Feng Shui, the art of harmonising your home (and your life) lifestyle
Discover the history and secrets of this millennial Chinese discipline that seeks personal well-being through principles and techniques with the aim of achieving harmony with nature (and the cosmos).
There’s nothing new about Feng Shui. Neither is it easy to explain this thousand-year-old oriental discipline that seeks living in harmony with the earth to achieve peace, prosperity and the greatest benefits of living in perfect balance with nature.
Among other things its origin in uncertain because it is considered a pseudo-therapy due to it being based on divination or geomancy developed hundreds of years ago in China. But what there is consensus on is basing the roots of this ancient Chinese system –that it seeks to improve environmental conditions– on Taoist philosophy: According on one of Lao Tsu’s reflections “The five colours blind the eye. The five tones deafen the ear.”
A little history
Although it can be found in The Book of Burial, written by the Taoist philosopher Guo Pu during the Jin dynasty (3rd to 5th centuries), some of the principles of Feng Shui –the flow of ‘chi’ energy passes through the fēng (wind) and ends up meeting the shuǐ (water)–, its practice would have been widespread in China (until being prohibited by the Republic) throughout the Tang dynasty (7th to 10th centuries). Thanks to the writings of Yang Yun Sang, recognised as the founder of this discipline, this art of well-being goes way beyond decorating in a determined style.
The doctrines of Master Yang, advisor of the court of the Emperor Hi Tsang, were detailed in three classical works where he deals, metaphorically, with the methods and techniques for locating an auspicious site and understanding the influence of the dragon or celestial creature in that place: Han Lung Ching (Art of Rousing the Dragon), Ching Nang Ao Chih (Discovering the dragon’s lair) and I Lung Ching (Canons approximating dragons).
The symbolism devised by Yang Yun Sang resulted in two main schools: The School of Form (or landscape), which sought the energy or breath of the dragon in good locations (hills, mountains, waterways, etc.) taking into account orientations and directions, and the School of Compass: supported by the complex, metaphysical and octagonal symbol of Pa Kua: eight trigrams (three-line groupings) which, according to their order determined around a centre (the yin-yang), offer ‘clues’ to design houses or even to allocate a household space to a particular family member and not to another.
Based on cardinal points and Chinese astrology, the Compass School eventually derived in the 19th century into two other Feng Shui streams: the Flying Stars (which introduces as a novel element the year of construction of the house) and the Bazhai School (which obtains the Kua number of a person according to their year of birth). Later, they both merged naturally and reached the West at the end of the 20th century by writers dedicated to the subject, such as the prolific Lilian Too (who has written over a hundred books on the subject) or William Spear with his intuitive method.
Reprogramme our homes
Nowadays Feng Shui captures headlines in interior design and décor magazines and is all over social media (the hashtag #fengshui alone has over 1.5 million posts on Instagram). What was once considered ‘ancient Chinese superstitions’ is more popular than ever. Partly because the energy lines discovered by ancient Chinese scientists have much more to do with the atmospheric waves demonstrated by modern science than we think, but also because we are increasingly aware that we must coexist in harmony with our environment to improve our quality of life.
This fact is well-known by the writer Patricia Traversa, founder of the Official Centre for Professional Feng Shui and author of the book Change your life with Feng Shui, who after years of experience, has created her own method entitled Environmental Decodification, the aim of which is to “learn the art of reprogramming the ancestral memories expressed in the habitat, with images that tune us into experiences of fullness and joy”.
The fundamental idea developed by this Argentinian is that our inner world is represented by our home, so it combines the millennial knowledge of Feng Shui with those of Biodecodification (which seeks to find the emotional meaning of diseases), to interpret the home as a reflection of the subconscious of those who inhabit it.
“If you fine tune your vision and hearing, you will discover that your home is emanating positive aspects and other toxic ones from your living there. Every image we place or omit, or every object left by inertia in our home contains archetypes (models) that we ourselves have interiorised and that we have put out as a projection,” continues Traversa, while explaining that colours, shapes, textures, objects, aromas and sounds, among other aspects, are the components of a consolidated spatial language, which is expressed at home and which we generally have naturalised.
Put into practice
Patricia Traversa says that generically that there are three basic foundations of Feng Shui: the five elements (wood, fire, water, metal and earth) that contribute growth to our aspirations; the energy flows (to analyse those that are favourable or highly harmful once energy is recognised as the basis of life) and the yin-yang (the harmonious duality of the universe).
In addition, when applying Feng Shui at home, according to the expert, we must take into account three dimensions: one spatial (the physical environment), another temporal (the forces that continuously change in the universe and that are caused by the passage of time) and the one that is related to the action of cosmic forces on the life of any living being on our planet (something similar to what westerners call luck, and which undergoes permanent changes to it throughout our lives). For example, if we plant a tree near the door to our home, when it is small it will give off good energy, but when it grows it will become threatening as it prevents the flow of ‘chi’.
The writer wants to share three basic tips with us for practising Feng Shui in our homes and to start living with the harmony achieved from this thousand-year-old discipline.
- Decorate with positive images: Each individual has a very personal concept of aesthetics. Very often images are displayed in homes that are perhaps handicraft pieces or valuable works of art, but from the Feng Shui viewpoint they are not very recommendable. One example is paintings or prints with stormy landscapes, rough waters, lonely-looking and melancholic people, women or men overburdened with heavy work, images of spears or warriors, masks, aggressive shapes or mutilated silhouettes.
Badly positioned mirrors: mirrors replicate energy, they generate Qi rebounds and also duplicate what they reveal. In Feng Shui, their use is clearly determined, since depending on their location they can boost the Sheng Qi (favourable energy) or the Shar Qi (unfavourable energy). As a general guide, everything that the mirror reflects should be positive.
Accumulating unwanted stuff: accumulating disposable items, utensils, garments, souvenirs, papers… with the excuse that one day we might need them is a habit that ties us to the past and blocks the aspirations of the future.