What is it about sand that brings out the child in us? is it the texture, the feel of small grains moving through the fingers, the heat of sand warmed in the sun, the ability to shape form out of something so simple? Is it because sand does not resist our play, and endlessly shape-shifts to satisfy our childlike energies?
Maybe it is all of these and more (please add your thoughts in the comments).
Most of us have played in sand at one time in our lives, at least we have walked along a beach and felt how sand moulds to our steps and then instantly lets go, maybe a few grains of wet sand still clinging to our feet. Sand is always in flux, nothing to hold on to……it’s nature’s way of not allowing our minds to grasp too tightly.
And then there is the Zen Sand Garden, a contained space of sand, a few mindfully placed rocks, perhaps a side-water feature, surrounded by a natural setting. All coming together as a focal point for meditation.
Raking the sand garden is in itself a meditation – what appears like a simple task can be quite challenging – and yet if done with meticulous precision, the sand connects in a flowing pattern of wave-like simplicity.
Is this an ocean curling upon a rocky shore, are those the back of fish or frogs, or the islands of Atlantis emerging from light brown waves? Did someone throw a rock in the pond creating a rippling affect throughout the sandy ocean?
But beyond all this imaginary form, is the ineffable quality of raked sand to bring the mind to stillness. Somehow Zen monks figured this out a long time ago. Perhaps they just needed a “mindful” excuse to play!
And after all, isn’t that what all “serious spiritual quests” devolve to?
Innocent child-like play – in the ever shifting sands of life.
(all photos taken at Bodhizendo, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India)