Feng shui is known as the Chinese Art of Placement. It’s the practice of arranging your environment to enhance your life. Every culture has some version of this. In India, the practice is known as vastu. There are many similarities between vastu and feng shui. Both practices come down to energy or creating balance and harmony in your environment that is then reflected in your life.
Key Principles of Feng Shui
A key principle is that everything is alive, everything is connected, and everything is always changing. Chi or prana is life force or energy. It’s an invisible force that is always around us. The objective of feng shui is to attract good chi into your environment and to enable it to meander throughout wherever you spend time.
A second principle is that your environment mirrors your inner self. You can create inner peace, serenity and prosperity for yourself by living and working in environments that:
- are comfortable and safe
- are comprised of things you love
- reflect your personality in a creative way, and
- are clutter-free and well organized.
Swaswara certainly met these measures!
What I Noticed Along the Way
I arrived at Swaswara after a three-hour ride from our hotel in Goa to Om Beach in Gokarna, Karnataka in southwestern India. I was told the journey would be bumpy, dusty, hot and long. I enjoyed the glimpses of local life as we moved along from village to village. I found the sites to be colorful, vibrant and loud.
Coming from NH’s cold winter, the heat felt good. The loud buzz came from motor scooters, cars and trucks and people. It was a holiday weekend. Color was everywhere … green trees against the dusty earth, beautiful flowers, trees and bushes, brightly colored homes and buildings women wearing colorful saris, vivid cars and buses. I found that big splashes of green, pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, blue, brown delighted my senses.
First Impressions are Lasting
The moment I arrived at Swaswara I felt welcomed and nurtured. Staff was on hand to meet us, take our luggage to our villas, and introduce us to the setting and program. A delicious lunch was also waiting.
The earthen buildings are quite pleasing. They’re constructed from local laterite or red clay that is hardened into bricks, with thatched-type roofs. There are 24 spacious villas, each with a beautiful center courtyard.
Each villa also has ample room to stretch out and relax during your stay. The bedrooms have two walls of glass doors. You can choose to sleep with air-conditioning or open the doors to the screens, sleeping with fresh air as you also listen to the ocean, birds and monkeys and other sounds. A second story provides added room for reading, napping, doing yoga, watching the monkeys and viewing stars.
The bathroom is also partially open to the air. There’s enough cover to stay dry during monsoon season (May – September) and open sky to view the sun, clouds, moon and stars.
Aside from the 23 villas, the reception and welcome area also houses a business office, the library, the main kitchen and dining room; the Ayurveda Center with many treatment rooms, a meditation hut and a large yoga center with the art studio on a lower level.
Swaswara is an eco-retreat. Nature is integrated into the living and working spaces and the grounds are well attended, using pesticide-free methods. The spaces are simple, clean and comfortable, blending into the natural environment via color, shape (lots of curves) and texture. The primary paint or stain is reddish-brown, the color of the earth. Some of the walls are white-washed.
The outside grounds include a large swimming pool, a second meditation area that overlooks Om Beach, winding stairs as well as a gradual walkway that leads to Om Beach and a beach-side kitchen and dining area. Strolling the grounds is a sensual treat. The buildings blend into the setting that is framed by the ocean, trees and distant mountains. You continuously hear birds and the chatter of monkeys. Bougainvillea is abundant, and the flower petals are used in the daily flower mandalas. The fragrance of the flowers and trees is quite pleasing. The many trees and plants are identified with tags, so you can learn as you go along.
Feng Shui Features
Some of the many feng shui features include:
- Lots of curves … the buildings, roof-lines, walkways and paths.
- Soothing colors … the bounty of nature blends together.
- Views of nature all around … the buildings open to the natural environment.
- A variety of textures … building materials, flora and fauna, the food.
- Natural fibers … Cotton is the primary fabric: bedroom drapes, bed and bath linens, yoga suits and robes. Sisal mats are used in the bedroom.
- Many spaces to relax and stretch out … inside and out.
- Pleasing sounds … the ocean waves, the birds, even the holiday traffic and revelers.
- Delicious, colorful meals that resemble a piece of art when presented.
Next month I’ll discuss how these features translate into the five elements.