What is Feng Shui?
Feng Shui is sometimes thought of as “the Chinese art of placement”, or little more than an offshoot of interior design. It actually is something quite different. Feng Shui is nothing less than the link between our material world and the spiritual or metaphysical world that lies beyond!
Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese art and science of living in harmony with environmental energies. There are powerful networks of “chi”, or vital life energy, flowing around and through our world at all times. The term “Feng Shui” actually means wind water, and is derived from the fact that the chi in our environment flows everywhere with the wind, and comes to rest under the right conditions, such as over calm water. This energy has a major impact on our bodies and minds, both conscious and subconscious. The impact can be helpful or harmful. When effectively harnessed, the flow of chi can bring harmony and real benefits. Improvements in the Feng Shui of a space result in a smoother flow of energy and in improved circumstances in the lives of the occupants.
The tools and formulas used in authentic classical Feng Shui make it possible to harness and manipulate the chi of a home or workplace. Certain health care modalities, such as acupuncture or Reiki, work with the chi, or life energy, in the human body, to minimize blockages and to optimize the flow of energy. This benefits the health and wellbeing of an individual. Feng Shui works with the same chi, but in a building rather than in a person. This environmental chi has an effect on all aspects of the occupant’s lives. Feng Shui enhancements can improve the overall “feel” of a space, or can be specifically focused on any area of the occupant’s lives that needs attention, including romance, marriage, family, children, creativity, career, wealth, education, health, reputation, fame, spirituality, fertility, and more.
A primary goal of Feng Shui is to “balance” unseen energies in a space. The first step in doing so is determining the nature of these energies. What do we mean by “balancing” energies? This requires weakening or draining any negative or harmful energies in a space to strengthen and enhance benevolent energies. This is done by the precise use of “wu xing”, or five element theory. In the Chinese culture, everything relates to one or more of the five basic elements – earth, wood, metal, fire, and water. This applies to everything tangible or intangible. Every type of energy in a home, building, or specific room is correlated with one of these elements. With an understanding of how the elements relate to one another, they can be added or removed from a space to balance the unseen energies. Elements may be present in a room in the form of specific colors, materials, or symbolic objects. For example, a plant would be a strong representation of the earth element.
I am sometimes asked if there is a conflict between Feng Shui and religion. Feng Shui is not a religion, nor is it in conflict with any faith. However, Feng Shui is a spiritual practice, and there is an underlying connection between chi, life, love and God. Feng Shui invites chi, or life energy, into a dwelling, which, to me, is nothing less than inviting the presence of God into a home. 1 John 4:16 says “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
Feng Shui is a powerful practice that most certainly changes lives. However, it is not the answer to all of life’s problems and it is naïve to think otherwise. In Chinese tradition, luck is a trinity. “Tien chai” or heaven luck is one’s pre-ordained destiny or fate. This is the one type of luck over which you have little control. “Ren chai” or human luck, is a result of living a good and virtuous life, and making the best choices in life. “Ti chai” or earth luck, is a result of good Feng Shui, and can be improved by working on and improving one’s Feng Shui. The late Grand Master Yap Chang Hai of Malaysia said “Feng Shui will enhance your life but should not rule your life. If you are destined to have bad luck, then so you will. Feng Shui can only soften the blow.”
Where did Feng Shui Come From?
Feng Shui originated in ancient China over 6,000 years ago. We do not know its exact origins. The early masters of Taoism studied the energies affecting and given off by the land. They observed that these energies could make the lives of the inhabitants easier or could create obstacles and difficulties for those inhabitants. Feng Shui is partly rooted in the philosophy of Taoism and in the I Ching, the Chinese “Book of Changes”. The classical, or traditional, form of Feng Shui, as practiced today, uses the same principles that have been found effective for thousands of years.
Did Feng Shui simply develop over time based on Chinese observations of nature and life? Or, does it have a more surprising origin? There are those who believe extraterrestrial visitors brought this potent knowledge down to humankind. There are even theories that many of the earth’s ancient monuments – the pyramids, for example – were designed to harness the planet’s energies for purposes that have now been long forgotten. Someday, we may know the whole truth. Right now, there are more questions than answers. We do know that the knowledge of Feng Shui and the ability to work with it was considered a priceless treasure in ancient China, reserved only for the Imperial Court. Great efforts were made to keep Feng Shui out of the “wrong hands” for fear that its power could be used to overthrow the dynasty. In the 20th century, China’s communist government banned the teaching and practice of Feng Shui, leaving its open practice in the hands of Chinese emigrants traveling to other parts of Asia. So today, the main centers of Feng Shui are Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. The extreme success of these areas speaks for itself! Only in the 20th century did a few great teachers of Feng Shui start to share this esoteric knowledge in English and other languages, making the practice available to the western world. In the last several decades, restrictions have been relaxed in mainland China, and a tremendous resurgence of Feng Shui is taking place there. In much of Asia today, it is rare for a construction projection to go forward without careful consideration of the structure’s Feng Shui. Outside of Asia, the practice is becoming more widespread year-by-year.
Is it a Science, Art or Superstition?
Feng Shui is a complex science and art. The earliest known use of Feng Shui was to determine the optimal locations for burial sites. The Chinese have always believed that giving their ancestors an auspicious resting place ensured good luck for their descendants. Later came “San He” Feng Shui, which entails the study of landscape features, such as hills and rivers, and object placement to ensure a flow of energy that is beneficial rather than detrimental. Still later came the widespread use of “San Yuan” Feng Shui, the study and analysis of the unseen energies and how they move through a space or building over time, and how their impact on the occupants changes over time. This involves complex formulas that take into consideration the history of the building, the birth dates of the occupants, the exact positioning of the structure on the earth, and other factors. This analysis requires a high degree of precision and expertise as careless or incorrect application can cause more harm than good.
The practice of harnessing and manipulating the energies of the earth can be studied for a lifetime. It is based on countless principles of form and placement, complex formulas for working with the unseen influences, an understanding of how chi acts in both urban and rural environments, and the ability to connect with that which lies beyond our material world. The basics of Feng Shui can be learned in a classroom setting. Greater understanding comes only with years of experience.
Feng Shui, as a science, works on many different levels. Powerful formulas pinpoint the natures of the unseen energies in a building and the relationship between those energies and the lives and feelings of the occupants. Specific methods of balancing those energies, and especially of draining the harmful power from any negative areas, are employed.
Feng Shui as an art requires an acute sensitivity to aspects of an environment that are beyond the reach of any formulas. It also entails the development of creative solutions that will optimize the flow of energy and feel best to the particular inhabitants of the space.
The superstition aspect of Feng Shui is derived from folk beliefs that have evolved in Chinese culture over countless generations. These may have no basis other than the fact that many millions of people have held these beliefs for many centuries. Does that mean they are just groundless beliefs, or does the power given them bring these superstitions to life as facts? Just as the mind of any one of us is powerful, the mind of a group working in unison is infinitely more so. A dramatic example of mind power here in the United States took place on Sept. 11, 2002, one year after the 911 attacks. “911” was a number that, understandably, was on many people’s minds on that day. That evening, the winning number in the New York Lottery Pick 3 drawing was “911”. You can chalk it up to coincidence, if you wish. Personally, I do not believe in coincidence.
Feng Shui in America Today
Once in America, Feng Shui took on new directions, to the point where simplified or modified “variations” of Feng Shui are marketed widely. These include Black Sect Tantric Buddhist Feng Shui, which uses authentic Tibetan Buddhist spiritual practices combined with a non-traditional approach to Feng Shui, as well as Pyramid Feng Shui, Intuitive Feng Shui, and many other variations. Unfortunately, these “non-traditional” practices differ greatly from authentic Feng Shui. Simplistic articles and books about Feng Shui refer to the “Chinese art of furniture placement”. This does not reflect a real understanding of Feng Shui.
There are a ton of books on Feng Shui – the words “Feng Shui” are used, and misused, everywhere! To many people who have read books on Feng Shui, the “Pa Kua” (pronounced “ba gua”) is the heart of Feng Shui practice. The Pa Kua is actually a simplistic chart that associates the various areas, or sectors, of the home, with one of the five elements and with a life aspiration, such as romance, prosperity, career success and education. Less traditional practitioners align the Pa Kua with the position of the main door in the home. More traditional practitioners align the Pa Kua with compass directions. Truly traditional practitioners put little emphasis on the Pa Kua, focusing instead on the more precise Flying Star Feng Shui.
When reading about Feng Shui, it is important to know whether the writing is based on authentic Feng Shui as practiced in Asia for generations, or some other practice developed in the west, that is called Feng Shui despite having little to do with the real thing. There is no oversight agency making sure that that which is called “Feng Shui” is the real thing. Authentic Feng Shui, which includes all 8 Feng Shui home & business Consultation Services, is usually referred to as “classical” or “traditional” Feng Shui, and there are 2 keys to look for:
1. Authentic Feng Shui is always based on compass directions. Non-traditional variations generally do not use the compass
2. Authentic Feng Shui always considers the important time factor. Certain historical information about the structure is used to determine the nature of its unseen energies, how those energies move over time and how their impact on the occupants changes over time. These moving and changing unseen energies are referred to as Flying Stars. Non-traditional variations generally treat energy as if it were stagnant.
As much as Feng Shui is misunderstood by some in America, it is well understood and taken very seriously by many others. The traditional, or classical, form of Feng Shui today uses the same techniques and formulas as practiced in Asia for generations. This approach makes it possible for a skilled practitioner to accurately analyze the energies flowing through a building.
A thorough Feng Shui analysis considers landscape features, the positioning of a structure, the usage of each room, the placement of furniture, the directions in which each individual sleeps or works, usage of color, shapes, materials, and much more. Only traditional Feng Shui uses formulas that determine the nature and flow of the “unseen” energies that exert a strong influence on the lives of those who live or work in the building. For example, to determine if an individual’s bed is optimally positioned, 3 main factors are examined
1. Are the unseen energies of the bedroom supportive of good health and good relationships?
2. Based on the energy that the individual was born under and their gender, is the bed’s direction optimal for them?
3. Is the bed well positioned in terms of the configuration of the room, including the locations of doors and windows, any ceiling beams, any jutting corners, and relative to other pieces of furniture.
If any of these factors are not optimal, the best corrections will be determined to make the individual’s bedroom as supportive of their good luck as possible.
There are several safe and simple changes that anyone can make on their own which will generally begin to improve the Feng Shui of your home. Here are some basic steps to take:
1. Clear out clutter! Clutter can block your progress in life. When it becomes a real problem, it can have an emotional effect, leading to depression and a feeling of stagnation. Carried to the extreme, it can produce aches and pains, joint problems and worse. Reducing the clutter can clear the path to positive change. Removing the physical debris does wonders for emotional clearing and clearing the way forward in life. Just as we place obstacles in our own paths, we can remove them.
2. Make your front door truly welcoming. The entrance to your home or workplace is an important connection to the outside world. It should be well lit and attractive. Nothing should block or crowd the entrance. You should feel happy to come home and your guests should find the entrance to your home inviting.
3. Avoid rushing chi! Arrange your furniture so that the energy meanders gently through your home or workplace. A long, narrow hallway or multiple doors in a straight line create rushing chi. A wind chime or other object placed near the center of a straight path may slow the energy down. In the case of a hallway, use bright lighting, lots of artwork and two or more runner rugs in series. The break lines between pictures and rugs slow rushing chi.
4. Deflect “poison arrows”. Sharp angles such as corners of furniture are considered to be “poison arrows”. These send out negative energy, which can hinder concentration or even produce bad luck. “Poison arrows” can, in some cases, be “disarmed” by placing a plant or wind chime at the corner.
5. Eliminate negative vibes! That painting or knick-knack that everyone admires but you secretly can’t stand? Sell it, give it away, or throw it away! Same for a photo that gives you a sad feeling each time you pass – if you must keep it, better to place it in an album. Your environment should contribute to your happiness and comfort.
6. Make the bedroom a restful place. Consider relocating the TV or computer elsewhere. Fountains and other water features do not belong here either. Work or financial materials should be removed, as well. Bedroom mirrors should never be located where they can reflect the bed.
7. Keep the toilet lid down! The toilet is a drain on positive chi and should be kept closed when not in use. It is generally best to keep the bathroom door closed also.
8. Pets and plants are helpful! Pets stimulate positive chi. It is important that they be well cared for and happy. Plants should be well tended and healthy. Dried flowers, cacti, and bonsai should not be kept in the home.
Most people will find that these simple steps alone make a perceptible improvement in the feel of their environment. The next step is a thorough Feng Shui analysis of the home or workplace. Correctly done, environmental energy which was previously an obstacle will actually be utilized to support and promote the goals and well-being of the occupants. For this it is highly advisable to employ the services of a professional Feng Shui practitioner.