You are what you eat. We’ve all heard that a million times before, haven’t we? It’s a call to be conscious about our food choices. Our health is dependent upon the fuel our body has to create our lives. Eat healthy, vitamin rich foods, and you have a healthy life. Eat poor foods, low on nutrition and high in empty calories, and you have a poor life, with low energy and core vitality. It’s a truth recognized by both the medical fields and alternative health specialists, though they might not completely agree as to what a healthy diet really is.
Less well known is the effect your space has upon your health. Not only are you what you eat, but you are where you live. We absorb the vital energies of foods when we consume them, but we also absorb the vital energy of our environment. We are constantly exchanging energy with the environment around us, from the land, water, plants, trees, sky, and stars. Where we live, work and sleep directly impacts our health, vitality, and mood. The energy generated by your living space, and the flow of energy through it, can enhance your vitality if aligned properly, or detract from the quality of your life. Many people are suffering from imbalanced space and don’t even know it. Think of all the energies you are putting into your body and never realize. Just like with food and diet, we must be conscious of what we “digest” in our home and work environments.
Ancient peoples knew the power of space. Modern life has cut us off from the vital flow of natural energy, known as prana, chi, or ki in various traditions, as it moves from one natural formation to the next. Our styles of building, homes, synthetic clothing, and rubber soles can block us from the vital life force of the land. Ancient peoples, from tribal cultures, pagan traditions, and mystical cultures, knew how to live in harmony with the life force, to harness it for vitality and maintain a balance. Their rituals and ceremonies were designed to create and recognize a vital sacred space. Inviting the flow of healing energy into you life, and managing that flow, became both a science and an art.
One of the most complex and complete arts of creating and balancing space is the art of feng shui. Translating to “wind and water,” it means placing the home in relationship with the flow of energy. Like the flow of wind and water, the flowing life force has abundance and health. The name feng shui is relatively modern. The original characters associated with it conjure the image of receiving energy from the heavens and aligning the earth with the heavens. Feng shui is about connections between heaven and earth.
It is believed that feng shui began five thousand years ago in the pre-history of China. The foundational systems of feng shui are related to other forms of Chinese mysticism. You will find corollaries in the mythology, the divination system known as the I Ching, Chinese Astrology, and Chinese Numerology. All are connected in the process of bringing the heavens more in touch with the earth. Feng shui has developed into several different schools, including the Compass School and the Form School, among others.
In feng shui, the life force energy is called chi or ch’i. Chi can come in many forms. Modern practitioners refer to flowing chi as healthy or positive, while stagnant chi is negative. We seek to encourage good chi and prevent or remove bad chi. Beyond flow/stagnation, chi contains a polarity known as yin and yang. They can be likened to any polarityfemale and male, night and day, receptive and projective. Their complimentary union in all things is symbolized by the swirling yin yang figure. Each side contains the opposite. Everything is made of yin and yang energies, constantly interacting. In the home or office, yin objects are more rounded and curved, while yang are straight and angular.
The chi also manifests in various forms, as expressed in a five element system. They are known as fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Each element has certain energetic qualities to it. The elements form a series of relationships, where one element can be used to promote the growth of another element, while another cycle can be used to control or “destroy” a certain element, limiting its growth. Depending upon the balance of the space, and with the people in it, you will want to promote or limit the energies of certain elements in certain places.
For the cycle of promotion, fire leaves ash, which adds to earth. Earth yields metal in its depths. Metal melts to a liquid, like water, or some modern experts say that metal pipes carry water. Water feeds the trees that produce wood. Wood fuels the fire. To limit, Fire melts down metal, destroying its form. Metal chops wood. Wood draws on the nutrients of earth, weakening it. Earth muddies water, preventing its flow. Water douses fire. The five-element expression is not so different from the Western view of earth, fire, air, water, and spirit. From the Western view, air contains a similar energy to metal and spirit contains an energy similar to wood.
The octagonal pa-kua divides space into eight sections, which is often laid over a home or room plan, giving you an idea of which parts of the home represent particular aspects of life. The areas are family, wealth, fame, marriage, children, mentors, career, and knowledge. Through the use of the pa-kua and the principles of feng shui, you can design a harmonious space, and promote the flow of healthy chi.
Richard Webster, in 101 Feng Shui Tips for Your Home, has easy-to-implement tips for applying the principles of feng shui in your life. Step by step, he describes the basic principles of feng shui, and how to apply them in every room of your home. Here are just a few.
For stone lovers like me, try the non-traditional approach found in Gemstone Feng Shui. Author Sandra Kynes uses gemstones with feng shui principles to create harmony and effect change. I love placing stones in my home, in the bedroom, on the desk, and in the kitchen. They are decorative as well as being spiritual touchstones to transform your environment. Birthstones with Western zodiac and angelic associations are included, along with a seasonal meditation with the stones.
For a more Western approach, the information shared by Laurine Morrison Meyer in Sacred Home: Creating Shelter for Your Soul is invaluable. Through interior design, she explores the use of archetypal forms, sacred symbols, and deities from pagan traditions. She works with tarot images, the four elements, and sacred space to create, protect, bless, and cleanse the home. Meyer suggests the use of threshold amulets to protect your home and remind you that you are entering sacred space. She explores the equal-armed cross in the circle, the Tau cross, the Ankh, the pentagram, Pennsylvania Dutch hex charms, and folk art. She asks, “Can you think of something symbolic that you would like to use as a protective amulet or remind of the sacredness of your home?” She encourages you to explore your creativity and find what is right for you. I love her simple ritual to cleanse negative energy on pages 167-168.
In my experience, it’s not only important to get the proper flow of energy and sacredness in your home and office, but to take time to meet it directly in nature. To feel the flow connecting the heavens and earth, walk in nature. Spend time outdoors. Find the spots in nature that are sacred to youfrom the sacred sites of the ancients to the hidden spots in your own back yard and parks. While there, meditate, pray, listen, contemplate, watch, and most importantly, be. Learn to find your own inner harmony and balance of yin/yang, elements, and energies, and you will bring those blessings into whatever home or office you visit, creating a positive change for everyone.
Basic Feng Shui Principles
- Try to have all five elements represented in your home. Together they symbolize completion and help create a sense of harmony and comfort.
- Your furniture should represent both yin (curved) and yang (straight). A combination of gentle curves and straight lines helps create balance.
- Chandeliers are a wonderful way of attracting ch’i into your home.
- Avoid clutter. Make a concentrated effort to discard anything that you are simply storing and not using.
- Long, straight hallways should be avoided.
- Bathroom and toilet doors should be kept closed.
- The foot of the bed should not directly face the door to the room.
- Avoid too much of the same color. If the floor, walls, and ceiling are all painted the same color, the result can be restricting and ultimately depressing.
- Use your intuition when it comes to arranging furniture and ornaments. You will almost always make the right choice according to feng shui.
Ritual to Cleanse Negative Energy
- Start in the center of the space first, clapping, drumming, rattling, or using other noisemakers to start moving stagnant energy (a new broom can be used here).
- Next smudge the area with smoke, either from a candle, incense, or a bundle of herbs. Move the smoke with your hand, a hand-held fan, or blow it with your breath.
- Spritz the air with purified water, or sprinkle it with your fingers or a branch of herbs.
- Sprinkle a few grains of salt (salt in the water can substitute), especially in corners and at all openings such as windows, outside doors, and fireplace openings.
- Move in a clockwise direction (the right-hand direction sends energy out).
- State your intention in a clear and firm voice, “I intend that all negative energy be removed from this space,” or, “with these symbols of the four elements I cleanse and purify this space.” Use a simple but direct and forceful phrase.
- As you spiral through the space, shake the negative energy out, asking earth to absorb and neutralize the negativity, or move to the farthest edge of your property and state that the stagnant energy is hereby banished from your home.
- After completion, it’s a good idea to shower and remove any negative energy that might have collected on yourself or your clothing. At the very least, drink a glass of water and wash your hands.