A FENG SHUI JOURNEY TO THE DIVINE IN OUR RELATIONSHIPS
Life Is A Journey – Do You Know Where You’re Going?
Do you ever wish that you had been given a map for your life? There is one, if you choose to use it. The art and science of Feng Shui offers us the Bagua which unites all aspects of life in the ever-changing flow of “chi” or universal energy.
In ancient times, and in many of our former lives, we were connected with the earth, with heaven, with the seasons, and all of nature, with the universe and God. All people were, and many indigenous people are still. However, in our developed societies many of us have lost that intimate connection with God, along with our connection to each other.
The universal energy upon which the work of Feng Shui is based is that of the Divine. We are all, consciously or unconsciously, in the process of opening ourselves to our optimum lives. We are trying to the very best of our abilities to create joyful, peaceful, productive and meaningful lives for ourselves. We are using every means at our disposal to bring the very best and highest elements of life into our existence, that which is for our personal highest good as well as the highest good of our friends, family, all those around us we know.
We will not have a more peaceful world until we have greater peace in our homes and hearts. Quoting H. H. the Dalai Lama in the foreword to Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Peace Is Every Step, “Although attempting to bring about world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way.”
Life is Relationships
Considering this statement from a Feng Shui viewpoint, thinking of the energy surrounding us, there is a way of being in the world that speaks eloquently to me. It is viewing every aspect of life as a relationship – relationship with self, relationship with our past, our ancestors, our prior lives, our karma and our destiny. Our life and our peace is about the relationships that are mundane, for this life plane – our relationships with money, fame and reputation, with our children, siblings and parents, with friends and co-workers, bosses, the beggar on the street. It is about our relationships with our abilities to work and earn a living, with our bodies and our health, our ideas, attitudes and thoughts. Our life and inner peace is also about our spiritual relationships.
A relationship to be enjoyed is an awareness of the smallest components of our universe. We have the flowers and trees, the bees, the wind as it gently caresses our body – birds joyfully chirping at dawn, the full moon and its majestic light, soft grass under our feet, and for me the beaches I have enjoyed for the past thirty years living on the Gulf Coast of Florida and now in Virginia Beach – all of the many elements of nature.
A memory I cherish is that of three ants I encountered during a lovely retreat called Awakening Grace, held near Blowing Rock in the North Carolina mountains. As I was out in a forest, seated on the grass and journaling about my day, a small black ant had the audacity to walk across my leg and I flicked it off. Then I thought, whoops – that was an unconscious pattern of reaction. Not kind at all. A little later another ant walked across my lap and I simply, easily, watched her come and go in peace. Next one of the little guys walked across my journal and this time I watched attentively. She raised her right front leg and waved at me. I was filled with a sense of elation and feeling of connection to all life at that moment.
There is a way of being in the continuum of our relationships that flows from a mindful place of unity and balance. How do we discover this balance? Feng Shui provides a literal guide to the way our life is unfolding. It brings to our attention which paths or relationships are working and which are not as they are reflected in our environments and in our lives.
There is a term “Feng Shui eyes” that describes a way of looking at our energetic world. It is a kind of clear vision that allows us to see both visible and invisible elements – the seen and the unseen aspects of life.
The First Metaphor
Feng Shui, literally meaning “wind and water”, is a Chinese-based philosophy of life, and is considered both an art and a science. It is a healing practice for our environments and for ourselves that aids us in achieving harmony. Wind and water are essential, and offer a method of deepening our relationship with the Divine as we develop an increasing consciousness of our universe.
The wind is the invisible. We do not see it but we see the results of its energy in action – the gentle swaying of trees or the terrifying aftermath of tornadoes and hurricanes. The wind is the air that we breathe, the basis of the existence of all life forms. It is known as “prana” in India, “ki” in Japan, “chi” in China, “vital life force” in the Hermetic tradition – and by some called the Holy Spirit.
The water is the visible – enjoyed as a babbling brook or mighty ocean. Water blesses with a gentle rain or smashes with the powerful fist of a tsunami. Water covers the majority of the earth, and is the major component of our bodies. We would not exist without it.
“Wind and water” – this combination of meanings is symbolic to me of the powerful role Feng Shui plays in our lives.
The World of Chi
Feng Shui is the world of energy or chi. It is all elements, natural and man made. Specific to our homes, it is the energy with which we surround ourselves in choosing the location of our homes, their shape and size, our furniture, fabrics, colors, patterns, artwork, music, flooring, plants, pets, and people – everything that we consciously or unconsciously bring into our homes.
For a brand new home or building there is the energy of those who worked on the home – the architect and all manner of workmen, the difficulties or ease experienced during design and construction. Previously occupied homes also retain the imprint and energy of former owners and their experiences. We have all noticed restaurant sites that keep failing regardless of the type of cuisine, or business sites that simply change hands as each successive business closes down.
Knowing Feng Shui principles enables us to intentionally balance and harmonize our homes and our lives. As Debbie Ford says in The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, “Our deepest longing is for peace, love and harmony.” Using Feng Shui principles, we can enhance our life’s potential – knowing peace, living our life’s purpose, attaining our spiritual ideals, experiencing love, abundance and joy.
We have all experienced periods of balance and harmony when our lives flow. A time when what we ask for appears, when what we need is there for us – sometimes in mere moments.
One of my favorite illustrations of this comes from a time I was working for Gary David Designs in Fort Myers, Florida. I was in the studio working on a client’s design proposal and thinking, “Oh, I need a nice off-white carpet for Mr. A.” Not fifteen minutes later a carpet salesman walked in the door with the perfect samples. This was the first and last time a carpet salesman entered the store. Synchronicity.
Awareness and practice of Feng Shui is a partnership of our attention and intention, the metaphysical and mundane.
A Little History and Folklore
Feng Shui is several thousand years old. It is said that Feng Shui had its beginning in China when the people first noticed how the position of their village on the side of a mountain was desirable because it protected them from the cold north winds. They further noticed that the small hills on either side of the village formed a safe haven (shaped like an armchair).
The villagers gave names to the land formations which were ultimately incorporated into Feng Shui teachings: Black Tortoise protects the back of the village, Green Dragon lies to the east, and White Tiger rests in the west. Ideally, a river called the Red Phoenix flows by the front of the village, bringing both sustenance through the availability of seafood, as well as trade and commerce.
It is also said that Feng Shui was a secret kept within the knowledge of the emperors and their personal advisors for many centuries. Further folklore tells that the Bagua, whose use you will learn, was based on the patterns on the back of a huge tortoise that crawled from the sea and was observed by an emperor of the 9th century Tang Dynasty.
Roads have, for the most part, become the Red Phoenix river of modern Feng Shui. And the colors of the four protective animals – red, white, green and black – are used today to represent four of the five elements, along with their respective cardinal directions on the Bagua: south, west, east and north.
Madame Chiang Kai-shek forbade the use of Feng Shui because she felt it had the potential to provide unnecessary power to the common people. Her husband’s rise to power is traced to the especially good Feng Shui of his mother’s grave; his downfall is blamed on the communists’ digging it up. I wish I could remember where I discovered this tidbit of history.
Feng Shui Schools
There are many schools of Feng Shui. The Compass Schools, of which there are different types of varying complexity, are particularly popular in Europe, Australia and Hong Kong. The Form School was traditionally used for determining auspicious gravesites. It is used to define the shapes of mountains, valleys and rivers and buildings in that they may look like animals. and thus be negative or auspicious. The Taoist, Nine Star Ki, Three Yuan, Cantonese (all Chinese), Hu Sui (Japanese) and Vastu Shasta (Indian) are all traditional schools of ancient energy teachings.
Black Sect Tantric Buddhist (BTB) school of Feng Shui, founded by the His Holiness the Grandmaster Lin Yun, relates ancient Chinese knowledge, beliefs and practices regarding spatial energy or chi to modern architecture, space planning, ecology, interior design, color psychology, intuition and common sense. His is a fourth generation of teachings that trace a lineage back into ancient Taoism and Buddhism.
Professor Lin Yun, who passed in August of 2010, dedicated his life to the development and teaching of Feng Shui. I have been honored to visit his beautiful temple in Berkeley, California. He teaches us to honor all schools of Feng Shui, that all are valid, and that there is always more to learn – which is true in any art or science.
There are many schools in the United States based on BTB teachings, some with variations on the original teachings. There are also teachers who have brought additional wisdom to the Professor’s original teachings. I have observed that persons who are highly intuitive tend to prefer the BTB School, whereas those who enjoy having a prescribed formula to follow with definitive answers and rules prefer the Compass School.
Having studied both of these methods, I find the BTB School to be the most compatible with my way of being in the world. It is empowering for my clients and students because it honors each individual’s intuition and is open to additional and deeper interpretations.
One other way of working with the energy in your home I simply call “The School of 31 Things.” This came from an elderly Chinese woman in Detroit who said that, if you move thirty-one things in your home in thirty days (and I mean a substantial change of furniture or other objects), you will experience great change. There’s no telling what the change will be, but something will most assuredly happen. I have not yet had the guts to do this.
The Practice of Feng Shui
Thorough Feng Shui practice requires assessment of site topography, traffic flow toward and around a site, and assessment of adjacent properties and water bodies. In evaluating an office building, store, manufacturing facility or personal residence, Feng Shui practice requires consideration of the building shape and design, its placement on the building site, building materials, ingress and egress, circulation paths, and room adjacencies. The interior design is scrutinized for placement of furnishings, materials used and color selection. Additional attention is given to the symbology of artwork and accessories, both in content and placement within the environment. Consideration is given to the yin/yang balance of the building’s location, its interior space and its contents. One room’s requirement is not the same as another’s because the desired energy and activity is different in different spaces.
Using “Feng Shui eyes” and principles of Feng Shui assessment, you can understand quite a lot about your life. The way you design and keep your primary environment is indicative of you as a person. Are you focused? Are you aware? Are you confused? Are you single or married? Are you successful in your work? Do you have time to do everything in your life that you would like? Your surroundings will answer the foregoing questions, and more. The more time that we spend in a space, the greater the impact it has on us – thus the importance of our homes and offices.
After the bombing of the British parliament building during World War II, Parliament elected to rebuild exactly what had been destroyed because it so fitted that august body and its function. Winston Churchill said, “First we shape our buildings; then they shape us.”
Feng Shui is about energy. All we are, all that exists, is chi – our physical bodies, the world around us, our homes, cities, friends, pets, offices; everything in this universe and beyond can be spoken of in terms of energy.
The western culture has traditionally been about exclusivity, breaking our lives into compartments –school, work, children, parents, friends, recreation, exercise.
Eastern culture experiences the world as a single energy structure providing an inclusive way of looking at life. Does the energy that you find in your personal environment, your home and office, support you or not? Does the energy that you experience from the people you encounter on a daily basis uplift you energetically or not? Do your personal thoughts and actions support and raise your vibrations, or not? Do the stores and other places that you frequent make you feel good or not?
The bottom line is – how do you feel as you move through your daily life? Getting in touch with the energy that you experience in various places and with various people is critical to good health and positive emotions. The integrative and unifying practices of Feng Shui deepen chi awareness, sensitizing us to experience nuances in the energy around us.
The energy that is available to us comes from the one universal spirit and this is what we are longing to tap into, our connectedness with all that is. To begin this process, or Feng Shui journey, we are best served by embracing who we are, with gratitude and an open mind. We need to look at ourselves with appreciation for who we are and where we are in our life, with love and without judgment. We need to know and to feel that we are part of the Universe, that we matter, that we contribute to the well being of others and can make a difference in the world, and that we are in alignment with our purpose for being on this earth. Feng Shui will support us in experiencing ourselves as co-creators with God, as recognizing the Divine within ourselves as well as others. It is about all our relationships and our connection with the Divine.
“When the intellect starts maturing, it starts questioning the source of creation. Creativity is the basis of the quest. That is how the concept of God rose in the mind of man. Creativity is the source. The intellect saw that there is so much orderliness. Everything is being created. Somebody must have created this. So it labeled that power, that force, that source, which is beneath the creation as God.” H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar