Happy Summer Solstice!

FlowersHappy Summer Solstice! I love this time of year especially because the days are long, the sunsets are beautiful and my garden is in bloom! I know that sounds odd; after all, hasn’t most of the country been experiencing spring blooms since the Spring Equinox in March? Growing up in Texas, I was accustomed to bluebonnets blooming in April. I was to later learn that Minnesotans were looking at piles of snow in April! And to add insult to injury, several years ago Minnesota was subjected to a snowstorm May 2. Yikes! Actually Minnesotans have seen snow as late as June, but that was back in 1935! So I’m feeling confident; the odds of a snowstorm are zero and my garden is blooming!

‘Just living is not enough,’ said the butterfly.
‘One must have sunshine, freedom,
and a little flower.’
Hans Christian Andersen 

 The Summer Solstice, also known as “Midsummer,” is the longest day of the year, the day when the Sun is at its highest point. Solstice comes from the Latin term solstitium (“sun stands still). The date of the Summer Solstice is always somewhere between June 20 and 22 and signals life at its most expansive.

The solstice serves as a reminder of the reverence and understanding that early people had for the sky. Ancient cultures knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year; these were used  as markers to determine when to plant and harvest crops.

StonehengeSome 5,000 years ago, people placed huge stones, or megaliths, in a circle on a broad plain in what is now England, aligning them with the June solstice sunrise. It is believed that this unique stone circle, called Stonehenge, was erected to establish the date of the Summer Solstice. Some historians point to Stonehenge as evidence that ancient humans used the June Solstice as a way to organize their calendars. Viewed from its center, the sun rises at a particular point on the horizon on the day of the June Solstice, suggesting that the builders of Stonehenge may have used the solstice as a starting-point to count the days of the year.

While we may never comprehend the full significance of Stonehenge, we do know that this knowledge wasn’t limited to just one part of the world. Around the same time Stonehenge was being constructed in England, two great pyramids and then the Sphinx were built on Egyptian sands. Standing at the Sphinx on the summer solstice and gazing toward the two pyramids, you will see the sun set exactly between them.

And while these ancient peoples built monuments to follow the sun’s yearly progress, today we know that the solstice is an astronomical event, caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis and its motion in orbit around the sun.

Celebrations surrounding this time also have a time-honored history. Northern European countriesmidsummer pole like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland acknowledge the earth’s fertility with bonfires; they decorate their homes with flower garlands, greenery, and tree branches. In Sweden and many parts of Finland, people dance around Maypoles. In the United States, the Summer Solstice is often celebrated by local festivals and gatherings with family and friends.

From a Feng Shui perspective, the Summer Solstice signifies the shift from the Wood energy of spring to the Fire energy of summer. Represented by the sun, the Fire Element reflects warmth, brilliance and vitality. In humans, it represents excitement, enthusiasm and generosity.

BaguaLtr04aa01RRRIn the Feng Shui Bagua, this vital life force is found in the Fame and Reputation sector. This area signifies the public aspect of your life – your reputation, your integrity, how you are perceived and what people say about you. The color red  holds the highest vibrational energy of any of the colors and represents the Fire Element. This Element reflects warmth, brilliance and vitality. In humans, it represents excitement, enthusiasm and generosity.

As we enjoy the beauty and bounty brought by the energy of the Summer Solstice, it is an auspicious time to focus on the Fame and Reputation area of your home. Energetically enhanced, it can provide extra support in this area of your life during this time. Consider adding a vase of red flowers in that gua with the intention of supporting personal growth and expansion. Use this powerful Fire energy to help you reflect on what it is you want to bring to the world and what you would like to be known and remembered for.

One way of celebrating the Solstice is to consider it a sacred time of reflection,
release, restoration and renewal.
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Outhouse Feng Shui

Several years ago, I came across an article on Outhouse Feng Shui. It was a fun concept and unique application of Feng Shui.

For anyone who has ever gone camping, the outhouse is a welcome essential. While I appreciate their function, I also find them gross so – quick in, quick out! There’s really no need to “Feng Shui” an outhouse in that situation, or is there? Something to think about in your spare time! In the meantime, I actually experienced an outhouse with good Feng Shui!

But let me start at the beginning. In the practice of Feng Shui, every room in your home has a specific function (or should have). There are also clear Feng Shui guidelines for enhancing positive energy (Chi) and mitigating any negative energy in each room, depending on its function and location in the Bagua of your home.

Bathrooms are especially challenging. Their primary function is elimination and, while we certainly wouldn’t want to live without them, by their very nature they drain Chi (energy). Sinks, bathtubs, showers and toilets have yin water energy and it is a draining energy that depletes our personal energy. The practice of Feng Shui advises that bathrooms also diminish your luck in the area where the bathroom is located; if in partnership, for example, it can decrease relationship luck. If a bathroom is located somewhere in the wealth area of your Bagua, it has the potential of draining your prosperity.

Bagua2aaTake a look at the Bagua of your home. Locate your bathroom(s). Do you have a bathroom in the health (center) area of your Bagua? Does your bathroom or toilet share a wall with your bed or your stove? Are you able to see into the bathroom from your bed? All of these are considered problems in the practice of Feng Shui and require specific adjustments (suggestions for mitigating the negative energy generated by these proximities).

Generally, if you’ve heard some Feng Shui “rules,” you might know that one rule is to keep the toilet lids down. I am amazed at how many people keep their toilet lid up; not only does it allow energy to drain away, but it feels unsanitary to me! Who likes walking into a bathroom with an open toilet? Your home toilet is not a public bathroom.

If you are feeling “drained” in any way, after identifying where your bathrooms are located in your Bagua, assess the condition of those bathrooms. Any dripping faucets? Leaking toilets? You know what to do!

The flush toilet was invented in 1596, but didn’t become widespread until 1851. Before bathrooms, the “toilet” was a collection of communal outhouses, chamber pots and holes in the ground. As people settled on the Great Plains, a need for sanitary facilities arose. In order to meet this need, outhouses were constructed using lumber or bricks. They were a type of “folk architecture” and soon became commonplace.

While outhouses are one of the humbler elements of our sanitation systems, they have received a 38705105 - old outhousesurprising amount of design attention and even public affection. They were a considerable advance over many older disposal methods in the United States (open trenches, cesspits), and the U.S. government actively encouraged their use in rural areas in the 1930s and 40s.

Location, location, location! Feng Shui tenets include practicality and function: Outhouses were located in backyards, placed a distance away from the house, yet close enough for easy access. They were also situated away from wells to minimize risk of ground water pollution, contamination, and disease. Sometimes the structures were placed near the family’s wood pile, so users, on their way back to the house, could pick up and carry in an armload of wood, so there would always be wood to feed the stove. And in Colonial times, when few people could read, a crescent moon cutout on the outhouse door was the symbol for women while the star cutout was for men.

My experience with outhouse Feng Shui was at a time in my life when, unhappy with my job, I decided to go on a week-long silent retreat in an attempt to gain clarity and perspective. I called and reserved a tiny one-room hermitage for a week in the middle of January. I was not deterred when I learned it had no running water and an outhouse!

And what an outhouse! It sat about 8 feet outside the door of my cottage on an elevated platform. The door to the outhouse faced away from the door to my little cabin. There was a window, with a lace curtain, and the floor was carpeted. A toilet paper holder, a rack with magazines and a couple of pictures on the walls completed the interior. While I knew nothing of Feng Shui at the time of this experience, I was impressed at the attempt to create a welcoming and comfortable environment in, of all things, an outhouse!

In the article about Outhouse Feng Shui, the author took an historical perspective, honoring the heritage of the outhouse that sat on her property. She also intentionally took a Feng Shui approach by first removing clutter, including dust, cobwebs and weeds. She repaired any deteriorating wood, made sure the door hinge worked, planted flowers around it and even considered bricking the pathway to it. She gave it a fresh coat of outdoor paint and painted the inside a bright, cheery color. I appreciate her nostalgia, and application of Feng Shui by creating function, cleanliness and beauty. I would have loved seeing before and after pictures of her outhouse.

The outhouse, a subject of photography books and posters, certainly seems to have an enduring place in the public imagination . If you just happen to have an outhouse on your property, consider revitalizing it as a delightful, and historical, focal point. It’s good Feng Shui!

Also good Feng Shui are the following suggestions for our modern bathrooms:

Keep the bathroom door closed, especially if it adjoins the kitchen or bedroom.

Keep the toilet lid down.

Replace any leaky faucets (energetically preventing them from flushing away personal energy and money energy).

And, of course, keep everything clean and in good repair.

 Life is like a movie, since there aren’t any commercial breaks, you have to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of it. Garry Trudeau

The Transformative Magic of Travel

Travel, for any reason, has the potential for new insights and, if you’re very fortunate, you may even experience the transformative magic of travel to a “thin place.”

 “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” G. K. Chesterton

I began to relate to my travels in a totally different way after a friend shared a compelling travel article entitled, “Where Heaven and Earth Kiss,”  written by Eric Weiner. Weiner references the term, “thin places,”  defined by travel blogger Mindie Burgoyne as “a place that draws you into itself, and transports you into the presence of a world beyond this world. You are moved into the presence of a mysterious power. There, all things you perceive through your senses are charged, electrified, illuminated with the presence of that power.” Weiner elaborates on the concept by saying, “A thin place is where the sublime bends low.”

We can all relate to our senses being charged and illuminated in the presence of breathtaking beauty. However, the distinction is that “thin places” connect us to something beyond ourselves – or perhaps to something deep within ourselves. When in the presence of thin places, Weiner goes on to say, we “perceive intuitively or through some inexplicable perceptive powers, glimpses of the divine.”  In these thin places, the distance between Heaven and Earth collapses.

Reading Eric Weiner’s intriguing article, I instantly recalled my first two encounters with places where I was deeply impacted by an unseen, unexpected transformative energy.

The first occurred in the early 80’s while traveling in Israel. During our time there, local friends took usOldCity to Jaffa, one of the world’s oldest cities. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, Jaffa’s harbor has been in use since the Bronze Age.

We visited our friend’s art studio, located in an ancient building overlooking the port of Jaffa. Following our tour, I walked to the water’s edge. It was there I had an unexpected sensation. I felt the energy of this ancient place touch something deep inside of me that rang with familiarity. “I have lived here before,” was the message that came through loud and clear. This was my first sense of a connection to a past life. It caught me totally by surprise. While the feeling was profound, I felt completely at ease with it. Of course, I mentioned it to no one at the time, lest they look askance and question my sanity. Today I would have no reluctance in sharinging my experience. Nor, all these years later, has the memory of that feeling diminished!

“Thin places captivate our imagination; we gain connection and become part of something larger than we can perceive.” Eric Weiner

PrayFlagIt wasn’t until many years later that I had my next experience with a “thin place.” In 2002 I traveled for the first time to Tibet. Located on the “roof of the world,” Tibet has an average altitude of over 13,200 feet and is situated on a massive plateau between two Himalaya ridges. There is breathtaking scenery, profound spiritual awareness, spectacular vistas, and huge tracts of soothing emptiness. But it is not an easy place in which to live or visit; the terrain is severe and the air thin, requiring tourists to use oxygen to avoid altitude sickness.  But the people are cheerful, devout and serene. The sights of the colorful prayer flags dancing in the wind, the sounds of constantly twirling prayer wheels and the hum of chanted mantras took up residence in my being. Tibet’s energy enveloped me.

The group I traveled with could have left me there! I knew I would have been happy and content making a life in that sacred place! What was that about? At the time, I had no words for it. I still don’t.

 “In truth, however, once you’ve been in a thin place and allowed your spirit to absorb that which transcends the senses, all need for definition ceases. Our spirits learn differently than our minds.” Mindie Burgoyne

I had the good fortune to return to Tibet four years later. This time, in this magical, sacred place, Tom and I were married. Perhaps, in some mysterious, divine way, this culminating event, I could never have imagined, had been calling me long before.

“There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything.  I feel it, though I do not see it.  It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses.  It transcends the senses.” Mahatma Ghandi

 Thin places, according to Weiner, are often sacred ones – St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul – but they needn’t be, at least not conventionally so. For one dear friend who has traveled extensively, Minnesota’s North Shore is, hands down, her thin place. For another friend, it’s Denali in Alaska.

Thin places captivate our imagination; we gain connection and become part of something larger than we can perceive. “You don’t plan a trip to a thin place,” Weiner goes on to say. “You stumble upon one. To some extent, thinness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Travel to thin places doesn’t necessarily lead to anything as grandiose as a ‘spiritual breakthrough,’ whatever that means, but it does disorient. It confuses. We lose our bearings, and find new ones. Or not. Regardless, we are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world, and therein lies the transformative magic of travel.”

 “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”  Henry Miller




The Notion of Happiness

At a recent gathering, someone posed the question, “What is happiness?” The question opened a thought-provoking discussion on the notion of happiness. There are many words for happiness: bliss, contentment, delight, elation, euphoria, joy, exhilaration, optimism, or peace of mind, to name a few. Because of the range of feelings we associate with this notion, we are able to feel happy in a variety of ways. Is it an inner quality, a state of mind, or both?

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” Dalai Lama

HappySo does the Dalai Lama’s statement refer to momentary happiness or long-term happiness? Is it a thoughtful consideration when we say we just want to be happy? Is there a key to happiness?

Psychologist Martin Seligman and the findings from Positive Psychology studies asserts that humans are happiest when they have the following five things:
1.    Pleasure including delicious food, a warm bed and desired material objects; that is, essentially anything that pleases one or more of our five senses.
3.    Relationships; social ties are an extremely reliable factor of happiness.
4.    Meaning – belonging to something bigger than ourselves; a sense of doing good for others and making the world a better place.
5.    Accomplishment – the achievement of goals.

It appears happiness can be both immediate, sensual, and measurable as well as rational, reflective, and relative.

We know being happy is good for our health. Happy people have stronger immune 46421713 - smiling friends playing volleyball at sandy beachsystems and have a longer lifespan. When you are happy, you are more giving, you better handle stress, you have more successful relationships as well as a more meaningful network of friends. Happy people are more creative and energized and this attitude translates to their work performance. Happy people are reported to live 14% longer.

According to Dr. Robert Holden, a British psychologist considered Britain’s foremost expert on happiness, we are experiencing what researchers call “static happiness.” In the 1940s, when people were asked, “How happy are you?”, the average score was 7.7 out of 10. Most recently, the average score was 7.2 out of 10.

While it may be universal, the meaning of happiness remains complex and ambiguous. Given its very nature, reported happiness is subjective. It is difficult to compare one person’s happiness with another.

The psychological and philosophical pursuit of happiness began in China, India and Greece some 2,500 years ago with Confucius, Mencius, Buddha, Socrates, and Aristotle. There are remarkable similarities between the insights of these thinkers and the modern “Science of Happiness.”

 MenciusMencius (372 – 289 BCE) could well be called the pioneer of Positive Psychology. He spells out the role that feelings of happiness or satisfaction play in motivating people to do the right thing, as well as the sense of joy that results from the practice of humanity.

More modern day thinkers such as Abraham Maslow, an American professor of psychology at Brandeis University, theorized that human happiness is the outcome of meeting a set of needs. He listed these in order of priority, leading to a pyramid called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. These needs include physiological, Trianglesafety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. For a person to have happiness her or his needs have to be satisfied first.

In 2002, the notion of happiness presented itself to me in a unique way when I traveled to the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Nestled between India and China in the Tibetan Himalayas, it is often called “The Last Shangri-La.”

I was fascinated to learn Bhutan’s Gross National Product is Happiness. Understanding and embracing the concept of happiness, the Royal Government of Bhutan organized a Gross National Happiness Commission to execute a strategy for national happiness. Objectives included promoting citizens to live in harmony with tradition and nature, as well as investing in the nation’s greatest asset: its people.

PARO, BHUTAN - NOVEMBER06,2012 : Unidentified smiling young monks standing by the religious prayer wheels at Paro Rinpung dzong, Paro, BhutanWhile the GNH framework reflects Buddhist origins, it is solidly based upon the empirical research literature of happiness, positive psychology and well-being. The concept of GNH is transcultural – a nation need not be Buddhist in order to value sustainable development, cultural integrity, ecosystem conservation, and good governance.

Through collaboration with an international group of scholars and empirical researchers, the Centre for Bhutan Studies further defined with greater specificity these “Four Pillars of Happiness” into eight general contributors to happiness: physical, mental and spiritual health; time-balance; social and community vitality; cultural vitality; education; living standards; good governance; and ecological vitality. We can each certainly use these standards to personally measure how happy our lives are.

 Gretchen Rubin’s personal 12-month journey, chronicled in her book, The Happiness Project, was based on a number of premises assumed to be foundations for happiness. They include “mindfulness,” a kind of no elaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is. This is an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance. Living in the present, which I relate to as mindfulness, as well as intention and gratitude are foundational concepts.They are also foundational concepts of Feng Shui.

“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in It.” ~
Groucho Marx

When I reflect on what makes me happy, the list is endless: everything from hearing my daughters’ voices on the other end of the phone, seeing a shooting star, teaching a class, having Tom’s arms around me, being with family and dear friends, watching my garden bloom and a million things in between. I know mindfulness, laughter and gratitude contribute to my happiness. The bonus? They allow me to better handle the sad and/or difficult times that life inevitably brings. On reflection, I have come to believe we are in control of our own happiness level

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”  Unknown


Time to Let the Dog Out and the Pig In

The time to let the Dog out and the Pig in was Friday, February 5, 2019. That’s when we began the Chinese New Year of the Pig! The Pig is the twelfth and last animal in the Chinese zodiac. The cycle starts anew in 2020 with the Rat year, and it will be another twelve years before the Pig year comes again. Why is the Pig last and, in fact, how did the twelve animals come to be?

According to myth, the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac were selected through a race. TheCHscope legend states that once upon a time, the mighty Jade Emperor, the supreme deity of Chinese tradition, decreed a great race of animals on his birthday to decide the years on the calendar; others say that it was the Buddha who decreed this. Regardless, both stories are essentially the same. The results of the race were to be decided with a swim across the river. The years would be named in the the order of each animal’s arrival at the Emperor’s birthday party.

The Cat and the Rat were the worst swimmers in the animal kingdom, but they were both smart. They discovered that the fastest way to cross the river was to hop on top of the Ox. The generous Ox agreed to carry them across the river. The Rat was so eager to win that he pushed the Cat into the water; thus the Cat never forgave the Rat, and wasn’t included in the race. Other variations of the story say that the Rat just never told the Cat about the race. Then, as Ox neared the other side of the river, the Rat jumped ahead of him to the finish line, claiming first place.The Ox good-naturedly took second place, followed by the powerful Tiger, making him third.

After the Tiger, came the clever Rabbit, who had crossed the river by leaping from stone to stone. A Dragon arrived next, making it fifth in the race. Of course, with its gift of swift flight, it was strange that it had not arrived first, but the Dragon explained to the Jade Emperor that he had to stop and make rain to help all the people and creatures of the earth. Then, on his way to the finish, he saw a little helpless rabbit clinging onto a log; the Dragon stopped again to do a good deed and gave a puff of breath to the poor creature so that it could land on the shore. The Jade Emperor was very pleased with the actions of the Dragon, and added him into the zodiac cycle.

Soon after the Horse arrived with a passenger attached to him: a Snake. But the Snake darted to the finish line ahead of the Horse, making the Snake sixth and the Horse seventh.

Not long after, the Sheep, Monkey, and Rooster arrived. These three creatures helped each other to get there and the Emperor was very pleased, promptly naming Sheep as the eighth creature, Monkey as the ninth, and Rooster the tenth.

Surprisingly, the Dog bounded into eleventh place. Even though he was the best swimmer of everyone, he had enjoyed playing in the water so much, he became distracted and thus came in eleventh.

And just as the Jade Emperor was about to call an end to the race, a little Pig ran across the finish line. The Pig had gotten hungry during the race, stopped for a feast and then fell asleep. After the nap, the Pig continued the race and was named the twelfth animal of the zodiac cycle. And that, my friends, is how the Chinese Zodiac came to be.

Pig_19_BlogPeople born under the Pig sign are considerate, responsible, independent and optimistic, warm-
hearted, good-tempered, loyal, honest, gentle, and good at socializing and maintaining relationships.Their weaknesses include being somewhat naïve and sensitive and sometimes lacking motivation to complete actions.

Earth is the Element that influences the energy of 2019. Earth represents the ground beneath one’s feet. It is the human connection with the universe, representing fullness, fertility, order and stability. It is the center from which we operate. In humans, it represents nurturing.

Earth Pigs tend to be a more reliable creature with a strong practical bent, so that she/he takes a methodical approach to managing affairs. This kind of Pig is successful at work without needing to be right at the to of the ladder, although not without ambition and astute in financial matters. However, the Pig’s love of a pleasant social life, with plenty of good food and drink, is still present in the Earth Pig’s makeup, and some Earth Pigs need to battle with a tendency to overindulge.

This Earth Pig year is a time for all of us to nurture harmonious relationships and strive for patience and compromise.Happy chinese new year card -Circle frame Red and gold paper cut

Wishing you a Congenial, Prosperous and Playful Pig Year!

Twenty Seven Notebooks

I counted them and was amazed to discover the number was 27!  Twenty-seven notebooks. In Feng Shui practice, the number 27 is an auspicious number, which adds up to nine, representing accomplishment and completion.This month, during my annual New Year ritual of cleaning, sorting and organizing, I gathered notebooks from a variety of places in my home. I had decided to locate them in one spot with the intention of going through them to determine which to keep and which to discard. Wait! Not so fast!

HNY2When I was a child, my initial awareness of New Year’s rituals was receiving the fun noisemakers and hats our parents brought my sister and me from their New Year’s Eve parties each year. When I was old enough to start school however, I came to know August, not January, as my New Year’s Eve ritual. It was the day my parents took me to get supplies for the new school year. And the first day of school became the first day of my New Year.

I don’t recall setting specific intentions or even particularly thinking about how High angle view of spiral formula in digital tablet by noptebook and school supplies on wooden tablemy school year would go. I simply felt exhilaration at holding those new 50-cent spiral notebooks, with their promise of a clean slate and a fresh start!

New notebooks remained symbolic for me all through school and into college and graduate school. But, after I got my first job, the notebooks of my youth were replaced with different ways to re-evaluate my goals and ambitions for a new beginning. I added New Year’s Eve celebrations and resolutions. When I became a Feng Shui Practitioner, Chinese New Year rituals and intention setting became part of my traditions, as well.

bagua3Keep in mind, any time of year is a good time to hit a restart button – clean out the garage, clean off your desk, clean out a closet, re-organize a drawer. Any of these activities represent a shift in energy and reinforce the Feng Shui Principle: Your Space Reflects Your Life. We all have moments, for example, when we open that junk drawer, closet, or cabinet and suddenly think: Enough! I have to clean this out! In this moment, your home is communicating to you! Are you listening? Note where that junk drawer, closet or cabinet is located in your home’s Bagua. Then take a moment to consider what is happening in that area of your life! It’s a message to take notice of something that needs your attention! You may not understand it immediately, but by focusing your awareness, it will reveal itself over time.

Now, back to those 27 notebooks. What’s the message here? They were scattered over several rooms and, of course, filled with information – notes from classes, webinars and workshops. Perhaps it’s suggesting my mind is scattered with bits of information that need to congeal into something more tangible for the coming year. Right now, however, it seems daunting and exhausting to go through them. And then there is that auspicious number 27, a number of completion. Perhaps the message is to just toss them and start the year with a clean slate. I’m uncertain at this writing which direction to go. I’m waiting for a clearer message. Stay tuned!

Here Comes the Winter Solstice

Amidst the holiday fervor comes the Winter Solstice, a different sort of celebration, one that encourages time for reflection and pause.

The word “solstice” is Latin for “sun-stand still,” and marks both the shortest day and the longestWinter Solstice Pictures3 night of the year. It welcomes the official beginning of winter. This year, the solstice falls on Friday, the 21st of December. We usually  acknowledge this transition by gathering with friends, lighting candles to bring light on this darkest day and enjoying a special dinner. Our acknowledgment of the evening joins the energy of others around the world also celebrating the solstice with dance, song and special foods.

ChristmasTree2The Winter Solstice is a lovely time that affords us an opportunity to take time to pause and acknowledge the transition to a new season and to appreciate nature’s celestial beauty and wisdom. I love the sight of the glowing holiday lights that brighten and twinkle against the quiet beauty of a blanket of snow. But I also love this encouraging reminder that nature’s Chi, or energy, has begun to ascend, bringing us closer to spring.

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember,
We are nearer to spring
Than we were in September.
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
Oliver Herford

There are Fairies Here

“There are fairies here and, if you promise to be very quiet, you can see them!”

When I was quite young, our family was invited to a friend’s home. These people had two daughters about 12 and 13 years old and, when we arrived, this is what my younger sister and I were told. I recall walking into a darkened room where, on a table were a couple of shimmering lights that looked like tiny fairies! I was mesmerized. I recall nothing more of that night and it was never mentioned again, but the images and the mystery of what we saw remain with me to this day. It was a magical childhood experience.

While I’ve not had subsequent fairy sightings, I’ve always loved the idea of the existence of tinySprouts creatures such as elves and fairies. Many years later, I had the good fortune of meeting Frank and Bell Barr, who believe in the wonder of fairies and were actually making whimsical Faerie Houses for them! These little houses brought back that early childhood experience with fairies and the magic surrounding it. According to Frank and Bell, who use the Old French archaic spelling of faerie, they see their Faerie Houses as “physical incarnations of the Faerie spirit – a willing imagination, a playful heart, and an appreciation of the present moment.

Fairy house in garden copyAt the time, I was creating my gardens, based on Feng Shui principles, and teaching about Feng Shui gardening. I was so utterly charmed by these tiny faerie houses, I began adding them to my garden and recommending them for my client’s gardens. They add whimsy wherever they are placed and hold the energy of both movement (faeries flying in and out) and sound (a tiny bell is tucked into each). They also offer a moment of pause, providing an opportunity to let your imagination take over, if but for a minute.

When my townhome association made me remove a beautiful crabapple tree from my patio, I wasIMG_METAL TREE copy devastated! What had been a lovely landing place for songbirds became an empty void. Several months later, I was visiting a friend’s garden and noticed a metal tree sculpture “planted” in the middle of hosta. I thought it a solution to that void! I immediately purchased one, knowing I would fill it with faerie houses!

This month, Frank and Bell hosted an open house to celebrate their 20th anniversary of creating these enchanting houses. Their home is a perfect representation of their energy – a delightful environment filled with color and whimsy, intentionally designed to remind us our inner child, with its capacity for delight, awe and belief in magic, is always there!

In this month of Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful to Frank and Bell for the joy they create in the world and to the Faeries!Fairy01

Succumbing to Metal

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, each year I have difficulty succumbing to Metal! And what does that mean, pray tell? Well, those last warm days we all cherish before cool weather sets in represent what we refer to as Indian Summer. In the Chinese Five Element Theory, this time is called Late Summer and is represented by the Earth element. The fall Equinox, September 22, was the official energetic transition from late summer to autumn, or Earth to Metal.

36746077 - five elements, creation and destructive circlesLate summer is not a “season” we acknowledge in our culture. We recognize only four seasons: summer, fall, winter and spring. But, in the Five Element theory, there are five seasons: Winter is represented by the Water Element, which is responsible for development and reproduction and promotes introspection.The Wood Element reflects growth; it carries the seed of new life and is associated with spring. Fire symbolizes the warmth, brilliance and vitality of summer. Earth brings fullness, fertility, order and stability. It is an element of transmutation and represents late summer.The Metal element represents the harvest of fall. It reflects a gathering of soul and spirit and brings decline and contraction with shorter days and colder nights.

Thus my difficulty succumbing to Metal, with its shorter days and colder nights! This transition is always a time of tension for me, so I resist. I try to ignore the inevitable changes by continuing to plant in my garden and engage in other garden activities.

However, there comes a time when I can no longer ignore the pumpkins that suddenly begin to dominate the landscape, or the early Halloween decorations that begin to show up in the garden stores! It becomes increasingly obvious I am being forced to release my hold on the Earth energy and allow myself to become a full-blown participant in the activities appropriate with the fall season. Its Metal energy insists on change and a sense of order I can no longer deny.

mums2I reluctantly stop planting and begin my garden clean up to assist it in preparation for the coming transition to the Water element of winter. I change out my pots, replacing them with plants that enjoy the cooler nights. I add pumpkins and gourds. While I know, of course, this natural evolution will happen with or without me, those outdoor pots become a visible statement that I am no longer in resistance.

What other changes in our life do we resist? How long do we put off succumbing to them? And when we finally do, how do we acknowledge and celebrate the fact that we have actually moved forward? Each season brings the opportunity to look inward at what change or changes are waiting to be acknowledged. The energy of the changing seasons serves as gentle reminders. There is a rhythm to everything in life; there is a time for growth, and a time for rest. Being in the flow acknowledges these life cycles. And we are reminded of the truth of the Feng Shui Principle: nature is our model.

Twenty-Year Anniversary

A twenty-year anniversary was celebrated this month!

CaligifIn the mid-nineties I happened upon an article in a women’s magazine about some “new” thing called Feng Shui. Intrigued, I did a bit of research and discovered a local class on Feng Shui was available at the Open U. I signed up and my life was changed forever!

I took all the classes available and knew I was eager to learn more! Soon after, I received an invitation in the mail asking if I would like to become a student in the newly formed Wind and Water school of Feng Shui. Would I ever! So, in the fall of 1998, I signed up and in 1999 graduated as a certified Feng Shui Practioner!

What an amazing journey! I’ve had the privilege and honor of helping individuals, families, and business owners over the years create nurturing, healing and supportive environments! Along the way, I’ve made life-long friends and learned more about the many powerful ways our environments influence us, and vice versa, than I could have ever imagined!

When a second invitation arrived this summer, this time via email rather than snail mail, inviting me to the twenty-year anniversary of the Wind and Water School, it came as a surprise! Twenty years! How can that be?!

It was a wonderful celebration and reunion of students, teachers, and supporters, all of whom, each in his or her own way, have kept the school vibrant and viable for these past twenty years! As I stood among friends and colleagues, I recalled, with gratitude, the day I unknowingly came across a little article that profoundly changed the course of my life!

Congratulations Wind and Water School of Feng Shui and founder, Carole Hyder!42724136 - twenty  years paper sign over confetti. vector holiday illustration.