[Editor’s Note: Many of us have heard of Vastu but have not had the opportunity to learn how this science of design can impact our daily lives. Sherri Silverman’s book Vastu: Transcendental Home Design in Harmony with NatureVastu: Transcendental Home Design in Harmony with Nature, serves as an excellent introduction that you can use as a comprehensive resource to help make simple changes in your home and create greater harmony and balance.
Silverman has used her intimate knowledge of the subject, distilling her advice into simple, easy-to-follow instructions. The photographs follow her logic of having harmonious, clean spaces to live in, with each photograph standing as visual testimony of why you should implement her suggestions to create such spaces in your own home. India Currents presents the second excerpt from Silverman’s book below. I encourage you to read the entire book to discover the benefits of vastu for yourself. —Nirupama Vaidhyanathan] Vastu: Transcendental Home Design in Harmony with NatureVASTU: Transcendental Home Design in Harmony with Nature by Sherri Silverman. Gibbs Smith. Hardcover: 160 pages. $29.95. www.gibbs-smith.com
Vastu is India’s ancient Vedic tradition of design, architecture, and sacred space. Today, everyone is familiar with how yoga presents a path to greater harmony, health, energy, and joy in life. As the “yoga of design,” Vastu offers another way to achieve these benefits by working in alignment with nature when creating and enhancing the spaces in which we live.
The master bedroom is ideally in the southwest, the calm, grounded territory of the earth element. Avoid sleeping in the southeast, since the fire element is strong there and can disrupt sleep, weaken your health, and inflame emotions. If your bedroom is in the southeast and you absolutely cannot move it, you can move the bed’s placement into the southwest quadrant of the room to harness its more solid, earthy nature and install a Venus yantra face up underneath the mattress.
Keep the television out of the bedroom. Its electrical radiation and stimulating subject matter are not conducive to a restful space. Keep the bedroom a serene, beautiful, and private space; it should be a peaceful retreat for sleep and intimacy, a sanctuary.
Make the bedroom a work-free zone so that your mind and the room can settle down to a less busy energy. If there is no other place in the entire home for your workstation and computer, find a beautiful screen to partition it off, or cover it with a sumptuous piece of fabric when not in use. This will honor the needed separation of activities, help settle down the active energy of working, and allow better sleep.
Artwork in general is an excellent idea for the bedroom. Position something you find truly lovely across from your bed so that you see it when you first open your eyes in the morning. This can be a tapestry, painting, photograph, or a window with a view of nature.
Sleep with your head in the east or south, which is healing. Do not have your head and pillow in the north, since this is draining, aging, and does not allow as deep a rest. The human body has magnetic polar energies; if your head is in the northern polar direction, when sleeping, it produces a negative effect.
Children’s bedrooms are not that different from adult bedrooms. Children and adults alike need private space that is well organized, personal, and has a good flow. The main point to remember when designing children’s rooms is to listen closely to the children: What are their interests? What colors and decoarations make them light up and express their personal style? Do not simply impose your own preferences upon them without finding what truly fits their individuality and desires, whether they openly express them or not.
Kitchens belong in the southeast, the direction where the fire element of agni is predominant. Agni’s color is infrared. Subtle infrared rays are most prevalent in this direction and considered beneficial, especially for women.
You may want to follow the lovely custom of having a northeast kitchen altar to express gratitude for all your household’s nourishing blessings of food. Keep the area clean and beautiful and devise a unique personal ritual for giving thanks for abundant food. Sometimes kitchen decor can be dictated by structural deficiencies. For example, if there are no windows in your kitchen, there are tricks you can use to brighten it up and create views and a more expansive, less closed-in feeling. I used a mirror framed by a colorfully painted Haitian iron sculpture of birds, trees, and flowers at the end of one kitchen. In another home with a wall instead of a window above the kitchen sink, I placed a framed picture of Lakshmi on that wall so the homewowners would have something inspirational to look at while doing the not always uplifting chore of dishwashing. The glass of its frame reflected sky, trees, and mountains that were otherwise only seen from the living room.
Some sources recommend that the dining room be on the west side of the house, others recommend the east side. Clearly the room should be close to the kitchen for convenience and practicality.
There is an expression in India, “Food is Brahman,” which means that food is the divine wholeness bestowed upon you. Eating with awareness allows you to honor the gift of the food, which is often taken for granted.
Food is one of the main sources from which we obtain prana. So drop the hectic, busy pace of life, at least while you are eating. Take an attitude of mindfulness and consider the food as prasad, a gift from the divine intended to nurture your inner and outer development and your ability to flourish in life.
Home Work Spaces
Studies can be placed in the northeast of the home. The study area for children is usually in the west. Everyone should face east or north for the best brainwave activity when studying. If possible, do not have your back flush against windows. Facing directly into a wall can restrict your creativity; a better choice is to face into the room, which creates a more expansive feeling.
Many of the same basic Vastu guidelines apply to the yard and garden as to the inside of your home or office. Place heavier weight, like rock gardens, and stone sculptures, in the south and west instead of the north and east, which should be kept more open. The southwest is also a good place for a greeenhouse, storage area, or potting shed. The south and the west are the best places for tall trees to protect and and shade the house from the harsh rays that come from these directions.
Outdoor water features create a beautiful, soothing, and prosperous influence. Water represents the flow of abundance. Streams and rivers should flow clockwise in relation to your property. Do not place ponds, fountains, and waterfalls anywhere other than northeast or north, since water features in any other area will create a negative effect. If they are already there, move them to the northeast or north. Healing medicinal herbs are also well placed in the north or northeast. Remember that the northeast is a sacred zone that should be kept clean, orderly, and pure. In your yard, the northeast is not the place for trash, gardening sheds, or septic systems.
The northwest is the area for swings, wind streamers, wind chimes, and mobiles, or any other feature that plays with the movement of the wind. Outdoor kitchens, grills, and fireplaces belong in the southeast, where the fire element rules.
Sherri Silverman is a Vastu sacred space design consultant who has taught meditation, yoga, healing breath techniques, and sacred text courses from the Vedic tradition for more than thirty years. Sherri works with Vastu clients through her consulting business Transcendence Design.