Feng Shui Fundamentals: Exploring This Ancient Wisdom

By Laura Staley, Cherish Your World

Simply stated, feng shui is the art and practice of arranging your physical space to enhance your life. The conditions of your home and workspace affect the quality of your life, and you can take actions to make your home a haven and your office a place for productivity and creativity.

Feng shui literally translates to “wind-water”; it is an invitation to merge your intentions and desires, which are invisible like the wind, with the physical world of things we can see, touch, hear, taste, and smell, such as water.

Although feng shui comes from China, most cultures in the world practice similar ideas as many human beings find ways to create optimal living and working environments.

The three principles and three practices of feng shui, covered in the following sections, work together to empower and inspire you in the places where you live and work.

Principle 1: Everything Is Alive with Energy. Obviously, trees, flowers, animals, and people flow with life-giving energy. Yet some of you may be perplexed about how this could be true for your purse, a photograph, or the coffee mug you are holding in your hand. Consider from a scientific perspective that each object breaks down into its tiniest components of atoms, neutrons, protons, and electrons, and then quarks. Energy is the underlying force that transforms particles into all the things we see around us. Another way to think of this principle comes from the meanings and associations you have with each belonging in your living or working space. You could tell an entire story about the photograph you have on your desk—whom you were with, when it was taken, and what it means to you. This capacity people have to imbue belongings with meaning brings them to life with our energy of love, joy, irritation, or exuberance. A thin piece of white cloth becomes a person’s memory of their dad and his beloved handkerchief. It’s a treasured belonging that holds the energy of a father’s love.

Principle 2: Everything Is Connected. You are connected to your belongings, your feelings, your thoughts, and the people in your life in a tapestry. Sometimes you might compartmentalize your life into containers of work, play, creativity, relationships, and health, and homes and workspaces usually have separate rooms for different uses. Yet “containers” can contain only so much. When one area of your life is thriving, such as career, this joy can flow into your personal relationships, your health, and the ways you play. Conversely, if you just lost your job or a loved one has passed, your grief often touches each aspect of your life. Similar “spillover” happens in your living spaces too: An upgrade to one room can make you feel great even when you aren’t in that room. And the junk room’s existence has an effect on the rest of your living space, as do other hidden places that contain clutter and other items you’d rather not deal with. The hidden clutter and unfinished business becomes the unspoken agitation in the background of your life. You know it’s there, even if it’s behind closed doors or in areas of the home you don’t often enter. The effects of the people in our lives spill over as well. One difficult person in your life—maybe a colleague, a boss, or a neighbor—can be someone you find yourself complaining about to others in your life. The opposite can be true, also. When people are deeply in love, for example, their joyful energy infuses each interaction they have with others. A person in your life who is full of vibrant, loving, and joyful energy often attracts good people and experiences. An act of kindness or cruelty creates an impact (and often multiple impacts) in the world. This principle of feng shui encourages you to recognize your connections to things, thoughts, feelings, and people. With this level of awareness, you might decide to create and broaden uplifting connections to things, thoughts, people, and patterns of feelings. You might also decide to disconnect from activities and experiences that no longer inspire you.

Principle 3: Everything Is Changing, and the Energy in Everything Is Changing. When I shared this principle at a talk recently, almost everyone in the room groaned knowingly. It seems this principle resonates powerfully with people. You can see changes in weather patterns, seasons, the technology you knew how to use just last week, new policies or procedures you need to implement, and the children in your life. You might even see it in the mirror every morning when you smile brightly and notice another fine line by your eyes. You can notice this principle in your tastes and preferences too. Sometimes this happens after you travel somewhere new and come home with a passion for Asian art, seaside photographs, or skiing. I no longer read the books I read when I was a child; nor do I have the posters I had in my college dorm room. As you grow, your interests and desires can change. Maybe you no longer feel a desire to accumulate things, but rather have a deep interest in volunteering or in opportunities to do things with others. Or maybe the possessions you loved a decade ago feel stale and tired, no longer in sync with the person you are today.

This principle of feng shui invites you to engage with the dynamic, ever-changing flow of life and to embrace change. It’s okay to take a moment to wish something wasn’t changing, but in the long term, you can be inspired and energized by change. You can look for ways to transform your life.

Practice 1: Live with Comfort and Safety By following this practice, you can begin to live comfortable in your own skin and with belongings that support your body and mind. Sometimes furniture is visually beautiful but does not support the body. For example, have you ever seen a chair that looks pretty but is really uncomfortable when you sit in it? As another example, perhaps you have had a sharp-cornered coffee table that gashes each member of the family’s shins. Items that cause stubbed toes or sliced shins are not optimal. When you don’t feel safe or comfortable in your office or home, it becomes difficult to be productive or peaceful. On the other hand, when we feel comfortable in our clothes and safe in our physical spaces, creativity, productivity, and restorative rest often happen easily. One important way you can create a sense of safety is by placing a room’s main seating with a view of the door, because your body and nervous system calm down when you can see the door.

Practice 2: Simplify and Organize The second practice of feng shui fosters simplicity and organization in your life. After all, how many potato mashers or plastic containers do you really need? Living simply does not mean not enjoying your belongings or living with only a few things. Rather, it is about making excellent choices about which belongings actually enhance your life, serve a purpose, or bring you joy. Clutter has become a challenging issue for many people as they recognize the negative impact that unused or unloved belongings have on the quality of their lives. There are now television shows about hoarders and the many negative impacts hoarding has on the health, wealth, careers, and relationships of people living in those haphazard (and often hazardous) conditions. Organization supports mental clarity. If you find yourself often confused, you may want to look at the ways clutter may be showing up in your physical space, leading to disorganization. Excessive clutter could be in your office, kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom. You need and use many of the items there, but you cannot find them in the moment you actually need them. This creates stress, agitation, and confusion. Time that could be spent creating or playing or enjoying life flows instead into frenzied searches for the item that you can’t find. By embracing the second practice of feng shui, you can take a few moments every day or each week to restore order. Creating a place for everything and returning everything to its place is a calming practice. Work to find the sweet spot for yourself with this practice; everyone has a different threshold for clutter and disorganization. Some people like to have belongings out of sight, and other people prefer an environment where their belongings are out in the open where they can see them. What environment makes you the most productive and free to create? You can organize your surroundings in a way that best fits your own organizational style.

Practice 3: Live with Belongings You Love Your belongings can have meaning, value, and purpose. If they do not, then it’s time to let them go. If something is broken and cannot be repaired, place it in a recycling bin or the trash. If a once-loved item can be used by someone else, donate it or give it away. You can live surrounded by belongings that hold your loving energy, memories, and associations. You are worthy of creating a haven with beloved treasures. You can treat your home and your life as a cherished gift. The Transformative Power of Feng Shui Feng shui is about cultivating harmony, love, and balance in your home and your life. You see life from an invigorating perspective when you can walk through the rooms of your home with awareness of the principles that shape how your surroundings feel and how they affect your life. Caring for people, belongings, and yourself can expand into an appreciation of the life you live.

By working with the principles and practices of feng shui, you can let go of thoughts and things that no longer uplift you, and create a life you love and physical spaces that inspire you.

For the past 16 years, I’ve engaged with the principles and practices of this 3,000-year-old wisdom, and I have seen how people’s lives have changed as they have embraced many of these ideas. You, too, can begin working with feng shui to make improvements in your home and your life. Taking small steps, such as clearing a junk drawer or parting ways with a habit that makes you unhappy, can start you on a path that could transform your home and your life. “Love your space, love your life!”


Bio for Laura Staley

laura-staley-headshotThe founder of Cherish Your World, Laura helps people thrive in the physical spaces where they live and work. She educates people about the optimal arrangement of belongings for comfort, safety, and flow; de-cluttering for freedom; and staging for an efficient and rewarding home sale. Laura knows that the conditions of our homes and workplaces shape the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by more than a decade working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to help her clients produce remarkable results in their lives. Her own awakening to the power of feng shui came on the heels of a flood and the realization that she could live with beloved belongings rather than unloved hand-me-down stuff. Feng shui invites us to live with what we love and enjoy our lives. Her trifecta of helping people includes public speaking, writing, and consulting. Laura is a published author of the book Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui. Prior to becoming the founder of Cherish Your World, Laura was a full-time parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Each summer she competes in a triathlon named after her dad. Her joys in life include parenting, loving her dog, spending time laughing with great friends, running, biking, swimming, dancing, reading, meditating, practicing yoga, and listening to music she loves. Connect with Laura on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter (@laura_cherish) Laura@cherishyourworld.com www.cherishyourworld.com “Love your space, love your life!”

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