Meditating on the Art of Zen Gardens: Part 1

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Studying Gardens

Every time I visit the meditation gardens at the Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat in Encinitas, I am amazed at the work that’s been done. It’s a beautiful garden that has all the characteristics of a Japanese Garden; water, stone, artistic landscaping.

Every visit is pure joy.

Every visit is pure Serenity. Peace.

So, this time I went with the intention of actually studying what has been done there.

For instance, the details in how walkways, paths and meditation benches had been positioned and placed. And to just make general notes of what I’ve seen.

Balance & Harmony

There is a big difference, of course, in comparison to say, English gardens or a very manicured landscaping. A Japanese garden does have the Zen-like quality of balance and harmony, not necessarily order. And there is a certain respect to Nature, of having flowers, shrubs and trees positioned naturally, yet harmoniously.

Upon visiting the SRF Meditation Gardens, there is a gate that has a gold emblem with the initials “YSS”, which is an acronym for the Yogoda Satsang Society of India, a non-profit religious organisation founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1917.

As you can see, the SRF Gardens and Retreat is perched high on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and is located just north of Swami’s Beach (a popular surfing spot named after SRF and Paramahansa Yoganada).

I visit this “spiritual sanctuary” every now and then, and have been visiting here over the years, have made some donations that go back to keeping and maintaining the gardens.

SRF Meditation Gardens, Encinitas, CA

Here is the view as you walk through the gate. The lawn is beautifully maintained and right away you feel a sense of peace. It’s amazing how a landscaped view can help bring about peace and tranquility, but I can see how the art of gardening and it’s sense of spirituality and nature creates that feeling.

SRF Meditation Gardens, Encinitas, CA

I think a lot of work went into the planning of these gardens. Over the years it has gone through changes. The trees on the property have grown and creates a sanctuary for shade loving plants as well as sheltering visitors from the sun on hot, Summer days.

SRF Meditation Gardens, Encinitas, CA

I plan to share more photos of the SRF meditation gardens in future posts, in a multi-part photo essay of sorts. As I myself learn more about the essence of the gardens, I will make notes to myself so that I can further improve on my own meditation garden at home.

I plan to add another meditation bench to the backyard, and maybe a third one, so that there are options on which areas of the garden to meditate and reflect. The most difficult task would be building water areas, such as a pond, small waterfall, and adding koi. For now, I don’t have the means to build these, so for now additional meditation benches will do.

SRF Meditation Gardens, Encinitas, CA

Here’s a nice view of the SRF Retreat from the meditation gardens. The Spanish architecture reflecting the history of California and a Spanish Colonial feel, while still retaining a sense of Zen and spirituality. That sense of peace and tranquility is ever present here. It’s just something you feel as if it’s a natural part of the landscape.

Go to Part 2.



Carlos Rull

Carlos Rull is a musician living in the San Diego area. His interests include Yoga, Eastern Philosophy, Zen Buddhism, and Gardening. He plays drums, piano, and composes New Age & Ambient music, and his albums are available on iTunes and

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