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Eat Pray Love, and What India Taught Me about Feng Shui

Walking out of the movie Eat Pray Love the other night, I was flooded with memories of my time living in an ashram in India. Since it was the same ashram that Elizabeth Gilbert writes of in her book, I couldn’t help comparing the film’s portrayal with my own experience (for the record, the actual ashram is much more beautiful than the one in the movie!). 

It was the late 90’s and I was working with a charitable organization that was providing food and medical care to families in rural India. There were plans to build a small hospital in an impoverished area, and what really intrigued me was that, in addition to architects and builders, there was a third key group of people involved in the design: Brahmin Priests.

The priests were there to ensure that the newly constructed space would be built in accordance with the laws of nature; that harmony was promoted between the new building, the surrounding environment, and the patients who would be served.  The priests were practicing what is called Vastu Shastra (often referred to as simply Vastu). Considered by many to be the Indian version of Feng Shui, Vastu is built on some of the same principles of Feng Shui, such as aligning the five elements of nature, and allowing easy flow of Chi energy (which they call Prana).


I particularly remember watching a groundbreaking ceremony, where the construction workers would not lift a shovel until the Brahmin Priest blessed the soil and asked for the protection of the earth. The reverence that the workers had for the land was palpable.

When I returned to the U.S. I began to research Vastu, and eventually determined that Feng Shui was an even more complete system. Using calculations based on centuries of study, the Chinese had taken the science of earth energies to another level. My personal theory is that Feng Shui is an evolution of the principles of Vastu, (like many philosophies that originated in India, this one eventually migrated to other places and cultures).  I eventually began studying Feng Shui with a Chinese master, and went to school for Interior Design, which allowed me to take Feng Shui to its furthest application: creating entire spaces that blend powerful Feng Shui seamlessly into their design.

To this day, I still attribute my career as a Feng Shui Designer with my time spent in that ashram in India. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have experienced the power that is present in such a holy environment. It taught me to experience that same power in all spaces, be it a New York City skyscraper, a suburban American home, or a humble medical center on a dusty road in India.


1 Linda K. { 08.18.10 at 3:41 am }

Inspiring story, Reiko … What a fufilling experience it must have been for you to work with a charitable organization that provided food and medical care to families in need in India. Interesting learning about Brahmin Priests,Vastu, and how similar the practice is to Feng Shui.

2 Vickimgivens { 08.18.10 at 8:54 pm }

What a nice memory for you to have living in the Ashram in India. Many of us dream about doing something special like this but you actually went for it and it’s an experience you’ll always have.

3 Secretary Course { 09.01.12 at 4:26 am }

Awesome post.Thanks for sharing your experience with us.I like this.Keep it up.

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