I am definitely on a quest this year, to improve my health, my life, my surroundings. I have been making some changes around the house, trying to eliminate clutter and make our environment more eco-friendly as well as aesthetically pleasing. Our home life is still in a bit of disarray — this is a months-long project — but I am hopeful that by mid-Spring I will finally get my home as I want it, which will have all sorts of great effects on our lives. In the meantime, small changes can still make a difference.
I have always been interested in feng shui (pronounced fung shway), and have been doing a lot of research, taking out just about every book on the topic from our local library as well as making charts of our home — how it is and how I want it to be.
Feng shui, which in Chinese means “wind water,” is a system of orienting your home in the most beneficial manner, to best utilize qi, or vital energy. There are various schools (form and compass) and types of feng shui which can be used to best utilize the flow of energy inside and outside of your home or office or wherever you would like to apply these principles. Whether you believe that feng shui can improve your luck or not, it is undeniable that streamlining one’s life and trying to eliminate clutter cannot help but benefit how you interact and experience your home environment.
All the systems, whether one uses a compass or not, place a grid overlay, or a bagua map, over one’s home. The grid is divided into sections which represent the eight aspirations: fame, relationships/marriage, children/creativity, helpful people/travel, career, inner knowledge, family/ancestors/health, and wealth/blessings.
|The bagua compass layout|
The first book I checked out, 101 Feng Shui Tips for Your Home (Feng Shui Series), by Richard Webster, was a good place to start. Webster introduces the basic concepts of feng shui, as well as offering tips for “cures” — fixing areas of your home that may not be optimally positioned, such as a bathroom in your wealth area, which in feng shui theory might result in all of your money going down the drain. Webster goes through an example house, room by room, pointing out potential problems and solutions for achieving the best flow of qi. The author also applies feng shui concepts to not just the layout of the whole house, but individual rooms as well. One of his quotes about that never-ending challenge, clutter, really resonated with me:
“… If you were one of those people who cannot let anything go because ‘it might be useful one day’, you’re sending out a message that you do not trust the world to supply everything you need. Instead of becoming more secure, the opposite starts to happen and you become more insecure.”
I made a map based on his suggestions, utilizing compass directions, which I found easy to use, as living near the coast of Florida makes finding N-S-E-W directions pretty easy to do.
|A bagua compass overlay on a sample home layout|
Another book, Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life: How to Use Feng Shui to Get Love, Money, Respect, and Happiness by Karen Rauch Carter, is definitely designed to make feng shui fun. Carter has a lively, entertaining style and good tips, but she organizes the bagua by the position of the front door of the house, never taking compass directions into account, so it wasn’t a book that I could really use as a guide in my home, since I have already decided to go by the compass method. Carter doesn’t even acknowledge that there is another way to orient the bagua, and there is not much of a historical discussion of feng shui, in case one might be interested in the practice’s 4000 year-old origins. There was an interesting quote right at the beginning of the book, where she asked a physicist named Barry Gordon to explain feng shui from a scientific perspective:
“… Everything is contained in consciousness, which has no boundaries. So the placement of your bed has meaning in relation to the rest of your experience. … When your bed is moved with intention, the belief and emotion dimensions also move. … Every thing, even the sticky front door that doesn’t open all the way, has meaning. Every thing, every action, is intentional, sometimes conscious, sometimes unconscious. Feng Shui brings the unconscious in our environment back into consciousness.”
I like that.
I did pay attention to the chapter she included with her ideas for improving the center of the home, as the center is always the center, no matter how you spin the grid.
|The bagua as a grid, with Knowledge/Wisdom, Career, and Travel/Helpful People always aligned with the wall that has the home’s front door|
The third book I checked out was Spirit of the Home: How to Make Your Home a Sanctuary by Jane Alexander. This was not solely a feng shui book, but one about honoring exactly what the title says — house spirits. Alexander uses a variety of techniques and belief systems to talk about getting to the heart of one’s home:
Carl Jung’s four personality types – sensation, intuition, thinking, feeling – as ways to decide how to design your home spaces
Exercises to work on your “soul home” – imagining your childhood home – something I have done before as a memory exercise
Like most books on feng shui, Alexander considers clutter the enemy, and includes plenty of tips for unloading unwanted or no longer used books, clothing, gadgets, etc. She also talks about space clearing rituals, using Native American smudging techniques. About midway through the book she finally gets to feng shui concepts, and also incorporates color and aroma therapies.
I still have a pile of other books on this topic to get through. I’m not really looking for the definitive feng shui bible, but rather trying to gather as many tips and approaches as I can on the topic to incorporate in my own home, my own way. It’s an interesting path to be on.
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