By Rajeshwari Prakash
Ancient wisdom across civilizations laid great stress on good living through creating healthy interiors and buildings. This wisdom was based on the complete understanding of the mysterious energies that surround us and their interaction with the human body
There is a growing preference among people worldwide for using natural materials, fabrics, even paints and colors in interiors, which stems as much from ecological consciousness as spiritual belief. There is talk of geopathic stress related to manmade disturbances to the earth’s electromagnetic field, of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in synthetic paints, furnishing fabrics, poorly ventilated cooking appliances, clothing, pesticides, household cleaning agents, all of which cause ill-health, and thereby, some say, misfortune. The quest for a harmonious environment has also seen the resurgence of the ancient systems of vaastu shastra and feng shui.
Kirti Betai, an expert in pyramid energy systems and vaastu and feng shui corrections, based in Agra, India, says that for harmonious and healthy interiors, you need a harmonious exterior. He defines the exterior as your personality, home and business, while the interior is your body, mind and soul. ‘ Meditation is the only method of achieving harmony between your energy field, the energy fields of other life forms and all the other inanimate things in your network. But meditation cannot be practiced if your external or internal interactions are not harmonious.’
The technosavvy Mahesh Yogi, founder of transcendental meditation system, has a huge construction company selling vaastu or Sthpatya Veda, the ancient wisdom of India, in a contemporary package. He believes that most of our problems today emanate from poor or non-existent vaastu in our lives. Buildings face the wrong direction, living spaces are not oriented to vaastu principles, and this, he argues, is why we don’t succeed in our efforts. The Maharishi says that among some of the benefits of a home designed using vaastu are an improvement in health of the inhabitants, increased creativity and intelligence and thereby prosperity and success, harmony in relationships, spiritual growth and increase in the inhabitants’ respect for nature.
Dr Prabhat Poddar, geo-biologist and architect based in Pondicherry, India, says that there is an invisible energy that flows through the universe—through our body, the food we eat, our home and work place and the air that surrounds us. It is known as prana in India, chi in China and ki in Japan. There seems to be an invisible equation that operates between the elements outside, the elements within the individual and his living and working space, and any imbalance in the interplay of these forces can result in chaos. While the first two are near constants, the third is a variable. Poddar believes that we can design better buildings if we understand the effectiveness of these natural forces and learn how to manipulate them to the desired intensity.
Poddar goes on to say that there is a scientifically proven connection between the body and the building. ‘There are four critical factors that contribute to and affect the energy levels of a structure: the earth’s energy grid, the human energy axes, colors and the five elements. The human body exhibits four basic energy axes-the vertical, horizontal, perpendicular and diagonal. These axes are affected by the earth’s energy grid and other energy influences, mainly that of the sun and moon.’
Interestingly, recent scientific studies reported in the Journal of Neuroscience show that the neurons in our brain actually fire differently depending on the direction we are facing. There are also ‘place neurons’ in the brain, which signal our body’s orientation in a room or environment.
So how healthy is your home? Poddar says our well-being is related to the direction we face, the material used to build, color, decorative plants, flowers and objects that we use inside and outside our homes, our reaction to situations, stress, the food we eat, the gems, jewelry and clothes we wear. He quotes Sri Aurobindo in The Foundation of Indian Culture: ‘A true happiness in this world is the right terrestrial aim of man, and true happiness lies in the finding and maintenance of a natural harmony of spirit, mind and body. A culture is to be valued to the extent to which it has discovered the right key of this harmony and organized its expressive motives and moments.’
The ancient systems of vaastu shastra, feng shui and European Freemasonry are all overflowing with the knowledge and mastery of the mysterious energies that surround us. But, while their knowledge is precise about how to build, there are no answers to the question ‘why’.
How can we achieve that shelter without disturbing the harmony of the cosmos and enjoy the abundance that is there in the universe? Especially as most of us have little control over the spaces that we occupy. Money, the availability of space, proximity to schools, places of work-these are the parameters generally kept in mind while choosing a home. While the new breed of vaastu, feng shui and geo-biology pundits say there is no need to despair-there are corrections that may make it unnecessary to break or re-build, designers and consultants have varying viewpoints on how to go about achieving a balance.
Vaastu expert Mukul Kumar Mehrishi, who boasts an impressive list of clients, is clear that everything you use in your home or office space should be ‘suited’ to you. His is a combination of vaastu, astrology and gemology. ‘Vaastu certainly helps you lead a life of harmony and abundance. Corrections according to vaastu need not be expensive. Simple things like having a tulsi plant at the entrance to purify the thoughts of those coming to see you, or correcting the negative energy of an anti-clockwise staircase using green plants, keeping the heaviest pieces of furniture in the south-west of the house and sleeping with the head to the south-are all simple enough to be put to use.’ However, materials, finishes and colors depend on what ‘suits’ the individual, and therefore, no general rule can be applied.
A lot of people comment on the peace they feel when they walk into designer Seema Agrawal’s first construction project, The Gnostic Center in Delhi, India. This she attributes to the setting being perfect, the use of natural materials, the care with which it was designed and constructed, and the fact that the entire construction team began the day with meditation. Her philosophy is that of Sri Aurobindo, and she believes that inner harmony is dependent on the balance of our physical, mental and spiritual self. While she does not put into practice either feng shui or vaastu, natural materials, lots of greenery and neutral, earth colors are what work for her. But she does not disrespect her client’s choices either. ‘I go by gut feeling and every space, however different, is equally important to me. And when my client is happy with the end result, so am I.’
Polish garment designer and tarot card reader Maria Weber says that white is in fashion today, a spiritual color representing the angel or spirit. But, she hastens to add, there is no one rule that can be applied. She believes that when the physical structure of the building, your psychological frame of mind and your inner being are in tune, you feel content—the space is yours for you to make it speak a language that makes you feel harmonious. Delhi architect Sanjay Prakash agrees: ‘A harmonious environment helps to maintain harmony and abundance in us too. As long as you are happy in that space, the environment will reflect your happiness, regardless of it being against or in accord with the principles of feng shui, vaastu and so on.’ Two of his favorite buildings, the Mirambika School and the Gnostic Center, have both been built using natural materials and designed with very close interaction with the clients.
Architect couple Sumeet and Vishaka Saxena say: ‘The number of people who are aware of the basic principles of vaastu and feng shui is increasing. Architecture school has already taught us the principles of site planning and orientation and the client’s insistence on vaastu just ensures that these are implemented. But to incorporate vaastu in the design of an interior is often difficult. Luckily, most clients believe that the judicious use of vaastu is far more important than just mindless ritualism.’
Today, most of us live in homes where control over amiable vaastu conditions is negligible. Vaastu shastra is still not applied much in interiors, which is the only thing most of us have some control over. This has led to the popularity of feng shui and other forms of energy corrections. Poddar has come up with the process of ‘energy rectification’, a non-destructive approach, after many years of research in vaastu and geomancy. ‘There are powerful energies in your environment that are dependent, among other things, on how the space has been planned and designed, the objects and materials that you use to decorate. These energies need to be located and measured using specific tools, and then corrected.’ He says that misalignment of these energies has far-reaching consequences, and thus, this is something that can only be done by an expert.
According to Poddar, the energy of all things in the house or office needs to be balanced-electrical wires, electronic gadgets, cooking appliances, the furnishing fabric, even your Ganesha collection. ‘While it might be in fashion to collect Ganeshas, if positioned wrong, the collection could be at variance with the various radiations already existing in your home, thereby creating a negative environment which could affect your health, wealth and happiness.’ Betai, on the other hand, gives personalized correctives or energized instruments based on the information you send him.
The art of ‘harmonious placement’, feng shui, has evolved into a blend of design, ecology, mysticism and common sense. This is also probably why it is becoming popular for corrections inside the home or work place. Delhi-based feng shui consultant Pallavi Bhartiya says: ‘Feng shui is the ancient Chinese philosophy that speaks of living one’s life according to the forces of the universe. The study of nature and its energies led to the art and science of feng shui. It entailed a detailed exploration of the natural universe and led to discoveries about the way energies behaved, and how it affected the human being and his environment.’
Pallavi says that clearing clutter is one of the most effective ways of making stagnant energy flow again. Clutter blocks the flow of energy, making you feel tired and lethargic, can keep you in the past and prevent you from moving forward, congest your body and even affect your body weight. ‘A woman may be a banker, an accomplished sitar player, a wife and a mother: evidence of all these identities will be present in her home. But it is important that her books, the sitar and her collection of music are an active part of her life. Otherwise these could just be clutter.’ Clearing clutter is effective because when you put your external world in order, corresponding changes happen within. So, the sooner you diet your home the better!
When considering feng shui placement, she says it is important to take into account the occurrence of natural and artificial electromagnetic energy, which can impact the health of those who encounter it. Man-made electromagnetic fields (EMF) are generated by electrical equipment in our homes, and need to be avoided. Her advice is to switch off and unplug all electrical appliances in the bedroom at night or at least sleep at least 4 ft away from ‘live’ appliances. As far as possible, she says, use battery or low voltage appliances like radios and alarm clocks. Sit as far away as possible from your TV because the electrical field generated inside the cathode ray tube can leak out. Avoid microwaves and other quick-cook methods as microwaves, particularly the older models with badly fitting doors, can leak radiation. While there is no conclusive proof that the EMFs present a risk, it is best to exercise caution. And choose a bed with a wooden base and natural fiber filled mattress.
LIGHT AND COLOR
There is a special relationship between certain colors and each one of us. The color of a room has a direct influence on our mood, efficiency and well-being. While we often talk about being in a black mood, feeling blue, going red with anger and green with envy, we associate green with restfulness, blue with peace, and red and yellow with energy and excitement.
Color today has become a basic characteristic of our lives. Technological advance has created thousands of chromatic shades that dominate our everyday visual lives. Color bombards us with stimuli that are the beginnings of reactions and functions, both physical and psychological. Poddar, who has carried out research in this field, says: ‘Color is energy-nutrition as it were, and it is reasonable to assume that each color has a different nutritive effect.’ The human body reacts to the entire light spectrum in a definite pattern. Individual organs, too, have affiliations with color wavelengths. Human occupants of a room or building are affected, both positively and negatively, by the specific pattern in the alignment of colors in that space.
The brightness and quality of light creates different moods and atmosphere.
In general, artificial light gives off a particular color range of the spectrum that is not balanced. Being in a room that is constantly lit by such light can cause headaches, eyestrain, loss of energy and nausea. Fluorescent tubes give off ultraviolet and blue light and they start to flicker as they get older, which means that then they can interfere with vibrations of the human body, causing people to be hyperactive and irritable. Tungsten-halogen lamps give white light close to daylight. These are powerful and good for general illumination. Low voltage lights are energy efficient and perfect for spot or accent lighting. Full spectrum lights are very healthy as they resemble the spectral light found in natural daylight, and working under them improves mood and performance.
Light also has several healing properties:
• Blue light is soothing and cooling, but don’t read in this light.
• Green light is best when you have your eyes closed, as it helps to relax and unwind. Green is also a healing light, speeding up the body’s own healing mechanism.
• Orange light is used to combat depression and lift your mood. In a living room, it creates a friendly and communicative atmosphere.
• Pink light is useful in bedrooms, where a loving and nurturing environment is needed. It is especially useful when one is feeling lonely and unloved or grieving, and also has muscle-relaxing qualities.
• Red light is physically warming and emotionally arousing. Use it when you want to be charged up and active.
• Violet light has been used successfully in mental institutions to help people with obsessive behavior patterns and neuroses. It harmonizes your mental and emotional state—good for meditation.
Maria says that while a lot of our color choices in the home are dictated largely by having to co-ordinate existing furnishings, strangely enough our choices are often made for psychological, rather than purely functional reasons. We do not exercise our color preferences in a vacuum-our likes and dislikes are also dictated by fashion and by background. So, how do you know which color is suited to a particular room or will create the right atmosphere? Is it just a matter of choosing your favorite color, or is there more to it than that?
Poddar says that our instinctive use or liking of a color is an inherent and spontaneous desire to re-harmonize the colors that are missing or have shifted from our radiating energy field. His experiments on the relationship between orientation and color, revealed that placing red color in the north-west periphery of the house instantly harmonizes the red color bands in the energy axes of the subject present in the house. Other colors, too, have a similar harmonizing effect.
Feng shui texts mention the relationship of colors with their orientation in the form of bagua. Here, color is significant and symbolic and is used to alter the flow of negative chi and to enhance the flow of chi to beneficial channels. Red is auspicious, green represents longevity, yellow, authority, blue, heavenly blessings, and lastly white, purity. Colors are also yin (feminine) or yang (masculine). Yang colors are red, yellow, reddish purple and yellowish-red; while green, blue, greenish blue, purple-blue and gray are yin colors. Yin and yang colors must be contrasted to achieve balance.
So, the four critical factors that contribute to and affect the energy levels of a structure, according to Poddar, are the Earth’s energy grid, the human energy axes, colors and the five elements. He says the buildings our ancestors created were in harmony with the laws of creation. There was a magic of numbers, a sacredness of materials and proportion, of harmony and color, a carefully deliberated choice of the right location and the right time. The result—buildings in which we experience the multiple attributes of the infinite.
As Betai says: ‘Vaastu, feng shui and geomancy, all suggest methods to bring harmony between your internal and external communications.’ But he says that the pyramid energy system is the only one known that brings about and preserves harmony between the internal and external. This is why Egyptian mummies remain free from decay in the pyramids. Poddar’s prescription: balance the energy levels of the structure. Listen to music —the ragas relating to the time of day, any kind of religious music and tapes of the beeja mantra are all excellent to energize the home. Japa, mantra and other forms of meditation, and the regular burning of incense or performing havan are yet more ways to energize the atmosphere. The Maharishi’s message is: ‘Live by the laws of nature. Imbibe Vedic practices in your life. Meditate, and build according to vaastu.’
However, civil engineer-turned-personal growth trainer S.B. Gogate is emphatic that vaastu, as it is practiced today, is a big hoax. ‘Vaastu shastra begins with the location. It calls for setting the heaviest sections of the house in the south-west. This was a wise thing to do in the olden days. Granaries were located in that direction. The constant sunlight in the south-west not only kept the grain store dry but also had a fungicidal effect. Today, design should reflect the personality of the inmates and that is what makes for a harmonious home. If your requirements are not met, naturally it makes you unhappy.’ He smiles and adds that the palace of the Pandavas, princes from the Indian epic Mahabharata, at Hastinapur was also designed according to the principles of vaastu. While it was a beautiful building, the Pandavas had their share of problems, and they were not small by any standard.
So, whichever method you choose to energize your home—vaastu, feng shui, geomancy, geobiology, or simply ensuring that your space is exactly the way you want it to be—remember that, after all, these methods are different facets of the same coin. Their aim is common—to enable you to live in an environment that is nourishing, life supporting and directly connected to the cosmic intelligence of nature.
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