Tag Archives: feng shui

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 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


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!

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

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!

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


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.

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!