So What Is This Feng Shui Stuff?
Q. I'm reading a lot about feng shui on your website and hear it talked about a lot, but I don't get it. Is it superstitious mumbo jumbo or something we should be paying more attention to? (from Stephan in Wichita, KS)
A. For a more comprehensive response to you, Stephan, and for the many other feng-shui curious out there, we invited our Design2Share feng shui expert DeAnna Radaj, of Bante Design and 3E Products, to give us a special Feng Shui for Guys primer on the subject. Take it away, DeAnna!
Fung . . . feng . . . schmuck . . . what? I’ve been asked what feng shui is by many men. I've been met with their quizzical stares, raised eyebrows, and a WHATEVER roll of the eyes when conducting an introductory class or arriving at a client’s home. Husbands and other male significant others who haven’t been to one of my workshops or read a feng shui book or even heard the term are often mystified by their partner's new passion for "creating a positive energy flow throughout their space."
When men look at me -- the Feng Shui Lady -- like I’m crazy, I quickly describe my credentials as a designer, name drop some clients or projects I’ve worked on, and go on to explain the "what's and how's" of the feng shui changes that I will be making in their office, media room, or bedroom. If the guys don’t have to move a lot of furniture, buy new furniture, or tear down a wall, I’m usually good to go in their eyes!
But while the realm of the home and its design and furniture purchases are usually up to women, men quickly learn that they can benefit as much, if not more from utilizing feng shui principles. These principles include:
Proper space planning
Color scheme analysis
When considering design from a man’s perspective, let’s focus on the home or business office, den, garage (yes, you can feng shui a garage), basement, game room (or "man cave"), or even a boat!
To begin, here's a quick review of feng shui from my book Designing the Life of Your Dreams from the Outside In:
Feng shui is a Chinese tradition that focuses on living in harmony with your environment, whether it's at home, work, or school.
Feng shui is how you interact with your surroundings, which can be done through your furniture arrangements, color schemes, accessories, and collections choices. These choices can either block or improve your energy (chi).
When the energy in your space flows freely, life is fabulous, things get finished on time, and you feel happy and eager to learn new things about yourself. However, when your energy is blocked, you feel overwhelmed, unhappy, and drained.
Literally translated, feng shui means "wind and water." Feng shui was actually started as a way to identify or select auspicious (ideal/positive) grave sites in China over 5,000 years ago. It was thought that the better the position of the grave site, the better the fortunes of the remaining family members.
There are three schools of feng shui: the Form School (the oldest), the Compass School (the one most people think of when thinking of feng shui; it uses a compass called a lo-pan), and the Black Hat Sect School or Bagua School. I have been schooled in the third discipline, and that is the one I will be discussing.
The bagua is a key part of the discipline I've been taught for practicing feng shui. Bagua is a Chinese word that translates as "an 8-sided figure" or octagon shape. In feng shui, the bagua is divided into segments, like a pie, with a separate center piece, giving you nine areas in all. Think of a tic-tac-toe board within a stop-sign shape. These nine areas have historically been assigned names, colors, shapes, and an element that corresponds to a specific life area. The bagua board can be used to plan spaces, accessorize, and pick the color scheme of a home, room, desk, classroom, lunchroom, bed, or garden. The nine life areas of the bagua are:
When I use the bagua board in working with a personal space, I line up the bottom row of the octagon shape -- covering the Knowledge/Spirituality, Career/Life Path, and Helpful People/Travel areas -- with the entryway wall of the room, garden, or space. Indoors, you draw the floor plan of your room or a bird’s-eye view, including the doorway and windows, and then plot or draw the corresponding life areas from the bagua around the perimeter of the room.
Here's an easy way to visualize this process: Stand in the entryway of your room and look INTO the space to get the right perspective on how we lay out rooms according to feng shui principles. If the door or entryway is in the LEFT corner as you're looking into the room, you enter the room from the Knowledge/Spirituality area. If you enter the room from the CENTER of the entryway wall, you enter from the Career/Life Path area. Or if you enter the room from the RIGHT corner, you enter the room from the Helpful People/Travel area.
This orientation of the bagua based on how you enter your space will help you in plotting out the rest of the space. A feng shui practitioner will superimpose the bagua and its nine different tic-tac-toe areas over your floor plan and see what “areas” need to be worked on or what areas you’d like to work on. Feng shui gives you a methodology to analyze furniture placement, accessories, and piles of clutter. Once you get the concept of the bagua and how to properly line up its grid of nine spaces, you can work on any space and be able to identify its nine different life areas.
When we have the bagua board plotted out on your floor plan, we can then "activate" these areas by using the element, color, shape, item, or direction that is associated with that particular life area. An example: pink hearts can be used in the Relationship area or a coin dish can be placed in the Wealth/Abundance section. Here's a handy guide to the areas:
Wealth/Abundance, Success/Fame, Relationships
Purple/Metallic, Red, Red/Pink/Peach
Water Element, Fire Element, Earth Element
Wavy Lines, Triangles, Squares
SE, S, SW
Family, Health/Well-Being, Creativity/Kids
Green, Yellow/Earth tones, White/Metallic
Wood Element, Earth Element, Metal Element
Rectangles, Squares, Circles
E, Center, W
Knowledge/Spirituality, Career/Life Path, Helpful People/Travel
Blue, Black, Gray
Earth Element, Water Element, Metal Element
Squares, Wavy Lines, Circles
NE, N, NW
This "grid" of life areas can be applied to any space -- anywhere and for anyone. So how can you use the bagua to help improve your life -- because that's what feng shui is all about, bottom line? Let’s apply feng shui principles to a home office and see how it can help. One of my clients is a busy doctor and his office reflects that: piles of paperwork and medical books everywhere. Although walking into the room causes me to hyperventilate because everything is a big mess, the good doctor states that he "knows where everything is." Does that sound familiar?
Once we superimposed the bagua on the floor plan of his house, we discovered that his office is in RELATIONSHIP area of the floor plan. It was easy to make the following feng shui calls:
The clutter and chaos in this area can have an impact on all romantic, business, and legal relationships.
The goal was not to turn his office into a shrine to his ROMANTIC relationship, but rather to create a space that was designed to facilitate work while reinforcing family relationships. According to feng shui principles, adding some pictures of the doctor and his wife is very appropriate.
The office was repainted in a red-orange color called Serape (a Sherwin Williams paint color) to accent the EARTH element. This was in contrast to the original white walls.
The accessories that decorated the office -- college diplomas, family pictures, and travel souvenirs -- are all staying, although I moved them to their appropriate areas in the space according to the bagua. For example, pictures of the doctor and his wife are being moved to the RELATIONSHIP area of the room, his children’s’ photos have been repositioned to the CREATIVITY/KIDS area, and those of his Mother to the FAMILY area of the office. The home office room is graced with a huge window that aligns with the FAMILY area; it has a wide sill that I used to display photos of all family members.
Although we're still working on the clutter and office reorganization, the whole energy in the room is different. The pictures were rearranged before the doctor came home, so I was curious as to his reaction. When he walked into his office, he immediately realized the difference in the photo placement. He was so pleased that he took it upon himself to move the rest of the photos, and removed more clutter from the windowsill so even more family photos could be displayed!
Gentlemen, here are some general feng shui guidelines for your home or office:
Purge all items that you don’t LOVE, USE, or NEED.
Use the bagua board as your guide in placing your accessories and choosing colors.
Take into account the function of the space and make sure the accessories are appropriate.
An "out of the box" feng shui project began when a client asked if I could “feng shui their boat." Always up for a challenge, I said "Of course!" Unlike working on the office, there were specific goals to be met. They included: being more organized; winning some big fishing tournaments; and encouraging more family togetherness, as this is a second marriage and a blended family. After doing some research (and there wasn’t much that I found on boats), it was determined that the bow or pointy front part of the boat should face DOWN or towards the Career area of the bagua board. So if you're going to feng shui any size or type of boat, this is how you should orient the boat’s floor plan with the bagua. The Career area then is "where the journey starts" and shows you "where you are going." This is perfect, as this area corresponds to the Water Element.
(NOTE: Not all areas of the bagua board are discussed in this example. I’ve only highlighted specific nautical examples and areas that my client requested, but you can use the bagua board as your guide to personalize any boat.)
The Knowledge area of the boat was the perfect place for a conch shell filled with sand to represent the Earth Element and in nautical terms "the time element which is associated with old age and wisdom." A small globe/map would also be ideal here, as it also represents the earth and "wisdom that has been accumulated through the ages." This is also an ideal area to store binoculars, as they are symbolic of the "union of the two eyes for perfect extended vision." A crystal hanging here would also be ideal, as it also represents the Earth Element and creates a positive energy movement.
A picture of the blended family, happy and smiling, in a wood and/or green frame to make the most of everything that activates the Family area should be placed on the wall or in a bookcase in this area. Photos of happy and smiling family members with the boat's owner in the pictures literally represent a happy family.
This is a key feng shui point, guys! What you surround yourself with and focus your attention on, comes into your life. Therefore, decorate your home, office, and other spaces by putting your ATTENTION on your INTENTION. If you want better relationships with your family, look around and see happy family photos on display. Do you have these photos out and on display? Who is pictured in the photos? Do you all look happy? Take this opportunity to remedy the situation if you don't have the right things on display. In addition, anything related to knots and the tying of knots can be placed here, as knots are representative of the Wood Element.
The Success/Fame area of my client's boat, typically where the motor is located on speed or motor boats, is activated by Fire Element, the color red and anything that moves (i.e. the motor/rudder). A red ribbon or string placed on a table can help "activate" this area. Ideally, you also need something that represents the Wood Element to "mitigate" between the Water and the Fire Elements of this area. If you don’t have anything to represent the Wood Element, instead of a red ribbon, use green. In my client’s case, I had them take pictures of themselves with fish they had caught in past tournaments along with family photos taken on boating trips. These pictures were then hung in the cabin and in the living quarters of the lower level.
The Creativity/Kids area of the boat corresponds with metal, the color white/gray and the shape of a circle. Keep all metal fixtures bright and shiny and in good working order. A wind chime with a ship’s wheel with 8 points, painted in blue would be excellent here. If you can’t find that specific chime, any nautical theme item would work. I like wind chimes because they can stir up positive energy and disperse any negativity.
Using figurines or pictures of "helpful people" can activate the Helpful People/Travel area. The ideal object to be placed here is the Mazu goddess of the sea! The Goddess Mazu appears in government papers, court documents, and seafaring logbooks. She is worshipped by many in China and other countries with over 100 million devotees worldwide. She was deemed the Goddess of the Sea for her benevolence in assisting those in seafaring mishaps. Many people believe that when one is facing great difficulty, one can call her by the name "Mazu" and she will immediately come to the rescue. A barometer also can be placed in this area as this indicates the pressure and likely sea conditions so that a sea journey can be planned in advance and with care. Depending on the size of the boat, you can also place photos of places you’ve already sailed to or would like to sail to (again, the Travel aspect).
In general for good boat feng shui:
Keep all metal fixtures/accessories bright and shiny
Keep all storage areas clean and free of clutter
Boats and home offices are just two examples where feng shui can help play a part in benefiting your personal space. Whether you're trying to de-clutter an office to find files and increase efficiency, redesign a den or media room for big Game Day parties, or feng shui a boat to win a big fishing tournament, using basic feng shui principles can help. Upon seeing and feeling the results of using these principles on their spaces, many of my male "converts" now won't let their wives/girlfriends move or buy anything without "DeAnna’s permission," and they now talk about feng shui without rolling their eyes, wholeheartedly joining in the process!