Portland Japanese Garden was honored to be among the locations for “Wellness Week 2022,” a series of mid-June events organized by Black Men’s Wellness, a Portland-based group that offers “culturally specific, trauma-informed workshops [that] engage African-American men of all ages to identify and discuss health concerns they are currently experiencing and/or are susceptible to.” Capping off Wellness Week this year was a Juneteeth meditation workshop led by yoga and meditation practitioner, Madgesdiq.
Gathered on the East Veranda of the Pavilion, over a dozen participants sat on yoga mats laid out on a wooden deck. Accompanying the sound of gentle rain and trees softly swaying in a light wind was the guitar and vocals of CEG, a musician and collaborator of Madgesdiq. As the meditation began, Madgesdiq reminded everyone that this was a time for them to reconnect with themselves and tap into their intuition.
Black Men’s Wellness founder Darrell Wade saw his organization’s week of wellness events as an opportunity to “create spaces for Black folks to heal from the trauma that we’ve endured historically and continue to endure.”
“I especially don’t hear a lot of talk in the Black community about ‘Oh we’re going to go the Japanese gardens today,’ or really any of the gardens that Portland and Oregon have to offer,” said Wade. “They’re such healing spaces. I think it’s just really understated how healing these spaces can be for us. And it’s something I wanted to highlight.”
Portland Japanese Garden was a fitting setting for such an event. As the Garden’s original designer, Professor Takuma Tono of Tokyo Agricultural University, once wrote:
“The fundamental aim of landscape gardening in Japan, primarily rests upon ‘Viewing, Instructing, and Consoling.’ We are content to spend our hours of leisure in the contemplation and in the repose of true landscape garden. Gardens are intended to break the connection with the outside world, so to speak and to produce a fresh sensation conducive to full enjoyment of aestheticism of Nature.”
“I love the Japanese Garden, myself,” offered Wade. “It’s just such a meditative space for this particular workshop…Just this view [of downtown Portland and toward Mount Hood] alone is calming. Our whole mission around Blackness-wellness is to address hypertension, high blood pressure. And one of the main causes is stress and anxiety. So, I feel, what a perfect space and perfect time to have a celebration meditation.”
“We as a people, as a country, need healing,” Wade continued. “And for me that starts in my own community. That’s really what I’m hoping for—healing. And also, to really remind us that this is also a time to celebrate and not to let that be hampered by some of the horrific acts that we’re kind of bombarded with in the media and our phones.”