Feng shui (fung shway) is the 5000 year old Chinese art of placement, a way of bringing balance and harmony into all aspects of your life by arrangement of the external environment.
Now that I have been doing feng shui consultations for several years, I have noticed that occasionally people get bogged down in the particulars. That is easy to do because of the quaint remedies feng shui sometimes recommends, things like red string in 9″ lengths, mirrors under your bed and propellers on your roof, to name a few.
Bizarre as these things sound, they are parts of simple rituals designed to put your everyday mind into a different mode. Let’s face it; if your usual way of thinking were getting you everything your heart desires, you would not need feng shui.
But we all have places where it feels like our brains must be stuck in a deep groove keeping us thinking, and therefore manifesting, lack or over-consumption in one area or another.
At the basic level of feng shui, this ancient art is simply about creating a harmonious environment in which to live and work. But feng shui also has a tradition of dealing with major life issues like career changes, relationship woes and health problems by having you perform a very precise but seemingly ridiculous act.
At a recent feng shui workshop I was giving in Ohio, three different people came up to me and asked if I knew of the cure for selling a house.
Feng shui tradition has several, but they were speaking of a local custom of burying a statue of St. Joseph upside down in the back yard. One fellow had sold six houses this way within two weeks. Once again, I realized that every tradition has some kind of feng shui practice even if not “officially” recognized.
Why do these odd things work? We don’t know. I suspect that we are working with vibrational frequencies as well as changing our ordinary patterns of behavior so that something out-of-the ordinary can happen.
As a culture, we tend to dismiss anything that cannot be explained scientifically. But if you really think science explains anything, all you have to do is read or listen to the tape of The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav or delve into (the more complicated) A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. You will again become convinced that life is pure magic.
Change one thing and it changes everything else. For the most part, we do not know what we are changing, but apparently the Chinese of long, long ago had time to observe the effects of small adjustments to the external environment.
And in our own time, going shopping would never have become a national pastime if we were not convinced that a small material item could perhaps shift our life for the better.
I enjoy the wide variety of external adjustments we can make in our lives these days. We can certainly obtain any small things we desire. It is good to remember that it is small things that feed the soul.
This is the lesson of feng shui. It is not necessarily the grand new house that pleases to the depths of one’s being, but the house which shelters love and happiness. Having love and happiness at home, one is more likely to remain healthy. Remaining healthy, one can fulfill one’s career opportunities, perhaps leading to fame and wealth.
In doing appointments at people’s homes, I am often touched by the care that has gone into designing the homes built before 1950. They seem to have been designed for intimacy. This contrasts with the stark coldness of contemporary tract “mansions.”
There are exceptions, of course, but many modern developments are places which suck the life out of us. First, the earth beneath them has had no time to recover from the abuse of the machinery used to build the development. Then, the homes are so expensive, you must give up more of your life to your job to pay for them.
The landscaping, if any, is young and small. Often, the furnishings are as new as the paint and carpeting which gives an impression of untouchable cleanness inside and out, silently demanding that no one dare play or create here. None of nature’s wildness is left outside, nor is there much display of personality inside.
The homes are perfect and, at the same time, devastating. The development is not usually connected to a town except by car. One cannot hang out on the corner without looking conspicuous nor stroll to the store and, over time, become acquainted with the neighborhood by touching it on foot and greeting the people outside by voice. There are no clear boundaries to the yards and, therefore, they offer no privacy outdoors, no slightly hidden places under trees or on porches to watch others unobserved.
The family is isolated in the midst of apparent plenty. This puts undue strain on the small unit of individuals that must now be absolutely everything to each other.
Our spirits suffer in this environment. Feng shui, literally translated, means “wind and water.” It can also mean “chance.” In our lives, we need nature; we need something left to luck, something uncontrolled, something outrageous, silly or magnificent.
Something not absolutely tidy amidst the order and movement toward goals. Nature works this way. Older neighborhoods usually have “more” of nature. During a storm an old tree might fall down. Perennial flowers might pop up where you did not plant them. There is variety in the housing size; often there are stores intermixed.
You can take any number of streets to get to a destination. The people are often a diverse group. Interesting things happen because of the mix. They may not all be “good.” But the homogeneous “good” neighborhood can feel quite empty to the soul.
Lacking natural “winds and waters,” to stir excitement into life, the soul will suffer. Perhaps depression or loneliness will set in. This may affect marriage or one’s job. The feng shui practitioner may be called to take stock of the environment.
In a house or neighborhood without the beneficial chi needed to sustain life, the practitioner may have to suggest inserting a highly unusual action into your daily routine, usually for nine or twenty-seven days. This break in habitual functioning is often enough to let the chi (I like to think of chi as Wild Grace.) back in.
The feng shui practitioner may suggest that you perform a small ritual act or place three lively plants in a certain arrangement or hang a wind chime indoors. The feng shui adjustments usually work with the natural elements, inviting you to do something unusual with them. Some of the suggestions seem harmlessly bizarre. But, if you cannot make the smallest change in your thought pattern, you probably need to do something even more silly than a feng shui adjustment.
Ideally, you would be living in a neighborhood where excitement has a chance, but if not, your soul is going to look for it elsewhere. Stuck in a soulless environment, you may find yourself gambling your paycheck away or running off with your secretary.
These “wind and water” cures (“There was just something in the air; I followed the flow.”) are very old too, but better to go ahead and do the feng shui. In any case, your soul will find a way to let the Wild Grace in. Feng shui is not only finding an auspicious house and site and arranging the furniture for harmonious balance, it is also tossing “totally normal” to the wind.
Feng shui attempts to prevent the need of the soul to use a more drastic cure for a lack in one’s external environment. Once again, the soul, in order to feel fulfilled, wants small daily pleasures, a variety of interesting experiences and the chance to participate in life. It is not happy when life is negated. Feng shui teaches how to do the small things that grab the soul’s attention and tell it in subtle ways, “Yes, everything you want is here.”