"I stand in awe of my body." ~ Henry David Thoreau
Your body is like another, even more personal, home. It’s where you live, all alone, in your self, your mind, your energy, your spirit. You already know that if you don’t take care of your body, you may not feel well, not be able to do the things you want to do, experience pain, or develop illnesses and conditions that limit your enjoyment of life. Usually, your body acts as a truly awesome self-healing machine. You can cut your skin, bruise yourself, break bones or become ill, and your body will immediately get to work, fixing things. Sometimes, through nothing you have or have not done, it may get sick or damaged, causing you pain or disability, and requiring your attention, possibly for a long, long time. Whatever your physical condition right now, today, you can apply Feng Shui principles in caring for your body, just as you do in caring for your home. And you can begin when you Feng Shui your home, by going through all your foods, cosmetics, and cleaning supplies, to make sure they are enhancing rather than blocking the inflowing and outflowing of the clean, healthy energy that makes you feel your best.
Just like when you Feng Shui your home, you have to choose your eating and drinking style for yourself. It has to reflect who you are and want to be right now, and facilitate the free flow of healthy energy throughout your body. It has to promote optimal functioning of all the parts of your body. This means that you need to become very conscious of your food choices. Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, Anti-Inflammatory, Raw Food, or whatever diet works for you is fine. You have to make the choice for yourself, and it may take some time and experimentation. If you haven’t thought much about your diet before this, research the different diets, and speak to your healthcare provider or health coach about what kind might be best for you. Whatever you choose, a few thoughts can be applied generally: fresh is always better than processed, water and herbal teas are better than soda or sugary drinks, moderation is always better than excess. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all diet that is best for everyone, and a diet that worked well for you in the past may not be appropriate for you now. Do your homework and make conscious choices about what goes into your digestive system and throughout your body. You may even want to take a food sensitivity blood test to identify foods that cause a negative reaction in your body, even if you don't know it.
Whatever kind of diet you choose, you can go through all the food in your home and start fresh. When you Feng Shui your kitchen, include everything there, from old spices and dried herbs to shapeless lumps of who-knows-what covered in ice crystals in your freezer. Once you have cleared out the refrigerator, freezer and pantry, and cleaned them as you do your whole kitchen, you can begin shopping, cooking, and eating consciously. From now on, everything you eat and drink should fuel your energy and promote your health. Think of poor food choices as clutter that blocks the inflowing and outflowing of energy in your body.
You may pay close attention to everything you put into your body through your eating and drinking habits, but what about the things you put on your body? Chemicals are absorbed through your skin (think of transdermal patches such as the nicotine patch). Do you know what the chemicals are in all the soaps, lotions, shampoos, sunscreens, and makeup you apply to your skin regularly? Do you know what those chemicals might do to your body, your health, your well-being? Again, you need to do your homework and make your own choices, but luckily, more and more companies are producing “clean beauty” products with no potentially harmful additives in them. Be especially careful when choosing the products you use on your children and babies. Get in the habit of always reading labels.
When you Feng Shui your bathrooms, clear out all the old stuff with chemical ingredients like formaldehyde, phthalates, and parabens. You can find complete warning lists at such online sites as Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, A Project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. While it may be tempting to keep products that contain dangerous ingredients until they are used up, it’s better to stop using them as soon as possible. Just like decluttering your home of items that do not serve you as you are now, release products that do not promote your good health and may even cause ill health. They block the free flow of clean energy throughout your body.
By now, you are getting the idea that you can apply Feng Shui principles to everything you use on and in your body. While products to clean your home are not usually applied to your body directly, you breathe in their fumes and touch the surfaces where they have been used. For example, you wash and dry your clothes and then put them on your body, where they touch your skin all day long. These products, too, can contain harmful ingredients that you can think of as obstacles to your freely inflowing and outflowing healthy energy.
Again, you need to do your research and apply the information you gain to your own particular needs. For example, I discovered on three different occasions that I was allergic to some specific ingredients in cleaning products and cosmetics. So, you have to pay attention to your body even after you have eliminated obviously dangerous ingredients in your household products. If you are lucky enough to not have allergies, you may not feel the difference when you stop using harmful substances, but don't let that fool you. You are doing your body a big favor by avoiding them. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) offers information on household products that are safe and unsafe. Just like foods and cosmetics, if it contains ingredients you don't recognize or can't even pronounce, better to avoid it.
Can You Feng Shui Yourself Sick?
Once, when I had done a major decluttering, going through stacks of cardboard boxes that had not been opened since my last move, months earlier, I ended up feeling so sick I literally had to to go lie down. I truly could not do anything, experiencing nausea, dizziness, extreme fatigue, and headache. Later that week, when I visited my acupuncturist, I told him about it and he asked what I had been doing that day before the onset of the symptoms. I explained about the boxes and he immediately said, “Ah, mold spores!” That’s when I learned that decluttering, going through lots of old stuff you haven’t gone through in a long time, can literally make you sick. Dust, mold, and any number of allergens and irritants can lurk in your closets, attics, basements, garages, and bookcases. When you pull out all that stuff, handle it, and clean it up, you may stir them up, causing you to sneeze, cough, or feel terrible.
Now that you know this, rather than use it as an excuse to declare yourself ill and stop the project, you can prepare in advance and cope with it after. First off, if you know you have allergies to dust, pollen, or mold, and take over-the-counter medication for them, you might want to prepare yourself as you would for seasonal allergies or exposure to your particular allergens. While you are digging through boxes or pulling all the books off your bookshelves, you could open a window or step outside to breathe fresh air at regular intervals. You could wear a dust mask, either a soft paper one, like your dentist wears, or a firmer one, made for construction work and painting. Both kinds are widely available, inexpensive, and disposable. Drinking plenty of water can also help flush allergens out of your body. And it's important to remember that while you will Feng Shui your home and your body continually, the big initial clearing out will not last forever. I only felt sick for a few hours after working with those moving boxes. A major decluttering is not easy, either emotionally or physically, but when it's done, you will reap amazing benefits, and maintaining your Feng Shui lifestyle will be much easier.
The Bagua and Body Parts
Just as the sections of the Feng Shui bagua are associated with areas of your life and your home, they also correspond to parts of your body. So, a quick review of the bagua: think of a square divided into nine equal squares, like a tic-tac-toe design. Standing at your front door and looking into your home, the center of the wall on which your front door is located is where your Career & Life's Work area is located, at the bottom of your nine-square grid. From there, going to the left and around clockwise, you have Knowledge & Personal Development, Health & Family, Wealth, Fame & Reputation, Love & Relationships, Creativity & Children, and Helpful Friends & Travel. The Center square is your home base, which all the other areas touch. Each area of the bagua corresponds to a specific part of your body:
Career & Life's Work: Blood, kidneys.
Knowledge & Personal Development: Bones, muscles, hands.
Health & Family: Feet, throat, liver.
Wealth: Legs, knees, thighs.
Fame & Reputation: Eyes, heart.
Love & Relationships: Abdomen.
Creativity & Children: Teeth, chest.
Helpful Friends & Travel: Head, neck, lungs
So, if you are having a particular health issue, start by checking on the Health and Center areas of your home, and then find the area for the specific part of your body affected by the problem. For example, if you are experiencing headaches for no apparent reason, you could look at your Helpful Friends and Travel area to see if it needs attention. Likewise, if you injure your hand, you might add some enhancements to your Knowledge & Personal Development area to make sure the energy for your healing is freely flowing. This is never a substitute for good professional advice and care, but keeping the energy inflowing and outflowing can always help your life and your body.
The only thing everyone agrees on about exercise is that we all need some. The consensus ends there. Some people swear by running or cycling, while others believe yoga or walking is the best way to move your body. Some people value strength over endurance, while others promote flexibility over muscle mass. Often, zealots for one or another method of exercise insist that everyone should do what they do. Again, this is a personal choice we each have to make, depending on our own circumstances, preferences, and body. The bottom line is, find what makes you happy and do it. Exercise in a way that feels great to you, whether it's yoga, running, biking, walking on the beach, or dancing the night away. If it fits your exercise style and budget, a personal trainer can offer guidance and support in starting and maintaining your exercise program.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, acupressure, therapeutic massage, and other kinds of supplemental healthcare can aid in opening the flow of energy throughout your body. Always check out anyone offering such services, making sure they are licensed and have good reputations. Ask your primary healthcare providers for recommendations and look for affiliations with respected hospitals and medical programs. For example, I was seeing the acupuncturist who identified mold as the cause of my decluttering sickness for chronic migraines; he was a licensed M.D. in the U.S., a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and was on the staff of a major American hospital, providing supplemental treatment for cancer patients and wounded veterans. A surgeon gave me a good recommendation for a massage therapist and a licensed midwife recommended a good chiropractor. Ask people you know and trust. If you have a chronic illness or disability, you are presumably already being treated by medical professionals, so ask them for recommendations of supplemental health care.
You can Feng Shui your body, just like you Feng Shui your home.
Make conscious choices that support who you are now and who you want to be.
• Discuss the best diet for you with your healthcare provider or a health coach. Remove everything that does not work with this diet from your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry shelves. Give them a good cleaning (remember under and behind the refrigerator and stove). Plan your meals and snacks, make a shopping list, and stick to it at the store. Become aware of everything you eat and drink, all the time, every day. If you usually eat or drink something that's not part of your new plan to eat and drink consciously, let it go. Notice how well you feel after sticking to the new plan for a while, and keep going!
• Read all the labels of all the products you use on your skin and hair. Research the brands and products you use to see if they contain harmful ingredients. If they do, get rid of them. Research better choices and stick with those products.
• Go through all your cleaning products and check them against the EWG listings. Remove all harmful products from your home. Use products that are made form more natural ingredients or learn how to make your own cleaners, such as laundry detergent and window cleaner.
• Listen to your body's messages about what it needs. Scan your body for pain, injuries, or discomfort. Find the area of your home associated with that area of your body. Is there a problem there? Is the area cluttered? Are there any broken or malfunctioning items, such as squeaky hinges or burned out light bulbs? Is blocked energy accumulating in an architectural dead end or a closet stuffed with unused items? Make repairs, clean, organize, and energize the area, and add enhancements, if needed, according to your home's bagua.
• Think about all the ways you may block your body's optimal health by choosing food, cosmetics, cleaning products and behavioral habits that work against you. Think of your body as your true home and care for it with Feng Shui principles in mind: keep it free of obstructions to the unimpeded inflowing and outflowing of energy.
• Here are a couple of my favorite meditations for relaxing your body and allowing the energy to flow through you. First, imagine that you are a plant, rooted in the ground. The energy, nourishment, and refreshing water is coming up from the Earth and flowing throughout your body and out of the top of your head, in a fine mist. Another vision to hold in your mind is that your body is a dry sponge and warm water is gently flowing into you, from head to toe, making you feel relaxed, safe, and warm. Close your eyes, and hold either image in your mind for as long as you feel comfortable.