A Burst of Garden Chi

Following our trip to Texas, I returned home to experience an unexpected burst of garden Chi! It’s not that my garden suddenly burst forth, rather my energy for adding to and re-creating sections of my garden took over!

As you are aware from my blogs about gardening, this creative activity is a passion for me. However, you also need to know that, while spring sets that passion in full force, when August rolls around my Chi for gardening is winding way down. That’s why this unusual burst of energy took me by surprise.

It is a fact that we become complacent in our environments and lose our “Feng Shui eyes” for assessing areas that develop stagnant or stuck energy. A tenet of Feng Shui is “your space reflects your life.” Our lives are constantly changing and in order to make sure our indoor and outdoor spaces are supporting our journey, it is useful to periodically assess them. One of the best times to do this is immediately after returning from a trip – whether a weekend or a month away. We call this “seeing with fresh, or Feng Shui, eyes.”

That’s what happened to me upon our return from Texas! I “saw” my gardensFlowers
with fresh eyes and suddenly became aware of areas that were overgrown (cluttered), areas that no longer appealed (didn’t lift my energy when I looked at them) and areas that could benefit from more energy (an opportunity to add more plants.)

WheelBIntentions were set and I began making the changes with an enthusiasm usually reserved for spring! I ruthlessly removed overgrown or crowded plants. I pulled out plants that no longer pleased me and gave them to friends to provide new energy for their gardens. I purchased 26 new perennials and one flowering tree and set to work! Each perennial was planted in its new space with intention.  I was a gardener on fire!

Now, when I step back and view the garden, it is apparent that my burst ofGarden02
garden Chi definitely elevated the energy around our home during these waning days of summer! I think I’m done until next spring!

High School Reunion Chi

I just returned from Lubbock,Texas where I attended my high school class reunion. There is a certain reunion Chi that is inherent in this activity. The personal Chi, or energy of it, varies, I think, depending on your high school experience. For me, and I think for most of those who attended, it was a wonderful trip down memory lane as we renewed friendships with the people we graduated with, some of whom I’ve known since first grade. After all, these people went through the “formative” teen age years together, when we were all just finding out about life, friendship and love. Aspects of ourselves no one else can ever know about us.

A reunion highlight is the opportunity to tour our high school. I must tell you the Hschoolarchitecture of this building is awesome! My classmates and I loved it dearly when we attended and have continued to talk about how lucky we were to have had such an amazing building in which to learn. Even as teenagers, we seemed to relate to the special environment that supported our learning and socializing during those important years. We definitely had a relationship with the building and felt its grounded and nourishing presence in our lives. It was Feng Shui working at its best, but who knew?

RiderOur high school, the first in Lubbock, was founded in 1891 as a one room school named after Thomas S. Lubbock, a Confederate Colonel, Texas Ranger and brother to the governor of Texas during the time of the Civil War. The original announcement of the school’s opening read: “Schooling for all who could reach it by pony, wagon, buggy or on foot.” In the fall of 1929, city planners began planning for a new high school. Construction began in 1930, and the current building was completed in 1931.Over the years, and even since our last reunion 10 years ago, the campus continues to expand to meet the needs of an ever growing population.

During the planning stages, some of the city founders felt the proposed building was too expensiveHallWay and elaborate for a “high school,” especially since it was the beginning of economic hardship from the onset of the Great Depression. I am grateful to the farsighted leaders who disagreed. They were the ones who felt this high school should be more than just a school but rather a tribute to learning for generations to come. Despite the Great Depression and a population of only about 5,000, a local architectural firm designed the richly ornamented northern Italian Romanesque style structure featuring two and three story classroom wings, offices, a gym and auditorium all constructed around two open courtyards.The school featured decorative brickwork, terra cotta ornamentation, a bell tower and gorgeous three dimensional tiles throughout. Due to its distinctive architecture, it is included in the National Register of Historic Places.

BhollyLubbock High School is known for its academic program and, I might mention, also for the fact that it has produced a number of talented musicians and vocalists over the years including Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Mac Davis and Natalie Maines.

The students who served as our tour guides spoke with tremendous pride about the school. Like every generation of students who have graduated from there, they, too, are aware the building was built with the intention of honoring the education of the youth who would be the citizens and leaders of tomorrow. It is as if the building respects the young people who enter, and its beauty and strength set a high expectation for academic excellence. All these years later, the accumulated energy of generations of students who graduated with pride from this school was palpable as we walked the halls. Positive Chi is still alive and well there after 87 years!

Outdoor Chi

SproutJune is my favorite month in Minnesota! It’s typically the month we can fully engage in the outdoor Chi of our homes. Chi means, “breath” or “air” and is often translated as “energy flow,” or “life force.”  If we’re fortunate enough to have an early spring, we might be able to begin gardening in earnest in May, however, spring frequently arrives late, finding gardens still buried under snow. But, lo and behold, the snow finally melts and the life-force energy that has been hidden underground, begins to emerge. It’s always a delight to watch the trees burst into green and the plants reveal themselves. Nothing is yet overgrown, weeds are absent and the newness of each emerging plant is like a rebirth!

In Chinese tradition, it is believed there are three types of Chi: Living, including plants and flowers, pets, and sunlight; Aesthetic, our furnishings, artwork, and color; and Energetic, the sense and feeling we get in the spaces we live or visit.

flowers2The study and practice of Feng Shui addresses our innate desire to connect with the earth and to create beautiful and nourishing Chi around us, both inside and out. While the practice of Feng Shui is more commonly thought to apply to buildings and interiors, the outside world is its original home. This ancient art of placement traces its roots back thousands of years to the beginning of Chinese agrarian life when early settlers recognized the need to seek harmony with natural forces in order to survive.

My teacher, Roger Green, explained, “Feng Shui is the key to understanding the silent dialogue between man and nature, whispered through a cosmic breath or spirit called chi. Chi is a life force or energy that ripples water, creates mountains, breaths life into plants, trees and humans and propels us along a life course.”

The Feng Shui of your house is believed to influence your life from a personal point of view. Your Flowersgarden is the outer aspect of your home, and its Feng Shui influences the more public aspects of your life. It matters not whether you have a large or small garden, a window box or a container garden. Gardening on any scale provides an opportunity to tap into your inspiration and creativity. Lavishing care and attention on your garden, large, small, or a single pot of flowers serves to attract positive Chi to your home!

Feng Shui says that a beautiful garden is like the clothes of a house.
Wong Siew Hong, Xiansheng

The word ‘Garden’ came into the English language in the 14th century from Old Northern French Jardin, a variation of Old French Jardin, probably of German origin. However, the garden has always meant the same thing to all cultures: a representation of paradise on earth. Even the word ‘paradise’ itself comes from the Persian word for a garden.

 Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment,
can be confused with paradise. Henry Mitchell

 garden2My desire to create my own little paradise around my home has resulted in diligent work through the years to enhance the outdoor Chi of my home by adding perennial gardens. I love working in the soil and tending my garden is a form of meditation for me. All who love to garden know it is an ongoing project, and a passionate adventure. Welcome June!

May the garden of your heart bloom with even the smallest of kind acts, giving your life the gift of divine purpose.

A Tibetan Wedding Anniversary

HindaTomThis May 23rd, Tom and I will celebrate our Tibetan wedding anniversary, as we have done every May for the past 11 years. In May 2006, Tom and I traveled to China and Tibet on a Feng Shui-focused tour with 21 travelers, many of whom were dear friends. Among those friends were the ones who had had been instrumental in prodding me to set the intention to call in a partner three years prior. And, yes, almost immediately as our journey began, another kind of prodding started: “Why don’t you and Tom get married on this trip?” We laughed and took it lightly, but as the tour progressed, the question persisted.  Everyone appeared to be relentless in their conspiring to make it happen.

One evening, several days later, and after the prodding wasn’t diminishing, Tom and I decided to discuss the seemingly outlandish idea! Mind you, we couldn’t conceive of how, when or where a wedding ceremony would take place! But, lo and behold, we found ourselves becoming excited about the prospect. Why not set the intention? The next morning, we shared our decision to get married while on this journey with our fellow travelers. The excitement meter maxed out; the energy level was palpable!

I had traveled to Tibet before and suddenly realized if a wedding was to happen, I wanted it to happen in this very specialPotola place. Several days later, we entered Lhasa,Tibet. Located at the bottom of a small basin surrounded by the Himalaya Mountains, Lhasa has an elevation of over 12,000 feet and lies in the center of the Tibetan Plateau with the surrounding mountains rising to 18,000 ft. The air only contains 68% of the oxygen compared to sea level. We were never certain if our breathlessness was due to the reduction in oxygen or because of our excitement!

Upon arrival, our intention was shared with our Tibetan tour guide. He enthusiastically responded he could make it happen! As “luck” would have it, he had been a Tibetan monk in the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred temple in Tibet. When his father died, Tibetan tradition required he return home to assist his mother and go to work to support the family, so he left the monastery and became a tour guide. But, because of his connection, our new friend could arrange for us to have our wedding ceremony in the temple! Imagine!

Suddenly our wedding was a reality and our fellow travelers excitedly took on the role of wedding party. Each had a job to do, including finding a bottle of wine, buying wine cups, locating two long stem red roses, and purchasing a wedding bowl for the rings. (Oh, about the rings: on my first visit to Tibet, in 2002, I bought two special rings, actually the second with the intention that it was for a future partner!)

Carole and Tom Hyder, our tour leaders, accompanied Tom and me through the market outside the sacred Jokhang Temple to find something for me to wear. I purchased a beautiful brocade jacket from a vendor who took pride in being the one who sold me my wedding outfit. Our happiness and the excitement of our group’s energy were contagious. Suddenly it seemed everyone there, tourist and vendor, knew about the pending wedding!

Tom and I wrote our vows and Carole and Tom Hyder, who is an ordained minister, wrote theTemple wedding ceremony. On a stunningly beautiful afternoon, the wedding procession of our fellow travelers was led into a private area of the Jokhang Temple. Just prior to entering, each of us purchased a traditional Tibetan Scarf called a ‘Khata’. It is usually made of white silk and symbolizes the pure heart of the giver. They are given as gifts at special Tibetan ceremonies, such as weddings, funerals, births, graduations, and arrival and departure of guests. Tibetan people commonly give a kind acknowledgment of good luck at the time of presenting the Khata.

The Tibetan monks at the Temple then invited us to participate in a special blessing. Following theCeremony blessing, we entered a beautiful ceremonial room where our tour guide had arranged to have monks chanting and drumming. During this 20-minute ceremony, our loving friends and colleagues came, one by one, to share well wishes and blessings as they placed a Khata around our necks. Following the chanting, Tom and I presented the monks with traditional red envelopes containing donations to the Temple. Then it was time to exchange vows.

With our wonderful friends standing as witnesses, Tom Hyder spoke of our sacred ceremony of spiritual union, blending East and West, ancient with modern, and we exchanged our vows and rings. This amazing wedding ceremony, taking place over seven thousand miles from home and in a city that has one of the highest elevations in the world, was stunningly rich with intention and love. We were literally on cloud nine!

cakeFollowing our procession from the temple, we were taken to a traditional Tibetan restaurant where we participated in a wedding feast. At its conclusion we were presented with a wedding cake – Tibetan style. They weren’t sure how to decorate a wedding cake for westerners and had no traditional bride and groom figures to place on top. So, using what they had, they made it as festive and meaningful as possible. Our cake was decorated with frosting flowers, two cat figures and a lotus-shaped candle that, when lighted, opened and spun around playing “Happy Birthday.” It was perfect! And though Tibet is not a region not known for desserts, the cake was surprisingly delicious.

Tom and I could not have dreamed of this day, let alone planned it! Our wedding was an inspiring example of the power of setting a pure and focused intention, then completely letting go of questioning how it might happen, and avoiding any and all attempts at controlling the outcome! We simply created our intention about what we desired, and shared it with our travel companions, who, in turn, focused their collective intentions on our behalf. From that moment on, an age-old process carried us along effortlessly to culminate in our extraordinary wedding ceremony.

“An intention synchronistically organizes its own fulfillment.” - Deepak Chopra

Ideas of Order

Recently the title on a magazine jumped out at me: Ideas of Order. As a Feng Shui consultant, I have taught classes on addressing clutter and have assisted clients in addressing their clutter concerns; I resonated to this title as the flip side of the same coin. I can’t begin to count the number of times my clients, friends, and myself, have said, “I need to get my house (or my life) in order.” The assumption in that statement: something is getting in the way of my progress; I feel stuck! Physical disarray, unfinished projects or negative self-talk all qualify as clutter – or disorder.

42380928 - clutter word cloudI have learned a lot about clutter since I began my Feng Shui studies 20 years ago. My Karen Kingston book, “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui” has become worn with repeated reading, but I am yet to be as clutter free as I envision myself being. Actually, what I have learned is that “clutter free” is not the goal. Certainly, even suggesting it as a goal has struck fear into the hearts of many good people who know themselves well enough to understand that “clutter free” will never happen for them in this lifetime! Nor do I think it is a realistic expectation in our culture. Rather, I believe the goal is first to become aware of what constitutes clutter for each of us individually and then to determine how best to manage it so that it doesn’t manage us. Or, perhaps, the flip side of the question is not what is your idea of clutter, but what is your idea of order? They’re really the same question, in a sense, but the word “order” doesn’t seem to be as laden with guilt as the word “clutter.” There are many who are ashamed of their cluttered homes or ashamed they can’t seem to get those cluttered areas under control – and that is very personal to each individual!  On the other hand, the idea of “order” in our lives can also seem like an unreachable goal!

In her book, Karen Kingston identifies 4 categories of clutter:

  1. Things you do not use or love
  1. Things that are untidy or disorganized
  1. Too many things in too small a space
  1. Anything unfinished

Clutter in a space is a big deal in Feng Shui practice because it represents stagnant and/or limiting energy. Feng Shui promotes creating spaces that allow free movement (being in the flow) and free thought process, without added stress and confusion.

“Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”
Author Unknown

So I was drawn to the title “Ideas of Order” as a question to ask myself: what are my ideas of what constitutes order? Like the question: “What constitutes clutter?” both will get as many different responses as there are people responding.  The magazine, an issue of California Closets, a company in the business of helping people organize and decrease clutter, has an excellent article on this issue by Claudia Dowling entitled, Tidying Up.

Dowling addresses what appears to be our unstoppable quest for order in theClutter02 universe, suggesting this desire to create order, or predictability, in our lives is an attempt to combat the exhaustion that comes from the myriad of decisions we are forced to make on a daily basis! I think most of us agree our attempts to stay in control of life is exhausting! So, we can start with our homes, one area where we do have control! Claudia is speaking Feng Shui language. In fact, there are a number of excellent articles in this issue that speak Feng Shui language. They just might inspire you to clean out your closet, a cupboard or even your purse! Never underestimate the power of one tiny step forward!

“I’ve been getting rid of some clutter —
anything that doesn’t serve a positive purpose in my life —
and making room for things that feel happy to me.
Because I get to make my life whatever I want it to be.
I get to make the room feel however I want it to feel.
I get to make the closet as full or as spacious as I want it.
Jan Denise

Drawer

Power and Beauty

TempleI was eager to see the Minneapolis Institute of Art exhibit, Power and Beauty in the Qing Dynasty, China’s last. This exhibit consists of a series of 10 rooms with a thematic progression. As is described in the brochure, each room evokes an aspect of life within China’s Imperial palace during the Qing dynasty, which ruled for more than 250 years, until 1911. It was a golden age of art and on view were items that revealed the splendor of royal gatherings, mystic teachings, and the sacred rhythms of nature

I fell in love with China when I first traveled there in the mid-nineties. It was about a year or so before Feng Shui came into my life! The beauty of the people, their culture and history and their stunning art captivated me. So when I received notice of this exhibit in collaboration with renowned international theatre and opera director, Robert Wilson, I was intrigued!

YinYangThe exhibit brilliantly uses the ancient Chinese philosophy of duality, symbolized by Yin and Yang throughout. Ushered into the first room of the exhibit, you are plunged into darkness. It was a bit disorienting. In that Yin of darkness, we were invited to meditate. If you looked carefully upon exiting, you became aware of a single black vase in the shadow.

From the emptiness of this darkened room, containing the scarcity of a single Wallpaper01vase, you transition to a display of abundance. On view in the second room are Qing dynasty treasures: jade statues, delicately painted plates and bowls, rhinoceros tusks intricately carved into vases, cloisonné candlesticks and exquisite cinnabar boxes. The Five Elements come into play on the white walls filled with more images of stunning treasures, invoking the discernment and refinement of the Metal Element.

Gown04The rigid order and hierarchy of the emperor, as he presided over the courts and the people, is next presented in a display of eight gorgeous robes, arrayed according to rank.The walls are thatched with straw. Brown in color and layered horizontally suggest the Earth Element, which denotes industry and practicality. This is in powerful contrast with the authority and wealth depicted in the elaborately embroidered silk robes, embodying the Metal Element.

Moving from Emperor to common man. the next room holds a single tiny bronze human figure. The very dark blue walls, suggest the Water Element. The Water Element is represented by fluidity and flow; it is the storehouse of vital essence. The display suggests the people, the common man, will ultimately prevail.

The next area compels you to enter, although with a modicum of hesitancy. A Dragonhuge red dragon covering all four red walls is intimidating. Red has the highest vibrational energy of all the colors, making this is the most Yang of all the rooms. The centerpiece of this space, sitting below the dragon’s head, is the imperial throne, reminding us of the Emperor’s unmitigated power. This room embodies fearsome authority.

StatueThe adjoining room was my favorite. Reflective light on the walls, suggesting the Metal Element, is the backdrop to five Buddhist statues elevated on pedestals. The room was filled with Buddhist chanting, which inspires feelings of devotion and religious awe. I was transported back to my times in Tibet, where I have had the privilege of sitting in many temples listening to Buddhist chanting. I was mesmerized then and was mesmerized here.

Transitioning to the seventh room, I noticed the floor felt different; it was suggestive of walking on a dirt road. The ground beneath one’s feet constitutes the Earth Element. It is our connection with the universe. Three Taoist paintings featuring supreme deities are the focal point in this room. Taoist belief is aligned with the Feng Shui principle, everything is energy. Taoism believes that all life is energy, energy is in constant motion, life is a transformative process, nourished by the shifting from one quality of energy to another.

ShoesThe next area was devoted to women of the Qing dynasty. Not surprising, women in Imperial society did not enjoy the status afforded to men. The walls, covered with large pieces of scrunched up foil, produced shiny reflection, suggestive of the Metal Element. Furniture items, including a four-poster bed, beautiful robes and elaborate headdresses gave insights into a women’s life out of public view. I thought the most fascinating and disturbing item on display was the pair of tiny shoes that represent the popular way the Chinese displayed status in that time. Because wealthy women did not need their feet to work, they had them bound. Foot binding became a symbol of beauty in Chinese culture until it was outlawed in 1912, following the end of the Qing dynasty. I wonder if the expression, beauty feels no pain, originated in this period.

The item I most admire in the MIA is the massive jade carved “mountain!” When I firstJade
visited the museum in the early 1970’s, I was captivated by it and it remains my favorite. During this exhibit, it has been appropriately relocated to the “Mountain” room. China’s mountains are considered divine realms and the walls in this room are covered with mountainscapes, an Earth Element.

Vase02The final room, with its white floor and glowing walls is a Yang room; it’s color, and the presence of a single white Qing Imperial jade vase, embodies the refined, discriminating Metal Element. The tour, which begins in darkness (Yin), ends in lightness (Yang).

This exhibit is both theatrical and traditional. It was delightfulfrom my Feng Shui perspective, to observe how Yin and Yang and the Five Elements were integrated. The surprise blending of four of our senses – sight, smell, hearing and touch – further enhanced this unique experience. It was a creative opportunity to immerse in and appreciate the power and beauty of the MIA’s collections from the Qing Dynasty.

Greet the Dog

Chinese new year 111LGreet the Dog and bid farewell to the Rooster. The Chinese New Year of the Dog begins Friday, February 16, 2018 and ends on the Lunar New Year’s Eve, February 4, 2019. The 2017 Rooster year supported a further defining of your true self; the 2018 Dog year asks you to be reliable, sincere and loyal to your beliefs. Integrity and honesty are the values supported this year.

The Fire Rooster year was predicted to be a “wake-up”Rooster02blog year to clarify what we wanted to manifest in 2017; it was a year to “create” or recreate ourselves. As we prepare to enter a new year, it can be helpful to take time to reflect on how, or if, that happened. Perhaps it manifested in a new business, a change in diet and exercise, studying something new or being more observant and open to new ways of thinking. The 2017 Fire Element provided the energy to support those goals.

The Earth Dog energy of 2018 creates more stability. Earth energy is nurturing. Perhaps it is time to nurture the changes we made last year and focus on how we might show up in the world with more honesty and integrity. That is certainly what the Dog year is asking of all of us, regardless of our animal sign.

This is an exciting time and, of course, is met with ceremony. Tom and I have very specific traditional Feng Shui ceremonies we perform each Chinese New Year’s Eve, but for everyone who just enjoys participating in a more general yet meaningful way, you can do so by cleaning house! What? How mundane you say? Well, a very traditional way of transitioning into the Chinese New Year is to thoroughly clean your home!

House01Most people don’t realize that cleaning your home is believed to help bring in good fortune for the Chinese New Year, but that’s what the Chinese believe and that’s what those of us who practice Feng Shui believe. The Chinese New Year is a powerful time to shift energies; cleaning out any old stuck or stagnant energy is a practical and symbolic  way to welcome the energy of the New Year. Completely cleaning your home from top to bottom before the Chinese New Year is considered good luck for the coming year! Just think, when others are spring cleaning, your work is done! This is a great time for those “once a year” chores, such as cleaning and changing blankets and mattress covers. We took our bed apart, turned the mattress, washed the cover and thoroughly cleaned behind the bed. This is an annual “event” for us, made “fun” because of the intentional timing of it!

For more good luck in the coming year, make sure all your lights are working, replacing any that aren’t. Lights are symbolic for “illuminating” any issues; lights that aren’t working keep us in the “dark.” Also, turn on all your lights New Year’s Eve to scare away any misfortune that might compromise the luck and fortune of the New Year. Polish all mirrors to see clearly!

Cleaning provides an excellent opportunity to take inventory of the three areasBagua2aa of your Bagua where Earth energy is represented and is particularly intense this year: Knowledge, Health and Partnership. The Knowledge area represents both work and self-knowledge and your inner wisdom. Health is the very center of your space, which supports the physical, emotional and spiritual health of all who live there. Partnership represents a life and or business partner, partnering with yourself and partnering with a higher source. So, as you clean, take note of these areas in particular, checking to make sure no lights are burned out, everything is working efficiently and clearing any clutter.

The evening before the official arrival of the Chinese New Year, open all windows and doors for a few minutes to allow the good luck of the year to enter your clean house. Yes, even in frigid Minnesota!

ChineseFoodPrepare, or order in, food for a special New Year’s Eve dinner, making sure there is enough to have leftovers, symbolizing money rolling into this New Year. Purchase colorful fruit for a fruitful year; oranges or tangerines represent money and wealth.

Eat sweets to ensure a sweet year and liven your home with fresh flowers or plants. Some believe that what happens on the first day of the New Year reflects the rest of the year to come, so be mindful. And, like the loyal Dog, take time for naps and play – all year long!

ChineseNY

Full Moon Healing

Tom and I began the first day of 2018 by participating in a Full Moon Healing Gong Bath. Offered by One Yoga, a nonprofit studio with the mission of making yoga accessible to all, the purpose of this ceremony was to use sound to align our own energy with the powerful energy of this New Year’s Day full moon! We were excited for this experience!

quartzMy first encounter with sound healing came when I began my Feng Shui studies. One of the Feng Shui students, an acupuncturist, was incorporating crystal singing bowls in her practice for vibrational sound healing. She generously offered sound healing salons in her home once a month. They were such powerful and transformative experiences, I tried to never miss a session! I loved the opportunity to practice transitioning from my busy day to a relaxed consciousness and then into a meditative state, with those beautiful sounds pulsating through my body!

Sound travels about four times faster through water than it does through air; our bodies are about 70 percent water so the use of sound is an intuitive choice for a natural therapy. It has been utilized in ancient civilizations for thousands of years as a tool for healing.The Priests of ancient Egypt knew how to use vowel sounds to resonate their energy centers or chakras. The Australian Aboriginals and Native American shamanists use vocal toning and repetitive sound vibration with instruments created from nature in ceremony to adjust any imbalance of the spirit, emotions or physical being.

The gong is a sacred and ancient instrument of deep healing, rejuvenation and transformation. On a basic level, the gong relaxes tension and blocks in the body, stimulating the glandular and nervous system into higher, more balanced functioning.  In Bali, Indonesia, the echoing gamelan, gong, and drum are used in ceremonies to uplift and send messages.

Bells, chimes, gongs, bowls, and chanting are the foundation of Tibetan spiritual Ceremonypractice. Over the years, I have traveled to China, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan in pursuit of Feng Shui study. In those amazing places, the sounds of chanting and gongs were as integral a part of my experiences, as were the sights. When Tom and I were married in the sacred Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet, the sounds of Buddhist gongs and chanting enhanced our incredible ceremony.

Sound helps to facilitate shifts in our brainwave state. A sound therapy treatment is both a passive and a participatory experience. Allowing yourself to relax and slow your breath prepares your body to receive sound. It’s in this place of calmness that you become more open and aware of each sound that comes in. Sound helps create a pathway to stillness, the same as a mantra helps you to arrive at the still point of meditation.

04GongAnd so it was with the full moon healing gong wash. Following a yoga warm-up and chanting, we were invited to lie on our mats. The room was full so it was challenging to lie passively with our arms at our sides without being in another’s space – but we managed. As we lay in the quiet, the sound and vibrational energy of the gong slowly began to enter our awareness. For 45 minutes those energies washed over and through us, intensifying and diminishing, creating a feeling of drifting luxuriously in space. I felt transported, as if on a magic carpet, to a place of deep relaxation and stillness.

What a lovely way to start the year. I appreciate One Yoga’s offering an opportunity to welcome the full moon and the New Year in a most unique, powerful and spiritual way!

Wishing you a Year that is Unique, Powerful, Spiritual and filled with Love!

01NY

Adornments for the Soul

A number of years ago, while on a road trip, I drove passed a little shop called “Adornments for the Soul.” Unfortunately, there was no time to stop and explore what treasures it might hold, but the name has since intrigued me. What did those shop owners consider adornments for the soul? I don’t know the answer, but I do know the name brings a flood of thoughts to my mind. What might we consider adornments for the soul?

03StudioThe word adornment means something that beautifies; a decoration or embellishment. When I think of the word adornment I think of objects or items that lift one’s Chi. Our choice of decor and color in our homes are obvious forms of adornment. Certainly the practice of Feng Shui encourages us to have only what we love when adorning our homes and our bodies, that is, items that support our spirit as well as our body.

Clothing and jewelry are other types of embellishment, however, I would suggest that true 06Necklaceadornments for the soul refers to those specific articles of clothing and special pieces of jewelry that make us feel more confident, happy and balanced when we wear them. They nourish our soul. The closer to your body an item is, the greater the effect its energy has on you. A number of years ago, I purchased a jade lotus necklace when I was on a trip to China. It doesn’t go with a lot of my clothes, so I don’t wear it often, but when I do, I feel a dramatic shift in my Chi. The necklace is unique and I feel wonderful wearing it; it is a very special adornment. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to feel fabulous with everything you wear? An intention, for sure!

05FairyTreeConsidering adornments for the soul, my garden comes to mind. Choosing special garden ornamentation has become as important to me as choosing just the right perennial for just the right place in the garden. I love my whimsical faerie house tree, my Buddha statue that resides amidst the ferns, and the Foo Dogs who sit stately protecting our home.These adornments sing to my soul.

Traveling creates wonderful opportunities to bring back special items that nourish us. Each time we gaze upon those “treasures,” we are taken back to that time and place, like my jade lotus necklace from China.They are adornments for the soul.

02KidsTreeAnd then there are “annual” adornments, exemplified in December by special holiday decorations. These traditional embellishments are brought out each year and combined with new items to freshen, update and enhance the spirit of the holiday season! The delight in tradition, combined with the energy of glowing lights that brighten and twinkle, personify adornments that lift our Chi!

As we celebrate this season of light, my wish is that your life is embellished with Love, Friendship, Grace, Peace, Prosperity and Good Health!

01MayYour

A River Cruise

I have never been able to take an ocean cruise because of my penchant for motion sickness, but when the possibility of a river cruise presented itself, I decided to take a chance! It turned out to be a good decision.

36746077 - five elements, creation and destructive circlesIn the Feng Shui Five Element Theory, I am a Water; the other Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. The Chinese believe the Five Elements govern our physical, emotional and spiritual existence, just as they regulate the cycles of growth and change in the external world. Each Element has a color, shape, season, direction, virtue, and emotion. They also represent internal organs, body shape and personality traits, as well as areas in our homes.

While we each carry traits of all the Elements in our personalities, one, or perhaps two, will be dominant and one barely visible. So, how interesting that Water is my dominant Element; I never learned to swim because of a fear of having my head under water and I get motion sick on moving water! On the other hand, I love to be by the water; I can walk on a beach for hours. I can even enjoy short boating excursions on calm waters, but traveling for days on a ship in unpredictable waters is not possible; I even get motion sick while traveling in a car! And, yes, I’ve tried a variety of motion sickness remedies. They don’t work for me!

Water types learn that their power resides in remaining flexible and adaptable, always yielding to01ArialView current conditions, like the fluidity and flow of rivers. So I took a river cruise! And I was fine!

We traveled the Danube River, visiting Germany, Austria and Hungary. The following is a sampling of our glorious trip through the lens of the Five Elements.

04NuremOur first stop was Nuremberg, Bavaria’s second largest city. Surrounded by massive walls, it is filled with gates, towers, medieval churches and a grand castle. In this beautiful Water reflection are trees (Wood), the long, flat roof line (Earth), the building’s peak, shaped like a triangle (Fire) and the graceful archway under the building (Metal).06StPeters

Regensburg is considered to be the best preserved medieval city in Germany and the oldest city on the Danube. Its picturesque atmosphere is enhanced by Wood and Water! Located on four rivers and with gorgeous greenery in well-kept parks and a mediterranean ambience, Regensburg is nicknamed “the northernmost city in Italy!” The Gothic architecture of the stunning Regensburg Cathedral, dedicated to St. Peter, is Regensburg’s most important landmark. These cathedral arches represent the elegance of the Metal Element.

05Gingerbread

Passau is a German city on the Austrian border; it is known as the Three Rivers City as it lies at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and llz rivers. With its jumble of cobbled lanes, underpasses and archways leading off the main thoroughfares, it was beyond charming and our favorite place. We loved the gingerbread demonstration and tasting – a very nurturing (Earth) experience!03Gottweig

Krems, our entrance to Austria, has a rich history of wine production. We were treated to a wine tasting in the 900-year-old Gottwieg Abbey, served by Benedictine monks. The Abbey boasts 260 acres of vineyards and wine has been produced there continuously since 1083! Wow! The architectural pillars of the Abbey stand like strong, sturdy trees (Wood).

07ChrisMarketAh Vienna! It is like a crown jewel! Once the seat of the Hapsburg Dynasty and the center of the Holy Roman Empire, it is a one of the world’s greatest centers of art, music and architecture. Because we were there in November, it was Christmas Market time! We toured the stunning Shonbrunn Palace,  and had the opportunity to visit Vienna’s most scenic and cozy Christmas Market. Held directly in front of the Palace, the scent of mulled wine and gingerbread, the throngs of browsing people and the festive decorations created a Fire energy, uplifting our Chi and creating a mood of excitement and enthusiasm!

02BudapestCastOur last destination was Budapest. The capital of Hungary and home to 1.7 million people, Budapest spans both sides of the Danube River – historic Buda on the east bank and cosmopolitan Pest on the west. It is filled with baroque, neoclassical and Art Nouveau architecture. We were fascinated with Fisherman’s Bastion, a 19th-century fortress with 7 turreted lookout towers, viewing terraces, many stairs and walking paths, and panoramic views! It was breathtaking and a fine example of all Five Elements. Can you identify them?

The sole purpose of Feng Shui and the Five Elements is for creating harmony and balance in our lives – our homes, our health, our possessions, clothing, emotions, and experiences.Travel can be a powerful way to rebalance and harmonize. When we travel with alertness and awareness, we are better able to connect to the energies of the world. Understanding the inter-connectedness of everything around us helps balance the Elements and regulate our personal Chi.  A river cruise provided an opportunity for me to connect with my Water Element in a way that I had not been able to before.

“Water never waits. It changes shape and flows around things, and finds the secret paths no one else thought about – the tiny hole through the roof or the bottom of a box. There’s no doubt it’s the most versatile of the five elements. It can wash away earth, it can put out fire; it can wear a piece of metal down and can sweep it away. Even wood, which is its natural complement, can’t survive without being nurtured by water.”
Arthur Golden