Feng Shui is a way to combine minimalism and Asian practices to bring our home surroundings into harmony and balance with our lives.
by Wendy Priesnitz
When I’m struggling with a problem, I often find myself cleaning a closet. It’s like I need to literally clear away the clutter in my life before I can make a decision or a change. What may seem like mental gymnastics actually has a strong foundation in many world philosophies. What I may be unconsciously doing is attempting to balance energy or remove barriers to energy flow, which is the basis for yin-yang, Taoism, Feng Shui, and other Oriental principles.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? When our world is balanced, we feel balanced. Most of us have lives that are so busy and full we want our homes to be peaceful, orderly sanctuaries. And orderliness is easier without clutter.
The search for minimalism, simplicity, and calm in our homes is leading to a boom in furniture and decor products that are simple and minimalist, and often in the Asian style. Home decor retailers report increasing demand for items like aromatherapy candles, incense, water fountains, and crystals. Sushi trays, items made of bamboo, and wooden lamps with rice paper shades have also increased in popularity.
The popularity of the ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui (pronounced fung shway) has also increased as a way to bring our lives into harmony and balance with our surroundings.
In Eastern philosophies, energy is called Ch’I (in Chinese), Ki (in Japanese) or prana (in Indian) – meaning the vital force. Feng Shui works with Taoism to create the path of least resistance for the Ch’I (pronounced chee). That’s why an uncluttered environment allows us to focus on the task at hand.
Feng Shui literally means wind and water. Essentially, it is the belief that the environment in which we live should be balanced by ensuring a flow of wind (feng) and water (shui). The aim is to prevent good energy from being dispersed by wind and to have the good energy retained by water. It has also been described as the process of balancing the yin (female traits) and the yang (male traits).
Feng Shui is at least 4,000 years old. Over the centuries, it has developed into approximately 30 different schools or disciplines. The three main schools are the Form or Land Form, the Compass, and the Black Hat Tantric Sect or Western School.
All three schools use a mapping device called the Ba’ Gua. “Ba” means eight (the luckiest number in Chinese culture) and “gua” means areas, thus the Ba’ Gua is essentially an eight-sided compass, which is used to determine various traits. Each gua on the compass reflects a different aspect of life. See the end of this article for more detail.
Feng Shui is a complicated science and a professional consultation can be expensive, depending on the scope of the work and the experience of the practitioner. But anyone can employ some of the more basic principles in their home.
“If there is harmony in the house, there is order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.” ~Chinese Proverb
Clearing the clutter and debris in your home and in your personal life is the first step of Feng Shui and it costs nothing. Clutter is trapped energy that has a far-reaching effect physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Clutter makes you feel unorganized and confused, keeps you in the past, congests your body, makes you feel lethargic and tired. As I instinctively knew when I started cleaning out the closet while pondering a life change, the simple act of clearing clutter can transform your life by releasing negative emotions, generating energy and allowing you to create space in your life for the things you want to achieve.
If you are having trouble with the metaphorical thinking required by Feng Shui, look at it this way. Is that ugly knickknack that your aunt gave you – the one that you keep on display out of a sense of obligation in case she ever visits – worth the negative energy that you feel when you encounter it? If it is sapping your energy, get rid of it.
Making sure your surroundings are in good repair is another Feng Shui tactic. Windows are said to be the eyes of the Chi and affect your clarity, so replace broken glass panes and clean the windows. The main entrance to the house or building is the main mouth of the Chi. This is where, symbolically, energy enters your home. For that reason, make sure the main entrance is clear, open, and well defined. Create a clear path to the front door and trim back any hedges. A well lit front entrance will also help create good energy flow.
Metaphorically, Chinese culture teaches that broken windows create conflicts with a child or the inner child. Similarly, broken or blocked doors are thought to block the voice of the adult. Feng Shui says that a sticking door can contribute to tension between partners in the home so get out the can of oil or shave off that extra bit of wood.
Plumbing represents our digestive system, so repair those leaky faucets and clogged drains. Our home’s electrical system is a metaphor for our neurological system, so replace those dead light bulbs and tend to that tangle of wires behind your computer.
With Feng Shui, less is definitely more. And always keep energy flow in mind when decorating and locating furniture. For example, consider furniture that is smaller in scale, such as two love seats and an armchair instead of a long six-to eight-foot sofa. Use lighter colored woods and fabrics, and smaller patterns in the wallpaper.
Great Feng Shui can be achieved by employing simplicity and minimalism and by creating light, air, and open spaces. Avoid decorating with a lot of knickknacks, numerous furnishings, or a preponderance of art covering the walls.
Mirrors can be used effectively to improve the energy in your home. Practically, a properly placed mirror can expand the horizon, give the impression of more space and help you see what’s behind you.
Other Feng Shui tips include using multi-faceted leaded glass crystals to bring more sunlight and full-spectrum colors into the home, and hanging wind chimes or strings of bells to create pleasant sounds and stimulate energy circulation. Conversely, heavy objects like stones and statues can stabilize an unsettling situation in a home or business.
Live objects such as plants, flowers, and pets have their own life force. Plants and flowers are healthy for the environment, encourage growth and new opportunities, soften harsh angles, and fill in empty spaces. (Dead or dying plants are not good Feng Shui!) Fish bowls and aquariums bring a water view into your home.
Use Nature as a model by bringing the five natural elements of Chinese medicine — water, wood, fire, earth, and metal — into your home to create balance and harmony.
The Five Elements
Feng Shui uses symbolic representations of the creative and regenerative cycles of the five elements to make modifications in your home. Based upon the metaphorical analogies of these elements when used decoratively in your home, you can make changes in your life.
Water – Black, Focus: flowing, clear, clarity, sensitivity, emotions
Wood – Green, Growth: beginnings, freshness, nurturing, activity
Metal – White, Reflection: vision, riches, abundance, finances
Earth – Yellow, Grounded: stability, grounding, security, home
Fire – Red, Getting Started: action, activity, motivation, passion, spontaneity
In Feng Shui, the Ba’ Gua is an eight-sided compass used to determine various traits. Each direction reflects a different aspect of life.
North: career and prospects
South: recognition and fame
East: relationships and health
West: creativity and children
North West: mentors
North East: knowledge and education
South West: marriage
South East: wealth and prosperity