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Living With Feng Shui

“Your home is your sanctuary,” but, when entered, does the home create feelings of stress and chaos, instead of calming and providing refuge? No matter how much a person cleans, a home can still feel as if it is in constant disarray. The Chinese commonly remedy these complaints by using the art of feng shui. Simple placement of certain objects in mapped areas of a home can bring great respite to an otherwise chaotic environment. American society classifies feng shui as just another idea based on superstitions, for example, black cats and broken mirrors.

Actually, feng shui, pronounced “fung shway,” is the ancient craft of interpreting and manipulating energy in the environment to create harmonious space by stimulating good chi’, or energy, and staunching the negative flow. Feng shui, meaning wind and water, was created based on the ancient Taoist metaphysical outlook on nature. The Taoist’s examined their surrounding environment and saw the unity in the different elements of the universe. By identifying the energy in the land around them, the Taoist’s were able to point out the areas that would protect, flourish, or be at one’ with the earth.

In the book, “Taoist Feng Shui”, Susan Levitt explains: “In nature they sensed chi’ energy, the breath of life in all things. Taoist observation of nature concluded that curved, flowing lines slow chi’ and bring abundance. Harmonious chi moves in a curved, graceful line, as if following the natural course of a river. Sharp, straight lines bring sha’ chi, or bad chi (2). ” The Taoists believe that all energy is aligned. This alliance, called Tao, is represented by the figure of the yin and yang. Customarily, the yin is dark, female, and welcoming; the yang is light, male, and aggressive.

Yin and yang are believed to be connected to one another and always fluctuating, each complimenting the opposing other. Examples of this relationship can be seen everywhere: midnight and noon, mountains and valleys, hot and cold, sweet and sour. Without one, there is no other (Levitt 6). In order to chart the chi in a certain area or home, a feng shui compass must be used. This compass, the ba-gua, is composed of eight trigrams, or lines stacked three high, arranged to create an octagonal center ring. The ba-gua map is divided into eight separate sections and the center, with each section representing a different life area.

These areas are fame, wealth, family, knowledge, career, helpful people, children, relationships, and, in the center, health (The Ba-Gua, par. 3). The next step in understanding and manipulating chi’ is in the knowledge of the five elements’. Sophia Tang Shaul and Chris Shaul state in their article, “The Five Elements”, that “these elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water are the foundation theory for Feng Shui balance (para. 1). ” These elements carry their own separate and well-defined qualities, and are intended to be used in areas of the home where there is an imbalance in the energy flow (Shaul, para. 1).

Creation, or “new life”, is representative of the element Wood and is characteristic of both the yin and yang (female and male). Like the season of spring brings life anew, the five elemental cycle’ begins with Wood. Although wooden furniture and the color green are often used in homes to represent this element, live plants are of much greater value, as their chi’ is alive and flourishing, cleansing and deodorizing the air we breathe (Shaul, para. 2,3). The Fire element is the most yang of the elements, and is represented by the color red. As in nature, fire is nourished by wood. Our food is prepared over fire; its heat keeps us warm.

Objects used to symbolize the Fire element, candles, lamps, and even live animals, should be used sparingly in the home, as fire is extremely destructive when not controlled (Shaul, para. 5). The distinctly yin Earth element is the center of the ba-gua. Earth, or, Mother Nature’ in western philosophy, is represented by earthy colors such as yellow, tan, and gold. Fortune and health are greatly influenced by this element. Care must be taken when utilizing this element, as it can bring a more negative influence than a positive one, depending on its’ location in the home. Earth is advantageous in controlling electricity, a Fire element.

In most cases, it is the Earth element that must be controlled, rather than being used as a remedy, as it can impede progress, and bring about sickness and misfortune (Shaul, para. 6, 7). The most commonly used remedy in feng shui planning is the element of Metal. This element embodies both male and, most often, female chi’, since it is derived from the female Earth. Any item composed of metal, crystal, or stones can be used to boost health, wealth, and safety, as metal is a very strong and powerful material (Shaul, para. 9, 10). Water, the most influential of the elements, is the life-giver, and is considered very yin.

In a clean and free-flowing state, water is associated with good fortune and increases the value of any property. It brings good chi’ and can build the strongest of relationships by enhancing happiness, emotion, and the hunger for intimacy. In a murky, still condition, water can make any negative situation worse. Indoor and outdoor fountains, fish tanks, and even the colors blue and black can be used to harness the beneficial influence of this element (Shaul, para. 12, 13, 14). The final step in the feng shui process is to identify problem areas, and remedy them by using items representative of the five elements.

It may sound complicated, but there are many simple things that can be done to assess and increase the chi’ flow throughout a home or office. In her book, “Feng Shui for the Home,” Evelyn Lip explains, “The main door of a home or apartment is of vital importance because it breathes [chi’] into the interior (43). ” Many people who paint their front doors red are, to their good fortune, aware of Lip’s theory. The color red, representing the Fire element, attracts good chi’. The goal is to create an inviting entrance by planting flowers by the walkway, clearing the clutter off the steps, or by hanging a nice set of wind chimes near the door.

If there is a dim walkway leading to the front door, one should install new lighting; it makes for a more comfortable, and safe, walk to the entrance. Walls also have considerable effect on the energy flow inside the home. They are symbolic of protection, providing a barrier between danger and the inhabitants. Although walls can hinder the flow of the negative sha chi’, Lip warns that “walls must not block the flow of good [chi’] from one space to another (46). ” A person should always sit with their back unexposed, against a wall, and, preferably, not underneath a slanted ceiling, which creates imbalance (Lip 47).

Another key characteristic in keeping a good flow of energy is the placement of the staircase. If the front door of the home opens directly into a staircase, all of the chi’ will flow up the stairs. This can be remedied by hanging a spherical crystal from the ceiling at the base of the steps, as the crystal will refract the chi’ into the downstairs area (Levitt 85). If someone has trouble sleeping, a crystal ball can be suspended above the head of his/her bed to disperse any sha chi’ and bring tranquility (Levitt 87).

In addition to crystals, mirrors that are shiny, unbroken, and preferably round, oval, or octagonal, are commonly used as solutions to troublesome feng shui areas. Large mirrors should be placed in a way as not to cut off a person’s head or feet; small mirrors should be placed in such a way that a person does not have to stretch or duck to see into it. If a large fireplace is present inside a home, a mirror, representing the Water element, should be placed above the hearth, keeping the Fire element in check.

This particular placement will also aid in preventing chi’ from escaping out the flue (Levitt 80). Mirrors can be used to multiply wealth by placing one so that it reflects the burners on a stove, as the American stove is compared to the Chinese rice cooker, which represents wealth. Mirrors can also reflect good energy out of an area; take care where they are placed. If a mirror is the first thing seen when entering the front door, a guest may feel hesitant to enter, as the individual’s energy is being reflected outside.

One should also avoid placing too many mirrors in the bedroom, as mirrors create a large amount of energy and may impede sleep (Levitt 82). In the practice of feng shui, there is an abundance of solutions to troublesome areas in a person’s environment, and, though he/she may be tempted to place mirrors or crystals everywhere, one must keep in mind that there is no perfect feng shui home and that the principle of the feng shui practice is to promote balance. An abundance of a good thing can be detrimental, but proper use of these five elements can create harmony, prosperity, love, and a lot of fun in a person’s life.

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