Back when my wife and I started shopping for a house again, our first experience having been emotionally torturous and financially ruinous, I discovered the ancient and surprisingly practical art of Feng Shui (pronounced phonetically Fung Shway). Over the past couple years, I have learned a fair amount about Feng Shui, and so pass it on in a brief primer just in cased anyone else might find it interesting.
Feng Shui is an art. I say that, because every art is subjective in its nature and value. We all understand that people like different kinds of music, books, and so on, and so it should be no surprise that different people will find a different flavor to Feng Shui. But that does not mean that you cannot get something useful out of it. A lot of people, especially in the West, do not understand even the most basic lessons of Feng Shui, and so they reject it out of hand, and do themselves a disservice.
East and West often misunderstand each other. Strange, since each has on occasion learned much from the other, as well. But Feng Shui, perhaps because of the only-recent immigration of Masters to the United States, has been long ignored as some kind of superstitious hoo-ha. In actual practice however, many centuries before the West had competent architects, China had experts in determining the right location, size, and layout of a house. Such things as how to get the most light in a room, proper ventilation, the right height of the ceiling, and where the house should sit with relation to roads were all considered in China more than two thousand years ago, and so created a quality of living far greater than other parts of the world. These kinds of common-sense and practical details made Feng Shui more than a pastime for homebuilders – it became a critical step in the planning and construction of a home, especially since in those days a home might be expected to serve several generations.
Feng Shui revolves around the nature and motion of ‘Qi’. Qi is sort of like a life energy, or else a life-enhancing power. It’s used in reference to Luck, Health, Happiness … you get the idea. Having Qi is therefore a good thing. But that does not mean you can collect Qi, say keep it in a jar for when you need it. Nope, it’s not so much a material thing, and certainly not an empirical thing – we should not expect the CDC to release a report anytime soon, on the therapeutic effects of measured doses of Qi to patients suffering various disorders. But it is real, at least so far as I can tell, and so it is worth at least consideration.
The premise to Qi is that this energy – everyone seems to at least agree it’s a kind of energy – flows and moves around, and you need a healthy current – not too slow or fast, not too hot or cold, but lively and fresh yet gentle and fulfilling. We get little does of Qi, I think, all the time, in the way things happen. When a street light turns green just as you get there, when your boss actually notices when you get that report he needs faster than he expect and he actually thanks you, when you wake up and for once feel refreshed and ready instead of stressed and running late, you’re seeing Qi at work. You still have to live your life, do your job and so on, but that little bit of energy helps. It also shows up when someone who has no reason to give you the time of day treats you like a real person they care about, when you find yourself more able than usual to look for the other person’s point of view, when you are suddenly able to understand that letting that guy in front of you is not going to be so bad at all or really delay one bit, that also is Qi working. You are you, only just running a little better than usual. A little sensitivity to what’s going an around you can help you perceive it.
OK, so maybe that sounds whack. But have you ever noticed that you usually side facing a certain direction? Have you ever noticed how some homes just feel more comfortable for a reason you can’t put your finger on? Have you ever noticed that some days seem to go better than others, as if there is something making the day a little bit easier or more difficult than normal? Ever consider that there might be a reason for these things? You don’t have to believe in spirits or set up a shrine to a porcelain frog to gain from insights into human behavior, environmental conditions, and biological responses to seasonal developments. In fact, most of the traditional Feng Shui masters strongly oppose any kind of superstitious behavior – I still remember one master who laughed out loud at the idea that a porcelain frog with coins in its mouth would improve business, or that a person could expect a promotion at work just by buying a certain charm. Qi is not something to be manipulated or conjured – we’re talking about a kind of science, but one which must be applied as an art, in order to maximize one’s potential and ability. Again, I refer you to certain habits and practices of athletes, performers, and historical prodigies, where certain foods, familiar colors and articles of clothing – lucky socks, anyone? – or methods of rehearsal are connected to the results attained. Some of it is bunk, but some of it works, and it helps to think the matter through to see why.
More to come, about houses, business, relationship and Feng Shui.