Feng Shui for the Rest of Us

Many people equate Feng Shui with over-priced interior design. Just browse through any Feng Shui book and you’ll likely be regaled with photographs of the most beautiful homes and gardens–the kind of places most of us wouldn’t dare dream about. I have one of these beautiful books on my coffee table right now. Sure, who wouldn’t want a Japanese garden complete with carp pond and tea house? And what about that frequent but impractical Feng Shui solution of moving your stove to a more auspicious sector of the kitchen? If all you do is peruse these books, it would be easy to think that Feng Shui is only for people with money and time on their hands. Well, I’d like to dispel that notion.

Real Feng Shui is not a bunch of clever tricks to pump up your 401K, or find a hot date. Real Feng Shui is shamanic. What I mean by that is that Feng Shui assumes a vital and reciprocal relationship between humans and their environment. So the tree outside your window affects your home, and your home affects that tree. You are in this together. The harmony of the whole environment must be considered, not just your personal good fortune or need to get ahead. In the long run, this concern for the health and well being of your home extends to benefit your street, your neighborhood, and your community. So Feng Shui becomes a spiritual practice–a practice of caring for the plant and earth spirits in your particular neck of the woods. When you do that, good stuff tends to come your way. But you don’t do this to get something in return. You do it to be a good human being; to live kindly and generously, caring for the place which gives you shelter.

So how would you practice this kind of Feng Shui–a feng shui that aims to improve circulation, and restores our sacred connection to the Earth? I usually tell people to start by going outside. That’s right. Stop worrying about crystals, and mirrors, and your wealth corner, and go outside. Walk around your yard. How are things with the plants that live there? Are they healthy and thriving? If not, why? What do they need? What can you do to bring more life force to your yard? Is there a particular tree or plant that seems to be the guardian of the house? That’s the one you need to pay particular attention to. The external environment nourishes your house, so the more you putter in your yard, tending and observing, the more the chi flows.  Many people make the mistake of focusing exclusively on room design, hoping for dramatic feng shui results, without tending first to the source of chi, which is outside.

Now go inside.  Think of your house as a living being that needs to breath, and needs balance.  Walk around in it. Can you circulate easily from room to room without bumping into things? Are there places where you feel like settling for a bit before moving on? This is a sign of good chi flow which, like good circulation in a person, is necessary to the health of the home. Can you get inside the front door easily? Or are there things that obstruct easy entry like junk piled on the porch, or a sticky door? Are the rooms pleasant and clean? Do you enjoy your home? If not, ask yourself why. The most important thing you can do to improve the feng shui of your home is to make it simple, clean and beautiful, and to enjoy it. This doesn’t require spending huge amounts of money on decorating. It’s more about tending it with care and gratitude, creating spaces that you find pleasurable, and treating it like a valued friend.

For instance, I recently switched my home office from a spare bedroom at the back of the house, to an area in the front off my living room. After completing the change, the back room, formerly the office, revealed itself to me as a peaceful morning meditation and tea room. I just couldn’t see it until I stripped it of computers, file cabinets, and printers. Now it contains one comfortable old chair, two book shelves, and a tea table, all obtained on the cheap from Craig’s list or garage sales. Not fancy, but all I need for those quiet morning sessions of qigong or shamanic journeying with the sun streaming in the East facing window. I feel like this room and I have finally arrived at an understanding, as if it was waiting all this time for me to discover its real gifts. This simple shift improved my life considerably, and cost me nothing.

That’s feng shui for the rest of us.


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