Tag Archives: five elements

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.

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 

An Organic Pizza Farm

Have you ever been to a pizza farm, much less an organic pizza farm? Have you ever even heard of one? I had not until I read an article in our local paper some time ago about this novel concept! Several different pizza farms were reviewed and we thought this was just too unique and fun sounding to pass up. We decided to drive to LoveTree Farmsted. According to their website,
LoveTree is an organic farm with 100 acres devoted to grazing and 100 acres devoted to wildlife habitat; they are primarily a cheese-making farm. What they were offering was called Pizza by the Pond. We invited friends to join us and we packed lawn chairs and our appetites and made the hour and a half trip to northern Wisconsin. We drove up a dirt road to the farm, parked and carried our chairs to our new adventure. We walked toward a makeshift grotto constructed with walls of old tires where the pizza is cooked. Their organic homegrown vegetables, herbs, meat and special cave aged cheese are piled on their fermented organic cage aged pizza dough! Oh My! Oh Yum!

WWWaA few tables and chairs were located in the grotto for dining, however, we chose to place our chairs in the small glade overlooking the pond. After all, they call this Pizza by the Pond! We then ordered our pizzas and watched as they were cooked in the wood-fired oven. Here are our friends enjoying the finished project.

We loved the concept of a pizza farm, so when another article appeared this summer, listing more pizza farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin, we became aware of how this novel idea was catching on. We were ready for another pizza farm adventure.

Pizza06We chose to return to Wisconsin, this time traveling less than an hour to the Borner Farm Project in Prescott, Wisconsin, where they host semi-monthly community pizza night. The town has built up around the farm, so we were definitely in a neighborhood, however, once we entered the farmstead, we knew we were on an actual working farm and not just in someone’s yard.

To say it was festive would not be an understatement! It reminded me of thePizza01 family picnics I attended when I was growing up: all ages, kids running around making their own fun in the outdoors, laughter, good food, community! This was pizza night on the farm! We brought our own utensils, blankets, and chairs and found a spot to hang out and relax.

Of course, on a working farm, the pizza ingredients change with the season, fitting right in with the Chinese concept of eating with the Five Seasons. The Five Elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal, have a corresponding season, with its attributes and its foods. The belief is eating locally sourced foods, in season where we live, is especially nourishing for our bodies; we are “in sync” with nature.

Pizza05During late summer, we experience the transition from the fiery energy of summer to the quiet yield of autumn; we are starting the decent from the Yang of summer to the Yin of winter. During this interim, the days are still hot, the evenings turn cooler, the sunsets come a bit earlier and the harvest begins to shift to the heartier foods of fall. We experience the Earth Element, which is the most stable of the Five Elements; the color for Earth is yellow and the flavor is sweet. What food personifies this season in Minnesota? Sweet corn, of course!

There was a long line to order and an hour wait to get our pizzas. No worries! Pizza04This was a laid-back Friday night; no one was in a hurry. It was a crisp evening with a beautiful sunset, conducive to relaxing, people watching and exploring the farm. In keeping with the Earth season the specialty pizza was a fall harvest of sweet corn, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and onions. Cooked in wood-fired brick ovens, the pizzas were outstanding!

Having an opportunity for a behind the scenes tour of what sustainable, humane, organic farming looks like this past July, it was especially delightful to have a different experience provided by other organic farmers. As I said in my July blog, I am grateful to all small farmers who are committed to providing us a powerful source of energy to fuel and nourish our Chi! These pizza farms not only nourished the Chi of our bodies, they nourished the Chi of our souls.

How I Become Interested in Feng Shui

I am frequently asked how I became interested in Feng Shui. I certainly recall the trigger: it happened when I came upon a little article on Feng Shui in a woman’s home decorating magazine. It resonated to something familiar inside of me. I immediately called a friend of mine to inquire if she had ever heard of it. Indeed she had and, in fact, knew that classes on Feng Shui were beginning to be taught locally. Wow! I checked into it, signed up for my first class, and I was hooked! I was immediately captivated by this ancient system of living in harmony with our environment. It seemed so practical to me, and yet there was a powerful intuitive aspect to it as well.

I learned that Feng Shui evaluates the interaction of humans and their environments and views ourWomanSnow homes and workplaces as living entities in which we are either in harmony or in discord. Is there a room in your home in which you love to be? Now think if there is a room or area in your home you tend to avoid or ignore? What are the messages from those two spaces?

I learned that Feng Shui is more than furniture arrangement or decorating, although those are certainly important aspects of it. I was introduced to the concept of Chi, or energy, including predecessor energy. Understanding these concepts allows us to make informed choices when building, purchasing, remodeling or decorating. This information provides us with knowledge and an awareness of ways to intentionally enhance our relationship with the energies of our homes or offices. The ultimate goal is always to create spaces that nurture, protect and support our growth and journey through life. Feng Shui teaches us how to accomplish this goal! It is empowering!

As my studies continued, I learned about the Eight Stems of Traditional Chinese Medicine of which Feng Shui is one; the others include Astrology, Exercise, Food Energetics, Herbalism, Acupuncture, Meditation, and Massage.

36746077 - five elements, creation and destructive circlesI learned the concept of Yin and Yang and the Five Element Theory. Yin and Yang represents the belief that everything in the universe consists of two forces that are opposing but complementary. These dynamic forces keep the universe in balance at every level; it represents completeness. The Yin and Yang symbol illustrates how everything is connected and nothing exists by itself.

The Five Element Theory, according to Chinese philosophy, believes everything and everyone is influenced by five elements that make up all matter. These elements are Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth. They are thought of as modifiers because of their power to subtly alter the quality or nature of whatever or whomever they represent. This is a powerful theory to apply to pattern, color, and shape when making home decor and clothing choices.

And I learned Feng Shui is a Heaven, Earth and Human relationship. The Chinese believe there are 3 kinds of luck: Heaven Luck, your situation of birth; Human luck which relates to your choices and behaviors and Earth Luck, the condition of living and working in environments that support your physical and emotional health.

As my study of Feng Shui proceeded, a childhood memory returned. As a little girl, riding in the50635777 - colorful drawings: a country house and happy men back seat of my parents’ car, I recalled intently looking at the houses in the neighborhoods we drove through. I saw what I called “happy houses.” Happy houses looked well cared for. Their lawns and landscaping were attended to and there was usually a pot of flowers on the step by the front door. Sometimes the front doors were painted a bright color, different from the rest of the house. I would think how the people inside those houses must be nice; I felt like knocking on their front door to meet them.

And then there were the other houses; the “unhappy ones!” They were the ones that looked neglected: blinds drawn, grass unmowed and no cheerful flowers out front. Even at a young age, I was aware of “energy;” I just didn’t have the words. All I knew at that time was I didn’t want to knock on the front doors of those sad houses!

When I grew up and went to college, I initially majored in theatre. One of my classes was entitled Stagecraft and Scene Design. My childhood memories of how I felt about certain houses and how they made me feel resurfaced as I learned to create scenes to affect and support the period and mood of a particular play. To this day, I find it exciting to watch the curtain rise on a play in anticipation of what “energy” will be conveyed and how it will make me feel.

Ah, energy! No one was using that specific word as a stage set was being created, but implicit in the design was the intention of influencing the audience’s mood through scenery and lighting; think Chi, Yin/Yang and the Five Elements.

In my Stagecraft and Scene Design class, I learned the four principles of designing a theatre set: suggest the style and tone of the whole production; create mood and atmosphere; give clues as to the specific time and place of the action; and offer creative possibilities for the movement and grouping of the actors. Years later when learned the four principles of Feng Shui, I recognized a similarity to those theatre principles.

The first Feng Shui Principle declares Nature is the Model: This influence is achieved by positioning and designing our surroundings in harmony with principles of natural energy flow. When it’s in harmony, we feel relaxed and supported; when the natural energy flow feels disrupted or discordant, tension is created. The next time you go to a play, bring your awareness to your mood before the curtain opens and then notice the shift in mood as the curtain opens. What feeling(s) does the stage design evoke? Apply that observation to your home and office.

Second, Everything is Energy: learning how to understand those energies allows us to manipulate our environments to uplift and support our own energy. In set design, this offers creative possibilities for how the actors interact on stage which impacts our understanding of their message.

Your Space Reflects Your Life: Your choices of furniture, possessions, color, shape, design and arrangement create a mood and an atmosphere that is unique to you, your family, your beliefs and life-style. Clutter can be a telling message here.

Intention01aAnd the fourth and most important Feng Shui Principle states The Power of Feng Shui is in your Intention: Setting specific intentions supports the mindful creation of possibilities for how to proceed toward your goal(s). The process for setting these objectives can include a time frame for accomplishing your desires and, perhaps, where your goals may be best accomplished. Intentions change as life circumstances change.

The question of how I became interested in Feng Shui, started me on an unexpected journey back in time. I realized, in reflecting on both my childhood and my initial choice of study in college, I was already interested in Feng Shui on an intuitive level. I had no awareness I was waiting for the language of it to show up. And show up it did when I recognized something that felt very familiar in a little Feng Shui article so many years later!

Creating a Garden Environment

03GardenEnvironment is defined as the circumstances, objects or conditions by which one is surrounded. Creating a garden environment provides an opportunity to be in harmony with the natural world. Whether it is a pot of flowers on your deck, a full-blown perennial garden or the surprise of a blue garden door, both the design and planting begin a partnership with nature. And just looking out your window onto flowers or woods, offers a visual connection that provides stress relieving moments.

I have loved gardening for as long as I can recall. My Mother loved to garden so, perhaps, that was the influence. I began serious flower gardening after I was newly married and we moved into our home. There was lots of yard and an existing large garden that had not been attended to. It became my laboratory for learning about different soils, annuals, perennials, colors, shapes, mulch and “zones.” It remained a source of creative pleasure until, twenty years later, I moved into a townhome. I was newly divorced and working full time. No time to garden. My townhome was landscaped with rock and shrubs and the absence of maintenance was a relief. For the first summer! The second summer I realized something was definitely missing in my life – I “needed” to get my hands in the soil!

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.  Mohandas K. Gandhi

It wasn’t until my third summer in the townhome that I was able to act on that WheelB“need.” I slowly and laboriously removed the rocks and shrubs that surrounded my townhome. I started amending the soil. The following summer, a garden was born. Six years later, I began my study of Feng Shui and a new perspective to gardening was introduced.

While the practice of Feng Shui is more commonly associated with buildings and their interiors, the outside world (nature) remains its original focus. The Feng Shui of your house is believed to influence your life from a personal point of view. The Feng Shui of your landscaping influences the more public aspects of your life.

Your space reflects your life is a basic Feng Shui principle. When you decide to change the color of a room or engage in a major redecorating project, something is either shifting or is about to shift in your life. When change happens in your physical environment, your life is affected in some small or big way. These may be intentional changes to call in a partner, enhance an existing relationship, create an opportunity for a new job or career, and so on; however, be aware that, even without intention, when you modify something in your physical environment, a change in your life will present itself.

garden-2And what about the outer aspect of your environment, the landscape? The health and appeal of your outer environment must be well tended to create and attract healthy Chi and it matters not whether you have a large or small garden, a container garden, a window box, or shrubs and trees! Think of driving by a home that has a well-cared for landscape with healthy shrubs, a lovely garden or pots of flowers. Now think of driving by a home where the shrubs are dead and flowers uncared for. That’s the difference between healthy and unhealthy Chi! And it gives us insight into the lives of the inhabitants.

Feng Shui taught me to garden with a different intention. I was able to more deeply tap into my inspiration and creativity as I became more in harmony with the natural world. It focused my attention on optimizing the Chi of my outside space to welcome new opportunities and experiences in my life.

 The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and Mother Nature. –Jeff Cox

 The gardens in our culture are typically a yang experience, that is, we often see the entire garden as one large burst of color. No surprise there! The Feng Shui garden, on the other hand, intentionally creates a balance of yin and yang, encouraging more of a “journey” of the eye, allowing the garden to more slowly reveal itself.

garden2Instead of straight borders, I began to curve the garden beds to create a gentle flow of Chi. Balancing active energy with still energy, I incorporated large rocks to anchor and define the garden. I added fountains and birdbaths to bring auspicious water to the property. Sound is an important component of the Chi of a garden and is present in the gentle gurgle of my water fountains, the melodious sounds of an added wind chime and the songbirds attracted to the birdfeeders. I added garden benches and sculptures to provide focal points for quiet thought and contemplation.

A charming fairy statue stands as a sentinel among the hosta at the entry of my patio. BuddhaBall
statues sit among the flowers and contribute to a sense of stillness. A gazing ball stands at one end of the patio and its mirrored reflection serves two purposes: it “doubles” the garden and allows me to see who might be entering the patio.

GdnHomeComing upon something unexpected and delightful definitely lifts your Chi. A little elf house is tucked in the front garden, seen only by those who take the time to look. Throughout the gardens, fairy houses add a sense of playfulness.

Both the approach to your home and to FtDoorthe front door are critically important areas to attract positive Chi. Two Foo Dogs protect the approach to our home and potted rose trees flank our front door, welcoming all who enter.

I continue to translate the concepts I’ve learned from my Feng Shui practice to balance the yin and yang in my garden. I’ve integrated the Five Elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water for added balance. I’ve made significant headway with choosing colors, textures and varying heights and bloom times of plantings in my ongoing goal to create a perennial garden that blooms throughout spring, summer and fall. And the inspiration derived from my visits to ancient gardens in China continues to motivate. Creating a garden environment is a work in progress; a labor of love!

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul. –Alfred Austin

Travel and the Five Elements

36746077 - five elements, creation and destructive circlesThere is a compelling connection between travel and the Five Elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. This ancient Five Element theory is an essential foundation for Chinese philosophy, medicine, martial arts, and Feng Shui. Each Element has its own characteristics and each has an affiliation with different aspects of nature: direction, season, climate, color, and shape. They are also believed to govern our physical, emotional and spiritual existence. In Chinese medicine, they are associated with our organs, sensory organs, body parts and emotions. And, each Element corresponds to specific personality characteristics.

All of us have a constitutional affinity to one or more of these Elements. The following is a general description of the personality traits associated with each Element. Take note of which Element(s) you resonate to and its influence on how you might approach a beach vacation.

71570134 - young woman walking away alone in a deserted beach on an autumn day. If your primary Element is Water, you tend to be introspective, solitary and imaginative. You are more a thinker than a doer. You are dependable, infinitely resourceful, and single-minded in pursuit of your goals. Difficult or demanding situations do not cause you to hesitate or retreat because you have a firm, unshakable sense of self. You follow the path before you with strength, purpose and determination. Your strength lies in your ability to remain flexible and adaptable. The Water personality takes long walks on the beach.

Action compels the Wood personality. You are bold, decisive and perform well under pressure. YouBeachRun are more a doer than a thinker. You are driven by the need to stay in motion and reach new heights. You constantly seek out new challenges. You love adventure and like to strike out on your own. Wood energy is very health-focused, ambitious, and fiercely independent. You are entrepreneurial and your potential is unlimited. Running on the beach is your preference.

46421713 - smiling friends playing volleyball at sandy beachExcitement, enthusiasm and generosity drive the Fire personality. Fire is the force that generates passion, compassion and creativity. If you are energized by Fire, you are filled with a blazing love of life. You value interaction and thrive on drama and excitement. You are fun loving and your natural joy and exuberance excites everyone around you. The Fire personality plays volleyball on the beach.

 People with dominant Earth energy are the peacemakers of the world. You are nurturing,Sand sympathetic and accommodating. You tend to be practical and down to earth and enjoy both anticipating and meeting the needs of others. You value tradition, loyalty, security and predictability. Your strength comes from your ability to nurture and promote connectedness with others. Earth people build sandcastles.

Those with Metal as their predominant energy tend to be36184316 - beach cabana on a maldivian island well organized, analytical, and disciplined. You hold yourself and others to the highest standards, always striving for excellence. People associate you with elegance and refinement. You love to create beauty and value ritual and ceremony. Metal personalities tend to be visionaries, seeing potential in everyone and everything around them. You travel in luxury.

If you found traits in all of them that you recognize in yourself, it is because, in our complexity as humans, all Five Elements exist in each of us.

A wonderful example of how this works is taken from the book, Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield, L. Ac. and Efrem Korngold, L. Ac., O. M. D.: “When we need to take action, it is our Wood that kicks in to gear. When it is time to celebrate in the achievement of our goals, our Fire aspect takes charge. When we are able to let go of old habits and values to prepare for a new stage of our life, it is Metal that provides the power that enables us to release. When our efforts demand we stop, rest, take stock of what we have done and rededicate ourselves to a fresh purpose, our Water aspect gives us the renewed vitality and will to carry on. When the challenges threaten to overturn our efforts or deflect us from our path, the grounding energy of our Earth aspect returns us to an even keel.”

As we take time to better know ourselves, we begin to more easily recognize the one Element that predominates and guides our choices and behaviors. While time and resources influence our travel choices, notice what environments consistently speak to you. A person whose predominate Element is Water might prefer to spend their vacation time deepening their spiritual practice or taking a personal retreat from the world. A Wood person prefers a vacation that allows for a variety of outdoor activities or the opportunity to explore unknown territory. The Fire personality is drawn to locations that provide interaction, fun and excitement. A golfing vacation or one that offers cooking classes tends to be preferred by the Earth personality. The Metal personality is most comfortable upscale hotels, resorts or cruise lines with well-organized activities.

There are always exceptions, of course, depending on what has been going on in your life. If you are a Fire person who has been “burning the candle” at both ends, you might need to find a more solitary destination for your vacation in order to get your Fire energy under better control and bring it back in balance. It can be instructive to give thought to what type of vacation you find yourself gravitating to. Will that environment nourish your Element energy, calm it down if it feels on overload, or replenish if it’s feeling drained. In Feng Shui, as in the Five Elements, it’s always about supporting and nurturing to maintain a healthy balance. Similarly, we travel to recharge, refresh, revitalize and reconnect with ourselves.

 “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

 If you have the travel bug, but think you don’t have the time or resources, check out www.vacationsooner.com to discover how you can take 4 and 5 star vacations at wholesale prices! Then contact me at hinda@livingyourintention.com with any questions.

 “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag

MtnLake

From Earth to Metal

It’s that time again! The days are becoming shorter and the nights cooler. Based on the Five Element Theory, we’re experiencing the shift from Earth to Metal. This theory postulates these five elements make up all matter that influence everything and everyone: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal.

Chart2Water is considered the storehouse of vital essence. It is responsible for growth, development and reproduction and promotes introspection, persistence and motivation.Water is the winter element. The next element, Wood, 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 the center from which we operate. When we are centered and grounded, we are better able to embrace inevitable change. Earth is an element of transmutation; it represents late summer – those last warm days before cool weather sets in. 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.

And, of course, we see this in progress as we watch our gardens give one last eruption of beauty before dying back in preparation for the dormant rest period over the winter months. We transition from basking in the warm sun to basking in the exuberant fall colors – one last hurrah before the leaves fall.

43282971 - halloween pumpkin head jack lantern on wooden backgroundI typically resist this shift from Earth to Metal until I can no longer ignore the Halloween decorations and pumpkins that suddenly dominate the landscape! I release my hold on the Earth energy and allow myself to become a full-blown participant in the activities appropriate with the fall season. A burst of energy compels me to re-organize my closet. I put away summer clothes, shoes and bags while deciding what stays for another season and what gets recycled. I’m infused with the sense of order the Metal (autumnal energy) element brings. I organize my closet and my kitchen. I pull out the slow cooker; squash soup replaces tuna salad. Fall is officially here and its Metal energy insists on change and a sense of order I can no longer deny.

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

What other inevitable 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. We can use the Earth energy of the changing seasons as a gently reminder to look at where and what we might be resisting in our lives and then use the elemental energy of the season to support us in making the transition. 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.

From Gentle to Exuberant

Based on the Chinese zodiac, we’ve left the Wood Sheep year to welcome the Fire Monkey year on February 8 – a transition from gentle to exuberant!

Ram01The 2015 Wood Sheep was considered a symbol of optimism and flexibility for compromise and progress. And, although far from easygoing, the Sheep was predicted to bring a gentle and stable year

I personally did not find the Year of the Sheep to be so gentle or stable! Many friends experienced adversities, from the sudden death of a family member to significant other personal or health challenges. I certainly endured a major disruptive injury. On the other hand, there are those who said they experienced their best year ever! So what’s up here?

Perhaps it’s nothing more than the adage, “some days are good and some days not so good!” In other words, it’s about the ebb and flow of life. And, indeed, for those of us who work with the unseen energies of Feng Shui, we know, “what goes up must go down,” and vice versa.

The degree of each annual energetic influence varies from one person to another. Feng Shui practice encourages us to focus and build on the good times while remaining open to learn and grow from the challenges that inevitably come our way.

Monkey_16So now it’s 2016 and we’re in a Monkey year! In addition to the energy of the animal of the Chinese Zodiac, each year brings the energy of one of the Five Elements of Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. This year it is the self-assured and impetuous energy of Fire that meets the Monkey’s joyful, curious, and creative nature. This exuberant Monkey swings in, suggesting a year for taking risks and changing the trajectory of your life! I encourage you to fasten your seatbelt, harness that energy and let it guide you through the roller coaster ride of this year.

Rcoaster

Wishing you a Year of Fun, Flexibility and Fearlessness!

A Tease of Wood Energy


Sprout2Do you get as excited as I do at the tease of Wood energy emerging around us? When there is a snow melt, brown is the predominant color, however, if you look closely, you will notice that tease of wood energy –little green seedlings just beginning to peek out of the ground. The Feng Shui Five Element Theory follows nature’s cycle, transitioning from the Water Element that represents Winter and moving into the Wood Element of Spring. When spring finally arrives in Minnesota, that Wood energy erupts in full form as our gardens bloom and tree buds burst open!

I love when garden centers begin offering classes about the newest annuals and perennials. Anything that appears to bring Spring a bit closer and reminds me that I will soon feel nurtured by working in the soil is most welcome. Of course, I realize that won’t happen for about two more months, given our Minnesota weather season.

I enjoyed gardening at my previous home, but when I moved into my town home years ago, there was no gardening opportunity. The landscaping consisted of shrubs and rock, requiring no upkeep. After all, isn’t that what town home living is about? But after that first summer I recognized a void in my life; my hands were literally aching to get back into the soil. It was then I became acutely aware that gardening was not just a hobby for me but an intrinsic need.

I knew nothing of Feng Shui in those days, but I intuitively knew I had to create a small garden in an area by my front door. I spent hours hauling out rock, removing shrubs and amending the soil. My new little flower garden was appealing both from my front door and from the road. I learned years later, from a Feng Shui perspective, this was ideal. That garden enhanced my front door and attracted positive chi into my home!

I quickly discovered that one small garden was not enough for me, so I began extending theWheelB garden around my town home. I continued laboriously hauling away wheelbarrows full of rock, digging up old shrubs and amending the clay soil. I spent hours planning what and where to plant. It has taken years to develop my garden, and, as all of you gardeners know all too well, it is always a work in progress! With new annuals and perennials being introduced every year, the choices become intoxicating and endless.

My previous home was on an acre, allowing me to have several areas for gardens. I loved impulse garden shopping and experimenting with a variety of perennials and annuals! There was always room for everything I brought home. Those plants that did great in the garden were neighbors to those that didn’t do so well, but it didn’t matter.

My current gardens are too small to be forgiving with plants that don’t thrive and, with ever increasing choices, I have learned to make tough decisions. I’ve become increasingly ruthless! A plant that ceases to delight is quickly removed! I recycle the rejects to my gardening friends who have more gardening space than I do. It’s a significant type of Feng Shui de-cluttering. It also speaks to the Feng Shui principle that reminds us to have in our space that which we have room for and love.

So, as this tease of wood entices us to dream about our garden – big or small, a flower box or balcony pots – remember to be intentional and have only what delights your eye!

Flowers2

Happy Spring!

“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.” ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Changing Course

The month of September has never been my favorite. The variable temperature changes are a reminder of what’s to come as we transition from summer to fall and then the cold of winter. Nature’s cycles remain consistent year after year, yet I still find myself especially resistant to changing course from summer to fall. Those transition periods, based on the ancient Chinese theory of the Five-Elements, relate to the Earth element. This element is typically associated with what the Chinese refer to as late harvest, or late summer, the period of time from early August to early September. But the Earth element also plays another role.

As we transition from season to season, we are presented with a few weeks of a different kind rhythm. For example, as summer transitions to fall, there is a fluctuation of warm summer-like days with cool, fall-like days. It’s a sort of “tease” of what’s to come and in that tease, there is a gift of “pause.” That pause is the Earth Element gently preparing us to change course. And, every year I resist! The most obvious is my obstinate refusal to begin wearing “fall” clothes. Not in September, thank you very much!

In Five Element Theory, everything and everyone is influenced by elements that make up all matter. These elements are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. Chart2Water is considered the storehouse of vital essence. It is responsible for growth, development and reproduction and promotes introspection, persistence and motivation. This is the element associated with winter.  Wood represents growth; it carries the seed of new life and is associated with spring. Fire reflects the warmth, brilliance and vitality of summer. Earth brings fullness, fertility, order and stability; it is the center from which we operate. When we are centered and grounded, we are better able to embrace change. The Metal element symbolizes the harvest of fall. It signifies a gathering of soul and spirit and brings decline and contraction with shorter days and colder nights.

ColorLeavesAnd, of course, this decline is evident as we watch our gardens give one last eruption of beauty before dying back in preparation for the dormant rest period over the winter months. We transition from basking in the warm sun to basking in the exuberant fall colors – one last hurrah before the leaves fall.

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” – Lauren DeStefano

While I appreciate the display, I remain in resistance through the autumnal equinox until about two weeks into October. When I can no longer ignore the Halloween decorations and pumpkins that suddenly dominate the landscape, I release my hold on the Earth energy and allow myself to become a full-blown participant in the activities appropriate with the new season. This burst of energy compels me to re-organize my closet. I put away summer clothes, shoes and bags while deciding what stays for another season and what gets recycled. Ah! I’ve been infused with the sense of order the Metal (autumnal energy) element brings. Next, I re-organize my kitchen. I unearth the slow cooker; squash soup replaces tuna salad. Fall is officially here and its Metal energy insists on change and a sense of order I can no longer deny.

I begin my garden clean up to assist in preparation for the progression to the Water element of Jimmieswinter, knowing, of course, it will make this natural evolution with or without me. I transition my flowerpots, replacing those plants that succumbed to the fluctuating temperatures with plants that enjoy the cooler nights. I add pumpkins and gourds. I finally fully embrace fall! Those outdoor pots are a visible statement that I am no longer resisting the change.

What other inevitable changes in our life do we resist when they show up? How long do we put off succumbing to them? And when we finally do, how do we acknowledge and celebrate the fact that we actually moved forward? Each season brings the opportunity to look inward at what course change or corrections are awaiting recognition. We can use the Earth energy of the changing seasons as a gentle reminder, a pause, if you will, to look at where and what we might be resisting in our lives. We can then use the elemental energy of the season to support us in making the transition. There is a rhythm to everything in life; there is a time for growth, and a time for endings. Being in the flow acknowledges these life cycles. Nature is, indeed, a model for changing course.