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Making your home a living space

It is often said that one of the basic necessities of life is shelter or a space to live. However such a space to live may not necessarily be a living space in the full sense of the words. Living spaces are just that ………spaces that live! They are full of energy, vibrance and life. True living spaces reflect and celebrate the kind of lifestyle we have chosen and the sort of person we wish to be whether that be in a home, working or social environment. We may not always be able to have a say in the design of our office or social environment but we definitely can make a difference to our home living environment whether it be through designing a new house with an architect or decorating a rented unit. A true living space is where there is harmony between the occupants and the spaces. The colours, style of furniture and even landscaping need to reflect the personality of their owners. This is especially important since the demands of work and social obligations can be both physically and energetically draining. The requirements for our living spaces vary according to our lifestyle, relationships and time of life. It may require the capacity to be many things including a place of healing, protection, stimulation, nurturing, retreat, study and meditation to mention just a few. I know one young couple whose friends used to joke about their house "being like a temple". It had a meditation room, statues and Indian rugs everywhere. But for that couple the house was a true reflection of their life philosophy and relationship to the world and each other.

Many people are now seeking this type of authenticity from their living environment. At a time when ancient wisdom teachings are becoming more accessible to the general public, architects are being stretched to develop designs which are sustainable for both longevity of resources and materials and the healing of the body and soul. This requires not only an understanding of these teachings but an ability to translate their essence into built form in a way that is meaningful for the Owner. The new millennium is presenting increasing challenges to preserve the earth's natural resources and requires a change in thinking from humanity in general and designers in particular if we are going to maintain our present living standards. The world construction industry alone contributes to approximately 30% of the worlds solid waste stockpiles. This 'thinking shift' is about how we see ourselves in relation to the earth, its plants and animals and each other. A growing number of architects and designers are promoting this 'thinking shift' in the built environment by embracing ancient wisdoms as a foundation for design. The Living Spaces Design Group, for instance, draws on the combined experience of individual designers in both the physical and metaphysical sciences. These encompass the knowledge and practice of such areas as Ecological Sustainable Design(ESD), Electro Magnetic Radiation, Feng Shui, Meditation, Local Space Astrology, Dowsing and Space Clearing.

The 'element' that links these all together is energy. How harmonious the living space is ultimately depends on its energy and how the occupants of that space experience it. There are generally two types of energy - physical (seen and felt) and subtle (unseen and sometimes). We are all familiar with the main physical energies effecting the built environment such as gravity, light, wind and water. They can be measured with scientific instruments and we can see and feel their effect on our bodies in an obvious way. These are taken into consideration by architects in varying degrees of emphasis in the form of passive solar design, thermal and lighting design etc. Other more subtle energies are not usually perceived by the physical senses yet may be measured by electronic or intuitive measuring devices. These include electromagnetic radiation (EMR), soil nutrients, negative ions, geopathic stress lines, chi (or Prana) and the 'atmosphere' (of spaces or places). Energy is present in the natural environment in both the physical and subtle and are intricately related to each other. Mother nature provides a natural balance between them to produce harmony, efficiency and continuity in her processes. When we build houses however, the energies are often not in balance, resulting in physical discomfort and an atmosphere that may not always be conducive to health and well being. For instance a client in Queensland recently invited my colleague and Architect David Baggs to inspect her house which she felt was the cause of her health problems especially her inability to sleep well. On inspecting her bedroom he found her bed surrounded by a TV, a clock radio, a small 'black-pack' transformer and within 1 metre of where she was sleeping on the other side of the external wall was the main house switchboard. He advised her to move into the spare bedroom, which resulted in an immediate and dramatic improvement to her health and quality of sleep.

According to the ancient Chinese Tradition of Feng Shui, universal energy is referred as chi (pronounced 'chi') and is seen as the breath of life that pervades all living and inanimate objects. In a home chi is the vehicle upon which good fortune, vitality, health and abundance is carried into and circulates within the home. This energy is seen to be a combination of masculine and feminine energies and one of feng shiu's primary concerns is to harmoniously balance these energies. You can create true living spaces in the tradition of feng shui by 'activating ' areas of your house from installing aquariums, uplights, plants and finishing rooms in vibrant warm colours and furnishings. Existing good chi in the house can be maintained through such simple steps as reducing clutter and keeping the bathroom door closed. Within nature favorable chi flows and meanders in gentle curves and spirals. If it is allowed to accelerate or be directed by pointy sharp objects it is seen to be detrimental. Therefore as many people are becoming increasingly aware, it is important not to have doors and windows opposite each other especially the front and back door. A colleague and Feng Shui Consultant recently provided assistance to a security firm in Sydney to help their ailing business grow. Several cures were implemented which improved business dramatically, but there was one totally unexpected positive result. One of the senior staff who normally was impatient and generally difficult to deal with, had his office in the area of relationships according to the Chinese Bagua and whatever was happening there would be affecting the whole office. The area was adjusted for his particular needs according to his 4 pillars diagnosis (a form of Chinese astrology) and also cures for the office as a whole. The outcome was a huge improvement in his relationship to clients and colleagues. He started spending time talking through difficult situations and was relaxed and helpful in his manner - a totally changed man according to his boss.


The Indian forefather of feng shui, vaastu shastra, calls this energy 'prana' and relates its origin and movement to the cardinal compass directions. The Buddhist geomancy tradition is about balancing the five forms of energy which are space, warmth , richness, clarity and energy. The west also has its traditions of understanding energy in nature and the built environment. These include rod and pendulum dowsing, geomancy which looks at earth energies and local space astrology which matches energy flow in a house relevant to the occupants time of birth. Human beings are made up of matter, spirit and energy. This energy manifests as various fields and centers around and through the body. How we think and feel is often a result of the state of our energies and the influence which the environment has on them. Just as the human energy can be improved through practices such as thia chi, chi gong, yoga, acupuncture, reikie, shiatsu etc. so the energy within our homes can be directed and balanced. A woman renting a home in Sydney recently approached another colleague and feng shui Consultant Sally Wilson because she was not feeling comfortable sleeping at night and was having a frightening reoccurring nightmares of a sinister dark presence threatening her. On inspecting the home 9 negative earth lines were detected. "I was concerned that I was not doing it right, as most houses/businesses may have 2-4 negative earth lines at the very most". My former teacher reassured me that it was an old suburb and I was probably detecting leakage from old sewerage pipes. Most houses and businesses have three to five negative earth lines at the very most. This house was in hollow at the bottom of a hill and everything seemed to sink into that area. One of the lines detected actually ran through the bedroom and along the side of the bed she was sleeping on. I treated the negative earth lines detected with my copper rods which changed the negative energy to positive in the area treated. She mentioned the next day of a wonderful night's sleep with no sinister presence….. An amazing change from the strategic and knowledgeable use of a copper pipe! We are all in a position to apply these ancient traditions directly into our life or to use facets that can help remedy an immediate problem to our home environment. We can also draw on their essences and apply them within the framework of our own values and belief system. If we don't feel particularly inclined towards an ancient culture we can simply tap into our own perceptive and intuitive abilities. There is a wisdom within all of us which simple needs to be given an opportunity to be heard. I recently had a new corrugated iron awning installed over the front entry to my house. In spite of the wonderful protective shade it provided from the strong northern sun, I somehow felt uncomfortable about the sharp horizontal metal edge protruding below its edge beam.Every time I looked out the door from my plush Indian lounge I felt disturbed. Finally (after about 2 months) I decided to do something about. I invested in a 100mm wide decorative ribbon bought from a local Indian bazaar (matching my lounge) and fixed it along the length of the sharp corrugated iron. I was amazed ……… immediately I felt the difference. The subtle energy flowing in through the front door was softer in an unexplainable way. I know my Feng Shui friends would say that "I eradicated the shar Chi" but for me it was just following intuition.

One of the benefits of having so many ancient wisdoms available to us at this present time is that we can choose what teachings work for us. If we are empowered by doing a particular action it means we are energized by it. These choices are especially important when we embark upon the design of a new living space or renovating an existing one. The way we go about designing our living space should reflect the way we go about our life. To authentically express our body, mind and spirit the process of design should be open, honest and communicative. This may bring about results which are not always expected but, from my experience, they contain the ultimate benefit. A couple with three children approached me recently to renovate their house on a steep site which required you to climb sixty steps to get to the front door. The couple had been separated for the last two years and the wife whispered in my ear that she was looking towards the renovation project as a way of "patching" the relationship and family up. Well she was courageous and it was a big ask…….. So I tailored a creative process for three teenage children, an enthusiastic wife and a reluctant husband. The result was a united family with the resolve to sell the "too hard" house. I may not have got the job but I helped to reunite a family and send them on their way to a more manageable home. When we have the intention to design or decorate a home, the foundation energy is set in place by that initial thought. It is like planting a seed - it needs to be planted at the right time, in the right location and then given the right water and nourishment. As we start to sketch our ideas and get other people involved the energies build and take on their own particular character. If the creation process is undertaken with care and love then that will probably be the feeling that home will finish up with. Its always important to start planning your design when you feel good about yourself and are in an enthusiastic state of mind. You can do some meditation to prepare yourself, go for a relaxing walk in nature or whatever works for you. There is powerful energy in this initiating phase and it is as if all the forces of the universe are there to assist you. But don't get side tracked, otherwise the creative energy will dissipate and it will be harder to continue, let alone complete the project. One client of mine used to love brooding over the designs I gave him for months. In spite of encouraging him to make a decision, two different projects fizzled out because of his inability to keep the project's momentum going and come into action. The final atmosphere of a home is also set in place by the quality of the relationships of the people involved in the creative process. If there is disharmony between the Owners, Builder and Architect then this will leave its residue in the space and fabric of the home. Its better if you can get people involved who have a good nature and communication skills. Temperamental so-called 'artistic' people can be a real downer for everyone and can leave you and your home depleted of vital energy. I once made the comment to a burly Builder who had just crawled out of a sub-floor of a heritage house that "they don't build houses with love like this anymore" to which he immediately protested " I'm building this with love !" Needless to say the Owners enjoyed a loving relationship in that house after the renovations were completed.

Another way to energies your home is with selective celebrations or rituals. This is a way of honoring your living space and empowering it with specific qualities and attributes. They may take the form of a ground-breaking ceremony before construction work commences, an inauguration at the completion of the work or a house warming party on first moving into the space. The good wishes and blessing of both owners and guests are significant in filling the home with good energy which ensures health, wealth and happiness for its occupants. All the ancient traditions give insights into such rituals but you can also make up your own. For the ground breaking ceremony of the Olympic Peace Pavilion in Centennial Park Sydney twenty people gathered on the site with flowers (jonquils) to form the shape of the completed structure. We then threw the flowers into the void of the shape to signify filling the project with spiritual fragrance. Each person then shared what vision they had of the pavilion. It felt as if the energy of those thoughts and words were secretly filling the structure which hadn't yet been created. Then on completion of the pavilion an inaguration ceremony was held which involved the cracking of coconuts on the threshold of the structure by special guests. This was to signify breaking the shell negativity and allowing water of love to flow. Many people commented on the feeling of calm and uplifting energy of the pavilion in operation and how they felt it was their spiritual home. For many people creating a personal living space can be a life long quest. However with the guidance of experienced architects and design professionals to help you along the way, the undertaking can be achieved with confidence and surety. You might just also achieve a bonus good health and fortune in your journey - what could be a greater lifestyle celebration. Back to Sacred Architecture.

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