“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's own ignorance." ~ Confucius
Knowledge seems like one of those obvious — maybe even boring — things we all understand, right? It involves factual information, academic learning, and comprehension of a topic. It’s the things we are aware of about our world, about our work or field of study, about everything. It’s about things that are indisputably true and demonstrable (until we learn something else that contradicts them, and then our knowledge expands). While knowledge is obviously and truly important, knowing about knowledge is equally important, especially now, as information accessibility has exploded. We have become consumers of information, and just like other things we consume, from tires to shampoo, we need to know not only the information, but its source and quality.
Knowledge starts out pretty simply. As children, we learn from our families and teachers something like what a tree is, for example. As we get older and gain more education, we learn a lot more about trees, what they’re made of and how they grow. As our brains develop, the information we gather becomes more and more complex and sophisticated. At some point, we are introduced to the scientific method, and begin to understand that facts can be checked, verified, and proven true or false. So, then we discover that at least some of what we know is actually what we believe, and maybe isn’t, strictly speaking, true. Just because someone says something 100 times, that doesn’t make it true. Just because any number of people believe something, that also doesn’t make it true. Facts, fallacies and opinions get blurred, but if everyone around us believes something to be true, we don’t feel inclined to check it or to resist believing it. That takes effort and courage.
On a more personal level, perhaps you suspect that someone is lying to you, but you just don’t want to believe it. Or perhaps, you are the one doing the lying, either to others or to yourself. If someone you know to be completely trustworthy tries to tell you something, perhaps you simply refuse to accept the knowledge. Perhaps you fear that your whole world will come crashing down if you face the truth of a relationship, a person, or a fact. Perhaps you manage to avoid the truth until you just can’t anymore. And perhaps, by that time, it has become a solid mass, a big, stuck elephant in the Knowledge area of your home and your life. Instead, you can accept knowledge that is trying to find its way to you before it gets to be that large and hard to face. The truth will set you free.
We also know that we can’t know everything, so we don’t bother trying. We narrow our knowledge to things that interest us or were presented to us as we were growing up and we really had no choice but to learn them. You may think we don’t need to accumulate knowledge anymore because anything can be looked up in a few seconds using the internet. But not everything on the internet can be trusted as true. We may not be able to know everything, but we can at least make sure the sources we get our information from have real expertise in the topic.
On the other hand, we can respect and trust information from sources that truly are credible. For example, I have heard some people talk about teaching as an occupation that anyone can do, regardless of teachers’ years of study in education and child development, along with continued professional development in best practices and new findings in topics such as brain function. People often diminish and disrespect the knowledge others have that they don’t. We don’t know what we don’t know, so we need to remember that other people often know things we don’t. We need to respect the expertise of others and allow our own knowledge to grow. People who believe they already know everything are incapable of learning anything.
What we know can expand over time, especially with new experiences. Learning happens in all kinds of ways besides classes and books. Travel, work, meeting new people, taking up new interests or hobbies, or just trying anything new to you, expands your knowledge base. What you already know is illuminated in a new context and new information is added. When the energy is flowing freely through our Knowledge and Personal Development area, opportunities to gain knowledge come easily to us. We just have to accept them.
The knowledge part of yourself needs to be strong, because knowledge influences every other area of your life, your clarity of thought, and your decision-making processes. When energy is flowing freely through this part of your home and your life, learning can be easier, retention can be improved, and when more opportunities to expand your knowledge appear, you can better recognize and take advantage of them. Knowledge is part of every aspect of your life. Knowledge is power.
Like Creativity and Children, Helpful Friends and Travel, Health and Family, this energetic area links knowledge with something else. Feng Shui practitioners use various versions the second part: “Self-Cultivation,” “Spiritual Development,” “Skills,” "Wisdom," and “Personal Growth,” for example. So, whatever we call it, what does this addendum to knowledge really mean? I’ve chosen to use “Personal Development” for a variety of reasons. I think “skills” are already covered under “knowledge,” as it involves both the understanding of topics and the methods of doing things. I believe that “Self-Cultivation” and “Personal Growth” share the same meaning, which is what psychologist Abraham Maslow termed “self-actualization,” or the culmination of an individual’s highest potential. But, in my opinion, that doesn’t quite cover a third aspect of human beings, after the intellectual and emotional aspects, and that is the spiritual. So, to cover all of those types of knowledge, I use “Personal Development,” meaning all the other kinds of learning and knowing beyond intellectual, factual knowledge and skills developed from knowledge.
Personal Development includes understanding based on faith, intuition, and emotion. It includes knowledge and learning of self-help and personal growth topics, and what we now call Emotional Intelligence — being aware of your emotions, being in control of how you express them, and empathizing with other people’s emotions and viewpoints. Intuition is not magical, it’s one of the ways your brain works that you are simply not conscious of, like the way it makes you keep on breathing without your having to think about it. It’s knowledge you have that you just don’t know you have. Hunches, gut feelings, and believing strongly that you know something before you could logically know it are all part of this kind of knowledge. Have you ever suddenly had a strange feeling — either positive or negative — on meeting a new person or entering a new place? Have you ever felt strongly that you should or should not do something, without really having a reason? Faith, intuition and emotions are always part of what you believe you know.
The choices you make are based on rational reasoning, but also on your emotional and intuitive responses. Politicians and advertisers know they can rile up your emotions to make you ignore facts and figures and buy whatever they are selling. Religious or philosophical faith can guide you to behave ethically, be of service to others, help you endure suffering, and ease your fear of the unknowable, but it can also lead to prejudices and critical judgments of those who do not share your particular beliefs, closing you off to knowledge you don’t want to accept. Intuition can sometimes simply be wrong, or rather, your interpretation of it can be wrong. So you have to be careful to balance all of these kinds of knowledge — rational, emotional, intuitive, and faith-based — so that each aspect tempers the others. Wisdom comes with experience.
What I am calling “Personal Development” here also covers meditation, mindfulness, loving-kindness, and all manner of slowing down and turning within for information and guidance. Spiritual development is not the same thing as religious belief, although one can sometimes lead to the other. While you can gain knowledge quickly by seeing, hearing, reading and experimenting — what we call studying — gaining spiritual wisdom takes time and often happens without our specific efforts to make it happen. It helps to be open to it, to practice meditation or visualization exercises, and to use spoken, written, or environmental affirmations, but whether you work on it or not, it often works on you. Recognizing the energy that flows all around and through you enables you to see yourself as part of something much larger — even infinite — in magnitude.
The Knowledge and Personal Development area of your home’s bagua is in the lower left-hand corner and its dominant color is blue. It falls in between the Elements of Wood and Water, so you also can bring in the black and darker greens and blues of Water, as well as the medium green of Wood. Plants, vertical items such as floor lamps, and glass, mirrors and crystals also work here. This is a great place to have your meditation room or corner, and your altar, if you have one, or your space for working on your studies or hobbies. Vision boards and boxes filled with messages of gratitude for your educational aspirations (worded as if they have already been received) and those you have for your children are perfect here. Add symbols and images of your idols of wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual guidance to the area. These can be as diverse as Jesus, saints, Buddhas (particularly a laughing Buddha holding an Oogi fan), Marie Curie, Gandhi, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or Yoda. Find toys and small objects that reflect the topics and fields of study you are interested in. Don’t forget obvious academic symbols like a mortarboard cap, a caduceus (symbol of medicine), a globe, a beaker, or the scales of justice. This is also a good place for books, especially textbooks and personal growth books. Images of mountains help to bring down the energy from being too physically active (yang), and instead emphasize a quieter, more thoughtful, mindful (yin) ambience.
Knowledge and Personal Development influence every area of life. Examine your knowledge and beliefs, and then examine this area of your home to see if the energy is being helped or hindered there.
Examine what you know, where it comes from, and whether it is demonstrably and empirically true, intuitively true, or emotionally true. You choose what you believe you know, but you can use these different kinds of knowledge as checks and balances on each other.
Do you believe and trust in the expertise of others? Are you open to learning new facts? Write down one new fact you learned recently, where it came from, and why that source is credible. Keep a notebook of all the new facts and ideas you learn and the proof that they are credibly true.
Find the Knowledge and Personal Development area of your home. What room is here? Is the energy more Yin than Yang? Is everything in good working order? Is the area cluttered? Rectify any problems and clear the energy flow here before you start to add specific enhancements.
Enhance the area with the color blue and representations of the Water and Wood elements.
Create an altar with symbols of Knowledge and Personal Development, statues or images of wisdom idols, and a box filled with gratitude messages for blessings received (even if received in the future) in this area. Keep at least one book that symbolizes knowledge or wisdom to you here.
If possible, use this space to practice yoga, meditation, or creative visualization. Create a quiet environment here, conducive to study and contemplation. Even if this room is not ideal for such a mood, keep the colors and items here more Yin than Yang.