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Kathleen Cox

Designing for the Soul
by Kathleen Cox

Vastu, which is India’s ancient science of design and architecture, is the third piece in the Vedic mind-body-soul equation, which also includes yoga and ayurveda. While yoga and ayurveda increase our wellbeing by focusing on our body; vastu focuses on our surrounding environments to achieve this same goal. In a nutshell, I call vastu yoga for the home.

The Power of Vastu Living

Briefly stated, vastu subscribes to a theory of design that I refer to as spiritual holism in which our goal is the creation of a home that nurtures the soul. We reach this goal by designing with intent—mindfully following three holistic principles. First, we try to set up every room in our home so that the body’s biorhythms are aligned with the universal rhythms that unfold around us. We know what happens when we work at night and try to sleep during the day. Our internal clock slips out of balance; we never feel quite rested. Vastu realizes that our home can unintentionally create this same negative impact on us when its design is out of harmony with the natural forces that surround us. Therefore, vastu asks us to honor (to the best of our ability) the recommended placement of the five basic elements of space or ether, air, fire, water, and earth in our home and within each room. Their assigned location is logical—based on the movement of the sun, the pattern of the wind, and specific parallels to forces and energies that exist within the human body.

The second principle in vastu asks us to draw nature into our home so that we consciously respect our interconnection and interdependence with all that naturally exists in the world. By doing this, we support the environment and also support our holistic relationship to the environment. The third principle in vastu asks us to respect our unique identity and celebrate who we are and what we love—an act that further reinforces the essential truth that exists in all creation. All that exist serves a purpose: it is worthy and divine. In this third principle, we are extending the concept of spiritual holism to include respect for the self.

As we practice vastu, we see how these guidelines manipulate, to our healthy advantage, the power of space. We create personal environments in which the ambience is inviting, loving—we feel at ease inside a vastu home. Such a home whispers its word of welcome to all who enter the space.

The Power of Rhythm

In vastu, we try to align each room in a space so that it observes as much as possible the proper location of each element. Through this alignment, we create powerful rhythms that flow from room to room or around each individual space. This feeling of rhythm mindfully reinforces the cohesion that should exist inside every home—and this rhythm adds a measure of predictability and comfort. Nothing around us is jarring or feels out of place. This intentional creation of rhythm in the home also mirrors the properties of the universe, which is governed by its own predictable set of rhythms—light and dark, hot and cold, wet and dry, the changes of the seasons. These cycles are reflected to a similar degree within our body when it is in a healthy state of balance. Think about the movement of the breath, the cycle of digestion, all the cycles connected to creation, preservation, and destruction that go on within our human form.

In a vastu home, we also intentionally create quiet meditative areas, which I call zones of tranquility that connect to the element of water in the northeast quadrant of each space. And why is the element of water assigned to the northeast? Ancient vastu scholars understood that the period of dawn is the healthiest time of the day—the earliest of the sun’s rays are meditative and restorative. In the past, swamis and yogis always faced northeast at dawn when they meditated or practiced yoga. The element of water also exhibits many of the properties of the sun. Water is calming and soothing to us. Water also serves as a receptacle that can absorb the healing energy of the sun that comes at this time of day. By creating this pattern of quiet focus in the northeast in room after room, we symbolically honor the sustenance that comes from the sun that keeps us alive.

In vastu, we also intentionally place lightweight and delicate furnishings in the north and east of each room; conversely, we place tall and heavy furnishings in the south and the west. This design creates an openness in the north and east that allows us to receive the positive benefits of the sun to come in from the northeast and blocks out the harmful rays that accompany the sun’s journey across the south to the west. Even if we don’t have windows in the north and east; we still try to follow this placement guideline so that we symbolically honor the gift of the sun at sunrise. This particular guideline not only creates a rhythm that we can observe and feel as we move from space to space, but it breaks us free of a common western dependency on symmetry.

Vastu Living by Kathleen Cox

The Power of Asymmetry

Breaking free of this dependency is so liberating! When we introduce asymmetry into our home, our eyes move freely around each room. Our vision is no longer stifled by the static arrangement of furniture in its typical symmetrical groupings. We notice details and objects that are mindfully placed together—a collection of photos or a display of mementos from a trip. We also feel more comfortable in an asymmetrical space. And why is this true? Asymmetry follows the law of nature. Look at your hands, feet, eyebrows, the leaves on a plant. Asymmetry is the dominant model of creation in the natural world, including the design of our own body. And through vastu, we recognize just how much our internal self prefers asymmetry, not symmetry. This design arrangement increases our sense of harmony and establishes a perceptible feeling of interconnectedness that reflects the power of spiritual holism.

The Power of Nature

When we take a walk in the woods and are surrounded by nature, we rejoice inside and feel nature’s powerful connection to us. We can be grieving or depressed when we take this walk. Yet always, nature lifts our spirit by connecting us to the core of our self—our essence, which always speaks of the truth behind existence and removes us from feelings of isolation and negativity. So when we practice spiritual holism in vastu, we draw nature and organic products from the world of nature into our realm. For example, if we have plants in our home, we arrange them in attractive displays so that we notice their diversity—their profusion of colors and shapes; their different patterns of growth that honor the rhythm of life--creation, preservation, and destruction.

Spiritual holism also reminds us to be good to our plants because they are good to us. They help clear the air of toxins. Nature also calms us down and helps remove our internal toxins—stress, which is so injurious to our health. Ultimately, we instinctively connect to nature. We understand that it is our greatest source of inspiration, and we feel it, literally, put us "in spirit." When we speak of communing with nature; in truth, we are communing with our soul. We are listening to its gentle voice, which is so quiet and too easily ignored.

These few examples of vastu in action show us how its philosophy and its principles make us mindful of the consequences attached to the organization of a structure and its interior decor. The practice of vastu helps us expand our notion of design into a multi-dimensional, spiritual aesthetic that is life altering and life affirming. Vastu connects us to our soul. It lets us honor the light of love that exists within us. Simply put: vastu reinforces the greatest truth: we are all interconnected and divine. Everything that exists is part of That.

©Copyright Kathleen Cox 2002.  No part of this article may be reprinted without the permission of the author.

Kathleen Cox
Kathleen Cox is the author of The Power of Vastu Living (Fireside, 2002) and Vastu Living (Marlowe, 2000), the first book published on vastu in America and a One-Spirit Book Club selection. Body and Soul recently wrote that Kathleen Cox is "the American doyenne of this now-hot Indian science of design." Kathleen is the founder of www.vastuliving.com and provides vastu consultations for the home and office. She lectures world-wide on vastu.


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