An ancient Chinese philosophy about
the relationships between humans
and the places they live and work is helping people reshape their spaces
and their lives.
By Colleen Foye Bollen
The Puget Sound Business Journal
April 24-30, 1998
No Have you ever gone shopping for a new home and known within seconds, sometimes before you’ve seen the whole floor plan, that the house was not right for you? Or entered a store, only to turn around and leave. Those reactions, justified or intuitive, are the basis for Feng Shui.
Feng Shui (pronounced “fong shway”) is a Chinese philosophy about the relationship between humans and their environment. The Chinese have long believed that all objects, people, plants and places have energy. Developed more than 4, 000 years ago, Feng Shui has evolved into a refined art used to enhance life opportunities through modifications in the layout and orientation of workplaces and homes.
My introduction to Feng Shui came through Maxine Norton, owner of Healing Spaces in Seattle. While preparing a business card and brochure for Norton, I casually asked her questions about the principles behind Feng Shui. By the time her brochure was done, I had hired her to help me align my home office.
Because my work space is shared with other family members, Norton’s first recommendation was to rearrange my office furniture. “I could see the need to define the work area,” said Norton. “We created a power position on the office side of the room to anchor Colleen’s work identity and strengthen her family’s view of her work space.” Norton also suggested that I create a “fame wall” with my awards and degrees, and put a business sign on my office door. These simple changes gave me a professional lift. And, within days of making the changes, editors were calling with new assignments. Coincidence, maybe. But I was impressed enough to rehire Norton to work on my living room.
Working with Norton, I learned about the Feng Shui mapping system called bagua (pronounced “bag-gwah”). The Western layout of this system is a tic-tac-toe formation. Inside the nine boxes are sectors that correspond to key life areas. These include wealth and prosperity, fame and reputation, love and marriage, health and family, creativity and children, self-knowledge and spirituality, career, helpful people and travel, and the center — all other things.
For centuries, the Chinese used this map to determine good building sites. Because most Western cities and homes are already built, the bagua is used to enhance what already exists. The mapping system is laid, like a template, over a house, specific room, or even a desk. Then remedies are recommended to align the energy, or ch’i.
The Chinese believe that a formula for success is a combination of preparation and opportunity. By balancing the ch’i or energy flow in our physical surroundings, we are more open to life’s opportunities. As the natural flow of energy in our personal environments is rebalanced, it thereby creates a rippling effect through the rest of our lives.
With these principles in mind, Norton assessed my living room. The room had a stagnated feel. Even though I liked the furnishings, it felt uninviting. Using the bagua, Norton mapped out a new furniture arrangement to improve the flow of energy. “The couch was the first thing I noticed,” said Norton. “It was like a rock in the middle of the road. It divided the room, blocking the ch’i, and limiting conversation.”
My immediate response to her recommendations was, “I can’t do that. I am not a furniture moving person.” She suggested we try the new arrangement for a day or two. If we didn’t like it, we could change it back. Putting Norton’s suggestions to work we created a welcoming spot, where my family now spontaneously gathers.
A good entrance
My Feng Shui research brought me to the home of Cynthia Chomos, owner of Sacred Interiors in Seattle. Implementing Feng Shui principles, she has created an oasis of peacefulness on an arterial street.
Outside her home, she created a meandering path to her front door. “The path helps buffer me from the traffic,” says Chomos. “I used plants and landscape rocks to slow down the energy, balance and revitalize it, before it enters my house.”
Carrying her intention inside, Chomos uses water fountains to mask the sounds of traffic and to energize specific areas of her home and life.
Whether you live on a busy street or country road, the tenants of Feng Shui say the front door is important.
“There is a rule of first impression that sets up the energy pattern,” Chomos said. “If we enter our home through the kitchen, we think about food. If we go through the garage there may be clutter. Neither is as neutral as entering through your front door.”
Daniel Lowery, from Queen Anne Gardens, used Feng Shui principles to create a new entrance for his home office. Instead of going to work via the interior stairs, he now goes out the front door and locks it.
“Then I go for a walk around the block and come into my office through the basement door,” he said. By enhancing his office entrance and implementing interior suggestions Chomos made, Lowery has created a wonderful separation between home and work. “Now I am pleased and proud to bring people into my office.”
According to Chomos, the biggest energy leak in a home is created if you can enter the front door and look across the house to a window or a door. “The energy shoots right out the door or window,” said Chomos. “The loss of energy might cause you to feel fatigued and have difficulty getting things done.”
Jan Lewis, a self-described pragmatic nurse, had this problem with her newly remodeled home.
“When you enter the front door, the stairway goes right up to an entry hall and large picture window. Ch’i was coming in the front door right up the stairs and out the window,” explained Lewis.
“Chomos suggested putting up something to redirect the energy flow. I didn’t want to put up curtains that would block my view of the greenbelt, so I ended up putting plants beside the window and vinyl stick-ons, about chest high, on the window. My 4-year-old plays with them and they help block the ch’i.”
The bad news for pack rats is that every room impacts the whole. A room filled with junk in the basement impacts the whole house.
“Clutter is like clogged arteries in the energy flow of the house,” Chomos said. “The key thing is to reduce the clutter and organize it.”
“Clutter is like clogged arteries in the energy flow of the house…”
Everyone needs a place to store things, a place for trash cans, and pet paraphernalia. But you should be able to walk freely through every room. It’s also important to choose the right location for things, a location that won’t take away energy.
“Putting a pet bed in the wealth corner is not good — that’s where you want thriving plants,” said Chomos.
There are multiple layers of mastery in Feng Shui and many branches of study. Some practitioners use astrology, I Ching, and compass points, while others use a more western approach.
If you are interested in experimenting with Feng Shui look for a book that matches your comfort level. My favorite is “The Western Guide to Feng Shui,” by Terah Kathryn Collins.
You can make an appointment with a Feng Shui consultant or make some changes on your own and see if you notice any difference. As an old Chinese saying advises, “If you want change in your life, move 27 things in your house.”