Tag Archives: Feng Shui

Feng Shui is not…

I am in the process of reading an ebook of a holistic nature.  I did’t get past the first page before I decided to write a post to clarify what Feng Shui is and isn’t – from my own words.  The book mentioned that Feng Shui is a superstition.  It most certainly is not.  It’s not even a belief or a religion.  Official definitions aside, Feng Shui means not living in a junk heap.  It means living in a space that serves you.
Living in a space filled with so much clutter you can’t move without tripping over something not only doesn’t serve you, it’s likely an indication of your mental and/or emotional health.

Someone who hangs on to every scrap of everything ever given to them, either because they might use it some day or because someone gave it to them as a gift is living in a state of internal poverty.

Using the principles of Feng Shui, one can create a space that serves by providing a peaceful space to rest (bedroom), relax (family room), entertain (living room), congregate (kitchen and/or dining room), maintain health (bathroom), and organize (garage, closets, basements).

Note I said principles.  Guidelines.  Not belief.  You don’t have to be superstitious to know that tripping over toys in the driveway will result in frustration, if not injury.  You don’t have to be religious to enjoy living in a clean organized environment.

Organized will be different for different personality types.  Ask any creative type.  However, there is a difference between creative organization and total mess.

In a way, I can understand why some Westerners associate the principles of Feng Shui with some spiritual philosophy.  The people who first began teaching its principles didn’t express themselves in modern day scientific terms.  They may have discussed cures to ward off negative energy , bad spirit feeling, or ley lines.

Those could be early ways of describing viral and bacterial diseases (there is a great emphasis on clean bathrooms), and EMFs; specifically, the electromagnetic frequencies that come out of geologic fault lines.

I’ve written extensively on how these ultra low frequencies can cause a myriad of devastating health symptoms.  In my book Riding the Waves: Diagnosing, Treating, and Living with EMF Sensitivity, I write about how Feng Shui cures were helpful in relieving my symptoms.  That is no coincidence.  The ancient Chinese people lived close to the land, in harmony with their environment.  They understood what was going on even if they did’t articulate it the way someone born in the late 20th century might.

Another reason I can understand someone associating belief with Feng Shui is because of how quickly and dramatically it can work.  Perhaps someone is praying for improvement in a certain area of one’s life.  They turn to Feng Shui, hoping it can fix the issue.  It isn’t the furniture moving about that brings about change, it’s the change.  That change mirrors what is going on within an individual, just as living in a junk heap does.

When someone takes control of their environment and implements – gasp – change, they should not be surprised when the areas they were hoping to improve do so.  It wasn’t because of a prayer or belief but because of an action married to that belief.  Action.  Internal and external.

An example.  I recently noticed I was having to deal with an incredible amount of emotional baggage.  I felt as if I’d opened a closet door and a bunch of skeletons had collapsed on me.  I struggled to keep my head above water, baffled by the sudden and intense shift in mental and emotional energy, until I happened to look at my living room.  It’s in the Knowledge and Self-Cultivation area of the Bagua Map.  We’d just completed a rather intense overhaul/reorganization using the principles of Feng Shui.  Suddenly, it all made sense.

Was it the way we rearranged the furniture?  Was it removing a few candles because there was too much fire element?  Nope.  It was clearing out various items that no longer served us.  Items that reminded us of earlier times in our lives, unfinished mental or emotional housecleaning, and loose ends in terms of growth.  It fostered deep conversations and a hell of a lot of soul searching.  It totally made sense, not because I believed “Oh, I’m going to start going through a lot of emotional transformation because I tweaked the K & SC area of my home,” but because in clearing, donating, or relocating various items, I was inspired, if on an unconscious level, to address old issues.

I have to admit, it was swift and overwhelming, which made me consider somehow tweaking the area to calm the situation down, but I refrained.  For one, simply acknowledging I needed to give myself a break influenced me to give myself one.  Secondly, I don’t have some superstitious association with my living room.  It’s just a place I hang out periodically.  That it’s neat and filled with furniture I love is great – but how else would I have it?  I’m not going to furnish it with stuff I hate.

It reflects my desire to have a place where company can feel comfortable and my kids want to play.  It’s a place where my husband and I can sit at night and talk quietly if we want.  It isn’t a museum where people are afraid to sit.  That this all fits in with Feng Shui philosophies has nothing to do with superstition or religion or prayer or belief.

Feng Shui principles can dramatically improve the circumstances of one’s life as they mirror the changes and growth someone is in the process of making.  The effects can be both dramatic and quick, in great part because the internal changes were already in progress.  The outward organization is a physical manifestation of what was already inside of you.

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Feng Shui is not a one time deal

I recently completed Feng Shui course work.  My husband was looking for a new job and I was in the midst of career planning so I decided to focus my efforts on these goals. To my delight, but not surprise, within weeks of completing the assignments, he landed the perfect job with a great company, and I was able to move forward with new projects of my own.

Including the release of Amplifying the Waves: The Role of Electromagnetic Pollution in EMF Sensitivity and the soon to be released Tequila Hangover.

Shortly after achieving our objectives, I realized changes were needed.  The cures and enhancements put in place to help anchor opportunities would soon bring stagnant energy if I didn’t make small but significant changes.

Key word small.

By simply swapping out a photo and moving a tabletop fountain, I shifted the energy in a way that would still support our career goals yet not hold us back.

I’ve been successfully working with Feng Shui since finding Terah Kathryn Collins’ The Western Guide to Feng Shui Room by Room at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore back in 1996.  I continue to see the valuable role Feng Shui principles play in achieving goals.  I also see the need to continue tweaking cures and enhancements to ensure that the very tools that help do not harm.

I suggest periodically revisiting your Feng Shui efforts to see if they are in line with your current goals.  Small changes can yield big rewards.

 

 

Does Feng Shui Work? Definitely, and… (3)

Involve others.
Feng shui is a family affair around our house.  From the time the kids were able, I included them in making decisions about their rooms.  I may have chosen the colors, but the decorations (Tinker Bell Lamp instead of Pooh-Bear) were up to them.  I found, however, that they were naturals at helping out with feng shui in all the rooms.  Especially after I explained what we were doing.

Keep it neat. I explained the importance of having little, if any, clutter.  Instead of telling them the chi was flowing smoothly through our home, I pointed out that I wouldn’t fall and hurt myself if I didn’t trip over a random toy left out.  I also found that the kids like it when things are neat and clean.  Even though they may have their own ideas about organization (such as if it’s on the floor, it’s organized), in general, they have been terrific little companions in the finer points of feng shui.

Someone else can use it.  When we bought our house in California, I was determined to park our car in the garage and not on the street like most of the home owners, who used their garages the way Midwesterners use basements.  Unfortunately, having an older home like we did, storage wasn’t something we had a lot of.  Even with my habit of regularly purging our belongings, without that basement, I found myself in a bind.

A life changing event paved the way for monumental change.  We had just moved in and it quickly became obvious that we had too much stuff to fit in our house.  I pulled out the yellow pages and found a nearby shelter that accepted small furniture and appliances as well as clothes and toys and other items.  I helped pack up the car and waved good-bye to my husband as he drove away, Internet directions in hand.  When he returned, he was a changed man.

“You have to see this place.  There are people living there and they came right up and took the stuff immediately.  No middle man.” 

From that day forward, that shelter was our prime recipient for our frequent donation trips.  Since young children outrgrow toys, clothes, and shoes long before they could wear them out, I know the women’s/children’s shelter got goods in excellent shape. I well remember the day I ropped off a double stroller we no longer needed.  The woman at the desk picked up the phone and said to me, “We have two sets of twins here.  Their mothers have nothing.  This is a God send.”

We also donated toys and books to a couple of doctors’ offices.  I know it’s tough for little kids to sit in a waiting room  and those types of things make a huge difference to stressed out parents looking for something other than the fish tank to entertain their kids.

We are moving forward.  I have found it really helps when I explain to the kids that constantly keeping a feng shui eye on our environment and our belongings means we don’t have to worry about falling into a rut.  We can keep moving forward, moving toward our goals, and toward the dreams we are building.  I have found they are enthusiastic and helpful team players, anxious to understand more.

Have a sense of humor about it.  When my husband and I moved into our loft downtown San Francisco, we went through a series of hilarious experiences all related to feng shui.  Our Midwestern house had had a finished walk-out basement.  It was our first house we lived in together, which means we had furnishings from our previous homes.  We simply put some of them on the main floor and some in the finished basement.  It soon became apparent on moving day in San Francisco that it just wasn’t all going to fit.  Uh-oh.  Who’s things stayed and who got rid of what?  Hmmm…

Well, fate answered part of that for us.  There was a couch, chair, and ottoman (his) that wouldn’t even fit through the narrow door.  As we stared in shock, the movers looked everywhere but at us.  Finally, one or both of us said, “Take it back to the truck.”  I mean honestly, what could you do?  Besides, we had another couch (maybe two).

The washer and dryer we’d brought (pretty much brand new) didn’t make it through the door.

Here’s a bit of feng shui serendipity.  One of the sales reps from work happened to call and when we mentioned what was going on, he and his wife raced right over to take the washer and dryer off our hands.

For the next three hours we were forced to make one tough decision after another

“…but, that stereo was a gift to me…”

“…yeah, but mine is newer…”

The movers, wisely, remained silent as they went about their job.  As a reward, instead of a tip, they got a new stereo (mine), a new TV (his), and other electronics.  The rest of the furniture went straight back to storage.  We contacted a charity organization and they went over and picked it up.

More than just maneuvering our way through a newlywed minefield, we learned a lot that day, including the meaning of a phrase my grandmother once said

“They’re only things.”

So, when you approach the choices you will be facing, remember to keep a sense of humor about it.  After all, you have a lot of positive, if sweeping, changes to look forward to…so it’s best to laugh your way through it.

Does Feng Shui Work? Definitely, and… (2)

Start Where you Are.
If you are living in a dorm room (been there, done that), you don’t have a lot of options in terms of space and organization.  Overcrowding and other limitations can make it a challenge.  Still, thanks to progress in portable furniture (I wish IKEA had been around when I was in school!) you have a variety of inexpensive options.  If, like I was, you are on a serious budget, talk to relatives, neighbors, and even friends.  Chances are, someone is a hoarder and won’t mind loaning you (or giving you) that old couch they’ve had in their attic/basement/garage.  If anything, they may thank you for giving them a reason to gloat  (“See, I KNEW it would be useful someday.  Now, aren’t you glad we didn’t get rid of it?”) If you share an apartment or a house?  Start with your room.  If you share a room?  Your half of the closet doesn’t have to look like a summer home for the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Start where you are.  Even if you are the only one in your family who is familiar with the idea, you can make a difference by starting small.  Do your bedroom but leave the kids’ rooms for later.  Hit the kitchen or dining room but leave the other areas for down the road.  Start where you are.

Don’t forget the office.  From file cabinets to your desktop, feng shui can make a positive difference in your life.  Having an organized work area can make a huge difference.  In Terah Kathryn Collins’ book The Western Guide to Feng Shui for Prosperity, she gives several examples of people who, after applying feng shui principles to their places of work, had positive life changes.

When I was working as a “junior astronaut” in the technology world, I stumbled upon a storage closet packed top to bottom with old technical manuals and old software tapes (back in the day – ahem).  There were also cabinets stuffed with old cables and drives and floppy disks (5 1/4s – remember those?).  I took it upon myself to clean that insanity out and to organize it.

(I had an ulterior motive.  I squirreled away those manuals and read them in my spare time while I worked toward my dream job.  I also needed a place to stage equipment to learn while on the job since the money wasn’t always there to send me to formalized training.)

It took me an entire weekend but even that little bit of feng shui  (I didn’t even know at the time that organizing and clearing out clutter were major cornerstones of feng shui) produced dramatic changes for me.  For one thing, once the other space rangers got a look at what I was doing, I found myself with a bunch of helpful elves.  They not only snatched up a few of the manuals for themselves, they pointed out which ones I would want to pay special attention to and which ones were so outdated, it wouldn’t be worth my time.

Another magical thing happened.  When they saw that I was trying to build a little staging area where I could get hands on experience, they began donating computers (albeit older) and volunteered to help me learn the ropes.

The magic didn’t stop there.  Once the district manager saw what was happening and how serious I was about working my way toward that dream position, he authorized the manager to send me to training.  As I became trained, I was given more responsibility, and eventually, I was given the position (and the pay) to reflect the work I was doing.  And all because I started where I was, cleaning out that storage closet…

Does Feng Shui Work? Definitely, and… (1)

Decide where to start.  Once you’ve decided to include the principles of feng shui in your life, you need to decide a couple of things up front.  First off, feng shui is not a quick fix.  In fact, other than a band-aid, I don’t know anything in life that is.  If you are prepared to embark on a potentially life changing journey toward achieving your goal, and you’re willing to work through the trail it takes you on, then you need to know where to start.
Hiring a consultant versus reading a book, or both.  Most people who are familiar with feng shui have their favorite authors (i.e. Lillian Too, Stephanie Roberts, etc).  Personally, I enjoy The Western Guide to Feng Shui series by Terah Kathryn Collins.  I have been working with it since 1996.  I have contacted the author and received a prompt and polite, not to mention helfpul, response.  It would be worth a trip to your local library or a bookstore to flip through a few tomes and see if any of them resonate with you.  Heck, get a few.  I’ve actually got several different feng shui books by different authors, that highlight different systems (i.e., compass vs. black hat).

After seven years of successfully working with feng shui, I found myself challenged by a series of events.  We were living in a loft that, thanks to the building HOA, didn’t allow for much in the way of decorating or enhancements.  To make matters worse, the travel/helpful people area was outside, in a common stairwell that faced a back alley and several abandoned warehouses.  I knew I needed help.

I contacted Terah’s organization.  They pointed me to a local practitioner and I promptly made an appointment.  It wasn’t easy hearing her assessment (I really did love that print and I didn’t see a problem having a pool table in our dining room.  It was a loft, after all).  Still, it was money and time well spent and I will always be grateful to Nancy.  Every bit the professional, she was empathetic and kind and made excellent suggestions that really did make a positive difference.

If you decide to find a practitioner, try and find one through an organization or, if you’re lucky, by reference.  Make sure you understand the fee schedule up front, as well as what the expectations are, including what you will be left with once the consultation is completed.

(You should have homework.  At the very least, you should have a To-Do list and at a minimum, a way to contact the practitioner for clarification or additional help).

If you decide to go it by book alone, give yourself a lot of time to become familiar with the principles and learn along the way.  Make it fun, and don’t have unrealistic expectations going in.

It just occured to me as I was writing this.  There are some free videos online that demonstrate the basic principles of certain cures and/or enhancements used in feng shui.  They may utilize the compass method, which is more complicated than black hat, but are still helpful.

http://video.about.com/fengshui/How-to-Use-Feng-Shui-Crystals.htm

Feel free to disagree with anything you read or hear or see.  Principles are guidelines, a starting point for how to draw harmony into your environment and your life.  They are not unbendable rules that you have to follow absolutely or else you will see no success.  No one knows your life the way you do.  No one knows better than you what you are able to change or act upon at any one moment.  Work within your abilities and most importantly, within your comfort zone.  Change can be scary and you owe it to yourself to go at a pace you can work with, not with what someone else thinks you should do.

Feng shui doesn’t have to mean $$$.  Aside from buying a book or two, or paying a practitioner, feng shui activities do not have to cost a lot of money.  If anything, this is when sweat equity can give you an incredible return on investment.  Simply moving the furniture around or swapping a picture from one part of the home to another can result in dramatic (and positive) results.  Rolling on a new coat of paint (even on one wall as an accent wall) can lead to huge changes.  Investing in a set of inexpensive sheets of a different color, or adding a couple of elegant throw pillows can make your bedroom feel rich and luxurious.  It doesn’t take a lot to produce big results.  After you’ve decided where to start…take action…

Try Feng Shui with a theme!

When I needed to find a way to soften a home that was heavy on the metal element, I first considered the other elements of feng shui, the idea being to bring balance.  However, I quickly realized that a balance of elements wasn’t going to be enough.  The architecture and colors involved meant that unless I was prepared to make major changes, I was going to have to find another way to address the issue.
Since I’m a fan of implementing small changes that pack a big punch, I considered what it was I was trying to achieve.  What was the feeling, the ambiance I wanted to have?

What solved my problem was to focus on a theme that would produce that ambiance.  For example, if I wanted to introduce an Asian theme I could bring a very zen and minimalist feel.

I could grab onto one of my favorite vases as the central focus and bring a Grecian style in, adding artwork of the Greek isles.

I could go with the natural architecture and introduce a theme that is in sync with the features of the home.

I could focus on the flooring and use the wood to introduce a nautical theme ala Joe’s Crab Shack, or focus on one of two different types of tile, and draw out colors that give either an ocean or forest feel.

If someone wanted the feel of a French Winery, they could bring in wooden barrels to use as a table or storage, wine racks, and hang photos of the French countryside, complete with either vineyards or lavender, or some other subject that reflects such a theme.

Selecting a theme around which to focus your feng shui efforts can make decorating much easier.  Do you want your bathroom to have a spa feel to it or a casual feel, as if you’ve just come in from a hike in the woods?

If you want a spa feel, a stop at Crabtree & Evelyn would enable you to pick up soaps and other accesories that lend that sophisticated feel.  You could purchase a few fluffy hand towels in neutral colors or stop over at Bed, Bath & Beyond and purchase an inexpensive towel holder and monogrammed towel napkins to put in it.

If you want a casual feel, striped towels in a towel ring with a candle or fragrance reeds paired with a small casual floor mat may do the trick.

If you think working with a theme would be a good place to begin, I’d suggest starting by sitting or standing in the room you want to work on first and allow yourself to feel what the room would be like if it were in your theme.

If you were in Japan, would your dining room be separated from your living room by a Shoji screen?

If you were in Greece, would blue and white accents fill the area?

If you wanted to focus on a time period rather than a geography, say the late 18th century, then you may be looking at pewter and wood as your focal points (think of the father’s house in the movie National Treasure).

Don’t be afraid to interpret the theme through your own feng shui eyes.  The idea is to bring into the environment the feeling that works best for you.  You want it to be in harmony with the life you are living.

One caveat.  If you share your space with others, be considerate and recognize that while you may love Boston circa 1776, they may be very partial to Spain, 2011, so be prepared to compromise.

There is actually quite a bit of flexibility even within a theme.  If you have an overall goal for a home that reflects total sophistication, you can choose from almost any theme since most cultures or time periods have styles of sophistication as well as casual, trendy, and a host of other variations.

Don’t get stuck on the idea that every room needs to have the same color scheme or artwork and accessories.  Think in terms of theme.  Casual?  Work with what is there and just make sure the feeling you are after is repeated throughout.

Romantic?  That doesn’t mean you have to bring pinks and pastels (or whatever your interpretation of romance is) into every room.  You could use doilies in the bathroom, lace in the bedroom, French bistro in the kitchen, candles in the dining room, soft lighting and music in the living room.

Test drive the theme.  If you think Tuscany is your theme, try to locate an Italian restaurant decorated in such a style.  How do you feel when you’re in there?  Do you like the colors?  Is there something you want to replicate?

Visit bookstores and flip through coffee table books that focus on the theme.  Find a magazine in the travel section that matches what you’re looking for.  What do you love?  What makes you cringe?

If you think wine country living is the style you want but you live in Montana, look online.  Napa Style has stores and catalogues, both online and that they mail.

Ask others.  Maybe you know you want a feeling of energy but you aren’t sure exactly how that would translate.  Talk to people who know you and ask what they believe your style is.  You may be surprised at the answer and it may give you a starting point to launch from.

Finally, have fun and don’t worry.  If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t be afraid to try, try again.

Does Feng Shui Work? Definitely, but…(5)

Looking through feng shui eyes can be brutal.  It takes courage to change what isn’t working in your life.  Far too many people accept less-than-ideal situations.  Feng shui isn’t an easy fix and the decision to bring harmony into your environment and your life should not be dismissed as frivolous.  If you have decided to implement the principles associated with feng shui in order to find a better way, congratulations.
It takes courage.   “What does that picture say to you?” the feng shui practitioner asked as we stood in my hall.  I studied the print uneasily.  It had been a Christmas gift.  It was contemporary and beautiful.  I loved it.  However…

“Independence, I suppose, and maybe that the woman doesn’t care.”

“Do you think that’s a picture that’s supporting harmony in your marriage?”

Uh-oh.

The practitioner accompanied me from room to room, pointing out a variety of items, or their absence (we had a pool table in our dining room.  Not sitting down to a meal together is a feng shui no no).  At the end of the consultation, we spent quite awhile talking.  She gently pointed out where the patterns in my life were not healthy or positive.  She explained that if I truly wanted harmony in my environment and my life, I was going to have to let go of thinking, feeling, and acting in ways that didn’t support that.

Not to mention that print.

In the years after that consultation, I made a crucial adjustment to the filter of feng shui vision.  I now ask myself if my environment and the objects in it support what it is I say I want.  If the answer is no, then I have some serious decisions to make, and I’m not talking about getting rid of a picture that may be sending the wrong message or deciding to buy a dining room table.

If there is a disconnect, then I need to take a hard look, not only at the environment, but at who I am at that moment.  How close am I to who I say I want to be?  And more importantly, am I willing to do what it takes to get there?  Am I willing to make the hard choices?  (Again, I’m
talking about more than donating a piece of art or making a furniture purchase).

I have learned from past experience that when implementing the principles of feng shui, sweeping changes, internal and external, will come through my life.  I know from previous experience that these changes will not always be pleasant.  I know that the road taking me toward my goal may twist and turn viciously.  However, I also know that the alternative, to do nothing, is out of the question for me.

So, what to do?  Nothing less than gather up what courage I can and take the next step.