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.

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