Though based on age-old traditions, not modern science, the ancient Chinese harmonizing practice of feng shui isn’t just moldy mysticism. Pragmatic application has the potential to bring calmness and balance to your life.
BY: Sara Smola
When some think of feng shui, they might mistakenly associate it with of a type of mysticism—magic intended to produce good fortune and prosperity in the form of a winning lottery ticket—after simply moving around some furniture. The truth behind this harmonizing practice however, is rooted in depth and meaning. The goal of feng shui is to bring about good energy or “chi.” A house that omits positive chi is said to improve the lives of those who dwell in it by positively impacting their wealth, health, and personal relationships.
One of feng shui’s guiding principles is that everything in a space has energy of both positive and negative influence, but the key to achieving success with feng shui is to create a balanced environment for the steady flow of positive energy. “I believe that feng shui is harmony, I don’t like chaos, messy or dirty environments. I tend to be very organized, which helps me feel peaceful and in control in my busy life,” explains Janice Lee, a renowned realtor in the Pasadena and San Marino area for Berkshire Hathaway with plenty of experience in understanding how to create a welcoming and calming environment.
Certain items known for their “luckiness” can be used strengthen the positive chi such as turtles, koi and goldfish, foo dogs (a pair of these guardian lions are meant to serve as protectors), golden cats and the laughing Buddha that’s known for symbolizing good fortune and prosperity. Mirrors are known for their energy shifting abilities and, when properly placed (Don’t place them to reflect your bed or the front door!), are commonly called “the aspirin of feng shui.”
Though feng shui is neither magic nor hard science, it’s not entirely fictitious either. Achieving a well-balanced space could be as simple and straightforward as cleaning any messes like dirty dishes, picking up discarded toys or making sure everything is in its proper place.
Clutter is one of feng shui’s serious negative energy culprits and affects anyone—whether they’re knowingly practicing feng shui or not. Most of us naturally feel more relaxed when everything is neat and tidy. We sleep more soundly knowing we have one less item to cross off the ever-growing to-do list or stressors lurking in the back of our minds. “I think true feng shui is very practical,” says Lee. “When feng shui says certain trees are not good for the house, they are usually referring to trees TOO close to the property. So, in the practical sense, those trees would be very bad for plumbing. Another example is, you don’t want to have your desk against a wall in a room where your back is facing the door; I like to know who is coming into my office when I am working! This is the type of feng shui that I think people should adopt and practice—what makes good common sense to you! Again, going back to my belief of feng shui, it is living in harmony with what is natural.”
Feng shui teaches how balancing different elements and the placement of specific objects can create a harmonious, natural space. One of feng shui’s guiding principles, derives from the ancient Chinese doctrine of “the five elements.” This ancient organizational system posits that each of the five elements (fire, water, metal, earth and wood) interact in various ways depending on how artfully they are balanced.
To begin the elemental balancing act in your own home, start by labeling items in each room based on the element they most represent; Watch out for rooms filled with objects of only one or two elements—remember, feng shui is principally about balance and by adding missing elements or removing the over represented, you’ll be able to create a customized balanced environment that exudes prosperity and positive chi.
When perfectly balanced, fire will increase heated passion and enthusiasm as well as leadership skills, but watch out that the fire element doesn’t get too heated! An over abundance of fire can manifest as impulsiveness, aggression and anger. On the other end of the spectrum however, a lack of fire will result in coldness and inexpressiveness. Add a few sparks by placing candles and electronics in the room. Bright colors like fiery red or hot pink and exotic animal prints will also heat things up.
Wood has the power to inspire creativity, flexibility and intuition, and a lack of enough wood elements can be stifling to creativity and even cause depression. To ensure a balanced room, be sure to include fresh (or silk) flowers and plants, wooden furniture and natural, cotton fabrics.
In a balanced environment, water can bring about serenity, inspiration and wisdom yet too much can evoke the feeling of emotional drowning while too little can bring about loneliness and stress. “I like the soft sound of flowing water or even looking at slow moving water. It’s very calming and peaceful to me,” says Lee. To incorporate the water element, use dark tones, reflective surfaces (including mirrors), free-form, organic shapes and any type of aquatic feature like fountains or aquariums. When paired with lucky goldfish, try placing the aquarium on north wall or in southeast sector of home to nourish wealth.
Metal’s energy brings about clear thinking and logic, which translates to improved organizational and analytical abilities. With too much metal in the space (and nothing to absorb its energy) you may feel overly chatty and critical, while a lack of the element may cause you to experience a diminished focus or cautiousness. Look for objects made with metal: preferably round, oval shapes, and/or stones and objects with light neutral whites and greys and pastel shades.
Earth’s items can be more metaphorical than the straightforward selections of water and metal but include such things as clay pottery or crystals, and are equally important to maintaining balance. Without an earthly element in place, you may notice you become disorganized and unfocused, whereas a surplus will create a feeling of boredom. When in proper balance the earth element evokes a feeling of stability and grounding.
By integrating the theory behind each element with items of importance to you and which represent your personal style, you will see how feng shui provides practical ideas that can invigorate your space, improve your well-being and help you focus on and achieve your personal goals. But, because everyone is different and their own style and living conditions are unique, if you are truly serious about implementing feng shui in a formalized, professional fashion, Lee recommends hiring a expert to assess your situation. And, the beginning of a new year is an auspicious time to start fresh. “I think if people find feng shui truly fascinating, and they should, and want to practice this art at a higher level, they will need to hire someone who is truly expert and knowledgeable. With proper application they can definitely learn how to achieve maximum harmony in their homes,” says Lee.