Meditation Garden at Graceland
Elvis Presley’s creativity was abundant , and 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
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 many 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 , talk or even meditate if we want to. I’ve always loved this part of
Graceland, especially by that wishing well over there; that’s my favorite spot.
There’s something really special about it here, it just 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.