Fitness Friday #3: Zen Gardening

This was the program I was worried about – the one I was afraid no one would show for. Instead, we had a waiting list 10 teens deep. 🙂

As someone who struggles with stress, this program was near and dear to my heart. It’s important for all of us to learn healthy coping skills for when life gets tough. So I really treasured having the opportunity to use this program to talk about self-care with the teens.


I opened by having the teens sit in a circle on the floor and asked them what they thought the word “Zen” meant. They took turns guessing before we went over the exact definition: meditation. I explained that Zen Gardening literally means “meditation gardening,” and talked with them about using meditation as a stress management tool.

That’s when the fun stuff began.

I dimmed the lights, had the teens take a comfortable position, and played a free guided meditation created by UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. I picked a short, five minute one, so as not to overwhelm them. Meditation can be intimidating for beginners, so I thought starting simple would be best.

And they did it! They actually sat there, breathed, and meditated! Afterwards, I asked a few teens to share how they were feeling and we moved to the tables to assemble their Zen Gardens.

I provided them with a small booklet on the different types of patterns typically found in Japanese Zen Gardens. Their Zen Garden Kits also came with a book of meditations and Japanese Proverbs. Some chose to use my pattern booklet. Others did their own thing. A few read from the meditation book while tracing patterns in their gardens. 🙂

The few were more squirrely than others (especially the middle schoolers), but they all seemed to really enjoy the program and, hopefully, learned something too!

Total attendance: 15 teens.

I’d say this one counts as a success. 🙂


Freaking Out: Real Life Stories About Anxiety by Polly Wells

Chill: Stress Reducing Techniques For a More Balanced, Peaceful You by Deborah Reber



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