"I love the house, but I don't feel love from it" were my son's words. He made this comment to me after we visited two very different homes that came from opposite ends of the spectrum. The first house was in an older, more transitional neighborhood that had a history of European immigrants that had once lived there and some who still remained. The house was tiny and modestly furnished, but warm and inviting. The people were extremely friendly and gracious, and immediately made us feel welcome. We left feeling pleasantly surprised.
The second home was expensively crafted and located in a newly built upscale neighborhood. It was furnished with many collectibles and quality furnishings. The home, though aesthetically pleasing, felt stark, uninviting and soul less as though no one spent much time there. Though I recognized the quality furnishings and admired their beauty as well as the overall décor of each room, the energy was more of a museum-like quality than a home of happy memories. The current owners had only been there a few years and two previous owners had only lived there for two years at a time consecutively. Needless to say, my son and I did not feel at ease during our brief visit there despite the engaging conversation. His insightful comment came a few days later as we discussed the differences between the two homes and how they made him feel.
While anyone would chose the second home for its luxury and obvious material worth, the truth is that aesthetics do not make a home a sacred space nor make it feel welcoming. You have to feel the spirit of a house and that is a direct reflection of it's caretaker, and I believe, to a lesser degree it's architect or builder who sets the blueprint. Even the humblest of homes can be turned into a sacred space when the intention of the owner or caretaker is one of love or affection for the home and respect for balance and peace within the space. I was so thrilled that at my son's young age, he could already feel and recognize this difference in the spaces we had visited.
More recently, we were invited to a dinner party at the home of a couple originally from India. These owners had blended a combination of quality, modern aesthetics with ancient, traditional customs. It was a very luxurious home that was carefully planned out from the gracefully winding driveway that meandered up a gentle slope, to a sense of the sacred from the moment you stepped into the house. We were warmly greeted from the onset and made to feel welcome.
There were carefully thought out altars and vignettes of collectibles in various locations, intimate seating areas, as well as bowls of candles and flowers throughout. I could detect the subtle smell of Plumeria (or champa) in the air, which is often associated with Hindu or Buddhist temples. This aroma combined with the enticing smells of the delicious meal we were about to eat. Outside the large windows were two living Christmas trees decorated with lights and below we were later shown the elaborate garden patio with extensive waterfalls that had been created. The entire property seemed to be a visual and sensual delight for the soul and weary mind. It was obvious it had been painstakingly thought out.
During dinner the subject of architecture and feng shui came up and our host mentioned that he did not believe in the Indian version of feng shui which is Vastu Shastra. Vastu is a carefully thought out system based on a mandala or grid of mathematical proportions combined with spiritual foundations that are believed to bring about harmony and balance in one's environment. The premise for this architectural philosophy is that the home is a temple to be aligned with natural forces of the cosmos and the earth to bring about well being of the inhabitants. Interestingly, the same principles apply when building either a temple or a home.
When our host made his comment regarding Vastu, I replied that contrary to what he was saying, I sensed that although he may not believe in the formal or technical applications of this ancient art, my impression of his home was that he and his wife had an innate sense of creating sacred space which surpassed any formal application which might be used in the form of Vastu. It occurred to me later that perhaps if carefully analyzed, many of the aspects of their home might in fact reflect these principles though not intentionally. His reply that evening was that he agreed with me and admitted that what bothered him about this concept was that he had seen many people attempt to apply these principles in the strictest of manners by going to great lengths to achieve this concept and yet they did not have a sense of sacred space in the most fundamental of ways. As with many ancient techniques and customs, it had become too commercialized and perhaps lost much of its original wisdom throughout the years.
One of the other guests who lived next door added that within their neighborhood, someone had required that the architect travel to India to be trained in the principles of Vastu and incorporate this approach into the building of their home. This home owner went to great lengths to create a seeming temple of a home, which the neighbors jokingly called the "Taj Mahal", however, within a short time after being built, a fire ensued and the home was internally destroyed despite it's seemingly impressive stature. I found this interesting as fire is seen as the great purifier in many traditions.
So, what went wrong? Though I can only make assumptions about what occurred since I never actually visited this home they spoke of, I believe that when someone tries to use sacred principles of creating harmony and balance without a clear understanding or a heart-based connection to the concepts and tools which he/she uses, these principles can actually backfire on you and create more problems similar to opening a Pandora's box. The history of the land could also have played a large part in the devastation that ensued. What I find most interesting about the principles behind Vastu is the undeniable foundation of spirituality associated with the home and the need to create boundaries between mundane daily life and soulful life practices such as prayer and meditation. Within Vastu, the integration of the material world of the earth with the spiritual aspects of the cosmos is part of achieving a balanced life.
Most often people chose a plot of land that resonates with their inner being and/or they seek to control an area of land that they deem to be powerful or advantageous to them from a material perspective. It could be that the history of this land had been one of malevolent intent or misery or perhaps sacred land that had been abused, and so this energy would emanate through the new structure and create misfortune for those who dwell there. A belief that the history of one's land can affect the predecessors is found in many cultures whether it is Chinese feng shui, Indian Vastu or various ancient customs of indigenous people throughout the world.
When choosing a new home, pay attention to the subtle messages that play upon you as you enter the space. If something doesn't feel right, then perhaps it's not. Ignoring your intuition or thinking that you can always fix whatever's wrong might not be the right approach because it could bring more headaches and problems than you imagined. Spend time in your potential environment, get a feel for the natural surroundings and if you can't seem to find clarity in the situation or make a decision, get assistance from someone trained in the art of creating sacred space and get an unbiased, professional opinion.
True sacred space comes from a heart connection to the home which is based on respect and reverence for one's environment. Intention is formally created by the inhabitants of the structure, however grand or humble it may be. The history of the home and it's land is a blueprint for it's future and while this can be changed, sometimes only the strongest of intentions and wisdom can correct this pattern. While I have had the privilege to experience a wide range of homes that were aesthetically pleasing, I often did not feel love or a sense of the sacred from these homes. Simply collecting objects, furnishings and choosing the right colors and décor do not make a house a home.
It is the love and intention that we put into our space both indoor and outdoor that determine the well being of the inhabitants and the energy of the land. That is not to say that well intentioned people cannot suffer misfortune in a given home, because they most definitely can. Usually this is related to karmic and/or unresolved ancestral issues that need to be addressed and resolved so that the patterns do not continue into a new home. The messages are all there in your home, but it's up to you to determine and interpret what they are. I believe that sacred space and music (see below) can truly be made wherever you go when you align with the natural world (even sometimes under extreme circumstances).
Here's a musical video from the Siberian Lake Baikal , which is one of the deepest lakes on Earth. Performed by Siberian musicians in the most unlikely of places, you can feel a sense of the beauty of Nature within this music and the sacredness of this pristine frozen water which generates healing sound frequencies (please make sure you scroll down to view and enjoy!)
2013 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.