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The Ancient Art of Feng Shui

Life is full of challenges. Some surface suddenly, like health crises; others, such as relationship troubles, build over time. Some are more defined (financial difficulties and the like); others are harder to explain—vague feelings of discontent. It may be clear what you need to do to navigate the bumpy road ahead. On the other hand, it can feel like you’re in a holding pattern, stuck without a clear idea of how you can move forward.

Moving beyond your obstacle could take help from a professional, some personal effort or both. The ancient practice of feng shui can offer benefits from a thoughtful and deliberate adjustment of your environment and the energy around you.

This 5,000-year-old Chinese art and science is based on the idea that the energy of the universe, known as qi, is intimately tied to harmony in your life. Put another way, the characteristics of the places where you live, work and play can either encourage or block a positive balance of personal qi, and therefore promote or discourage good health, positive relationships, contentment and success.

Where acupuncturists apply needles to areas of the body to encourage the flow of energy and promote harmony and healing, feng shui experts suggest the addition, removal or rearrangement of items in a space to do the same. That could include placement of furniture, plants, wall hangings and other common objects. Recommendations are based on a bagua, or energy map, which reveals the areas of your space that are linked to parts of your life such as spirituality, creativity, wealth or career. Many people study the principles of feng shui to use on their own as well.

Feng shui is based on the Five Element Theory. Each of the following must be represented and carefully balanced in any space you’re in to maintain an optimal balance of energy:

Fire – passion: This can be expressed through angular shapes (a square coffee table, perhaps), leather, candles and colors in the red family.

Wood – motivation, inspiration, creativity: Many use wood furniture, plants and the colors green and purple to meet this need.

Water – wealth, professional success: This is often incorporated into a room through the use of glass, mirrors, moving water (like a desktop fountain) or the colors black and blue.

Earth – stability: Stone or clay items, square shapes and the colors yellow, brown and orange are commonly used to signify our planet.

Metal – energy attraction: This is easy to incorporate, since most of us have a number of metal items (lamps, picture frames), and it can be worked in with round shapes, chrome, brass, wrought iron, stainless steel and the colors white and grey.

You may turn to feng shui because you want to focus on encouraging one particular outcome, like securing a new job or fostering a strong marriage, or you might ask a feng shui expert to optimize your home in a more general way after they’ve analyzed its energy. Above all, feng shui can bring about a hard-to-describe sense of peace—one that comes when things feel balanced and beautiful. No matter your intent, all aspects of your space—including its orientation on the plot of land, design, color, décor and furniture arrangement—are considered when determining what changes need to be made. While some of these features are permanent, adjustments can be made to those that aren’t to invite positive qi.

For example, positioning your bed’s headboard against the wall will encourage security. Adding round items, like a circular table, will promote a sense of wholeness, while a red paint job will feed feelings of romance.

You might think there’s nothing more to having a fern in your kitchen than the beauty it adds, or that hanging a mirror in your entryway is simply a helpful prop for a last-minute glance before you head out the door. Those things are true, of course, but you may find that changing your space influences you in other, more meaningful ways too—ones that can help support healthy shifts in your life.

These resources may prove helpful to you if you’re interested in working with a feng shui consultant:
American Feng Shui Institute
Institute of Feng Shui and Geopathology
International Feng Shui Guild

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