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Kathleen Cox

Honor Your Soul at Work
by Kathleen Cox

Spirituality is rarely honored in the Western workplace. At best, a spiritual life is treated the same as a lunch break or workout at the gym. It is an activity crammed into stolen time. Work has become so dehumanized for most of us that we don’t even consider the workplace as a part of us. We don't claim it as our space in the way that we claim our homes. We think of work as a place where we "must" spend our time -- and we derive pleasure to the extent that the time passes quickly and is generally free of turbulence.

Rushing through work, however, often robs us of the pleasure that comes with the discovery of the solution to a difficult problem. The goal to finish whatever-now-no-matter-what consumes people, and strips work of meaning and strips us of our sense of self at work. Constant focus on the goal to finish also leads to mistakes, and worse—an overload of stress that does us absolutely no good.

So how do we change this? What do we do?

We not only acknowledge the soul in the workplace; we celebrate it—this sacred essence of our self. We reclaim our identity and we reclaim our work. We can do this by applying some important principles that form the foundation of Vastu Living: Creating a Home for the Soul. Vastu Living is the first adaptation of an ancient discipline from India that has been designed specifically for the contemporary Western lifestyle.

The Vedas and Vastu

Let’s take a momentary digression to learn a bit about the Vedas and this spiritual science called vastu, which is connected to yoga and ayurveda. The four Vedas, the sacred books of the Hindus, were codified and committed to writing possibly as early as 6000 years ago—maybe earlier. The dates are under dispute. The Vedas put forth the philosophy that the soul or the essence within us, that unique aspect of our self, is not alone. Our soul does not exist in a vacuum. We, meaning every creature and every aspect of this astonishing universe, are related and interconnected. We are all part of the Divine Creative Force that established this perfect cosmos. Everything that exists, therefore, shares this divinity and is worthy of our respect. This includes our individual self.

This spiritual philosophy binds together all the Vedic disciplines, including yoga, ayurveda, and this new (to many of us) ancient discipline of design and placement called vastu, which is the precursor to feng shui. All these Vedic sciences believe that in order to maintain health and wellness, we must maintain a healthy balance with the environment and within our self—our body, our soul, and our mind. To create balance we must also observe the rhythm and proper proportion that govern the laws of the universe. Balance, proportion, rhythm—these are the principles behind yoga and ayurveda, and vastu. These are the principles that help us discover and maintain physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

Brief Introduction to Vastu Living

Vastu Living is not an all or nothing science. If you can follow 50 percent or better of the Vastu Living guidelines, you are on the winning side. You will realize some healthy benefits in your work environment and work experience. Vastu Living is also not a quick fix. You need to tinker a bit to see the effect of each change that governs how you use your home or work space. You must try to respect the physical sacred center of every space—let it remain open and unencumbered—just the smallest part of the exact center. The sacred center collects spiritual energy and is similar to the womb, which is the source of our own creation. Ultimately, if you can embrace the philosophy of Vastu Living in your workplace, you can create a healthy home-away-from-home for your soul. Your work environment will feel better and will look better, too. It will celebrate your special self and the perfect universe.

Many concrete principles used in Vastu Living relate to the five elements. Many of these specific principles are influenced by an individual’s preferences and needs. The best direction to sit in and face at work, for instance, is determined to some extent by the nature of your work and your personal characteristics, including the particular balance of the elements within your own body. But there are some extremely useful Vastu Living principles that all of us can consider and apply at work so that we can shake off some of that awful stress and enjoy this chunk of life that takes up so much of our time.

Rethinking the Business of Work

Two important steps in your practice of Vastu Living relate to how you think about your workplace and your work. First, please don’t view your work space as temporary space that doesn’t belong to you. It is your space. It is where you work, so claim it for yourself. Yes, you may end up moving to another post within your company or taking another job elsewhere, but this is where you are working now and you must treat it with care. You must train your mind to think of your work space as sacred.

The second important step in Vastu Living is to learn how to work for your own satisfaction, not for the satisfaction of your boss or your company. Once you make this shift and begin to work for yourself, you will most likely find pleasure in your work—no matter what the work. You will also do better work. When you work for yourself, it is difficult to accept anything less than your best effort. Learning to believe that your work is your own is the second most important step that you can take toward the implementation of vastu living.

Celebrate Your Universe

Vastu Living also asks you to express your connection to all that exists in the universe by introducing nature into your workplace. Nature’s presence is soothing for your soul. If you happen to have a window with sunlight or decent overhead lighting, you can introduce a couple lovely plants and then take pleasure in caring for them—they are connected to you and this activity has a surprisingly therapeutic effect on you. If your work space doesn’t get much natural sunlight, add a bouquet of fresh or dried flowers or small wood or rattan boxes. Or put down an inexpensive jute area rug or a dhurrie (woven rug of cotton or wool or camel hair). Even your visitors and co-workers will feel comfortable when they enter your space that acknowledges our link to nature. Also celebrate the connection that exists between you and your loved ones. Showcase a couple of pictures or mementos that remind you of the powerful role that these people play in your life. Let their presence swirl around your space and be a reminder of your good fortune.

Make Room for Peace and Serenity

To give a boost to inner peace create an area for calm and reflection. Vastu Living calls this area a zone of tranquility. Even if you work in the tiniest cubicle or office, you can dedicate a small space to a shallow vase with flower petals floating on water or a glass jar filled with glistening pebbles or a terra cotta dish filled with sand and seashells that are soothing to touch. If you place this zone in the northeast, you face the gateway of the gods, which gives you positive energy. In the east, you are the beneficiary of enlightenment, and the morning sun if you have a window. In the north, you receive spiritual wealth.

Your zone of tranquility should be so appealing that you can look at it and clear your head whenever you are frustrated. Help yourself to a tranquility break, perhaps instead of a coffee break. You can recharge by focusing on nothing but your breathing for five minutes, which is superior to a recharge on caffeine. It works. You’ll return to work with positive energy, not just coffee jitters.

Honor the Divine Essence

When you incorporate Vastu Living into your personal work space, you will have an ambience that welcomes you as soon as you step inside—again, even if your workplace is the tiniest cubicle. The space is warm and familiar because it represents you and your divinity. Positive energy circulates so that you are energized and can focus on your work. You will increase your sense of satisfaction if you: 1) accept the belief that it is important to work slowly, 2) enjoy each stage of the process, and 3) find comfort in the work that you are doing now.

Giving yourself permission to take breaks to empty your mind calms you and leaves you reinvigorated. The acknowledgment of nature keeps you connected to the outside world. Your soul becomes aware of everything that pulsates along with you. The harmony and positive energy that come with a Vastu Living work space reduce the stress that far too often colors our work experience.

When your space reinforces Vastu Living and the importance of tranquility, work cannot overcome you. During the course of your moments of reflection, you will probably discover or remember, sooner or later, that your work or your career does not define you. Work is an important part of us all, but it is not ALL of us. What matters most is you: your unique being, a divine part of the Supreme Creator.

This article is based on an excerpt from Vastu Living: Creating a Home for the Soul by Kathleen Cox. The publisher is  Marlowe & Company, June 2000.

Kathleen Cox is the author of Vastu Living: Creating a Home for the Soul, the first book on vastu published in the United States and the first book on vastu geared for the contemporary Western lifestyle.

Kathleen Cox is a journalist who first visited India in 1985 and lived in New Delhi throughout the 1990s. She has traveled throughout the subcontinent and has served as a consultant for the private sector and Government of India.

She has written extensively about India's culture, and business development for the United States and India for major publications. She was the principle contributor to many successive editions of Fodor's: India and is the author of Fodor's: Himalayan Countries--Bhutan, Nepal, North India, North Pakistan, Tibet.

Kathleen Cox has been researching Vedic traditions for the past decade. She started her formal vastu education in 1997 and studied with a prominent Indian architect and vastu scholars.

Vastu Living will be a Fall selection in the One Spirit book club. Visit her web site: www.vastuliving.com

Visit Kathleen's website at:




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