You’ve probably heard of feng shui (pronounced FUNG-shway), a set of aesthetic principles passed down to us from ancient Chinese tradition. As an approach to harmonizing the design elements of your physical environment, feng shui usually pertains to the arrangement of your living space, décor and furniture. Central to feng shui is the belief that the practice can be used to balance the energetic qualities of your home, and thereby increase your overall sense of well-being.
Practitioners of feng shui assert that the physical arrangement of your surroundings can affect your life and well-being because every object -- as well as every person -- has its own energy, or chi. Structures and items around us are seen in terms of forces of chi that connect everything in the universe.
A person’s living space is often described as having “good feng shui” (which equates with harmony and good health) or “bad feng shui” (which can mean disharmony and poor health). There can be an ideal place for your desk, lamps, computer, bookshelves, couch, bed and everything else in your immediate world. Even your waste basket is not exempt from the principles of feng shui.
Contemporary attitudes toward feng shui are diverse. During China’s so-called “cultural revolution,” the practice of feng shui was often forbidden, but it has since regained more widespread acceptance.
The notion of re-arranging your furniture and personal surroundings according to ancient Chinese beliefs may seem esoteric and difficult to grasp, but many aspects of feng shui can be simple, down to earth, practical and affordable. And the benefits of making your living space feel more harmonious and chi-supportive can be immeasurable.
Here are a few basic guidelines for improving your feng shui to create a more comforting energy in your home and a greater sense of well-being for you and your family:
Clear the clutter
This is a good place to start with feng shui. Piles of paper, dishes, unopened mail and dirty laundry can all contribute to internal disarray, stagnation and bad feng shui. And according to feng shui principles, your energy can flow more freely, and negative feelings may dissipate more quickly, in a pristine, well-organized room. Begin with one room, and take away anything you don’t absolutely love. If you need to keep things you don’t love, put them away, file them or create a place where you won’t have to see them every day and don’t have to think about them until you need to.
When choosing colors, consider yin and yang qualities.
One of the basic goals of feng shui is to use yin and yang energy in support of your needs. For example, use yin colors (more subdued, gentle tones) in areas where you want to relax, and yang colors (more intense, stimulating hues) in rooms where you exercise or want to feel lively. Bright reds, oranges, and yellows, which represent yang energy, may enhance higher-energy activities, while greens, blues, lavenders, and warm earth tones may enhance feelings of restfulness and tranquility.
If you hang artwork, be sure it’s really for YOU.
To maximize the flow of energy in your space, your artwork should have special significance to you personally, as opposed to something you didn’t choose and perhaps feel obligated to display for some reason. Feng shui is about how your living space connects with, and supports, your personal energy and preferences. And along with artwork you don’t want in your space, it’s critical to remove any energy-draining images that bring to mind disappointing relationships or failed endeavors.
Make sure your space has fresh air and quality light.
Both of these are important for good feng shui, which can be stimulated by increasing your exposure to the energy of the natural environment. For good quality air, open your windows frequently to allow for cross-ventilation, use air filters or bring in some oxygen-friendly house plants. (And plants can always further improve your feng shui by adding a touch of nature to your home.) For good quality light, allow natural daylight to illuminate your space whenever possible, or switch over to light bulbs that simulate natural light. For curtains, if possible use soft material that allows some penetration of light, as opposed to heavier materials -- such as metal, plastic, or wood blinds -- that tend to reduce natural light.
Give special attention to where you sleep.
The overall design of your bedroom should help to bring you a sense of peace and safety, while also contributing to sound, healthier sleep. (Some feng shui practitioners advise sleeping with your head against a solid headboard to promote a feeling of security.) It’s especially important to refrain from working in bed, and to clear from your bedroom any objects that remind you of unpleasant experiences. It may also be a good idea to remove any unnecessary electronic devices from your bedroom, or at least from your bedside; some of these could release electrical currents that can have negative effects on sleep. Some feng shui experts recommend placing mirrors, which are said to disrupt energy, in places where they can’t be seen from bed, and preferably outside of the bedroom.
These guidelines may help, but remember that feng shui is about promoting your own positive feelings and good energy. One of the gifts of feng shui is that it can teach you to become more aware of how to use your personal space to create greater harmony in your life. But feng shui also teaches that every one of us has our own energy, or chi. Your unique needs and feelings may not fit the typical profile, so it’s essential that you feel free to follow your own instincts, whatever they may happen to be. The bottom line is to go with what feels right for you, and gives you the work and living space that promotes your health, creativity, peace and well-being.