Feng Shui Diaries
Show me your house and I’ll tell you your problems.
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved the Earth so deeply it was worship. The power, the beauty, the profundity of the Earth always fueled and pulsed through me. Most of my Earth adventures are no less than acts of adoration. Geo-piety.
I’m not sure what has made me so sensitive to the weaknesses and strengths in the homes and offices of others. I remember walking into seemingly flawless homes and feeling at a loss to locate one truly comfortable place to sit. Back in college days I was the one who helped everyone morph their dreary concrete slabs into exotic hippie dens. Time passed and my pre-occupation with spatial arrangements eventually blossomed into a feng shui career. Feng shui is a process that creates newly tuned frequencies that result in harmonious areas — a structural, energetic template for a higher quality of life.
The chi of your environment is nourishing you every bit as significantly as the food you eat. You are responding constantly, unconsciously and consciously, from cues and prompts that surround you, triggering all levels of your sensory apparatus. A colleague once asked me how I sense chi flow. Direct observation, of course, but I also place my body in 3-6 foot increments throughout the entire space of an area and slowly move to face different directions from those poised spots.
From this information, a layered analysis of your current environment reveals where strategic changes can take place through the synergy of the feng shui consultant, the willingness of you, the client, and the dynamics of that not-so-always innocent environment aspiring to change and harmony. Untangling those stuck spots, revitalizing deadened areas, balancing unmoderated, out of control energies often unleashed by mindless neighborhood planning and dramatic, dysfunctional (usually newer) construction allows you to feel your environment’s support and potential for transformation. You and your place can be mutually nourishing. May all your environments reflect our Earth as the natural paradise she is.
Now You’re Cooking!
Today was a consult for a gutted, but challenging, kitchen. The new owner had had about a dozen interior designers over to give layout and reconfiguration suggestions. She felt unhappy in the extreme about those suggestions, all of which were similar. They involved building a peninsula into the middle of the room in direct line with the front and back doors. Although that line up is notoriously bad, the kitchen was still a bright nugget of possibility. It had a great feel and many, but not too many, sources of light.
As the owner talked, I started standing in various areas, moving a foot or two at a time around the room. First it became clear to me where the “work station” should be. After that, it was really just layers of tuning. It was such an incredible joy for the client to throw away all the ideas that had made her so immobilized and unhappy. We started standing and facing in a way that would be consistent with our plan and she was just jubilant. Every prior scenario had her facing or occupying a dead, unsupported or even vulnerable area. She hadn’t been able to move into the house because she couldn’t get past this blockage. She thanked me again and again. I was, of course, delighted.
A Precarious Perch
The place was a third floor walk up and everything was wrong with it. It was a windy, curvy, difficult access with boxes and other things stored in the hall. When you opened the door to the client’s apartment you were immediately greeted with a big death-defying war mask. We continued to ascend the last flight of stairs, and hit the top, literally against a wall. A mirror hung to the left for hanging keys was hung so low that the head of an elf would’ve been cut off. She led me into the kitchen where she was in the middle of preparing food.
It was a funky tree-top place and the kitchen had many problems. I perched and let her talk about her biggest challenges. Number one was no insulation. She froze in the winter and melted in summer. Next challenge — lack of storage. This dovetailed with a boundary distress situation because the one person she could afford to open up walls, create storage and install insulation was scattered, disorganized, late, and typically attended with several kids. The other boundary issue was getting clearance as she passed her second floor neighbor’s apartment. Its occupant was sweet, retired and lonely. So I tuned into all this and decided the best most immediate way to help her was to improve the comfort index of her living room, fortification against the gauntlet she traveled through daily to arrive in her own space, and a place deeply supportive to offset the chaos this wall moving and insulation work would entail.
We began. The living room wasn’t bad in itself but it had a weak arrangement, blocked windows and an overabundance of white. One giant floor lamp was completely out of scale. There was only one plug for the entire room.
I wanted to re-arrange the furniture. She was surprised but willing. We tried repeatedly to make a more pleasing arrangement but were both dissatisfied with every option. I got clear that we were working around a “huge elephant” in the room — an oversized TV armoire in a well nourished, chi-abundant, prominent spot in the room. The obvious way to balance the room was to shrink or move this thing. She said “no way,” which happens a lot in feng shui consultations, but hey, it’s her house. Not only that, she nearly yelled at me when I set down the couches and other items on the part of the room that wasn’t carpeted. She was afraid I’d chip the paint and told me about the delicacy of her paint job.
We came up with a less weak arrangement that satisfied her, and she began to get anxious about leaving for work. We went into another room and I rapidly whipped out a bagua — a feng shui diagnostic tool which is super-imposed on a site dividing it into a grid of nine sectors. Greatly simplified, these aspects include knowledge/self-cultivation, family/health, wealth, fame/reputation, love/partnerships, children/creativity, helpful people/travel, career/life journey, and in the center, another health aspect. Quickly, I proceeded to tell her how to use the elements, how to use small adjustments to tame and focus this guy who was going to help her with storage and insulation, how to neutralize her downstairs neighbor’s neediness. Lastly, I briefed her on slowing down hallway chi flow with rugs. She liked this. That night there was a message on my answering machine and she asked me to come back to her home for another round, and also to consult on her office.
And Baby Makes Three
A mother was convinced her 30-year-old daughter was fertile and contacted me to visit the daughter who has been unable to conceive. The woman and her husband wanted very much to start a family. They had tried fertilization counseling and in-vitro procedures and had fallen into a failure funk.
Upon entering this typical New England cape with breezeway garage side entrance, an open face greets me. But an overpowering scent of abrasive cleaning agents soon begins to annoy my entire breathing apparatus. My nose stings with cleanliness. A cheerful, hopeful client introduces herself and begins showing me her home. We enter the family room, which has a fireplace and is in a long sort of front-to-back rectangle typical not just of New England, but of the U.S. Midwest.
Above, below, alongside and even inside the fireplace are a thick accumulation of dolls. This is the first of what appear to be many shrines to dolls. Dolls conglomerate every featured area of every single room in this home. The bedroom is large but balanced and is governed by dolls. This is the only room not overwhelmed with disinfectant. That offers promise.
Classic feng shui bedroom assignments are suggested: interiorize the bed (now in the perfect spot but dwarfed by the room size) with sweater/blanket chest at foot. Better yet, move the bed into the children’s position of the bagua, which is best for conception. The children and creativity sector is located in the center quadrant on the right side of a room as you stand facing it from the entrance. This space in the room is totally open — save for 300 or 400 hundred dolls. I ask her to select three dolls per area and eliminate the rest.
We choose the most potent doll figure and do a ritual in the primary focus of the first room of entry. We infuse a beautiful angel/doll with fertility goddess programming, and visualize all the fertile potential of this yet-budding couple and family with joy and assuredness. We spruce up the rest of the house with feng shui as well! Blessedly she conceived naturally within 30 days. That was six years ago. They are now a family of four.
Quiet Oasis for ADD Kids
More and more children are experiencing learning disabilities and being diagnosed with ADHD and ADD. Over-stimulated by society in general, their homes, and especially bedrooms, are overflowing with stuff. Everything in your visual field is a demand on your attention and these kids are driven to distraction by excess. Old toys, games, clothes and all manner of things have now become clutter. In every case where ADHD or ADD is the parent’s main concern, the accumulation of too much stuff is both a symptom and a cause.
One anguished mother described the effects of drugs given to her two young boys for ADHD. These drugs create appetite loss and weight loss, so now she struggles with getting them to eat and maintaining their physical health, in addition to their behavioral problems. This mother, like so many others in her situation, seem blind to the what surrounds their kids. I could not access the bed in either child’s room without risking tripping or breaking something because they were so crammed with stuff. The family room was a literal war zone. Hundreds of dusty soldiers and battle gear about a foot deep at least, and higher in some places, made it difficult to walk through the room. Numerous broken computers, decrepit, faceless machines were stacked in spots that should have been free for human enjoyment. The client had never considered that this had anything to do with her sons’ distractions. In her parental impulse to feed her children, she purchased them more and more things.
I suggested that removing everything unused, unloved —at least everything under couches or on couches filthy from neglect or broken — be thrown into garbage bags and removed. Anything still important, still working, could remain for the time being. This revolutionary idea was totally foreign to her but after I carved out one spot in the room, she brightened and started packing. Eventually she threw out 80% of the clutter in the family room. We created four comfortable places to sit. I introduced the concept that “nothing” was sometimes better than “something.” The two working computers were re-arranged so that the kids working at them didn’t have their backs to the door.
We left their bedrooms intact but with a plan in place to engage them in making their spaces more current. Sleeping areas are delicate. Gradual change by parent and child together is best. In many cases of children in overwhelming, over-stimulated homes, the sleeping spots they create resemble caves — an impulse to have a small quiet oasis in which to sleep. It’s heartbreaking. Save the children! Routinely ask them what they would like to give away. Heal your home: help the stuff find its way out the door!
The late Lynn Taylor was a senior feng shui practitioner, teaching and consulting in the United States and Mexico for both business and home environments.