by Carol C. Wheelock
Despite the fact that "feng shui" (pronounce "fung shway") is becoming more mainstream through references to Donald Trump and Tony Blair as advocates and its use in advertising on television and in magazines, there remains much confusion surrounding this discipline. Although the ancient art of feng shui itself is from China, its basic goal of living in harmony with one's environment transcends any particular culture. All ancient peoples lived harmoniously with their surroundings or they didn't survive. In today's world many of us are not naturally aware of the affect our surroundings have on us, nor is it often recognized that we are reflections of our surroundings. Feng shui, in modern terms, teaches us to be aware so that we, too, might live in harmony with our environment.
Some of the confusion stems from the fact that there are several different schools of feng shui; however, all schools of feng shui take into consideration four major aspects of a space. They are all concerned with the flow of chi or energy. All use the bagua (explained later in this article), although some orient it to a compass direction and some do not. The balance of the five elements and yin and yang are also looked at by all the schools.
The first aspect or layer of feng shui is energy or chi flow. Feng means wind and shui means water. In addition to representing the unseen and seen in our lives, wind and water symbolize the flow of energy in our surroundings. Both of these can move too fast as in a hurricane or flood. Conversely, when they aren't moving at all, conditions can be stifling or stagnant. Meandering brooks and gentle breezes are not only the most enjoyable in nature, but they also represent the optimum and balanced flow of energy in our surroundings. Clutter and poorly placed furniture are main causes of blocked or stagnant energy. A long straight hallway is an example of rushing energy. Sharp corners are referred to as cutting chi. Spaces feel more comfortable and welcoming when the energy flow is balanced.
The second layer of feng shui involves the bagua, the template or grid that is superimposed upon any piece of property, building, room, or piece of furniture. The bagua is divided into nine sections, each one corresponding to an aspect of life: health and family, prosperity, fame and reputation, relationships, creativity and children, travel and benefactors, career, self-knowledge and introspection. The ninth section is the center, represented by the tai chi (yin/yang symbol) and symbolizing the center, that sense of oneness or balance within us. It is by working with these sections that specific areas of life can be influenced. Plants, wind chimes, water fountains, light, color, and mirrors are just some of the things that are used to enhance an area.
Yin and yang are the factors which comprise the third layer. Once again the goal is balance, while at the same time honoring personal preferences. Cool, dark, curved, low, floral, horizontal, soft, and feminine are some of the yin qualities. Warm, light, straight, high, geometric, vertical, hard, and masculine are yang. Extremes of either of these qualities create spaces that feel uncomfortable.
The fourth layer involves the five elements: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Substance, color, shape, and other qualities determine the element(s) of any particular object. As in yin and yang, a balance and personal preferences are key. The use of the space must also be considered when choosing colors, furnishings, art, etc. Although the most difficult layer with which to work, the five elements can have a profound affect on spaces and the people who inhabit them.
Just as almost everyone has walked into a room at some time and felt uncomfortable, people naturally have favorite rooms, buildings, or outside places. Feng shui teaches an awareness of why this occurs. By working with the principles of feng shui, changes can be made to improve the feel of any room, building, or outdoor area. Change the surroundings and change the lives of those who live and/or work there. The implications for both homes and businesses are many.
In today's busy world, homes are extremely important as places in which to relax and be supported physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Homes which are filled with clutter or are dark, architecturally extreme, and/or any other imbalance are not inviting or restful. Nor will they nourish their inhabitants the way they should. For example, those who are greeted by an overcrowded and disorganized entry when they return home are going to immediately feel overwhelmed. It only makes sense to create the surroundings that work for people rather than against them. By applying feng shui principles, relationships, career, prosperity, health, and other aspects of life can be favorably influenced.
Most people spend much of their time at work. Whether the business is large or small, at home or in a separate space, feng shui can be used to attract more business, increase productivity and efficiency, improve working relationships and morale among employees, increase prosperity, and improve the overall health of the business. Simple things, such as the placement and position of a desk, can make an enormous difference to the person sitting behind the desk, as well as to those who enter that office. For those who work in totally artificial environments, feng shui can offer a more natural and comfortable setting.
There are professional feng shui practitioners/consultants who go to homes and businesses. They will do an analysis of the space and make suggestions. Some will assist with any rearrangement if the client desires. A consultation of an average home takes two to three hours. Times for businesses and offices depend on the size. Costs will vary with training and experience and some charge by the consultation while others charge by the hour. Some professionals are certified and often have degrees in related fields, enabling them to assist the client in making changes in any behaviors that are factors. Anyone interested in a consultation should feel free to ask the practitioner/consultant any questions regarding time, cost, training, areas of expertise, references, and how a consultation is conducted.
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.