The wise men of ancient India spent entire lifetimes studying the interaction between people and their environments, both natural and man-made. Over the centuries, their observations evolved into a set of principles by which people could improve their health and well-being by aligning themselves and their living space with the powers of nature. This ancient wisdom is being adapted to enhance modern life.
Architect Michael Mastro's beautiful, light-filled home in Seattle, Washington, embodies the principals of the ancient science known as Vastu Shastra. "Vastu means building, and shastra means science," he explains.
In their book, The Way of Vastu, Mastro and his wife Robin compare living by the Vastu principles to swimming with the stream instead of against it. He says buildings designed according these principles -- similar to the concepts in Chinese feng shui -- capture nature's most positive influences.
"The most important Vastu principals are that you design in harmony with nature, the forces of nature," he says. "There are these two forces of nature that really influence us from the time we were born. They affect every cell in our body. That's the positive solar energy that comes from the East. And the positive magnetic energy that comes from the North."
In a rectangular or square shape, he says, that energy interacts with the five basic elements -- earth, water, fire, air and space -- in perfect balance. "When they are in balance, our endeavors are supported, our health is supported, our relationships and our careers are supported," he says. "When a structure has missing corners or is an odd shape, energy gets stuck when it moves through that environment and creates stress. And stress is really what is keeping us from using our full capability for us to be very productive."
Michael Mastro was introduced to the Vastu way of designing more than 30 years ago. "I had just graduated from the School of Architecture at the University of Washington and met Maharishi Mahash Yogi, who is the Beatles' Guru," he says. "He asked me to design some buildings in Europe and India. He first taught me the principals of Vastu, for which I'm very grateful. I utilized that knowledge actually to build the first Microsoft building in the early 1980s. And I've just used it in all the buildings that I've built since then."
In addition to designing buildings according to Vastu principles, he also helps people modify their already built homes and offices. Acupuncturist Bart Walton is one of his clients. "It was a regular house," he says. "Michael came in and made certain changes that sort of amended the way the energy flowed through the house. For example, our stairway was in the wrong direction according to Vastu. He came and put small forms called Yantras. Yantras are little geometric forms that in some way change the subtle energy in the house. After he came and made these changes, my wife and I definitely felt some difference. It's hard to put your finger on it exactly, but the house just felt lighter."
Architect Michael Mastro says the incorrect placement of furniture creates unnecessary stress in an environment that should be restful and inviting. He recommends placing light furniture in the north and east parts of a room or building, and heavy pieces in the south and west. He also says moving pieces just a little bit away from the walls facilitates energy flow. One piece of advice he often gives his clients is to avoid placing their beds with the headboards to the north.
"Positive magnetic energy comes from the north and our bodies are like a magnet," he says. "The positive polarity is in the head. And when you sleep with your head to the north, it is like bringing two positive ends of magnets together. They repel each other. This disturbs your sleep. By sleeping with your head not to the north, whether south or west or east, you can improve your sleep and your health. South is actually the most beneficial, because when you sleep, the whole cycle of the forces of nature work through the body to promote deep healing and deep rest."
California engineer Raj Venkat followed Mastro's recommendations and rearranged the furniture not only in his home but in his office as well. "He asked me to switch my computer to face the north," he says. "So I would work facing the north. He said this would be very good for creative influences. That's actually made a very significant difference at work because within about 4 weeks I found myself producing all kinds of wonderful products for the company in very short order. He also made me put some plants in my office to balance the earth and water elements."
Plants purify energy in dark or dead-end areas. Mastro says they are especially effective near televisions and computers. He says crystals, mirrors and colors also contribute to the well-being of a building and its occupants. "Colors have a real impact on us, our emotions, our physical body," he says. "The placement of colors in the different parts of the house for different functions have a very strong effect on your ability to get a deep rest in the bedroom where you sleep. In the kitchen, you want a different color that stimulates your appetite."
Michael Mastro calls Vastu Shastra "yoga for the environment." Through his consulting service, books and seminars, he encourages people everywhere to live the Vastu way. He says when we individually restore the balance of natural forces in our homes and workplaces, we open the door to the full flow of support the universe has to offer.