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Nature popping! Outdoor Greening: Fact Sheet #10

Resources. Guides. Nature. Biodiversity. Gardens. Habitat. Pollinators. Vegetables. Community. Living in harmony with nature.

Throughout the month of May, we have been featuring some of our outdoor greening sacred spaces resources. We have been highlighting especially, our free, downloadable series of fact sheets. Developed in 2017 by our Green Sacred Spaces Ottawa chapter, these ten downloadable Outdoor Greening Factsheets cover the following topics:

  1. Sustainable Lawns, Groundcovers and Alternatives 
  2. Landscaping for energy-savings 
  3. Stormwater Management 
  4. Water Conservation and Drought-tolerant Landscaping 
  5. Hedgerows 
  6. Choosing and planting Native Trees & Shrubs 
  7. Wildlife-friendly Garden 
  8. Bird-friendly Garden 
  9. Urban Meadows 
  10. Special Purpose Gardens: Healing, Meditation, Medicine Wheel, Labyrinth Gardens

In this blog post, we highlight fact sheet #10.

Special Purpose Gardens: Healing, Meditation, Medicine Wheel, Labyrinth Gardens

Special purpose gardens are created by faith communities to provide an outdoor environment that can be used for spiritual, cultural or other specific purposes. Green spaces and gardens are well known for their healing and therapeutic values and can also provide spiritual comfort and connection by using outdoor spaces for faith practices such as prayer and meditation. Gardens are perfect for these types of practices as they offer a quiet, serene space that can be used in three (or even four) seasons! Outdoor spaces can be created intentionally for this type of purpose or a current garden can be retrofit and revitalized. Gardens can also be used to symbolically reflect to the spiritual community and local neighbours the value of beauty, allyship and peace.

Healing/Therapeutic Gardens Healing gardens offer visitors a place to reconnect and heal whether emotionally or spiritually. These gardens have been installed in health care facilities to help patients heal faster through both being able to see green spaces and from visiting the gardens. Both a view of green landscapes and also immersion in a garden have positive effects for both mental and physical healing. Scientific studies have shown that immersion in green spaces can have many positive effects including: decreasing stress-levels, boost of positive outlook, lessening of depression and anxiety and increasing generosity. Due to these benefits, healing gardens have much to offer to all communities including faith and spiritual ones. Therapeutic gardens on the other hand involve the garden visitor in a more active deliberate way, whether it is by engaging the visitor with different senses (sight (colour/texture), smell, touch, etc) or by offering an opportunity to regular visitors to actually participate in the care of the garden. Gardening activities offer even more opportunities to engage the senses, such as the physical touch and scents of the soil, the handling of colourful plants and the watering and nourishment of the garden. 

Meditation/Prayer/Quiet Gardens Meditation, prayer and quiet gardens offer a peaceful space for solitude and reflection. This type of contemplative activity can be heightened by being outside in a garden setting. Being surrounded by the flourishing plants and active wildlife can provide a direct sense of the miracles of creation. For those faith communities that want to offer a prayer/meditation garden, visitors will require a comfortable and sheltered place to sit – such as a bench or a grassy hill overlooking an uplifting vista. These types of gardens need to be buffered from busier areas such as building paths and parking lots or streets. Having a transitional space as visitors move from busier spaces to the solitude of the garden can help visitors mentally unplug. Signs can also help enrich the users experience with reminders to turn off electronics, to walk slowly and to speak in whispers if necessary. If the garden is for a specific faith community, religious and spiritual symbols and visual reminders provides visitors with familiar clues and a more direct way to connect with their faith. These gardens should provide a place of solace and peace and help uplift and provide a sense of renewal.

Labyrinth Maze And Garden A labyrinth maze is a special type of prayer/ meditation space. It can be very simple and designed either into a grass path or laid out with paver stones. The labyrinth walk mimics a religious pilgrimage, where one can embarks on a journey into the centre of the labyrinth, (which symbolizes the Universe or Creator), rest once they are in the centre and then journey back outwards (back “home”) while reflecting on any inspiration or messages received during the walk. It is suggested that the labyrinth walk starts with a question or prayer before one starts the walk and then the path of the labyrinth twists and turns towards the middle, such as many journeys do. The centre of the labyrinth offers mediators a time for reflection and opening to receive any messages or wisdom about the question, prayer or journey so far and then the path back out of the labyrinth provides time to assimilate the messages and full journey experience before returning to ‘everyday life’ outside the labyrinth. There are both guided labyrinth activities with a trained facilitator or this type of meditation space can be used on one’s own. There are many ways to incorporate the labyrinth walk into a congregation’s activities.

Download fact sheet here.

Living in Harmony with Nature

Let your sacred space be an example of your stewardship and commitment for caring for creation.  Our many garden resources offer guidance and inspiration to help you learn to live in harmony with nature and restore the sacred balance of the Earth. Learn about sustainable practices for water and energy including xeriscaping, rain gardens, and water-wise strategies in the Outdoor Greening Fact Sheets. Read about the possibilities of turning a section of your faith community property into an ecological haven for wildlife including pollinators such as insects and birds. Get to know more about the benefits of planting native species of grasses, flowers, shrubs, and trees for your new meditation or prayer garden or in your memorial grounds.  Click here for more of our gardening resources.

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  • Beatrice Ekoko

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