sand and rake

No zen garden is complete without sand -- and a rake to smooth your troubles away.

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In an authentic karesansui, or Zen garden, sand plays a crucial role. To keep this tradition alive in your own Zen-inspired garden, set aside an area for your sand garden. This can be as large or as small as you like. You can even buy or build a small tabletop sand garden as an interesting and calming centerpiece. Your sand garden can contain river rocks, gravel and even grass, but they typically don't have any plants. For this reason, it's known as a dry garden. Once you have your box in place and full of crushed granite sand, you'll need a rake -- an essential aspect of the sand garden. The rakes are plain and wooden, each prong made from a small wooden dowel spaced several inches apart.

There's some real meaning behind how you place your rocks, but if you're simply going for a Japanese influence, arrange them however it pleases you aesthetically. Once you have your rocks and sand in place, with a rake in hand, gently pull straight lines, waves and circles through your sand and wait for the relaxation to begin. Use this time for quiet reflection.