Feng Shui, put simply, is the practice of placing or arranging objects within a space to create a sense of harmony and balance for the occupants.
To come to an understanding of feng shui it is necessary to have at least a basic awareness of ‘chi’ . In traditional Chinese thinking chi is the Universal force or cosmic breath that all things are thought to possess. It is usually translated as energy but, unlike the energy of physics, chi moves and flows more like water.
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The words ‘feng shui’ mean wind and water and it was through these elements that early geomancers sought to control chi. Air (wind) and water are also the two most important elements without which human beings die quickly.
Central to feng shui is the concept of yin and yang. Yin is the female principal; rounded, dark, enclosed, nurturing and soft. Yang is the male principal; light, hard surfaces, edges and corners. Yin relates to rest and stillness, yang to aggression and movement.
Overhead beams, common in buildings in Spain, can, depending on their size and position, have a powerful effect on the area immediately below it. Sleeping under a beam, for example, can create headaches and physical problems depending where the beam crosses the body. Beams can also have a dividing effect when two people are sleeping in the same bed. The heavy, downward pressure of chi caused by beams can have a long-term effect which is cumulative.
As humans, we have an instinctive need to position ourselves where we will feel safe; toward the back of a cave and looking towards the mouth of it was the favourite position. Nowadays this psychological behaviour presents itself when we want to relax at home and not be concerned with what may or may not be coming through the door to get us. So our most powerful position is facing the door with our back to a wall. This also applies to working at a desk when we need to concentrate and lying in bed when we need to feel we can sleep untroubled and without fear of closing our eyes. It is not advisable, however, to sleep with the feet pointing directly at the door. In feng shui this is considered bad luck as it tends to be the easiest way to carry a dead body from the room!
The Bagua is a feng shui tool used to analyse and evaluate a room, house, or piece of land. It is octagonal with a different I-Ching trigram (or symbol) assigned to each side. In Chinese, ‘ba’ means eight and ‘gua’ means trigram, so the bagua is literally eight trigrams. Each of these bagua sections also relates to a human attribute; for example one section relates to career and life-path and the opposite section on the bagua relates to fame and recognition, which can be a desirable outcome of one’s profession. The middle of the bagua, which has no trigram, relates to unity, health and balance. This octagonal shape is superimposed on the floor plan of a room or house or workplace to reveal the weaknesses and strengths of the space.
Using the more modern intuitive method of feng shui the bagua is oriented to the door of the room or house (called the Gate of Chi) , while the points of a compass or a Luo-pan - Chinese compass are used by the Compass School of Feng Shui to orient the bagua. Interestingly, different methods seem to work for different types of people, ie. people concerned with precision and logical rules feel more at home with Compass Direction Feng Shui, whereas people who connect strongly with, and trust their inner voice, tend to lean towards Form School, Intuitive and Buddhist- based methods. I have found that the latter methods mentioned, based on symbology and creative intention, give the user more of a sense of personal power and ability to take charge of one’s life than the methods based on technical and specific calculations. But it is a matter for personal choice at the end of the day.
The energy movements of feng shui fall into two distinct categories: positive life-enhancing Sheng Chi and negative debilitating Sha Chi. Feng shui teaches that if a dwelling is correctly sited it will be in harmony with the energy movements rather than blocking them.
The word ‘chi’ can be translated from the Chinese to mean ‘spirit’. The same is used in Japan but called Ki, in India this energy is Prana and in ancient Egypt Kaa. In English we could describe this chi as life force or spirit. It is an intangible force that provides the dynamic in the natural world and is responsible for our vitality. Although it is invisible and intangible, it has very similar qualities to water. The quality and freshness of water is largely dependent on how much oxygen is present. When chi is not vibrant, it brings with it a feeling of heaviness, darkness and dampness. Chi that is bright appears warm, refreshing and light. When we go house or flat- hunting we are inevitably aware of the home’s chi. Initially, we may have been attracted to the place for economic or location reasons, but these rational modes are put on hold as we switch to a more intuitive mode. We say ‘I like the feel of this place’ or ‘I can’t put my finger on it but it feels a bit spooky’ or ‘I like the energy here’.
Two kinds of chi affect us; ‘Universal Chi’ surrounds us all the time and influences us in different ways. It manifests itself through the weather, the seasons, the time of day etc. and we have no control over it. A healthy, flexible condition allows us to adapt to universal chi by living in harmony with the seasons and the cycles of the day. The second, ‘Individual Chi’, influences us more directly through our environment, our work, relationships etc. We are more responsible for it and can deflect it or change the manner in which we cope with it.
The home space that we use to regroup our energy and nourish ourselves is essentially our springboard into the world. Feng shui can benefit the occupants of homes and other buildings by understanding chi and how it affects and pervades the spaces in which we live and work. Chi moves in both the landscape and inside buildings in a way similar to water, in that it needs to flow freely in order to be vital. When chi is blocked it can bring about stagnation; when it is uncontrolled it can bring confusion and disorder. Planning the location, position and design of a building will undoubtedly enhance the well-being of the occupants.
Feng Shui is 70% commonsense and 30% magic, providing you can understand the system from a chi point of view. Roads can be symbolic of rivers, which in turn reflect how chi moves. If you live very close to a main busy road then you are likely to feel influenced by the constant movement, the busyness of the location, and probably feel distracted as a result. On the other hand, you may live in a quiet cul-de-sac where chi enters from a main road but has no way of finding a natural exit. The chi will become blocked and the pace of life, as a result, will be slow, bordering on stagnation.
The entrance to your house is very important. Called the ‘Gate of Chi’, the front door is likened to the mouth, ie. where chi enters the body of the house. Take a look. Is it cluttered with shoes, boxes, bags of rubbish, piles of junk-mail? Is the entrance narrow, dark and confusing or is it clean, bright and welcoming? All of these factors affect how chi enters the house and influence the health and welfare of the occupants. Chi, like air, needs to circulate well in a healthy environment. Rooms that are dark or lack good ventilation or natural light from outside will naturally feel stagnant and you will have difficulty feeling inspired You can use mirrors, lighting, plants and flowers to open up a space that feels like this.
If chi moves through a house too fast, maybe because the front and back door are in alignment and therefore creating a through-draft of chi, hanging-wind-chimes were traditionally used to break up and slow down this violent flow of chi.
Chi can also become negative and stagnant when absorbed into old furniture and dirty, soft furnishings. A house full of antiques or second-hand things can over-stabilize the occupants to the point of stagnation in every aspect of their lives. And be careful about using a second-hand mattress because the previous owner’s chi will undoubtedly be absorbed into it.
Previous factors can also influence the chi we feel in a building, either positively or negatively. The chi of the previous occupants of a house or workplace can also play a part in your health, wealth and well-being. Spring cleaning or holding a lively house-warming, or office, shop, or restaurant inauguration are practical ways of breaking up some of this inherited stagnant chi, to let you then balance and enhance your own chi in the new space.
Jean Gilhead is a Preferred Partner of “medilink” she studied studied visual art and interior design in London and incorporates the ancient, oriental art of placement known as feng shui (acupuncture for rooms and spaces) into her work with clients, having studied under a Feng Shui Master in London. For more information on Jean or any of our other Preferred Partners call “medilink” on 952 93 38 76