Everything in your environment affects how you feel and function, whether or not you're consciously aware of it. Feng shui helps you harmonize your home and office to work with you instead of against you. Learn how!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What Feng Shui Isn't: 3 Most Common Misconceptions about Feng Shui

Feng shui is expensive.  
Feng shui is Asian minimalist.  
Feng shui is New Age.

Do any of these sound familiar?

I can't afford to do feng shui.  Actually, you can't afford not to.  Most of us spend much of our time in environments we can't control that may be unpleasant, uncomfortable, or even unsafe.  Ignoring the flicker of fluorescent lights in the office all day, tuning out express trains clattering past the platform, tensing up from sitting still for six straight hours at your desk--all this takes energy.  Even if you do it all subconsciously, the constant strain of blocking out your surroundings takes its toll in fatigue, stress, and poor focus.  That's why it's so important--especially for city dwellers--to make sure the one environment you can control--your home--is a place that refreshes and invigorates you--not another awkward or uncomfortable space that further drains you.  You don't need to spend big bucks redecorating.  Once you start practicing feng shui, you're likely to find you have too much stuff, not too little.  Or that you have all the right things in all the wrong places.  Reassessing and rearranging what you already own costs time, not money.  Feng shui is a cost-effective way to invest in yourself by investing in your home that's an extension of yourself.

Pearl River, SoHo
Asian minimalist decor is not my style.  That's OK, it's not mine either.  (But if you do like Asian accents--or kitchen gadgets--and you live in the New York area, you can get your fix at Pearl River.)  Feng shui isn't about any particular style.  It's about unlearning how you've been taught you "should" react to different styles, and re-learning how to respect your own taste.  People often ask me if they should paint their front door red, because they've heard red is a "power" color.  But that's not unique to feng shui--that's just how our eyes work.  We all know red has the power to attract attention: that's why stop signs, stop lights, fire engines, and danger flags are red.  But red will only be a powerful color for your front door if you like red.  Anything you like to look at lifts your mood and energy level when you look at it.  So if you like red, a red front door will improve the energy of your home by improving the energy you bring with you every time you enter.  If you don't like red, you won't like having your attention drawn to a red door on a daily basis, and your mood and energy level will reflect this.  Bottom line: go with your gut reaction.  Feng shui is a tool for tuning into that, not for determining what it should be. 

Fire Truck! Fire Truck! Fire Truck!
I'm not New Age-y.  You don't need to be.  Feng shui has more to do with your central nervous system than with New Age philosophy.  At the end of the day, we're all mammals--and our limbic systems are more like reptiles.  Since you can't change that, it makes good sense--and good science--to work with it, instead of struggling against it.  Notice which seats get taken first the next time you enter a room with a group of people.  Whether you call it feng shui, office politics, or etiquette, executives position their desks to face the door for the same reason men traditionally offer women the banquette seat in restaurants: it feels safer to sit with your back to the wall, facing the door so you can see any potential danger that might come through it.  You may not even realize you're doing this, but you still do it--and so does everyone else.  You can't always choose your seat at meetings or in restaurants, but trying to ignore things in your home that feel unsafe is asking the impossible of your nervous system.  You may think you don't have time to fix that chair with the wobbly leg or clear away the clutter blocking the stairs, but do you really have the energy to keep pretending it's not there?  Your reptile brain knows better and won't let you forget it--if not consciously, then by not letting you concentrate, relax, or fall asleep.  Our five senses have evolved to protect us, and feng shui helps us hear and heed them.  You can't fight evolution, but you can use feng shui to give your inner reptile a break.

 Next Post: Moving?  Don't Unpack Too Fast

Monday, August 16, 2010

I never intended to practice feng shui. Now I'm a feng shui consultant. What happened?

Complete National Geographic- Every Issue Since 1888
Now on DVD-ROM
Basically, I stole my mom's Xmas present.  I know, sounds awful--but I gave it back eventually and I had my reasons!  Namely, spending Xmas in the house I grew up in--the house my parents and grandparents lived in with four generations of stuff crowded into one family's space.  Some of it was worth keeping (they really don't make hand tools like they used to), but some of it belonged at Good Will (no one needs that many "spare" blankets) or at the county recycling center (back issues of National Geographic, anyone?).  Growing up, I never knew if I'd be able to find my piano music in time for my lesson--let alone in time to practice beforehand.  When I moved into my first apartment in college, I didn't have to buy any dishes or kitchen utensils because there was already three or four of everything I needed in my parents' basement.
Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui So it was not entirely surprising that my brother gave our mom a book called Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui for Xmas.  What surprised me was wanting to read it.  At the time I knew nothing about feng shui and had no interest in finding out.  And after wading through disorganized guides to getting organized and 400-page tomes on how to simplify your life, I'd had it with self-help books.  But this one practiced what it preached: it was compact, concise, spare, and straightforward--in other words, uncluttered! 

When I opened it to a random page on organizing your closet by color (as opposed to by category, with all your shirts together, pants together, etc.) my immediate reaction was: That'll never work!  Followed immediately by: I've gotta try it!  Opening my closet door to a rainbow of color instead of a confusing jumble was irresistible enough for me to ignore the stubborn part of my mind insisting it was impossible because clothes of different lengths wouldn't clear the stuff on my closet floor if they were mixed together.  Turning off that voice of habit masquerading as the voice of reason allowed me to hear the more creative, more experimental--and ultimately, more reasonable--voice hinting I could also move that stuff on the floor around if necessary, or even move it out of my closet altogether. 

Just as my inner skeptic predicted, some of my clothes did not fit into the new color system.  But these turned out to be clothes that didn't fit me either.  They were the wrong size, or shades that made me looked jaundiced, or unflattering styles I no longer wore.  You can see where this is heading, right?  By the time I got all my clothes rearranged by color, I'd cleaned out my whole closet without even realizing it, because I was having so much fun throughout the process. 

Wait--did I just have fun cleaning out my closet?  If that's feng shui, then sign me up!  My mom's (temporarily) stolen Xmas present turned out to be the gift that kept on giving.  Now it's a pleasure--instead of a pain--to open my closet door, and I can find my clothes much faster than before.  How come?  Our minds may think in categories, but we look into closets with our eyes, not our minds--and our eyes see colors, not categories.  By opening my eyes to color, feng shui opened my mind to possibility. 

Stay tuned for more in future posts about re-thinking how you think...

Next post: What feng shui isn't.  What this blog isn't.