Feng shui is the practice of adjusting one’s immediate environment to harmonize the inner self with outward activities. Everything in our immediate surroundings has a physical and psychological effect on us — for good or bad — and the goal of feng shui is to achieve maximum health and well-being by enhancing those surroundings.
As with many traditional practices, some of the prescriptions of feng shui — like placing an octagonal mirror called a bagua above one’s door to ward off negative energies — may, at first, sound ridiculous. But, on reflection, these strange-sounding directives can be seen to embody psychological insights and a profound understanding of the natural world. There is much for modern people to learn from this ancient art.
Feng shui means wind and water in Chinese. The goal is to harness and balance the chi energy in your living space. Chi is defined as the universal, life-force energy. The practice has been around for at least 3,000 or 4,000 years, having originated as an agricultural tradition. Farmers learned to expose their crops to the beneficial south winds. It would be even better to have mountains on the north, to protect crops from north winds and any intruders. Best yet, would be to have mountains on either side of the fields. With well-situated land, crops grow well, food is good, and the family has good energy. With good energy, they will be healthy, wealthy, and wise.
The first principle is to position the major piece of furniture in a room so you face the entrance when using it. Sitting in that position, you feel much more comfortable and in control, whether at a desk or in your favorite easy chair. While sitting there, you can see all the energies, or activities, coming toward you and are aware of everything going on around you. Ironically, seeing everything will make you less distracted.
If you sit at your desk with your back to the door, over a long period of time, you accumulate stress from a continued, unconscious fear that somebody might be coming up behind you. This would affect your focus and concentration. In that case, you may walk out of your house and forget your keys, or trip, because you’re not completely aligned with yourself. This makes sense because humans evolved over millions of years in a dangerous and threatening environment. We have an instinctual, unconscious need to be safe.
In studying interior design, we were taught to locate a desk for an executive or president facing the door. People are intimidated by seeing the boss in the power position.
Let’s take another example: the bed. It’s always good to look toward the door when you are in bed. To enhance a relationship between a couple, it is helpful to have equal space on each side of the bed, connoting agreement of the partners. If one side of the bed is against a wall, it could create a one-sided relationship, or, if you are a single, you may not open up to a relationship.
The Chinese principle of yin and yang is basic in feng shui. Yin and yang is the concept of balance — light and dark, heavy and light. For example, it’s good to have a very yang space around your desk or kitchen, which have a lot of activity. But you want to create a very yin space for your bedroom, an enveloping, closed, and nurturing feeling.
In a lot of my consultations, I find that many people have TVs and workspaces in their bedrooms. To me, that is too much of an imbalance of energy. I always recommend removing the TV from the bedroom and finding ways to create a separate place for work — if not physically, then at least visually. Seeing a desk full of work left undone when you get in bed is going to affect your sleep. If your needed rest is insufficient, it will produce lowered energy in the rest of your life.
Feng shui is very much like acupuncture. In acupuncture, needles are placed in the body to help move the energy more smoothly within the body. Feng shui is like acupuncture for your space. We use the furniture and the furnishings — the artwork, plants, etc. — to enhance the flow of energy within your space.
The essence of feng shui is a harmonious relationship between you, the spaces within which you live, and the environment. Harmony and balance can be achieved by the application of a few fundamental feng shui principles, a healthy dose of common sense, and a willingness to listen to one of your own most trusted advisers: yourself.
R.D. Chin is a feng shui master, teacher, architect, and interior designer. He works to integrate the heart with the mind while creating a master plan for where you live or work. He is the author of “Feng Shui Revealed’ and was a guest lecturer for the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons in 2011.