmin and many other tropical flowers.

I still consider the smell of orangeblossom the most wonderful fragrance in the world. And hummingbirds with their beautiful colors and astonishing acrobatics always filled me with amazement.

I suppose that my father greatly contributed to my love of nature. I don't remember anything he said or did in that regard, though. He used to experiment for the government with the oranges, trying to enhance some qualities, I guess. I can't ask him anymore about it, he's off to places where that is no longer of any value.

I do remember once, when I was about 10 years old, meeting a snake on the road walking home. I was used to seeing snakes, but this one was very large, it spanned the whole road, on its way to the ditch. I froze and waited breathlessly for it to get into the water. Then I ran all the way home and cried that I had seen a monstrous snake. I remember my father saying with a shrug, that hardly anyone ever was harmed by a snake. More people were hurt by cars than by snakes, he commented. That comment and some other incidents prove to me that he had a very different view than most of the other inhabitants of the country. Next people from the neighbourhood came to our house asking why they had seen me running and screaming. When they heard about the snake, they were very excited and said that some of their chickens went missing lately. They armed themselves with big knives and a small army went hunting for the snake. I did not watch, fortunately, I don't know if my father forbade it, but I do know that they caught it and killed it. They showed it to my father, and I remember that he said it was really a very large boa constrictor.

When I matured, I began to become aware of this connection I had with nature, by reading about Zen gardens and the elements of spiritual gardening. I had moved to the Netherlands in the meantime, where many gardens, including the garden I then had, have the size of a stamp. Moreover I did not know the European plants at all. It took quite a while to understand these plants and their needs.

Now I am in the process of integrating fairy-elements in my garden. Ever since I was small, I was fascinated by fairies and all the stories about them. I think that has also contributed to my love for nature. You can purchase many elements, like gazing balls, fairy solar lights, statues and fairy bird feeders, that add this fairytale atmosphere to a garden.
A few examples:
fairy solar lightgazing ball

Even though I don't have a formal Japanese garden, for inspiration I investigated Japanese and other oriental fairy tale figures and images. That was not easy. Most fairy tales that I found, are written by people of the west.

I read the following answer to a similar question concerning Japanese fairies and fairytales by a very well-informed visitor at the Sur La Lune fairytales discussion board where there are many discussion threads about fairies.
...except in Japan it is hard to find text versions of any anime. What you can find is Manga. I would suggest Manga (comix, graphix novel, etc.) versions of Hayao Miyazaki's films, most of which are steeped in Japanese and Buddhist lore. You can find manga versions of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away in comic stores or through A lot of anime contains elements of Japanese myth and fairie tales in them, but usually put modern twists on them. Then there are the period Samurai and Ninja anime, some of which is based on legends, most of which are made up by more recent sources, like Lone Wolf and Cub, Ninja Scroll, Inuyasha, etc. Inuyasha, although largely fantasy, is interesting for its varied use of legendary Japanese demons and other mythical creatures in the storyline. Maybe someone here has a wider idea of what is available as far as straight anime/manga fairy tales stories.

Fortunately I did find Ami Angelis' website, who draws beautiful Japanese fairies and angels
( see examples here beautiful unicorns fairies pic). Very inspiring!

The work of Sirano Zalman, the wellknown native Indian artist from Surinam, inspired me to cut fairies and fairy tale figures from foam and place it in the garden. It also floats very easily on water. I would like to find a solution for the bottom of it, because it becomes very grainy after a while and these grains come off and float in the water.

I am also enchanted by John Cole's handcrafted mushrooms
Alan Titchmarsh showed up with one of those magical mushrooms in his program on the BBC!
Here is an example:

So the elements of a spiritual garden are:

  • Spiritual symbols and principles, that are expressed through the use of stones, gravel, figures and other symbols.

  • Elements from the first gardens in our lives or our contact with nature.

  • Elements that touch our senses, like color, form, smell and sound. Sounds can be varied: birds, but also frogs, grasshoppers and other insects and water. The spiritual garden also contains many elements for tactile stimulation, like the velvety leaves of the coleus.

  • A certain style, which feels good for us. For instance the Mexican style, the style of Gaudi, the Morish, or Mediterranean or Toscan stijl, the English cottage garden or the English formal style, the Japanese style, the Chinese style, the African style, the impressionist style (like Monet's) to name a few.

  • Buildings, like simplistic sheds, teahouses and dividers can really add that extra touch of magic.

  • And last but not least, the most important: the plants!

    To be continued …..

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    email free spiritual ebooks articles spiritual ebook shop Trans4mator & tools for transformation powerful software for subliminal mind programming
    inspiring song lyrics metaphysical poetry Japanese Zen Gardens & Spiritual Gardening reviews & descriptions of spiritual books spiritual bookshop my adventures in web wonderland web secrets - experiences of successful people on the net
    art of Sulamith Wulfing contemporary fantasy artists kids pictures of fairies more fairies the Law of Attraction for kids Nederlandse (Dutch