Have you ever walked into a room or a home or even a business and suddenly felt a weird negative sensation? Maybe it’s a feeling of cold or dark or heaviness. Or it might be a feeling of intense fear, or an adrenaline rush. I have felt this, many times, actually.
Once, when I was house-hunting, I was invited to view a large, nice- looking house in a great neighborhood. The landscaping was pretty, but even from the outside, the house had a kind of darkness to it, although it was a perfectly sunny day. As soon as I walked in the front door, I felt a heaviness, like the air was thick. The house was completely empty and clean, and there were plenty of windows, but the whole place seemed very dark. The layout was fine, the kitchen and bathroom fixtures were up-to-date and in good shape, and there were plenty of large closets. Yet, the overwhelming feeling I had in this house was one of deep, dark depression or sorrow, of emotional pain and physical discomfort. The realtor confessed that the owner selling the house had lost her husband to a long illness and that was why she was moving out of town. She claimed not to know if the man had died in the house or in a hospital, but she did say that he was ill for a very long time, being cared for in the house. Leaving the home, I felt as if a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders, as if the sky had suddenly opened up and light had broken through, even though the day had been sunny all along. I do not know if I was sensing the man’s physical and emotional pain of a long, drawn-out death, or of his wife’s grief, or both, but the oppressive feeling was inescapable. I did not buy the house.
On another occasion, I was talked into visiting an antique shop despite the fact that I have always felt an aversion to very old furniture and houses. I could never share other people’s enthusiasm for historic stone houses or antique furniture; they just always felt creepy to me. But this time, I went to an antique shop with some other people on the recommendation of several others who said it was great and I shouldn’t miss it. I walked into a large, high-ceilinged room with a rectangular glass case in the middle. The case was filled with old jewelry and artifacts, and all around the edge of the room were pieces of furniture from sideboards to rocking chairs, cribs to floor lamps, end tables to headboards. It all just gave me a chill down my spine. I wanted to leave, but didn’t want to be rude, so I made the circle around the shop with my friends, hoping to get out of there as soon as possible. At the very back of the shop, we stepped into an addition to the building, like a year-round porch, and that’s when my blood ran cold. The room was filled with artifacts from around the world, including masks and weapons, but it wasn’t anything that I saw that struck me like a bolt of ice cold lightening, it was how I suddenly felt. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like my life was in
danger, like I just had to get out of there as fast as I could. Adrenaline rushed through my veins as I made my way back to the front door and out onto the sidewalk, leaving my bewildered friends behind.
The same kinds of feelings have overtaken me in Ancient Egyptian and Early American museum exhibits, and in other houses that held more of a hostile, angry vibe rather than one of illness, death and grief. I know now that I was sensing other people’s energy and the energy of events that happened in those places and around those objects. I have been instructed repeatedly to listen to my own intuition when assessing a space for stuck energy. If I follow that advice, then I have to honor the negative feelings I have had in some places. And I also have to understand that not everyone will share my feelings about places, that we all have our own sensitivities and responses to the energy around us. So, while not everyone may feel it, or feel it in the same way, the energy is there.
The truth is, places and things have vibes. Good, bad, happy, sad, sick, healthy, loving, mean, cold, warm, peaceful, agitated, and many other kinds of vibes. I like the word “vibes,” but what I’m talking about here is energy, the residual ch’i from everything that has ever happened in a certain place or around a certain object. This energy is absorbed and retained in walls, floors, light fixtures, carpets, furniture, clothing, jewelry, and every kind of object there is. Sometimes, this energy is neutral or pleasant, and you don’t really notice anything, and other times, you are affected by the old energy in a place or object without realizing it, feeling inexplicably frightened, for example. You might just call it “uncomfortable” or “strange.” Once in a while, you might feel something so strongly that you can’t stand to be in a certain place or around a certain object.
The good news is that — usually — old energy can be released and rooms and the things in them can be cleansed of the bad vibes you pick up on. I stress “usually,“ because some kinds of bad vibes require such a serious clearing that only very experienced people can do it. The bottom line is to trust your feelings and avoid places and objects that creep you out. Don’t hang onto things just because you imagine that you’re going to hit the jackpot on Antiques Roadshow; if you think your object might actually be worth some money, get it appraised and sell it. Don’t keep anything that makes you feel inexplicably frightened, angry, or sad. Don’t move into a house or apartment that feels somehow wrong to you.
That said, if you can’t or don’t want to pass up an otherwise great place or object, then there are things you can do to help clear away that old, unwelcome energy.
Clearing objects is actually quite easy. You can wash them or clean them in whatever manner is appropriate, thinking about cleansing them of all old energy while you do it. You can set them in direct sunlight for a couple of hours, or leave them out overnight in the light of a full moon. Then you can put them away or leave them out in your home, as you wish. Placing them in fresh, clean muslim bags (this is especially good for jewelry) can help them avoid picking up too much new energy when you are not using them. Remember that your jewelry, clothing, and objects that you handle every day will pick up your energy, so it’s a good idea to cleanse everything once in a while, since all of us are sometimes sad, angry or otherwise emitting bad vibes. This does not mean that you have to place every object in your home outdoors for a bit, but that when you do a space clearing, include all the objects in the room in your intention to clear old energy.
Space clearing is a specific practice that can unstick old blocked energy in a room or building. In extreme cases, I would advise leaving the process to experienced professionals, but in ordinary circumstances, there are some pretty easy ways to let old energy go and welcome in new, fresh energy. The most important part of space clearing is your intention, what you think about and feel while you’re doing it. Add ritual to your intention, and you create a powerful energetic force. Start with open windows and/or a back door, and begin at the mouth of ch’i of the home. Move from room to room, clearing old, stuck energy away, using one of the following methods.
Citrus Waters - Citrus fruits offer a fresh, light scent, and have cleansing, refreshing, and energizing properties, making them perfect for clearing old energy. The first time I ever did a space clearing, I sliced up some lemons and limes, soaked them in a large bowl of water and then went from room to room, flicking the water around and asking the old, stuck energy to leave. People have told me since then that I should have boiled the fruit in the water first, let it cool, and then flicked it all around the place. Others told me to always use exactly nine or 27 slices or pieces of fruit. Some told me to use a spray bottle instead of flicking, while others told me exactly how I was supposed to hold my hand and which fingers I was supposed to use for flicking correctly. And while someone told me that only oranges, and not lemons and limes can work for this, someone else told me to use only lemons.
Here’s the truth: any citrus will do; boiled water, distilled water or tap water can work just as well; you can use a spray bottle or flick the water with your fingers; slices of fruit or peel work equally well; it’s your intention and attention that matter more than anything else when doing this. You should pay attention to how each area of each room feels to you, and spend a little extra time wherever you feel a sense of heaviness or unmoving energy. Some people advise moving around your home in a counter-clockwise direction, but I’ve never noticed that it made any difference. I just start at the mouth of ch’i and move from room to room in whatever way feels natural to me. Keep your mind on your intention, which is to clear out old energy. Thank the old energy for whatever purpose it served, and tell it to be on its way. Then, invite new, fresh energy to enter the space.
Smudging - This is an ancient method of cleansing interior spaces of all sorts of negativity. Indigenous Americans have always used burning herbs as a method of clearing away unwanted energy, such as illness, sorrow, fear, aggression, or death. It is a way to ready a space for new energies, events, and people. The cleansing smoke goes up to the heavens, to ancestors and angels, to be removed from the area.
You can have someone practiced in this art perform a ritual smudging ceremony, or you can perform a simplified version yourself. The most common herbs used for this are white sage leaves and Palo Santo wood sticks. White sage is an herb you can grow yourself or buy fresh (you will dry it before burning it). It also comes dried or in ready-made smudge sticks. Small Palo Santo sticks can be purchased in bundles. After cleaning and decluttering the area, calm yourself and meditate on letting all the negativity go from the space. Open a window to let out the smoke and the negative energy. Light your herbs and move slowly around with your smudge stick (hold something fireproof under it) or herbs in a bowl, sending your cleansing intention up with the smoke. Pray, if you wish, to express your sacred intentions for the space.
BEWARE: I once knew someone who tried to smudge her little storefront and ended up with fire trucks — complete with sirens blaring, lights flashing, ladders, hoses, and several fully-outfitted firefighters ready to work — surrounding the block. No, she did not set the place on fire, just created a lot of smoke and set off all kinds of alarms! It’s easy to avoid the possibility of such a major inconvenience, embarrassment, and waste of firefighters’ time, by using readily available liquid sprays of white sage or Palo Santo. I really like these sprays for quick clearings, too, when you don’t want a full ceremonial smudging, but just a way to clear some smaller negative energy that has entered your home or even yourself. Also, Palo Santo does not need to be lit - the wood sticks are aromatic, like cedar, and can be used to scent the room rather than burning them.
Sounds - Clapping, chimes, bells, and singing bowls are all useful for moving stuck or negative energy. As you move around your space (after cleaning, decluttering, and meditating on your intentions), clap or ring the items along walls around the periphery. Move slowly closer to the center of the space, clapping or sounding your instrument, keeping your mind focused on your intentions of clearing old energy and inviting new energy into the area.
You will only do a space clearing once in a while, such as when you move into a new home or after some major event, like illness or a death in the family, divorce, a serious argument, or the end of a job or relationship. These don’t necessarily have to be terrible events, but just major shifts in your life, like graduating, switching careers, or just feeling the need to clear out old energy. In between these space clearings, you can maintain you home’s movement of energy, and avoid collecting negativity with the help of a few simple items. Houseplants are great for cleaning the air of toxins. These toxins, like everything else, are energy, so plants help clear old energy from any interior space they are in. Diffusers for aromatherapy essential oils are also good for replacing stale air with scents that can ranges from the invigorating to the calming. I live where it is hot and humid, so I almost never open my windows, but if you can, opening your windows is a great way to keep old air circulating out, and fresh, new air coming in. Incense — which is available as sticks, powders, or coils — is similar to smudge sticks, and can be used ceremonially or any time. Like essential oils, they have distinct properties than soothe, energize, or protect (white sage and Palo Santo are also available as incense if you prefer this to smudge sticks).
In Feng Shui, we also include the energy outside around the area of your home, noticing bad vibes in the area, such as cemeteries, railroad tracks, or electromagnetic fields from large power lines. A home facing the end of a street, in a cul-de-cac, or with a steep slope going down behind it are all red flags in Feng Shui. There are many things you can do to help offset such bad vibes around your home, using plants, trees, colors, and other enhancements. However, it may be best for you to avoid certain towns, states, or types of geographical areas. I have found this to be true for myself. I have moved around a lot, and I have noticed that some places I have lived just instantly felt creepy to me. Sure enough, bad things happened to me there. Other places have energized my mind, healed my body, and made my heart fly open. There is no way to explain this logically or intellectually. I have lived in perfectly nice places that other people loved, where I felt constantly anxious and couldn’t wait to escape. On the other hand, I have been warned that I wouldn’t like other places (because others didn’t like them) that actually felt heavenly to me and where I enjoyed living.
It is simply about being aware of your own intuitive senses and listening to them. Pay attention to your feeling whenever you walk into a shop, home, school, or any building, and whenever you meet a new person. Yes, be open- minded, know your own prejudices and knee-jerk reactions, and work to overcome them, but also listen to your own intuition, which is always giving you information. It is not on the thinking level, but rather the intuitive, gut feeling level where you will find clues to where and with whom you will be safest and happiest. None of us will avoid encountering some bad vibes in our lifetimes, but we can become aware of them, and learn how to avoid them or release them.