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09 Aug

Serenity finds a home

Sacred space can inhabit a quiet, uncluttered corner or a specially designed room
by Gary Soulsman
The News Journal
When Kate Walsh graduated from college and launched a career, her parents turned her bedroom into a space for meditation and yoga.

Jim and Zina Walsh of surburban Newark kept a daybed for Kate’s visits home, but they took down the Cal Ripken posters and painted over the stencils of ballet slippers.

They made the walls a soothing misty green and added meditation cushions, a yoga mat, Tibetan prayer flags and a statue of the Buddha. “It’s really a work in progress, ” Jim says.

Yoga teacher Beth Shaw encourages people to carve out such a space, even in the tiniest apartment. She did that once in a shoebox-sized New York apartment. She once made a meditation room in a kitchen garbage closet with what she found around her home.

“It can be done anywhere,” says Shaw, founder of YogaFit, a nationwide yoga training program with headquarters in Redondo Beach, Calf.

In places such as Los Angeles, the spiritual has blended with decorating to such an extent that a new hybrid had developed — the lifestyle designer. Lissa Coffey is one such designer, advising clients that a home feels better “when there is some sacred space included in the design.”

It’s because of our harried lives, she says. “Having places where we can retreat to a little bit of silence gives us balance,” she writes in an e-mail.

She maintains that altars are easy — all you need is a flat surface, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. “Add a scarf, some candles and some items that are meaningful and you’ve got your own little corner of serenity,” Coffey says.

Walsh created such an alter in a meditation room with a chest, scarf and a Buddha. Some of the objects he already owned, others he and Zina purchased at Pier 1 Imports.

Walsh has meditated for more than 20 years, his experience teaching him that the practice is giving a greater sense of choice and flexibility in how to react in each moment. He is a Catholic and says meditation has enhanced his sense of connection to others during the celebration of the Eucharist.

He is also a faculty member at Wilmington College, as well as a pastorial counselor and, in these rols, often recommends meditation to others.

“Staying sane is often a matter of having things like mediation and a refuge to go to,” he says.

Jose Ramirez of Avondale, Pa., has devoted an upstairs room in his home to his meditation practice, too. Ramirez is abbout of the Delaware Valley Zen Center in Newark, and he can be found in his meditation room most mornings.

“I tell people that Zen is a way of understanding yourself,” he says. “It’s a way of spending time with whatever comes up.”

An incense burner is lit before a statue of Buddha in Jose Ramirez’s meditation space.

When their daughter graduated college, Jim and Zina Walsh turned her bedroom into a meditation room.

Salley “Sara” Hostelley added yurt to her Wilmington back yard. She uses the space for yoga, meditation and other quiet activities.

A sculpture posted on a tree alerts visitors to the yurt of the importance of quiet.

Double windows seem to bring nearby trees indoors and make the room inviting. In his home, Ramirez sits before an altar with a beautiful gold Buddha. It was sculpted in the Korean Zen style, the style in which Ramirez has been trained. The sculpture shows the Buddha, awakened to his own true nature, after a long spiritual quest.

“If you sit every day for just 10 minutes, you see what it’s like to be sad, angry or neutral in an environment where you don’t have to react.”

Another person who has taken time to create a setting for spiritual practice is Sally “Sara” Hostelley. Seven years ago, she was wondering how to create this space in her Wilmington home when a friend suggested she look into building a circular domed dwelling. In some parts of the world, such dwellings are known as yurts.

Hostelley found that Oregon Yurtworks had modular yurts of many sizes, and they could be assembled in about a day. Since purchasing the $10,275 cedar-shake yurt it’s proved a handy and inviting retreat.

The yurt is 19 feet in diameter and brings in plenty of light. A skylight and windows allow her to feel close to nature.

Hostelley has held mettings of her women’s spiritual growth group in the yurt, which is a short walk to the back of the property. When she’s there alone, she has a variety of activities she turns to — meditation, prayer, reading, working with her balance ball or yoga.

“Many people tell me it’s a treat to come here,” she says. “They see it as a way to escape the pressures of everyday life and find a moment of serenity.”

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09 Aug

Say It With Flowers!

I like gardens that are family friendly and “hands-on,” where you can step outside and clip a bouquet for the kitchen table anytime you want to! Here are some ideas to help you get started creating your own cutting garden.

-Prepare the area:
Look for a sunny, well-drained area to plant your garden. Work in lots of compost and some slow release fertilizer to prepare the soil for planting.

-Choose your flowers:
Which flowers do you prefer? Think in terms of size and color, and look for what grows best in your climate. Long-stemmed flowers tend to make the best cutting flowers for arrangements, so keep that in mind. You might also want to add in a few foliage plants for texture and color.

-Group your plants:
Plan which plants go where by grouping plants with similar sun, water, and drainage requirements together. Flowers tend to look better when they are grouped together, rather than mixed up.

-Plant and maintain:
Water plants with about one inch of water per week. Remove faded blossoms periodically. Check for aphids and other insects, which are attracted to flowering plants. Give plants a dose of organic liquid fertilizer every once in awhile.

-Clip and display!
Pick blossoms regularly and plants will continue to bloom throughout the summer. The more flowers you cut, the more you’ll have! When cutting flowers, snip each stem at an angle, using sharp shears. Place cut ends in water immediately. Once indoors, cut off another quarter inch of stem and remove all the leafy growth below the water line. Keep flowers fresher, longer, by adding some lemon-lime soda and a drop or two of chlorine bleach to the water. Change water daily, and make sure no leaves or buds are under water to decay.

Tradition says that each flower has a special meaning, so think about the language of flowers when you are giving and receiving this gift:

Alstroemeria – friendship
Alyssum – worth beyond beauty
Amaryllis – pride
Anemone – anticipation
Aster – patience
Bird of Paradise – joyfulness
Bluebell – constancy
Bouvardia – enthusiasm
Calla lily – magnificent beauty
Carnation – fascination
Chrysanthemum – fidelity
Cornflower – great happiness
Crocus – cheerfulness
Daffodil – chivalry
Daisy – innocence
Forget-Me-Not – memories, farewell
Freesia – innocence
Gardenia – secret love
Gerbera Daisy – beauty
Gladiolus – sincerity
Honeysuckle – generous affection
Hydrangea – heartfelt
Iris – my compliments
Jasmine – amiability]
Jonquil – love me
Larkspur – levity
Lilac – first love
Lily – majesty
Magnolia – nobility
Orange blossoms – innocence
Orchid – refinement
Ranunculus – radiant
Rose – love
Snapdragon – desire
Sunflower – cheerfulness
Sweetpea – farewell
Tulip – declaration of love

Colors give added meaning to flowers:
Red- love, respect, passion, courage
Pink – perfect happiness, gentility, grace, admiration
Yellow – friendship, joy, zeal
White – innocence, purity, secrecy
Peach/Orange – enthusiasm, sweetness, modesty
Purple – faithfulness, passion, hope

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22 Jul

Relationship Altars

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate LOVE!  One way to do that is with a Relationship Altar.  Altars are in important feature used in Dosha Design.  A Relationship Altar can be used to enhance the relationship that you’re in, or to draw to you the relationship you desire.  An altar is a beautiful addition to any room, and helps to focus our intentions.  Some tips for creating your relationship altar:
-Include representations of each of the five elements (air, space, fire, water, and earth)
-Include the colors yellow and blue.
-Include an offering tray, with personal and meaningful items.
-Include items in pairs: two fish, two birds, two hearts – these are all symbolic of successful relationships.
-Include items which represent love to you:  photographs, flowers, hearts.
-Activate your altar by lighting a candle or incense on the altar.  Ring a bell to purify the energy in the environment and focus the mind on the present moment.
-Spend some time each day in front of your altar meditating or simply lighting the candle and giving attention to your intention.

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22 Jul

Dosha Design tips!

1.  De-clutter!  You will feel much more comfortable, and your guests will feel much more at ease, in a room that is clean and clear.  This means basically:  put the “stuff” away!  Invest in a closer organizer and use it.  For good Feng Shui, keep closet doors closed.

2.  Think of a purpose for each room.  A living room is for living, socializing, entertaining.  Make sure you have the space set up for that.  Set aside areas for conversation, with tables nearby for drinks and snacks.  For maximum efficiency and comfort, a coffee table should be placed 18 inches from the couch or chair.

3.  Use color.  A well designed room will have one or two dominant colors and an accent color.  A room with too many colors will be confusing and make you feel unsettled.  A monochromatic room will feel dull and boring.

4.  Use artwork.  Artwork adds a lot of color and personality to a room.  And it doesn’t have to be expensive!  You can frame a favorite poster, or create your own masterpiece with canvas and paint.

5.  Plants add a lot of life to the room.  Live plants are great because they help to keep the air fresh.  But if you’re prone to killing plants, you might choose the ease of a silk plant or flower arrangement instead.  When it gets dusty, simply rinse off and allow to dry in the sun.

6.  Keep framed photos of friends and family.  This helps to remind us of what is important in life, our relationships!  A group of pictures displayed on a table makes for a great conversation piece.  Choose complementary, rather than matching, frames to add visual interest.

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08 Dec

Ancient Design for Modern Times

Can moving around some furniture really change your life? Absolutely! According to the ancient Asian sages, there are three main factors that influence our lives and our path to success. The first is our birth date, time and place. From this information our astrological chart is configured, and we can see the affect of the stars and planets. The second is our heritage, our family tree. Because of genetics and DNA, we basically inherit some of the traits in our lineage. The third factor is our environment, the space in which we live and work. Since there is really nothing we can do about changing our birthday or our family, it makes sense that we would pay attention to our environment and look for ways that we can use it to create success for ourselves. Vastu is India’s 5,000 year old science of architecture and placement. It is from these ancient design principles that Feng Shui evolved. Vastu explains that by aligning with the five natural elements (space, air, fire, water and earth) we can bring harmony and abundance to our home, our office, and our life. This is a very holistic approach. When we enter a space and immediately feel comfortable, there’s a reason for it: the beneficial energies are working to support the purpose of the space. Modern architecture tends to focus on the functionality and practicality of a space and sometimes nature gets set aside. But we can use Vastu to help bring balance back into the picture. Here are a few tips: -Clutter creates stress. Use screens, cabinets and closets to keep things organized, or at least hidden away from view. -Keep a clear path in a room from the door to the most used pieces of furniture. -Do not use too many colors in any one room. Use tints and shades of just a few colors instead. -Incorporate natural materials into your structure wherever possible: wood, cotton, stone, glass, and cork, for example.

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28 May

How Does Your Garden Grow

Children are fascinated by nature, they’re drawn to it. Why? Because that is where we come from, that is who we are – and parents can learn from that! Too often we feel disconnected with nature – we’re plugged into our computers and voice mail systems, and may not get to see the sunshine for days at a time! Enough of that… there are lots of ways that kids and parents can be true to our own nature, and appreciate the beauty of nature all around us.

We all share this planet, and we are all connected. It is wonderful to teach kids to appreciate nature, and to appreciate each other.

Many children’s stories feature animals in the lead roles. When you read to your child, this is a good time to talk about how important animals are to us, and how intelligent animals are because they are true to their own nature. Pose questions like: How do they know how to do the things they do? The same way that we know to be kind and loving, and help other people, it’s our nature.

In the story of Ferdinand the Bull, by Munro Leaf, Ferdinand loved to sit quietly and smell the flowers. He was not “bullied” into fighting like the other bulls, he was just himself, he was true to his nature.

If you have pets, you can look at their behavior as an example. Cats live in the present moment. They’re not fretting about the past or worrying about the future. That’s a good lesson that they can teach us!

Gardening, of course. Telescopes to look at the stars. Recycling. Trips to farms, ranches, forests, the beach. Visiting or volunteering at an animal shelter. Take a cue from what interests your child and head in that direction: whales, monkeys, exotic flowers, pine trees, insects, planets, wolves, whatever it happens to be… “nature” covers a lot of territory!

At the Santa Barbara zoo, there is a program called “Foster Feeders” where you can “adopt” an animal for the price of food for one year. I adopted two fruit bats for my sons one year, they named them (Donatello and Raphael after
the Ninja Turtles, you can tell we’ve had them a long time now!), and we go and visit them on weekends. They have learned a lot about bats and their contribution to nature, and have been able to pass this knowledge on to their

Some teachers have pooled class money and adopted animals as a class project. The larger the animal, the more it costs generally, depending on what they eat. Lions cost more than elephants! The class studies the animal, and the teacher works the lessons in to other subjects, art, geography, science, etc. It’s all connected!


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28 May

Vastu – Harmonious Home Decor Tips from Ancient India!

Just as we have relationships with other people, we also have a relationship with our environment. We are all connected to each other and to the universe at the same time. Our environments are an extension of ourselves, and we feel better and function more efficiently when we are in harmony with our environment. When your house is in order, the “outer” part of yourself, then you can focus your attention to your inner world. The spiritual journey really is an exploration of both the inner and the outer.

Ayurveda comes from the Vedic texts of India. In this same philosophy, there is a “science of architecture” known as vastu. The word vastu means “a dwelling or site.” Vastu is a blend of science and spirituality that gives us guidelines for enhancing our environments so we can create a space where we can live and work happily and productively. When we are happy with where we spend our time, our relationships with the people we spend our time with will be better, too!

Vastu has actually been around a lot longer than feng shui, and is believed to be the inspiration for it.

Both Ayurveda and vastu are based on the idea that the five elements (air, space, fire, water, and earth) are within us and all around us. In Vedic symbolism, the square represents the cosmos; it is the perfect form.

To be more in tune with nature and its intelligence, bring nature indoors wherever possible. Besides plants and trees, items that are made naturally are also recommended. For example, clay pots, cotton rugs, woven baskets, shells, and fresh flowers all help to remind us of our connection with nature. Desktop fountains help to bring in the element of water. Scented candles bring in the element of fire. Open some windows in the morning to let in fresh air.

Quiet Space
It’s always nice to have an area set aside in your home for quiet and meditation. In India, these are called “Puja” rooms, or prayer rooms. This is a place where you can just relax and find inner peace. Additionally, within each room of your home, it is good to have a small area set aside to remind you of your connection with the Divine. This can be a shelf filled with figurines or spiritual sayings, an altar, or a special painting. Use whatever it is that is meaningful for you.

Clutter in your environment creates clutter in your mind. You can’t think as clearly or function as efficiently as you could in an orderly environment. Vastu recommends that clutter be kept to a minimum. Closet doors and bathroom doors should remain closed at all times. Keep drawers and cupboards closed as well to avoid a feeling of clutter. Keep hallways clear so you can move about freely.

Books represent knowledge and are a wonderful addition to the home. Keep books neatly arranged, and honor their presence. When books are accessible and easy to find, they are more likely to be read.

Photographs of family help to personalize your space. Displaying pictures that remind you of loved ones and happy memories will bring good energy to a room. Artwork that your children make for you is also good to have around.

Rather than using chemicals, which contain toxins or unpleasant odors, vastu recommends that we use natural products to clean our environments and our bodies. Clothing made of natural fabrics is better for our skin than synthetic blends. Wonderful organic products for the bathroom, such as lotions, scrubs, and oils, are now readily available

Aromatherapy, balancing fragrances:

  • vanilla
  • orange
  • lavender
  • pine


  • rose
  • jasmine
  • sandalwood
  • peppermint


  • cinnamon
  • basil
  • eucalyptus
  • musk

Create a space where you can sit outdoors and enjoy nature. Get a comfortable chair where you can relax in the evening air after a long day at work. Hang a bird feeder outside your kitchen window. Plant flowers that attract butterflies and other wildlife. Start an herb garden that you can use when cooking. Put a pool, pond, or fountain in the northeast corner of your yard so you can reap the benefits of the element of water.
Above all, make your home comfortable. Fill it with things that you love and that are meaningful to you. This is a place where you should want to be, a place that reflects who you are.


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08 May

Merging His Space/Her Space

When merging two households, think “her space,” “his space,” and “our space.”

Start with “Our Space.” This means the kitchen, living/family room, laundry room and storage areas. In this space you don’t want to duplicate anything, so first take inventory of what you have. Give away or sell any duplicate items like bread machines or blenders. Register for any items that you both want but neither of you have. If you have two sets of casual dinnerware, and would love a more formal set for entertaining, give away one of the casual sets and register for the good china.

In the bedroom: Who sleep on which side of the bed? Who wants to be closer to the bathroom? Who wants to have the phone on his/her side? Do you really need two alarm clocks? Maybe register for one really nice one with a CD player in it that you both can use. Less clutter is good feng shui! The upper right hand corner is the relationship corner. Make sure this is kept orderly, and enhance chi with plants and crystals to strengthen the relationship.

In the living/family area – decide on which major pieces you want to keep, and build your decorating scheme around those. Wood pieces last longer and can be refinished. Upholstered pieces, if quality, can be recovered – but generally it is less expensive to just replace them once the fabric fades or gets worn out. When deciding what to keep and what to dispense with, keep pets in mind. Will Smoky’s black cat hair make that modern white couch look dinghy? Make sure that there is some continuity to the overall design. Fraternity beer steins looks out of place next to English tea pots. Whatever doesn’t work in “our space” can find a home in “his space” or “her space.” (Usually it’s “his space!”)

Laundry room: Think FUNCTION. You’ll want hanging space and storage space – keep cleaning supplies behind closed doors. Whose iron is in better shape? Could you use a steamer iron? Keep the most energy efficient washer and dryer, sell or donate the others.

Storage: Less is more! Get rid of everything you can. Remember that you will accumulate things over the years, this is only the beginning! How do you divide up the closet space? Invest in closet organizers and make use of every square inch! Store off-season clothes in another closet, or get a wardrobe storage unit for the garage.

“His space” and “Her space”: Do one or both of you work at home? How much room do you need for computers, files, office equipment? You may want to register for something you both need but don’t have, like a fax machine, or a laser printer that you can network with your computers. Do one or both of you work out at home? Where will the equipment go? Who will use what? Maybe you want to register for some light-weights, or a pilates reformer! Do you each have a bathroom or can you divvy up the one that you have? Are their two sinks and adequate storage for his shaving stuff, her make-up? How about registering for a two-person shower head, or a jet machine to turn your bathtub into a jacuzzi spa!


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