Meditation Gardens: Natural Peace

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It begins with release—tension in body, anxiety in mind, negativity in emotions. Breathe them out.

Then, sit up straight, eyes shut, shoulders relaxed. Feel the heartbeat. A wave of vibrations in the present moment.

That is the spirit, according to meditation expert Jim Owen. That is divinity.

“It’s that easy,” he said, sitting in a half-lotus position last week on a shaded bench in one of LongHouse Reserve’s meditation gardens, and then laughed. “It takes a little practice.”

Every Saturday morning at 8 a.m., Mr. Owen hosts sound meditation exercises in the East Hampton garden at the reserve. Having practiced the yoga form every day for the past two decades, meditation now comes naturally to Mr. Owen. It’s not always as easy for his students, though. Learning in a garden often helps, he said.

“What I’m trying to achieve is to feel the divine. And to feel it in myself and not feel it in a church, not even feel it in a garden, but feel it in myself. To feel the divine that is within me,” he said. “Everything is divine, has some divinity in it. So, when we’re in a natural environment, it’s sometimes easier.”

Typically, a meditation garden consists of a cleared area with a few rocks to ground the vibrations, a body of water to absorb sound and low ground covers for shade. Traditional plant materials include lotus, ferns, hosta, petasites and polemonium, as well as bamboo around the perimeter. LongHouse hosts approximately 15 different varieties of bamboo, according to Mr. Owen, who sits on the garden committee.

Keeping the area sacred is also important, he added.

“I recommend that when people meditate, if possible, they do it in the same spot every day,” he said. “And that they don’t use that spot for having drinks in, they reserve that spot for meditation, whether it’s inside or outside.”

Over at the Watermill Center, staff is currently redesigning and re-curating its meditation garden, which will be unveiled during the 20th annual summer benefit, “Devil’s Heaven,” on Saturday, July 27, according to center manager Nixon Beltran. The revised garden will be more structured and feature an edited plant palette, he said.

“Before, it was too much of everything, but nothing at the same time. Now, it’s going to be something that will have a sense of balance,” he said last week during a telephone interview. “We strongly believe the space helps the way you think, your line of thoughts. So now, it will bring your mind to a specific place, a very calm place.”

Mr. Owen knows he has reached nirvana it when he hears the “nada,” which sounds like crickets chirping, he said. For some, it’s a symphony, he continued.

When he leaves the spiritual realm and comes back the present, Mr. Owen said he feels refreshed. He has a new perspective. And he feels at home in the world.

“The spirit is infinite love—and I’m not talking about love for other people, I’m talking about being love—infinite compassion and infinite wisdom,” he said. “So anything I can do to bring that state about, I’m willing to do it, you know?”

Untangling himself from half lotus, Mr. Owen added as an aside, “The reason we sit in lotus position is because it’s grounding. It forms a pyramid. And it also makes it so that you don’t tip over if you go to sleep. They use this in monasteries where there would be hundreds of monks meditating in a room and they would fall over. So they use this position so they didn’t fall over on each other.”

He burst into laughter at the thought and continued, “I have meditated daily for the last 20 years,” he said. “I wouldn’t leave home without it. It’s better than your American Express card. It takes care of everything. You’ve gotta start! It will make your life ever so much easier.”

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