Designing A Path In A Zen Garden

What You'll Need
pen and paper for design/doodling
logs, cut width-wise

Before building the path through your zen garden, sit down with a pen and paper and design it first. Your zen garden should exude simplicity, relaxation, and your love of nature, and the path is the medium through which the garden is first introduced. Not only does the path introduce the visitor to the elements of the garden, the path will be revisited over and over, mostly by yourself. When designing the path through your zen garden, follow these steps to create the best pathway to relaxation.

Step One- Choosing the Material

Remember that in a zen garden, the primary elements are sand (or crushed granite or gravel) and rocks. Since the sand symbolizes water, and the rocks symbolize mountains, choose a material other than sand and rocks for constructing your path. Bricks make for an excellent material since they can be arranged cobblestone style, sporadically, or separated to create  stepping "stones." Another possible material for your path is wooden logs, cut width-wise into circular stepping "stones." Either of these materials work well because you can place them in before or after the sand, although they will offer more stability if you can press them into the ground before adding the sand. Finally, consider making your path from dirt. Use bricks to line the edges of your dirt path, and place plastic under the path to keep out weeds and grass. When choosing the material for your path, think about what you want the path material to symbolize and choose accordingly. 

Step Two-  Walking the Path

How do you want your visitors to walk through your zen garden? Do you want them to have their eyes looking outward and around, or do you want them to have their eyes down towards the ground? If you have larger plants, birdbaths, or statues through your garden, create a solid, level path with no spaces or cracks. This will enable your visitors to be able to look around as they walk through your garden. If you want your visitors to pay more attention to the ground, perhaps because of your use of beautiful, polished stones, soft green moss, or colored sand to create designs, create a stepping "stone" path. As people walk through the garden, they will be forced to be mindful of each step and the beauty at their feet.

Step Three- Choosing the Route

Most pathways true to Japanese design will be asymmetrical. To create mystery and suspense, the path should meander. Instead of creating a straight shot to your point of interest, like a table and chairs, take a circuitous route with stopping points along the way. However, remember that this is your garden and the point is to create a place of relaxation and simplicity. If your mind would be more set at ease with a symmetrical path, then create a path that is ruled by order and has ninety degree turns instead of curves. Taking the time to design your path before building it will take away the stress of planning as you go, and make the experience as relaxing as the outcome.