That’s the mantra Patti Ross could adopt these days after the city’s new Japanese meditation garden has attracted a Sarnia Buddhist priest to practise in the space daily.
Inspired by meditation garden in other cities, the city’s forestry and public works departments started work two years ago on Sarnia’s own version, located just west of the Germain Park archway on East Street.
But city staff weren’t sure the new space was appreciated until Ross, the city’s chief arborist, had a chance meeting with Buddhist Priest Richard Maxwell when he stopped by her office.
“He said, ‘I want to speak to who’s in charge of this,’ and so I came out and met a Buddhist priest, so there’s my motto: ‘Build it and they will come,’” Ross said Tuesday.
Maxwell and other local residents use the space featuring Japanese trees and plants, a Zen garden and a recently-added granite water feature as a serene backdrop for their daily meditation practices.
“It’s beautiful,” said Maxwell, a Montreal native who lived and practised mediation in Japan for several years.
Maxwell spoke about the garden’s features and demonstrated his meditation practice to Communities in Bloom judges Tuesday morning.
Very few cities can claim they have public meditation gardens, noted Chuck Toth, assistant supervisor of the city’s forestry and horticulture department.
Toth was responsible for designing the meditation garden – the very first one he’s done – at the site formerly used as a wedding venue.
He sourced Japanese plant material – including ginkgo trees, Japanese maples and Hinoki cedars – from primarily local nurseries.
The Zen garden features five rocks – meant to represent Japan’s five islands – surrounded by gravel raked in a pattern to mimic ripples in the water.
Visitors are greeted by a traditional Japanese lantern where they will typically bow before they continue on into the space.
“It’s very low maintenance,” Toth said of the garden. “Just add water.”
Maxwell has volunteered his time to help maintain the Zen garden, Toth added, noting the Buddhist priest built his own traditional rake for the job.
For Maxwell, the new Sarnia meditation garden is “it” – the embodiment of what he experienced during his time in Japan.
While he isn’t sure how many practising Buddhists there are in Sarnia, Maxwell, who was ordained as a priest two years ago, has met locals using the meditation space who travel to Port Huron and London to be part of Buddhist communities there.
He belongs to a 300-member global Buddhist community online, with members located in Germany and Sweden through to Spain and Argentina.
But, Maxwell said, Sarnia’s new meditation garden is pulling more people together – some just out of curiousity – when they come across it during a walk in Germain Park.
“There’s more and more [people using it] because now with the water feature, they don’t walk past it,” he said.
After Tuesday’s visit to the meditation garden, Communities in Bloom judges were headed off to visit the rest of Germain Park and Camp Saredaca as part of their four-day visit ending Wednesday.