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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

From Gallop to Graze

horseMy transition from gallop to graze began several months ago! It turns out, the free-spirited, high-energy year of the Yang Wood Horse took me for a ride! I thought I was ready for the 2014 Horse’s sprint! After all, sprinting through life has been my M.O. or modus operandi. I have always been an eager learner, open to new ideas and ways of thinking. And I have always been a sprinter. One would think, then, that the Year of the Horse would support my sprinting energy. What happened was quite the opposite! Joining energetic forces with the Horse energy wore me down, forcing me to take a good look at how I have run my energy all my life. That high energy, so valued and rewarded by our culture, turns out, really doesn’t support good health or mindfulness.  Of course, I have been aware of this for years; however, I believed I was sprinting with mindfulness, appreciating the moment, stopping to smell the roses. But, wait a minute……maybe not so much as I thought.

I frequently use the analogy that life’s lessons are like peeling an onion. Each layer of learningOnion02
peels away to reveal a new level of awareness. At certain times throughout our lives, if we are paying attention, we are made aware of another layer waiting to be peeled back. When my energy aligned with the Horse energy, I lost the race, or won, depending on which perspective you take. I was unexpectedly forced to peel away the layer of belief that said, “sprinting works for me.”

I began to notice I had less stamina to do the things I did on an everyday basis. My vitality for certain activities, ways of doing, and thinking would quickly burn out. I was being challenged and it was distressing! The familiar way I ran my energy was no longer working! I was getting less Orb02done in a day and feeling more tired. Ignoring these changes, I galloped toward new learning and signed up for a series of classes on expanding consciousness.  Of course, once they began, I questioned why I had committed to weekly classes, with assignments, when I was feeling so “un-energetic!” And then, the irony of it began to reveal itself: I was taking these classes on expanding consciousness, while being challenged to expand my own consciousness! Of course, the timing was perfect! These classes showed up just in time to support me in a transition I wasn’t even yet aware of!

The Sheep/Goat officially grazed in February 4, finding me continuing to evaluate my Ram01
engagement in life, based on what my body is telling me. I have always felt a deep connection to the earth and to my body. The Horse energy challenged me to listen to and respect that connection on a level deeper than I had before – another layer of the onion!  How perfect that my personal transition coincides with the transition from gallop to graze.

Although far from easygoing, this Sheep year bodes for a gentler and more stable time. This Yin Wood Sheep year is considered a symbol of optimism and flexibility for compromise and progress. And I plan to graze on that!

 

 

 

 

 

Tis the Season of Yin and Yang

SnoTreesDecember in Minnesota is a perfect example of Yin and Yang. The short, dark winter days combined with the quiet beauty of a blanket of snow personify Yin. Add Yang energy with glowing holiday lights that brighten and twinkle, and you have a season of Yin and Yang. In balance, Yin and Yang contribute to the beauty we so enjoy at this time of year.

But just about the time holiday fervor is threatening to create an imbalance of Yang energy, along comes the Winter Solstice. The word “solstice” is Latin for “sun-stand still.” The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year and represents the official beginning of winter. Yin energy reinstates itself!

Saturday, the 21st of December, I attended a Winter Solstice celebration, and in so doing, connected with the energy of other cultures around the world that have celebrated solstice festivals since ancient times. Sunset

This year, I joined a gathering of eight women at a mutual friend’s home. While not everyone knew each other, the camaraderie was instant. We shared delicious food as we engaged in “getting to know you” talk. Then we settled in to focus on the purpose of getting together: acknowledging the Solstice and sharing gratitude. Our hostess first invited each of us to shine a light on what we were grateful for in 2013. A candle was lit, bringing light to the darkest day of the year. As the softly glowing candle was passed from one woman to the next, intimate stories of healing and insights were shared. Each person talked about challenging and difficult times experienced this year and how those darkest of times brought the greatest lessons learned. The light shone brightly for each of us on gratitude for the subsequent insights, wisdom and understanding gleaned from those lessons. Candle

After sharing gratitude, we participated in a solstice tradition of writing on a piece of paper what we wanted to release before entering the new year: arrogance, ego, selfishness, poor health, self-doubt, negative thoughts and so on. These pieces of paper were then tossed into a fire to be set free. This ritual provides a powerful sense of release.

I am grateful for friends who afford me an opportunity, in the midst of the holiday rush, to take time to pause and acknowledge the transition to a new season, to appreciate nature’s celestial beauty and wisdom, to speak my gratitude in the presence of others and to symbolically release what did not serve me well in 2013.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

 Happy Solstice! Happy Holidays!

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