From a Satsang talk given at Satchidananda Ashram Yogaville February 29, 2020.
There was a point a few years ago where I made this connection – the Feng Shui of Yoga – recognizing that they not only overlap in places but really support each other, are strengthened by each other. This was at my summer yoga camp when I was teaching the older groups of kids about the teaching of Saucha; cleanliness and order. I drew a kids bedroom on a white board and we talked about all the stuff in a room. It was then I saw the correlation between Feng Shui and Yoga. That in the midst of clutter a calm, peaceful mind cannot be achieved.
Our home is a direct reflection of our physical, emotional, and spiritual body. Everything from the land, the neighboring buildings, the roads, the floorplan, and the arrangement of the rooms impacts your ability to feel harmony, peace, and ease in your relationships, in your work, in your personal wellbeing, and your overall ability to thrive.
Feng Shui, as I was trained in Traditional Compass School, looks at the compass degree direction the front door faces and from that information a Ba-Gua map is laid over the floor plan of your home. Then I can see what directions are affecting each of the rooms.
Often clients contact me because they are experiencing some level of dis-ease in their life. My job is to target where it is coming from and find a remedy.
Each direction, N,NE,E,SE,S,SW,W,NW represents a part of the body, an aspect of our life like Career or Family, an element, a shape, colors, careers and activities, seasons, months of the year, foods and tastes, gem stones, and even our aspirations. The way I see it, the compass points to everything that makes up our life. How we orient ourselves – well, that’s the journey. And when something is amiss what do we do? We change direction.
As yoga practitioners this directly plays into how you orient your altar, your practice room, and the direction you face when you meditate or do your hatha practice. For instance facing East you invite Motivation, Optimism, Growth, Enlightenment, Health, and Family or facing North to inspire Introspection, Meditation, Renewal, Wisdom, Reflection, Inner Guidance, and your Career. Guru Bhavan building on the ashram quad, this practice room faces meditators North. In case you are curious, the LOTUS faces due South the direction of cultivating expansion, intuition, vitality, abundance, growth, and motivation. Then stop to notice which direction inside the LOTUS does everyone sit? We all sit looking into the Center which is the place of focus, unity, completeness, and wholeness. The Center of a building is considered its Heart, it is where all the occupants agree to live by a shared dogma or creed.
Some things to keep in mind: if your home is under construction in any way, you and your life are also under construction. If you have moved and still haven’t unpacked, you are boxed up and this can lead to all kinds of congestion in the body and in your life as well as feeling that anxiety of unfinished business. In the same way having laundry or a computer or briefcase in your bedroom will not offer you a restful sleep because you will dream of all the work you have to do.
There is an ancient Native American saying “The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth.” No one can own land, we merely occupy it. How we live needs to be in harmony and respect for the Earth always. When you look at the property, notice trees and plants and how the house sits. An embrace of trees around the back of the house is wonderful support for you and your family. The land ideally rises up at the back and is slightly lower in the front with an open lawn allowing you to expand into and grow in your life.
So, how does Yoga play any role in this?
Well what is the goal of yoga according to Sri Gurudev? To have an easeful body, a peaceful mind, and a purposeful life. Feng Shui is the ancient Asian practice of creating exactly that in your home environment.
READ: Golden Present April 3
If your house is a mess, full of clutter, or dirty can you achieve that goal of ease, peace, and being motivated in any way? Can you meditate in the midst of chaos and clutter? What do you feel in that kind of situation? Dis-ease; anxiety, stress, irritation, etc. In the ethics of yoga according to Patanjali we know that there is a Niyama or practice for your spiritual life in regards to Saucha that speaks directly to this very thing. Saucha asks us to practice cleanliness and order. Just look at the precise way this very room is arranged. Every row is measured to exactness to create a harmonious order of chairs in rows that allows for what? For us to experience ease as we sit here. What if we walked into this room and the chairs and rows were disorderly? We immediately feel anxious, maybe confused as to where to sit, our peace is disturbed. In preparing the room for my weekend Femg Shui of Yoga Workshop, I trashed the room with great impish delight as i unrolled yoga mats, tossed pillows, turned over back jacks and chairs to totally throw chaos into the room. Then the participants entered the room and without much of a welcome, I instructed them to sit for meditation. Organically they created a semi-circle within the mess. When I asked them to open their eyes I asked what they were feeling and one woman said, “unsettled.” So we then cleaned up the room and sat again for meditation. This time when they opened their eyes we could all agree we felt calmer. Proof positive that our environment directly impacts our state of mind. Is there another component of the ethics of yoga that comes into play? Yes, Bramacharya the Yama or practice of self-control in regards to Moderation. Moderation is speaking directly to the issue of clutter which can be a home with too many books, too many plants, too many kid’s toys everywhere, too much of anything creates imbalance and disturbs your peace. Ahimsa, non-violence, also comes into play when we consider how we treat the land as in being mindful not to pour chemicals on the lawn, spray to kill insects, but rather plant a garden, erect solar panels, compost, and also look at what you buy to put in your home to ensure no harm is caused.
Now my definitions of the Yamas and Niyamas is through the lens of a child because that is who I am typically talking to as a kid’s yoga teacher. I strive to make these terms accessible to what they can understand and relate to. I think it also speaks to any novice learning yoga really at any age that these terms are made simpler so the application of them to our daily life makes more sense.
Both Yoga and Feng Shui ultimately have the same goal for daily life and that is another of the Niyamas, Santosha, Contentment in this Now moment. Walking into your home, into your bedroom, your practice room, your office and seeing everything in its place, clean, a sense of balance and care to how things are arranged, creates Ease, Peace, and Motivates you to live your best life, to be your best self. As Gurudev says so simply, To Be Good. To Do Good. And then we Live Good.
In the course of my preparing for this talk, Swami Priyaananda informed me that there is an amazing bit of information I was not aware of which has to do with the LOTUS, Light of Truth Universal Shrine. Now, if you think about it, well it makes perfect sense that Sri Swami Satchidanandaji designed the LOTUS using Feng Shui principles. It’s important to know that this style of Feng Shui is Indian, not Chinese as I practice, and is called Vastu Shastra which broken down translates to Vastu “to dwell, live, abide” and Shastra “teaching, principle or doctrine”- Feng Shui itself means Wind and Water, the Taoist approach to flowing with life in harmony to our environment both inside and out. The 5 elements in each of these practices is different as well. The Chinese 5 elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. The Indian are Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Space. As I see it, Air is Metal as Metal is related to the lungs and the air we breathe, Space is Wood as is the space around us is plants, flowers, and trees. I just want to make this clarification.
The LOTUS – Let’s take a journey, and this is one in which we imagine we have never been to the LOTUS before, Please close your eyes or cast your gaze downward. Imagine you are on the main road having left Sivananda Hall and you turn onto the road that leads you to the LOTUS. First you drive under the archway, what does it make you feel?
The road directs you to drive on the left side of the road which is very different. How does that make you feel?
You wind your way as the road twists and turns, finally rising up as it pitches up high and reveals your first, most spectacular view of LOTUS. What are you feeling as you take in that view? Now you’ve parked and begin to walk in. Notice the 2 buildings on either side of you, the Information Building and the Gift Shop. Are they the same size? Would you have a different emotional response if one were much higher than the other? Or in any other way looked different than the way they are? Now you walk under the Grand Archway – do you notice the gold spire at the top, the yantra under, and the row of symbols representing all the major faiths, those lesser known, and those unknown? What are feeling as you walk toward the LOTUS?
You can open your eyes now.
Every single aspect of the design of this property around the LOTUS and the LOTUS itself are measured, crafted, and erected to create a sense of equanimity. What if there was trash on the ground? What if people were talking loudly? What if when you went inside the pillows and props were disorderly and falling onto the floor? Hmm?
What I love is that the Feng Shui of the LOTUS wasn’t just about the buildings, it was also about the land, and even about your journey getting there.
Can you imagine if we saw our homes as a shrine so sacred, the property, even the very way you arrive home as pathways, roadways, railways, or flights connecting you to that shrine, to home?
The road to LOTUS represents your spiritual journey. That first archway alerts you that you have entered a sacred space. Why did Sri Gurudev direct us to drive on the left side of the road? Because he wants us to leave our daily life, our habits and attachments behind us and begin to embrace something new. Truly this is a pilgrimage. And again, I encourage you to layer what I am saying onto your journey to your own home. The road to LOTUS is winding, it forces you to slow down and be mindful. There is a stream running between the two roads a symbol of clarity, of purification, of being cleansed on your journey. Then the road rises up, it takes effort here whether on foot or in a car to push yourself this last length. It is here you may doubt your ability, question your path, feel defeated, and wonder why you couldn’t take the lower road that is straighter and flatter and far easier. And just when it would seem the road rises and drops you into oblivion, you see it, that first view of LOTUS that represents a spiritual awakening, being lifted up to “see.” Then the road turns and eases you down to where you can park yourself, to where you can get out of the vehicle of the physical body and move into the spiritual one. The symmetry of the buildings, how everything has been built is to create harmony, balance. The reflecting pond represents reflecting on our own lives. Self-inquiry – who am I? The 2 granite elephants represent not only the Earth element but also our ability to overcome obstacles and to be strong, in Chinese Feng Shui jade elephants represent our ability to communicate honestly and lovingly, to listen. Then you walk behind the waterfall which is obviously the Water element and here, again, we are cleansed, purified. All along the walkway are plantings and bushes representing the Wood or Space element.
As the LOTUS has been under construction, the fountain and waterfall under repair or turned off for winter and now Guru Bhavan is under renovation too – I realize that we are being challenged to see our own spiritual lives needing work too, to be renovated, and refreshed. Let me repeat that – regardless of how long you have been on a spiritual path, as long as the LOTUS and Guru Bhavan are under construction; being refreshed, rebuilt, re-membered, your practice and faith is also under construction. This is an opportunity to refresh your practice, to re-inspire yourself, to perhaps deepen your faith in new ways. Renovate your practice. See with fresh eyes.
Does your home reflect a spiritual intention? Why would you not work with your family to ensure it is? Why would you allow yourself to live in anything less than a sacred space that supports you in all ways but particularly in your spiritual life?
I am announcing a call to create a Yogaville Garden club to work this spring as a sangha for anyone interested in doing some karma yoga for the place we all love and call our spiritual home. That we all be a part of this renovation and plant indigenous plants that attract pollinators. We will work around LOTUS and the ashram quad area to ensure all who live and visit see how much this sacred place is appreciated, cared for, and maintained, just like our own sadhana practice.
My hope is that I have in some way inspired you to look at the landscape of your own home and to see how it is a reflection of yourself. How your practice is directly impacted by your ability to feel at ease in your home, so there is ease your mind and body, and that is then manifested into your daily life so that you live yoga.