Meditation Garden at Graceland
Elvis Presley’s creativity was certainly evident in his music: in his vocal presentation, his performance on stage, and in every aspect of his career. But his creativity went beyond that arena; it was infused into every element of his life, whether it was his unique manner of dress or his very personal philosophy of life.
Elvis embarked on a lifelong quest for meaning and enlightenment, far from his world of the glittering lights of show business and the trappings of fame and fortune. He drew upon diverse sources for inspiration and guidance, his inner being finding comfort and refuge in the world’s great Wisdom Teachings. His growing need to be close to and understand the nature of God and his own place in God’s universe was paramount.
One of the sources Elvis turned to was the spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. These teachings spoke to him in a very personal way, and he asked me to bring him to the world famous Lake Shrine that Yogananda had founded, not far from Elvis’ home in Bel Air, California.
Perched in a small ravine near where Sunset Boulevard meets the Pacific Coast, the chapel grounds meticulously cared for by the monks is a natural wonder to behold. Its lush gardens and natural spring-fed lake are home to a variety of flora and fauna including white swans, ducks, koi, and lotus flowers. It has rushing waterfalls, fountains, colorful flower beds, inspirational statues, lacy fern grottoes, lily ponds, and even a picturesque old Dutch windmill that serves as a chapel. The grounds include a Court of Religions honoring the five principal religions of the world; the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, where a portion of Gandhi’s ashes is enshrined; a small museum with exhibits on Paramahansa Yogananda’s work; and a gift shop with arts and crafts from India.
Elvis loved to walk around the lake and meditate in this oasis in the midst of his fishbowl life. As he walked toward the chapel on that first visit to the Lake Shrine, some visitors passed him on the path and looked up in recognition. They nodded a silent hello, smiled, and kept on walking. Elvis was impressed by this respect for his privacy. “Perfect,” he told me. “This is exactly the way I thought it would be.”
Several weeks after that first visit to the Lake Shrine, we drove back to Memphis for a few months of relaxation after completing filming of Elvis’ latest movie. One afternoon at Graceland while we were strolling around the grounds, Elvis pointed to an area and said softly, “Larry, I want to have a meditation garden, right here, just like the one at the Lake Shrine. We can come out here; you know, just kick back, relax or even meditate if we want to. I’ve always loved this part of Graceland, especially by that wishing well over there. There’s just something special about it here, it feels right.”
Elvis always got what he wanted, and the Meditation Garden at Graceland came into being. His spirit felt at home there, just as at the Lake Shrine – and now he rests in that special place that felt so right to him.