Unless you have been living in a cave in the past year, the subject of feng shui, literally, "wind-water" in Chinese, the ancient environmental system of placement, has been inescapable! In electronic and print media, from coast to coast, continent to continent, and everywhere in between, there's no doubt that nationwide and globally, people are becoming more aware, acquainted, enamored, and yes, confused, about feng shui. Books on the subject are being churned out at a furious pace, written by masters and novices alike, making this 3,500-year-old Chinese tradition the hottest design trend and conversation topic going around.
As an intercultural and feng shui consultant and corporate facilitator to over 90 major residential and commercial developers as well as Crustacean Restaurant in Beverly Hills, Universal Studios UEX in Beijing, COTY International, The Limited, Paul Ank Productions, AT& T, Bank of America and Ford, among others, I have been deeply involved in educating clients, audiences and readers alike about feng shui for over fifteen years. During the real estate depression in California of the early 1990s, builders discovered that new home buyers were Asians, and that this centuries-old practice needed their attention. Because "bridging cultures for better business between Asians and non-Asians" through consulting, training, speaking, writing, and publishing has been and is my business, my timing couldn't have been better to be a vanguard on the subject.
Having being raised in a Chinese household, albeit in New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, New York, and finally in Washington, D.C., how could I not have heard about this thing called feng shui? It was one of the mysterious topics that were made references to, along with the warnings not to eat fried foods because they were "yeet hay," literally "hot energy." I think that most people, myself included, don't know what they know, until someone asks about it, much like having good manners. You may learn how to dance from Dad at home, but you still have to go to Cotillion to get fine-tune your skills! It wasn't until my developer clients asked me to teach their sales people about feng shui, that I realized how much about it I had absorbed in my upbringing by osmosis.
The Chinese invented the compass in the fourth century B.C. It is well documented that by the third century, this ingenious device was being used to aid in the proper placement of grave and home sites. Later the compass' value to seafarers and navigation was developed. The Chinese believe that we are all connected by cosmic, universal energy called chi to our ancestors, and to find the best optimum final resting place for them was to ensure health, harmony, and prosperity for us, their descendents.
Feng shui is one of the five components of our life or destiny. These are fate, luck, feng shui, charity, and education. Each of these is arbitrarily assigned a percentage of influence in molding our lives: 70%, 15%, 5%, 5%, and 5%, respectively. Fate is who and what you are - your gifts from heaven at birth. Luck is what happens to you after you are born. I contend that although fate and luck influence our lives the most, the latter three components are the proactive things we can do to change its course.
My favorite analogy is that life is a journey and you start from one place and end up somewhere else, experiencing a range of adventures, ups and downs, people, weather, and everything, well, life, along the way. Your feng shui, charitable and philanthropic, and educational choices are the proactive decisions that determine as well change your mode of transportation along the way.
While looking at and evaluating land forms, water ways and geography gave birth to the Form School of feng shui in southern China, it was the very absence of those geographical and geological features, and the relative flat topography of the north that necessitated the development of the Compass School. In the United States, a third school has gained popularity, the Black Sect Tantric Tibetan School, but as a speaker at the International Feng Shui Conference in London earlier this year in May, I discovered that the Compass School dominates in the rest of world. There are as many forms of feng shui as there are schools and practitioners, but there are some basic fundamentals shared by all.
The most popular forms of feng shui at this time are the Compass School and the Black (Hat) Sect Tantric Tibetan Buddhist School. Compass school is the traditional, classical feng shui practice which uses either a Chinese (luo pan) or Western-style compass to determine the eight compass directions in your rooms, office, or home. Because those directions govern various aspects of your life, you would then place the corresponding colors, animal symbols, numbers, and elements in those the areas that you wish to activate. In the BSTB school, you would totally disregard compass directions, stand at and use the entrance of the room, house, or office as your main reference point, and this spot would change from room to room, depending on the location of its entrance. Then you would place objects and other enhancements according to the different aspirations and accomplishments of your life that you want to activate.
Whichever school of feng shui you choose to practice, but particularly in the Compass School, the three major concepts are the same: flow of energy, the balance of yin and yang, and the interaction of the five elements. You will also recognize these as those components that comprise the foundation of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), tai chi, chi gong, accupuncture, accupressure, herbal cures, and other Chinese medical practices.
In nature, we only find perfectly straight lines in very short segments, as in the canes of sugar and bamboo. Even the tallest redwoods and pines have irregularities, and it is a natural law that energy flows in wavy lines like the breezes, mountain ranges, and streams. This undulating flow is beneficial and natural. In the land, chi moves in dragon lines along the topography; in people, its paths are channels called meridians.
When we see a river destroying everything in its path through the center of a town, we notice that the water is usually following something man-made, such a road. Freeways, tunnels, bridges, buildings, corners of building, lampposts, etc. all have straight edges which are considered conduits of negative energy called sha ch'i or "killing energy." In feng shui, such are to be avoided.
Secondly, the duality of the universe and the world around us is expressed in the tai chi, a circle created by a light and a dark droplet, positioned end to end. Yin is the female, soft, passive, nurturing, fluid, even numbers and the right side. Yang is male, bright, hard, active, aggressive, odd numbers and the left side. The two comprise a whole, and yet there is an element of each in the other. Dividing the two halves is a fluid S line which moves, according to the\ balance in the universe, nature, the environment surrounding us, and in us.
Sometimes we have too much yang, and other times, we have too much yin. It is up to us to personally find and maintain the balance between the two in our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, sexual, and intellectual selves. By achieving this balance is to experience being grounded or centered - much like a rock that is pounded by the elements and still remains unyielding. Notice that in each half, there is the presence of its complement, in the form of a dot. While in Chinese philosophy, this has been accepted knowledge for several thousand years, the acknowledgement that every male has a feminine aspect, and every female, has a male, is new to the Western mind and medicine.
Then at last, are the five elements: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Each one of them relates to the other in two different ways. The first is in a generative or creative manner that gives strength and power to all. The second relationship is one that shows how each can be overcome or destroyed. Knowing the two cycles is critical in feng shui and placement for misinformation or lack of knowledge can bring on the opposite effect of what you are trying to achieve.
The creative/generative/birth cycle is as follows: water nourishes wood, wood makes fire, fire creates earth (as in volanoes), earth creates metal, metal creates water. The destructive cycle contends that water puts out fire, fire melts metal, metal cuts wood, wood displaces earth, earth dams water.
Whichever form of feng shui you choose to practice, be consistent and practice one school at a time. If it does not give you the results that you seek, feel free to try the another. The guidelines remain basically the same: put the right objects in the right place to be in harmony and balance with yourself, nature, and the universe. Meanwhile, you will also be activating the various areas of your life that you wish to improve: harmony, health, love, romance, marriage, children, business, career, creativity, self-development, wealth, and fame, fortune, and aspirations.
While there are no hard and fast rules in feng shui, there are many general guidelines. Here are just a few basics:
Much, if not most, of what you will do is using good common sense, sound architectural design, and intuition, for feng shui is based on respecting the gifts of life and the world around us. Geography, ecology, meteorology, astronomy, interior design, ancient Chinese philosophies such as Taoism, Buddhism, and folk beliefs that have survived thousands of years are all a part of the mix.
These are the keys to creating good feng shui as you tap into the tao, or path or flow of the universe and its rhythms for a more holistic, natural and simple way of life.
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Angi Ma Wong