"Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force." - Lao Tzu
In the West, we begin adult life moving out of our parents’ homes. If we go to a dorm, furniture is usually provided for us and we simply add towels, bed linens and things to hang on the walls. Then, maybe we move into an apartment and start buying furniture. The first thing we think we need is a television. Even though we can stream most things on our computers and phones, sitting around watching shows or sporting events with others is part of our social life, so we want that in our homes. We either hang the TV on a wall or buy something to put it on. Then, we need a place to sit and watch TV, so we buy a sofa. We have to eat food every day, so we buy a table and some chairs. We sleep every night, so we buy a bed. When we are students, we might buy a desk, chair, and lamp, or we might just use the same table for eating and studying. Then, after a while, we move again and start buying things like end tables, bookcases, and lamps, and start hanging artwork and framed photos on the walls. If we have a partner or get married, we have to consider them in choosing everything in the place, too. Maybe we do it together, blending our memories of the way our parents lived (and perhaps inheriting some pieces of furniture) or things we see in magazines. Furniture stores offer packages for a whole room at a discount, so maybe we buy everything in the package, whether we want it or not, to save money. Then maybe we have kids, and our homes fill up with cribs, play yards, changing tables, toys, and a mountain of supplies, like diapers.
We are all homemakers, whether our home is a mattress on the floor and a beer keg in the living room, a two-bedroom urban apartment, a beachfront cottage, a houseboat, or a sprawling suburban ranch house. We feather our nests. And the whole time, we probably don’t give a single thought to the flow of energy throughout our home or to the balance or imbalance of various types of objects there. Maybe we don’t like or want to use certain pieces of furniture or even whole rooms, but we don’t know why. Maybe we think it doesn’t matter, because we are only planning to live in a certain place as long as we are students or until we earn more money or move to another city. Or maybe we have set down roots in our forever home. And we can’t figure out why we have so much trouble sleeping or studying or succeeding in our work or getting along with our roommate or spouse. Maybe you have a vision board over your desk, but it hasn’t yet occurred to you that your whole place can be your vision board, reflecting your best self and most fulfilling life, and helping you create them.
At first, I wondered if I should use the words “Feng Shui” at all. I was warned that people living in North America have never heard of it and can’t even pronounce it (in American English it's “fung shway”). But I don’t think that’s true anymore. If you’re reading this, chances are you have some idea of what Feng Shui is or at least what it might do for you. Maybe you’ve heard of it in connection with it with creative manifestation or a cultural trend in getting — and keeping — your home tidy and organized. Maybe, like a lot of people, you’ve read some magazine articles or picked up some books on Feng Shui, only to find yourself even more confused by contradictory information. Originating in Asia, Feng Shui is actually an ancient and complicated philosophy, and it encompasses many different “schools” of it, but at its core, it’s a basic practice that you can pretty easily adapt to your modern, Western lifestyle. It’s not just how to declutter and organize your stuff, although that’s part if it. It’s also not magic. It’s not a shortcut to winning the lottery or finding a mate, although you may very well experience astonishing improvements in your life after applying Feng Shui principles to your surroundings. As I see it, Feng Shui is simply a way to get out of your own way, to open up the flow of energy around you, so that blockages are dissolved and trapped energy is released. You can think of this energy as a flowing river. Sometimes, the water flows freely, unimpeded on its way. Sometimes, it rushes through rapids and down waterfalls, or is pushed into curves or narrows by the earth and rocks around it. Sometimes, it gets dammed up by obstacles such as mudslides or pollution, drought or flood. Feng Shui just helps to sweep away the mud and the junk and the stuck stones or branches that slow down the free flow of your life’s energy, and also calms down energy that is moving too fast. It keeps the river flowing where and how it flows best.
Feng Shui is not something you do once and that’s it. You don’t call in a Feng Shui consultant, make a few changes and presto! your life is perfect forever. Feng Shui is a way of life, it’s a practice that you keep on practicing. It’s like yoga or meditation. Meditation can clear the clutter in your mind, calm you down and enable you to think better, be more creative, and accomplish more. Yoga can do the same thing for your body, as can acupuncture, acupressure, other energy medicines such as tapping, and certain kinds of massage and physical exercise. You don’t do them once and then their effects last a lifetime. You have to keep going back, doing them again and again and again. There may be specific goals along the way, benchmarks to help you assess your progress, accomplishments to be recognized, celebrated, and be grateful for, but the journey really is the destination. Why? Because energy must keep on moving all the time. It flows through us; it does not flow to us and then stop. It flows through our homes, our bodies, our minds, and our lives. Then it moves on to other places and other people
Your way of life includes your relationships with family, friends, and your special someone, but also your doctor, dentist, dry cleaner, plumber, hairstylist, grocer, boss, employees, and everyone else you come in contact with. It includes your education, work, recreation, health, food, shelter, style of dress, finances, and reputation. It includes your home, your place of business, and even your car. When you’re living the Feng Shui life, all of these things matter. The overall goal is harmony and its resulting happiness, and to achieve that harmony, everything needs to be in balance so that the river can flow freely. A river can’t flow with too much or too little of anything a river needs — things like earth, rocks, vegetation, warmth, light, fish, and insects. All of these things and more work together to make the river clean, healthy, and dynamic. Alive. And being alive means constantly changing. So when we practice Feng Shui, we do it every day, all the time, to keep that river flowing, that energy unstuck and directed where it needs to go, to keep our energy river alive. What happens then may seem like magic, but it’s the real normal, the real ordinary, the real, true way life works.