by Carol C. Wheelock
Do you have trouble focusing on your work? Are you overwhelmed? Would you like to be more creative, productive, or prosperous? Do you have difficulty getting along with other employees? Feng shui (pronounced "fung shway") can help solve these problems and create a space that supports you and your work. Although Chinese in origin, this ancient art's wisdom comes from its universality and timelessness. The goal of feng shui is to be in balance and harmony with one's surroundings. Based on the premise that we are affected by our surroundings and are, therefore, reflections of those surroundings, feng shui transcends any particular culture or type of space. Whether your office is a cubicle, a room in your home, or a more traditional office, feng shui can help to improve many aspects of your work. In the process, you will feel more balanced.
There are several layers of feng shui. Feng shui works first with overall impressions and the flow of chi (energy) in spaces. Feng means wind and shui means water and the goal is to have the flow of chi meander or flow as the stream (water) or a gentle breeze (wind). Neither too fast (hurricane or flood) nor too slow (stagnant or stifling conditions) is desirable.
When looking at the overall impressions of an office space it is important to consider all the senses. Natural light is very important for physical and emotional health. There should be at least one window that opens in every office. Those who suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) related depression are particularly at risk without natural light. Florescent light bulbs subtly but constantly flicker and buzz. At the very least, part of your energy is going off to manage this. At worst, many suffer from headaches and fatigue. If your office is lighted with florescent bulbs, replace them with incandescent or full-spectrum bulbs which more closely resemble natural light. If they cannot be replaced, ask to have the lights over you turned off. Create a warmer and healthier light by using desk or floor lamps to illuminate your work space.
Other senses also play a part in the overall feel of an office. Most office machinery today makes noise. To minimize the negative impact of these noises, play music or use a machine that creates "white noise". Consider the smell of your work space also. Choose an aromatherapy product that will help keep you focused, enhance productivity, creativity, or whatever you feel you most need. When sharing an office, be sure to discuss ideas about the space with fellow employees.
Balancing the flow of chi requires looking at three possibilities: blocked, rushing, and cutting chi.. There may be all three in one office. Blocked chi comes from furniture that is too large or high for the space, too much furniture or equipment, and/or clutter. Clutter includes piles and piles, disorganization, too many things in too small a space, too many little things, unfinished projects, things very dirty or dusty, things in a state of disrepair, and unused or unloved items. Physical clutter creates mental clutter because your brain is trying to keep track of all those things that are clutter! In today's world there is also electronic clutter - check for old files and e-mails on computers. On an emotional level, unsupportive relationships and carrying grudges against other employees can create clutter.
Why is clutter so important? When your space is blocked, you are blocked. Clutter can lead to confusion, disorganization, and procrastination. Some people feel tired, lethargic, or depressed in a cluttered environment. Clutter can keep your mind in the past, cause health and weight problems, and even influence your finances. It is difficult to be creative and productive in cluttered surroundings. There is no room to manifest the new. If clutter is an issue, look for the underlying cause(s). A lack of trust in the future, a fear of feeling emotions, an inability to say "No", and a belief that more is better are among the more common causes.
Clearing clutter takes time and effort, and it is well worth both. Start small, choosing one shelf, box, corner, or drawer at a time. Sort right there, creating piles to throw away, file, take to another room, etc. Decide where things will go and then buy containers if you need to. If throwing away objects and papers is difficult for you, remind yourself that you are getting rid of the old to make room for the new! There's an old feng shui belief that moving or throwing away (preferred approach) 27 things you haven't touched in six months will do wonders for getting the chi flowing. After your clearing process is complete, honor yourself by saving five or ten minutes at the end of each day to maintain your space so that when you come in the next day you are greeted by a cleared desk, symbolizing new beginnings.
At the opposite extreme is rushing or racing chi. Long hallways, doors or windows opposite each other, or a stairway opposite a door create rushing chi situations. In these examples your chi goes down the hall or right out the door or window, leaving you uncomfortable, rushed, and unable to focus. Hanging plants, stained glass, or crystals in windows will help slow down chi. Slow down rushing chi in long hallways by breaking up the space with small rugs on the floor, pictures on the walls, plants, or mirrors (not at the end of the hall).
Cutting chi is the result of sharp angles. If a corner of a closet, filing cabinet, or other piece of furniture or structure is aimed directly at you while you are at your desk, you may suffer headaches, feelings of restlessness, or an inability to focus. Soften these corners with fabric or plants that hang down over the corner. If possible, move your desk out of the line of the cutting chi.
The placement of furniture, especially desks, is an important aspect of balancing chi in an office. The best position for a desk is facing the door, but not directly in line with it. This is called the command position in feng shui. When you are in this position you feel in charge of your space. With your back to the door, you do not appear approachable to others and part of your subconscious is constantly monitoring what is going on behind you, draining your energy in the process. The goal is to feel protected in the back and on both sides, with an open area in front of you. If there is a window behind you, treat it as you would rushing chi, and hang something in the window to hold your energy in. If it is not possible to sit where you can see someone enter your office, hang a mirror so that you can see the door.
After balancing the flow of chi, personalize your space with uplifting colorful pictures or posters. If you are in a cubicle or share an office, define your space with a small area rug. Plants, aquariums, water fountains, crystals, mobiles, and wind chimes all help to keep the energy moving. Mirrors are good if they reflect something pleasing to look at and/or are needed to view the door. Keep in mind that what you see first when you enter an office is what most affects your own chi.
As you do any of the steps mentioned in this article, do so with conscious intention. Visualize the desired results and state why you are doing what you are doing; for example, "I am clearing my desk to make room for more creative and challenging projects to come my way". Although there is much more to the feng shui process - location of your office within the building, working with the bagua (the template or grid that is superimposed upon any structure or space, with its eight areas corresponding to specific areas of our lives), balancing yin and yang, balancing the five elements - following these steps will improve your work space.
Carol C. Wheelock, M.Ed. of Feng Shui Vermont is a certified feng shui practitioner who has studied in the United Sates and China. She practices Black Sect or western feng shui. Carol does private consultations for homes, schools, libraries, and businesses; clutter counseling and clearing; spaces clearings; phone consultations; presentations; and teaches workshops throughout the United States. She also does personal clearings.