A Feng Shui Primer for Westerners.

Sacred Space, Self Care • February 18, 2021
feng shui primer
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Many ancient traditions applied sacred space practices to purify the energy of our homes. In the modern western world, though, Feng Shui is possibly the better-known system.

And it can be relatively simple to apply — if we don’t get too bogged down in having to do it perfectly.

Before getting started, you need to choose whether to follow classical or western Feng Shui. Having experimented with both, I have found my groove with the western version (also known as Black Hat). I like this system because it allows greater flexibility and creativity in applying “cures.”

If I had grown up in a culture immersed in Classical Feng Shui’s teachings, they would be woven into my subconscious psyche. But without that context, they don’t have the same meaning for me, and the western version resonates with me more.

But each to their own, I will outline below how to apply the Bagua tool with both methods.

First, a word on manifestation.

Many people approach Feng Shui as a manifestation technique. And while it can certainly be helpful in this regard, I think it’s unhelpful in general to adopt it only for that purpose. 

I use it to help me stay focused on allowing the energy in my home to flow freely — which requires me to keep the space free of clutter.

And I also use it to help me get clear on where I might be getting stuck in life and explore ways of becoming unstuck.

Some Feng Shui consultants will tell you to put “cures” in place, and then your life will magically improve. Please don’t have these kinds of expectations, as disappointment is likely to follow.

However, when we combine symbolic cures with reflecting on and adapting our own thought, beliefs, and behavior patterns, Feng Shui can support us in manifesting positive changes in our lives.

The Bagua.

The Bagua is the fundamental tool to become acquainted with. It divides your home into nine equal areas (guas), each of which corresponds with a different area of your life:

· Health/Unity
· Wealth & Blessings
· Career/Life Path
· Family & Community
· Knowledge & Wisdom
· Relationships
· Creativity/New Beginnings
· Fame & Reputation
· Helpful People & Travel

When you view your home in this way and associate particular areas with different aspects of your life, decluttering, cleaning, and re-organizing a specific gua can often result in improvements in the corresponding region of your home.

As already mentioned, for the outer changes you make in your guas to have a mirroring effect in our lives, we also need to reflect on what belief or behavior patterns we have that may be contributing to a less than optimum situation.

It is essential to couple the outer work with inner work.

So, when we are decluttering an area — for example, the wealth area — we could ask ourselves the question before we start, “What do I need to see or understand about my financial circumstances, or about my approach to finances, that will help me to generate improvements?” 

Just ask the question, or set an intention to receive any wisdom or insight needed about this aspect of your life — and let it go and set about decluttering, re-organizing, and applying whatever remedies might be required. 

Trust that whatever insights you need will arrive — and be open to listening to any inner wisdom that surfaces. Don’t dismiss what comes up, even if your immediate response is one of resistance. 

Allow it time to percolate. You don’t have to go with every idea that pops up, but do make a note of them.

Also, be patient with this process. Expecting that a solution will arise during the decluttering or immediately afterward can slow it down or even block it. 

Maybe there is nothing for you to do right now. Perhaps the solutions will come later. Just be willing to see whatever you do need to see and allow all ideas and suggestions to unfold with ease at the right time. 

And in the meanwhile, enjoy the benefits of having a clear, nurturing, and organized space in your home.

Applying the Bagua to your Home.

Classical schools use the compass, and western schools use the front door. 

One of my teachers recommended using the compass if you live in a detached house situated in a vast, open space. And to use the front door if you’re living in attached buildings or buildings that are close together.

When it comes to the front door system, some teachers are quite insistent that it needs to be the architecturally assigned front door. Others are more flexible and allow the back door to be the appointed “front door” for the Bagua purpose if that’s the door you use as your main entrance to your home. 

And one of my teachers even said we could choose!

So, what’s the right system for you? Whatever resonates best with you — start with that. I have experimented with all three in my current home, and now I have settled into using the back-door-as-main-entry method.

Wherever it sits on your Bagua, your front door is considered as the primary energy portal for your home, with opportunities coming in through this entrance. 

So, the space inside our main entry must be reasonably clear and uncluttered, allowing the energy to flow in freely and begin to circulate throughout our homes.

Whether you choose to use the compass method or the front door method, to apply the Bagua, you’ll need to draw your home’s floor plan. Be reasonably accurate in terms of proportions. You can step it out if you don’t have a measuring tape handy.

Then divide it into a grid to identify what part of your home represents what parts of your life. Do this for each level of your home, if it is multi-story.

feng shui primer

No matter what method you use, your home’s Health/Unity area is always in the center.

If you’re using the front door method, then your front door will be opening into either your helpful people/travel, career/life path, or self-development area. And those guas will be directly above and below one another on different floors. 

If you’re applying the compass method, then regardless of where your front door is situated, your guas will be in the following places:

·Wealth & Blessings: South East
· Fame & Reputation: South
· Relationships: South West
· Family & Community: East
· Creativity/Children/New Beginnings: West
· Self-Development/Knowledge & Wisdom: North East
· Career & Life Path: North
· Helpful Friends/Travel: North West

It’s worth noting that your kitchen and bedroom are also hotspots for wealth and relationships, respectively.

So, no matter where your relationship gua sits officially, your bedroom is also a space tied to romantic relationships. And your kitchen is also closely associated with finances.

The main issues tend to be related to the flow of energy and the symbolism placed throughout the home.

Piles of clutter can block the circulation of energy or furniture poorly placed. And the remedy is to remove whatever obstacles are in the way — either decluttering or rearranging the furniture.

The result you want to achieve is a clear pathway for people — and the energy — to easily move around your home.

It is just as important to check that energy (representing opportunities) is not escaping from your home too quickly.

While a clear path for the easy movement of chi is needed, it’s not recommended to have a straight path between the front door and the back door or a window. That moves the energy in and out of the house too quickly, without redirecting it around the home first.

Of course, this can be an architectural issue that we can’t control. But the beauty of Feng Shui is that there is a remedy for every problem. These cures can be overly complicated in classical Feng Shui, which is another reason I prefer western guidelines.

Side note: if you prefer to follow the classical system, it’s best to consult a qualified practitioner who will do a detailed assessment of your home.

If there is a straight path between your main entry and an external door or window, the remedy is to slow down the movement of chi. You can do this by hanging a crystal just inside the entry and exit points. And placing an obstacle in the way (helpful in this instance), for example, a table with a plant on it.

If you do have an architectural issue like this that you’re finding difficult to resolve, it would be a good idea to consult a practitioner — either western or classical.

Energy can also escape prematurely down toilets and other drains. So the recommendation is to keep toilet lids down and keep bathroom doors closed. 

You also need to check that water isn’t excessively draining out of the house. If you find any leaking taps or pipes, fix them without delay.

Once you’ve sorted out energy blocks or drains, you want to examine the symbolism of the art and décor in each gua. 

Ask yourself if it reflects how you want that aspect of your life to be.

For example, does the symbolism in your relationship gua depict happy, loving relationships. Are there images of single people there? Are there images of unhappy people there (or anywhere in your home)?

Is there anything in your wealth area that conveys a sense of prosperity to you? Conversely, is there anything there that makes you feel inadequate when you see it?

Reflect on how the external appearance of each area of your home supports what you want to be feeling about that aspect of your life on the inner level. And swap out anything that doesn’t symbolically help that with something that will.

Both classical and western schools also use the elements of nature as remedies.

Each gua is connected with a different element of nature:

· Health & Wellbeing/Unity: Earth
· Fame & Reputation: Fire
· Relationships: Earth
· Family & Community: Wood
· Creativity/Children/New Beginnings: Metal
· Self-Development/Knowledge & Wisdom: Earth
· Career & Life Path: Water
· Helpful Friends/Travel: Metal
· Wealth: Wood

To help activate each gua, it’s recommended that the associated element is the dominant one in that area. 

For example, in Fame & Reputation, you want fire to be symbolically represented. You can achieve this with a lamp, a candle, electrical items, or red/purple colors.

Each element has its own color, and using that color through your décor helps to represent the element. Shapes can also help.

Use the following to symbolically represent the elements:

· Earth: yellow, orange, brown; crystals, stones, and rocks; ceramics; squat furniture; most plants

· Fire: red and purple color spectrum; diamond and triangular shapes

· Wood: green, upward growing plants, e.g., bamboo; tall furniture; artwork depicting forests; standing lamps

· Water: blue and black color spectrum; inorganic shapes; water features, e.g., fish tanks, water fountains; artwork depicting watery landscapes

· Metal: white and all metallic colors; metal frames and appliances; oval, circular, and curved shapes

To ensure that the associated element is dominant in the gua, you will need to consider how any of the other elements are also present because they each have both a constructive and destructive effect on some of the others. 

How the elements affect each other.

Each element has a nourishing effect on one of the other elements, a controlling effect on another, and a destructive effect on one more. 

While this may appear to be positive on the one hand and negative on another, it is neither.

In the natural world, everything has a purpose. Understanding how the elements affect each other helps us rebalance and harmonize their placement in our home.

Fire destroys wood but feeds earth. It also controls metal. So be careful about having fire elements in areas that are activated by wood or metal. 

You definitely want to have fire element in Fame and Reputation. And it is also helpful in Health and Wellbeing, Relationships and Knowledge and Wisdom, as they are all earth guas — and earth is fed by fire. 

Always be careful not to have too much fire — contain it just as you would an actual fire in your home.

Earth weakens fire and controls water. It feeds metal. So, while it can be helpful to have some fire elements in the earth guas, it is less helpful to have earth elements in Fame and Reputation

But having some earth element in Helpful People/Travel and Creativity/New Beginnings will support the metal element in activating this gua.

Water feeds wood, destroys metal, and controls fire. So it follows that it’s helpful to have water symbolically represented in Family & Community and Wealth. And it is not so helpful to have it in Fame & Reputation, Creativity/New Beginnings, or Helpful People/Travel.

Wood feeds fire, weakens water, and controls earth. Therefore it’s not so helpful in Health & Wellbeing, Self-Development, Relationships or Career/Life Path. Conversely, it is helpful to have in Fame & Reputation.

Metal controls wood, weakens earth, and feeds water. In addition to having metal as the dominant element in Creativity/New Beginnings and Helpful People/Travel, it’s also helpful to have metal in Career/Life Path. Conversely, it’s not helpful to have too much metal in Health & Wellbeing, Relationships, Wealth, or Family & Community.

Now, if your kitchen happens to sit in one of these wood or earth-related areas, it’s likely to have many metal appliances in it. No need to panic — all can be balanced out with the symbolic representation of other elements.

Side note: again, in classical Feng Shui, the elements’ application can be complex, requiring precise amounts of an element to be placed in a particular part of your home. You’ll need the help of a professional in determining this.

Feng Shui is about balancing and harmonizing the energy of our homes. 

There’s no need to become obsessive or take a perfectionist approach. 

The key lies in becoming aware of how well the chi can circulate and how the overall energy supports us in creating the life we want. 

We do the best we can, and we do it with deliberate intention. Small tweaks applied mindfully can be more helpful than you think.

Because making these tweaks on the external often prompts internal inquiry around these areas of our lives. And ultimately, that inner reflection can lead to the most helpful changes. 

For more on that, you might enjoy:

Feng Shui: Why it Often doesn’t Work, and How to Fix that.

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