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Yesterday, friends, I continued a cleaning exercise I started earlier in the week and reorganized my bedroom- shook things up a bit. One practice I was careful to focus on was the placement of our bed- away from the window, away from mirrors, head to the South, feet to the North, etc. This is a vastu shastra or feng shui design practice I learned from my mom growing up, though I don't think she knew anything about vastu shastra or feng shui, at least not directly.
Yogapedia, describes vastu shastra as the yoga of design, explaining that it is a Sanskrit term that translates to the science of architecture.
"It incorporates many architectural design ideas, such as space, arrangement, layout and measurements... Buildings constructed using the principles of vastu shastra are said to provide a healthier living space and a better energy balance."
Wikipedia explains that vastu shastra are texts on the traditional Indian system of architecture. Vastu shastra designs "aim to integrate architecture with nature".
According to Wikipedia, feng shui or Chinese geomancy "is an ancient Chinese traditional practice which claims to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment."
The National Geographic describes it as "an ancient Chinese art of arranging buildings, objects, and space in an environment to achieve harmony and balance."
The term feng shui, loosely translated, means the way of wind and water or fluid. According to Taoist belief, chi or Qi, the life force that inhabits everything, is the universe's cosmic energy made up of yin and yang elements, opposing but complementary forces that cannot be separated, which trace the same patterns as wind and water. It was believed that by practicing feng shui, people invite positive chi: good health, positive relationships, luck and prosperity.
In the 2019 Healthline article, What the principles of Feng Shui and Vastu Shastra Say about Sleep Direction, Kristeen Cherney wrote, "The recommended sleeping direction per vastu shastra is that you lie down with your head pointed southward."
Cherney explains that according to this principle, "The human head is considered to have a polar-like attraction, and it needs to face southward to attract opposite poles while you sleep."
Vastu shastra also recommends avoiding mirrors facing the front of the bed and decluttering your bedroom among other things.
Feng shui recommends decluttering, putting your bed on the opposite side of the doorway, against the wall but not underneath windows, away from mirrors in the direct line of sight, and keeping electronics out.
When my mother taught me these design principles, she didn't know anything about feng shui or vastu shastra. Yet she told me that lying north to south was the position of the dead and placing mirrors in the direct line of sight of your bed exposes you to "jumbies" (a Caribbean term for evil spirits).
Interestingly enough, among Hindus, I believe, a dead body is positioned with its head in the North as it is believed that the soul exits the body through the north.
Similarly, feng shui recommends moving your bed out of the line of sight of mirrors so that you aren't shown reflections in your sleep.
Of course, my mother may not have realized that her beliefs were so influenced or maybe she inherited her beliefs about bedroom design from her mom who may have been the one exposed to and influenced by these ancient Asian design beliefs. Who knows? It wouldn't be surprising because in my country, Trinidad and Tobago, we boast of a mix of cultures. Our country and culture is relatively young and draws upon a mix of Native Amerindians/ First Peoples, Europeans, West Africans, Asians, Syrians etc. And so, in this instance, there's no dismissing the powerful influence the Asian communities (Chinese and East Indian) have had on local beliefs and practices.
And so, to conclude, my friends, while I know modernist thought sometimes shrugs off ancient tradition because maybe we'd say that it can't be proved by scientific thought- at least until it is- I've learned, particularly as I grow older, that sometimes while older generations may not have had the tools at their disposal that we do, they were definitely onto things that we're not. And besides, it doesn't hurt to turn my bed- head to the South, feet to the North.