“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Anything can seem overwhelming before you start it. Maybe you’re interested in Feng Shui, but when you look around your home, you think, “I can’t do this. I have a family living here, we all have a lot of stuff. Feng Shui is for other people, those who can live a minimalist life, without a houseful of kids!” Or maybe you don’t have a large family, but you still think, “Everything here is stuff I need, or stuff I just can’t part with. I put it where I can because I just don’t have that much room.” Or maybe your thinking goes more like this: “I would do it, but just thinking about what a big job it is makes me feel overwhelmed and exhausted.” Or even like this: “I would like to try it, but it’s silly to think that moving my furniture or clearing out some of my stuff could make any difference in my life, my relationships, my finances, or my career. Even if I did believe it, people would think I was nuts.” Whatever thoughts stop you from taking that first step are just thoughts. Ideas. Beliefs. And you can change those… if you want to. So the real first step is wanting to and knowing why you want to.
Like a lot of people, I first heard about Feng Shui years ago, probably in a magazine article or something like that. I read a few books and tried a few things (“Move 27 things in your home that have not been moved in a year!”) , and although I honestly don’t remember exactly what happened, I know that I thought it made some kind of positive difference, however small. And then, like a lot of people, I forgot about it and went back to whatever I was doing before or whatever was in the next book or magazine I read. I was no hoarder, and as a female growing up in the 1960s, I had learned well how to do laundry and keep a house clean, how to organize a kitchen and buy furniture for a living room. I was normal. Ordinary. Like a lot of people. Like you, maybe. No one who walked into my house would say it was messy or cluttered, but I had a basement filled with boxes of probably every drawing my daughter had ever made and all her report cards, artwork my husband had done in his college days, papers I had written in mine, and a dusty collection of outdated tape recorders and radios. I had a garage filled with household tools, gardening paraphernalia, wagons, bikes, and travel crates for a large dog and two small cats. When visitors would somehow catch a glimpse of these areas of my house, I would apologize, embarrassed, but they always laughed and said, “Oh, you should see mine!” It was normal. Ordinary. And for a lot of people, it still is.
I didn’t really get serious about Feng Shui until I moved six times in twenty years, and each time, I let go of more and more stuff. It felt so good, so freeing, that on the next move, I would get rid of even more. It became easy not to hold onto things… with one exception: books. I have spent a lifetime reading, writing and editing books, and I never wanted to let go of any book I owned. It made me happy to look at my shelves and bookcases, felt they reflected me as a reader, as a lover of books, of reading and writing. When a mover said to me, “You know, this would cost a lot less without all these heavy boxes of books,” I pouted about how many I had already grudgingly gotten rid of, shlepping boxes and boxes to the used bookstore in preparation for that particular move. But the next time I moved, I let go of even more books, and all the following times, more still. Later, when my Feng Shui teacher mentioned the books I had on shelves in my living room, I went through them, gave about half of them away, and not only did I not feel a pang, I felt great about donating all those good books to my local library. I still read and I still love books, but I now let them go when I have read them.
The first step is always the hardest. Big jobs are always daunting until we break them down into small jobs and start getting some of those done. I don’t normally hear Feng Shui practitioners use words like “job” or “work.” We gently suggest “changes” you can make. And that’s right, you are just making some changes to your surroundings. But I recognize that change is hard work, even when it’s for the best. I didn’t let go of all those books the first few times without feeling the pain inherent in letting go of something I’d been holding onto for a long time, something that felt like part of my identity. Maybe it’s not books for you. Maybe it’s photographs or old toys, clothes, or the artwork hanging on your walls. Maybe it’s gifts you’ve been given that you really don’t want or need or even like, but you feel guilty about passing them on to someone who would. Maybe on some level, you even feel afraid of getting what you really want, so you hold onto the things that are getting in your way of receiving or accomplishing those things. You’re normal. Ordinary. Just like a lot of people.
So the first little step — your first “job” — is to recognize some specific changes you want to experience in your life. When areas of your life aren’t working for you, they’re working against you. A client may come to a Feng Shui consultant with issues such as wanting a job or career they like better, wishing for better relationships with others, or getting unstuck creatively. Whatever your desire for improvement, take the time to clarify it in your mind and know exactly what it is, what it would look like and feel like in your life. If even this feels overwhelming to you, if several issues in your life come up in your mind at once, list them in order of how much you care about them or how soon you feel you need a change in that area of your life. Pick just one to focus on for now. Don’t worry, you’ll get to all the other issues you want to correct or improve quickly once you understand what this Feng Shui stuff is all about. When you have figured out your top priority, write it down in clear, simple terms.
Now ask yourself if you are ready and willing to make some environmental changes in order to support the things you have decided you want. I am mentioning this because the truth is, you might not be. I’m not saying this to scold you, and you shouldn’t scold yourself. If you’re not ready, then you’re not ready. I wasn’t ready to let go of all my books at one time. It took six moves to get rid of the ones I’d accumulated and then a nudge from my Feng Shui teacher to stop accumulating more. Spend some time deciding if you want changes in your life enough to make a few changes in your environment.
Now ask yourself if you are really ready to accept the changes that may come into your life. You may think that’s a ridiculous thought. Of course you want the changes in your life you think you want. Of course they will make you happy, right? But the truth is, maybe they will and maybe they won’t, and maybe you don’t really want what you think you want. For example, someone I once knew landed what she called her true dream job. She could hardly believe her good fortune and was extremely happy and excited at first. However, after a few months, she realized that she had to do so much traveling in this new position, that she was spending a lot of time sitting on airplanes, sleeping in hotels and driving her car — time she really wanted to spend with her family. Think about what you really, truly want and about readying yourself for whatever comes along. Sometimes, it may be exactly what you wanted the way you wanted it. Other times, you may be surprised by what happens, but it turns out to be even better than what you wanted. Still other times, you can accept that what you thought you wanted wasn’t really what you wanted at all. That’s okay, because you’ve learned something, but spending a little time getting very clear about what you really want beforehand can help avoid this potential detour.
Take some time to think through these questions, to clarify in your mind your intentions for beginning the Feng Shui way of life:
• Write down all the issues and areas of your life that you want to improve.
• Prioritize them in order of how important they are to you or how soon you feel they need attention.
• Imagine the most urgent problem solved or improved. What does it look like?What does it feel like to you?
• Are you ready to make some changes to your surroundings to support making some changes in your life? Remember that you can start with just one area of your home's environment, just one thing to focus on for now, maybe even just one simple change. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself before you’ve even started.
• Are you ready to receive and accept the changes that may come into your life? Are you open to learning about yourself and what you believe you want? Let yourself change your mind about what you think you want if that feels right to you.