It’s everywhere: Sand. Just try keeping it in your kids’ sandbox, out of their hair or, God forbid, on the beach. Good luck with that! And when you’re dumping it out of your shoes after vacation or vacuuming it out of every crevice of the minivan (that’s not just me, right?), the last thing you’re likely to be feeling is serenity.
And yet there are apparently fortunes to be made on sand mandala kits & portable Zen gardens—both in essence just miniature sand boxes, sometimes including smooth stones & tiny rakes. So, what’s the fascination?
Japanese Zen gardens have a rich symbolic history, having been used to tell stories, teach Buddhist koan lessons & even protest against politics, but their most congruent symbolism is that of contemplating nature. Rocks, sand, wood, moss, even little bonsai trees are all naturally occurring elements. And interestingly, they can also be used to symbolize other forms of nature: rocks as mountains; moss as vast grassy landscape & more.
Today, I had my own sand meditation moment (or mini-moment, anyway). I wrapped up my day with an evening trek with the kids to Taltree Arboretum (http://www.taltree.org) where we explored nature, particularly in their Adventure Garden. Surrounded by pens of scratching Bantam chickens with their feathered legs like pantaloons, massive gobbling turkeys who puffed up their fantail feathers when we got too close, plus a butterfly garden in full bloom & a sensory garden with a plant for every letter of the alphabet (literally)—not to mention the oversized bell, pipe & percussion instruments in the midst of a woody glade nearby—my 3-year old & I kicked off our shoes & waded into the sand pit, a new feature we were keen to explore. With baby brother cooing & rattling in the stroller nearby, we made tracks with our feet, dug up buried plastic dinosaurs—& rocks, which my son adorably dubbed more buried treasure—then filled up an available dump truck-like bucket with the provided shovels. I selected a tablespoon-sized scooper just to be ridiculous. And as I sifted my seventieth scoop or so of packed sand into the bin, it occurred to me that I was completely single-minded on the task, completely relaxed & at peace. I was outdoors. I was connected—to myself, to my kiddos & even more to nature. Mini-mindful moment win!
Day 13 Mini-Mindful Tool: Sand Play. Sifting sand into shapes or simply pouring it over & over repeatedly can be surprisingly meditative, even if (like for me) it’s not your primary aim.