Tap Into the Elements to Zen Your Outdoors

Simplicity, tranquility and harmony. These principles of Zen lend themselves to creative design opportunities for your personal outdoor sanctuary. If you’re on the path to designing a live-in-the-moment backyard, use the laws of Zen to increase its serenity and livability.

Simplicity, tranquility and harmony. These principles of Zen lend themselves to creative design opportunities for your personal outdoor sanctuary. If you’re on the path to designing a live-in-the-moment backyard, use the laws of Zen to increase its serenity and livability.

The Elements

In many ancient philosophies, Earth’s elements are essential to the well-being of the spirit. Backyard features like trees, gardens, pathways, fountains, ponds and fire pits offer a natural beauty that promote comfort and relaxation. Turn to Earth’s elements for design inspiration when taking your Zen outdoors, and use the colors that represent each element in furniture, cushions, flowers and other decor.


In your approach to transform your backyard into a peaceful retreat, use elements from the earth to add texture and interest. Greens, grays and browns represent this element.

  • Create a stone walkway and rock wall with shrubs, flowers, water and light in the landscaped path.
  • Surface your patio with brick.
  • Grow a grassy knoll to upgrade your outdoor space in a minimalist way.
  • Get relief from the sun and rain with trees, trellises, an awning and thatched roof. Set up a tilt portable umbrella to avoid strong glare and intense heat coming from any direction.
  • Set out a hand-woven Japanese-style tatami mat as the groundwork for relaxation.


Water is essential to sustain life. It is in every living thing and nothing can exist without it. Because of this link, water features restore your spirit. Use shades of blue, reflective surfaces, water and wavy lines in your landscape design.

  • Add a gurgling fountain, relaxing waterfall or bubbling stream for serenity.
  • Build a naturalistic koi pond for a peaceful feeling and life.
  • Install a small bird bath to cleanse the soul.
  • If you currently have a pool, look into features that soften the scene and lead the pool area in the direction of a backyard oasis, such as soft lighting.


Passion, expression and boldness are represented by fire in feng shui design. Colors to incorporate include warm tones like red, orange and purple. An outdoor oven lets you take advantage of your backyard to dine under the stars, the most Zen-like way to eat. Some other ways to incorporate fire:

  • Add a fire bowl, fire pit or chiminea for evening ambiance.
  • Incorporate tiki torches.
  • Place LED flameless candles on tables for soft, safe light.
  • Hang lanterns in trees.


Air lets you breathe in life-giving oxygen. Air is the wind and the clouds and is the medium in which sound is transported.

  • Hang wind chimes to emit a light and airy sound to your space. Consider a wind gong or bamboo chimes that offer a deeper tone to contrast the higher bells of a chime.
  • Install an outdoor ceiling fan for a cool breeze on a hot summer day.
  • Add trees and bushes to block the wind to make your space more still.

Restore and enrich your soul by mixing earth’s elements in your backyard design, and keep a tidy landscape so as not to agitate the spirit.

Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.

1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?

To not have a second thought about what others think of me or my actions. Jack Kerouac once said, “Live, travel, adventure, bless and don’t be sorry.” So that’s what I’ve accepted, and that’s what I’m doing.  

2. What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?

I am an eternal optimist. I appreciate that I don’t often let things get me down for long and when they do, I find the light in the situation and rise above. I try to help people I encounter do the same.

3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?

After years of hard work, I feel rewarded by finally having the chance to write for a living, something I’ve been working toward since I was a wee child.   It has taken time to refine my craft, and I’ll never stop doing so. I have a children’s book on the horizon.

4. We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?

Over thinking things has been something I have had to work on. “It is what it is,” you have to say, right? Quirks… I generally have this unicorns, rainbows and sunshine hippie mentality that can go a little overboard at times. But I like to do it on purpose to make people laugh.

5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”

I love my journey and the people I’ve encountered along the way, if only for a moment in time.

About the author

Anne-Marie Pritchett

She is a storyteller of sorts who spins her silky web of words to delight and ignite insight.