Tag Archives: how to make a zen garden

Table Top Beach

I just returned from my beach vacation to Anna Maria Island.  My peaceful place is in a chair with my toes in the sand.  I could stay there all day, but since I currently live inland, I can’t spend even half of my time with toes in the sand.  So, I keep a table top beach that I can stare at during the day, play with and dream over, kind of like a zen garden.

Table top zen gardens are popular.  Zen gardens are usually made of:

    • sand
    • polished rocks
    • a rake

The purpose of a zen garden is to have a place of peacefulness. A traditional outdoor zen garden is a space of sand and rock. A large outdoor zen garden could include open space, compact plants, wildlife homes like butterfly or bird houses, benches, sculpture, curving paths, trees or no trees. It’s really what you want that would bring peace to your soul.

A desk-top zen garden can do the same. You choose a traditional theme or one that would give you peace in your work space or home, simply by viewing and meditating on it.

For me, picking a beach theme for my zen garden was a no-brainer. Pondering the design of my garden, I decided a doll sitting in the sand on a chair with a beach tote, shovel and some shells would be great. The shovel would represent the “rake” and the shells would represent the “6 polished rocks” typical of a zen garden.(c) eileensaunders

I chose a chipboard box from a craft store and filled it with sand from one of my favorite beaches. There is a little piece of sea weed included.  My character is a blonde-haired Polly Pocket doll (couldn’t find a brunette with the right accessories) with a beach towel, backpack, drink bottle, sandals, surfboard and beach ball.  It was the best I could find; no chair to sit in so she rests on a beach blanket. I added a cocktail drink umbrella for sun protection.

Typical zen gardens contain a rake which is said to foster creativity and relieve stress. I didn’t want a rake in my zen garden. Beaches are windswept and meant to be stepped on. When I see them raked and manicured near resorts, I cringe because I don’t find it to be natural and peaceful. I like the footprints, the sweeping dunes, the cusps and scarps, the ridges and runnels. Don’t rake my beach; play in it.

Traditional zen gardens also include six polished stones in specific shapes for specific reasons. My garden is specifically a calming, contemplative garden and I chose to use one unpolished but beach-worn sea urchin test, a sea shell, sea glass and beach rock.

My zen garden is colorful and bright. It is both peaceful and stimulating and provides, for me, the serenity that I need when I find myself staring at it and falling into a joyful state thinking of memories of my beach days and anticipating future ones.

My zen garden is perfect for me right now. It sits on a table next to my desk and in front of the window that I look out of to watch the birds.


  • Small box, glass bowl or wooden box with a hinged lid
  • Sand to fill the box almost to the top rim or halfway to the top
  • Your favorite earth item to represent the 6 rocks
  • A rake, stick or small shovel or spoon to move around the sand
  • Add all to the container you have chosen, arrange rocks together
  • If using a hinge-lidded box, place a background photo on the inside of the lid so when it is opened you have scenery
  • Place in a calm spot in your home or office and enjoy.