Living with Feng Shui

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"Your home is your sanctuary," but, when entered, does the home create feelings of stress and chaos, instead of calming and providing refuge? No matter how much a person cleans, a home can still feel as if it is in constant disarray. The Chinese commonly remedy these complaints by using the art of feng shui. Simple placement of certain objects in mapped areas of a home can bring great respite to an otherwise chaotic environment. American society classifies feng shui as just another idea based on superstitions, for example, black cats and broken mirrors. Actually, feng shui, pronounced "fung shway," is the ancient craft of interpreting and manipulating energy in the environment to create harmonious space by stimulating good chi', or energy, and staunching the negative flow. Feng shui, meaning wind and water, was created based on the ancient Taoist metaphysical outlook on nature. The Taoist's examined their surrounding environment and saw the unity in the different elements of the universe. By identifying the energy in the land around them, the Taoist's were able to point out the areas that would protect, flourish, or ‘be at one' with the earth. In the book, "Taoist Feng Shui", Susan Levitt explains: "In nature they sensed ‘chi' energy, the breath of life in all things. Taoist observation of nature concluded that curved, flowing lines slow chi' and bring abundance. Harmonious chi moves in a curved, graceful line, as if following the natural course of a river. Sharp, straight lines bring ‘sha' chi, or bad chi (2)."

The Taoists believe that all energy is aligned. This alliance, called Tao, is represented by the figure of the yin and yang. Customarily, the yin is dark, female, and welcoming; the yang is light, male, and aggressive. Yin and yang are believed to be connected to one another and always fluctuating, each complimenting the opposing other. Examples of this relationship can be seen everywhere: midnight and noon, mountains and valleys, hot and cold, sweet and sour. Without one, there is no other (Levitt 6).

In order to chart the chi in a certain area or home, a feng shui compass must be used. This compass, the ba-gua, is composed of eight trigrams, or lines stacked three high, arranged to create an octagonal center ring. The ba-gua map is divided into eight separate sections and the center, with each section representing a different life area. These areas are fame, wealth, family, knowledge, career, helpful people, children, relationships, and, in the center, health (The Ba-Gua, par. 3).

The next step in understanding and manipulating chi' is in the knowledge of the ‘five elements'. Sophia Tang Shaul and Chris Shaul state in their article, "The Five Elements", that "these elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water are the foundation theory for Feng Shui balance (para.1)." These elements carry their own separate and well-defined qualities, and are intended to be used in areas of the home where there is an imbalance in the energy flow (Shaul, para. 1).

Creation, or "new life", is representative of the element Wood and is characteristic of both the yin and yang (female and male). Like the season of spring brings life anew, the ‘five elemental cycle' begins with Wood. Although wooden furniture and the color green are often used in homes to represent this element, live plants are of much greater value, as their chi' is alive and flourishing, cleansing and deodorizing the air we breathe (Shaul, para. 2,3).

The Fire element is the most yang of the elements, and is represented by the color red. As in nature, fire is nourished by wood. Our food is prepared over fire; its heat keeps us warm. Objects used to symbolize the Fire element, candles, lamps, and even live animals, should be used sparingly in the home, as fire is extremely destructive when not controlled (Shaul, para.5).

The distinctly yin Earth element is the center of the ba-gua. Earth, or, ‘Mother Nature' in western philosophy, is represented...
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