Feng shui (pronounced fung shway) is an ancient Chinese practice based on the idea that the auspicious placement and arrangement of buildings, walkways, doors, furniture, plants, and other objects can ensure a good life. Good feng shui allows cosmic energy or chi to flow freely, creating a harmonious environment and improving the health, love life, peace, even prosperity of those who live or work there. By carefully locating and orienting your residence and organizing its interior design to maximize good energy, you can promote success and happiness.
In Feng Shui, Angel Thompson, a noted expert, explains how you can make small (or large) changes in your home or office environment to increase the flow of positive energy. Thompson's clear, practical approach provides dozens of helpful tips for making any size and type of space better.
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About the Author
Angel Thompson has helped hundreds of clients-from corporations and politicians to entertainers, homeowners, and apartment dwellers-improve their lives through the use of feng shui. Her philosophy is that any space, from the smallest apartment to the most palatial home, can be made better through this ancient Chinese art. She lives in Venice, California.
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How to Achieve the Most Harmonious Arrangement of Your Home and Office
By Angel Thompson, Gabriel Jorge Ruspini, Karen McCauley
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1996 Angel Thompson
All rights reserved.
Understanding the Elements and Directions
USING COLORS, SHAPES, AND DIRECTIONS TO IMITATE NATURE
Where do you go when you want to relax and enjoy yourself? Is it the beach, the mountains, the desert? Some people like the open skies or camping in the woods. Others like the lights of the city or the thrill of amusement parks. Maybe you like to stay home and relax as you're washing dishes, watering your plants, or just taking a walk. Wherever you go to regroup, one thing is certain: Being in this space makes you feel good. It's where you can unwind, relax, and let go of everyday worries and concerns. For now, let's call this special place your private paradise.
What if I told you that you could create the good feelings of this magical space wherever you are? Would you be willing to learn a way of seeing if it would help you do this? If you answered yes, then you are ready for the first step of feng shui — the five elements. The elements hold the answer to why some spaces are good and others are not. As you understand how they work, you can use them to create your private paradise.
The five elements — Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water — represent everything in the visible and invisible universe, including the directions of the compass. In nature, we see the five elements in their natural forms. Trees and flowers represent Wood, the sun represents Fire, and so on. Landscapes are classified by their predominant element. If you live next to a lake, yours is a Water environment. In the desert, you live in a Fire environment. Buildings and interior rooms are also classified by their predominant element.
In the realm of humanmade objects and spaces, the elements are represented by colors, shapes, and directions. For example, all of the following are classified as Wood element: a building constructed of wood; a tall or rectangular building; a building whose entry faces east; a place where plants are grown or sold; a green-painted building. This means that we can re-create nature indoors, using colors, shapes, and everyday materials.
Let's say your private paradise is the beach. What makes a beach special? Untamed nature and open space, sunlight, palm trees swaying in the breeze, the salty sea, crashing waves, fluffy white clouds, crimson sunsets, gray seagulls, bright striped umbrellas. All of these things contribute to "beach." You may not be able to bring the ocean to your door, but by using colors, shapes, and directions that represent the natural elements of the beach, you can easily re-create its atmosphere.
At the beach, the Wood element provides palm trees, straw mats, and wooden poles supporting cotton umbrellas. Inside, the the color green, organic fabrics, wood furniture, and miniature palm trees can re-create the Wood element. At the beach, the Fire element is seen through the sun, light, heat, crimson sunsets and red sails dotting the landscape, plus all the critters that live in the sea. Inside, lights and heat take the place of the sun, seashells can be used as ornamentation, and pictures of sunsets or red accessories brighten the home and office. At the beach, the sand represents the element Earth. You can use the colors of sand or miniature sand gardens on your desk. To re-create the sparkling sea, use shiny stones and reflective surfaces that twinkle and glitter. You certainly wouldn't want the ocean in the living room, but how about a wave machine, pictures of the crashing surf, or environmental sounds of the sea as background music? By understanding all the correspondences that accompany the elements, it is easy to re-create any atmosphere you desire.
THE FIVE ELEMENTS
There is a rhythm in the universe. Those who live close to nature follow this rhythm consciously. Farmers plant in the spring, grow in the summer, harvest in the fall, and let the land lie dormant all winter. Sailors and fishermen are acutely aware of the movement of the moon, sun, and stars and of how they affect the tides and movement of fish. City dwellers, who live far removed from nature in buildings of steel and glass, are also affected by this rhythm but not on a conscious level. As a result, it is easy for urbanites to be out of step with nature. When this happens, inner rhythms are disrupted, and life can turn discordant and unpleasant.
The Chinese analyzed the rhythm of the universe by observing the movement of the sun and discovered that nature and life also followed this rhythm. Life begins in the morning when the sun rises in the east. During the day, the sun grows in power until it sinks in the west and finally disappears. Clearly, the passage from light to darkness and back to light consists of four stages: a beginning, a middle, a decline, and an end. In nature, the Chinese saw this rhythm expressed through the five elements.
Wood: The Element of Spring
Life is awakened from the deep sleep of winter when the sun announces the arrival of spring. The element WOOD sends out tender green shoots to reach for the light. This energy is similar to the energy at dawn, when the sun rises in the east, announcing the arrival of a new day. It is from these events that the Wood element came to be represented by early morning; spring; everything that grows; the color green; tall, rectangular, treelike shapes; the direction east; and the principle of growth or beginnings.
A Wood landscape is characterized by forests and jungles, many tall trees, and plants or foliage, cultivated or growing organically. A profusion of poles, pillars, posts, or columns also is indicative of a Wood site. Houses constructed primarily of wood (or a picket fence or a forest, for example) belong to the Wood element.
If there is too much Wood in the environment, trim it, cut it down, or remove it. A saw, hatchet, or axe (all Metal items) in the hands of an able-bodied gardener can remove excess plant growth. If you don't want to remove it, the addition of Fire reduces Wood and makes it manageable. Symbolically, you can add Fire with burning incense, lighted candles, decorative swords or knives, electric lights, red flowers, or the color red. If nothing else, you can turn on the lights and turn up the heat.
When there is not enough Wood in the environment, there's nothing to believe in. You might become fearful and anxious, not only of change but also of commitment. With no strong opinions, you might get along with others for a while but end up with an inability to speak out or stand up for yourself. If there is not enough Wood, it is a simple matter to add flowers, plants, bonsai trees, aquatic plants in a bowl of water, a green filing cabinet, or pictures of plants. If living plants are not available, use fruits and vegetables, or dried or artificial plants.
Wood corresponds to the following:
QUALITIES:Creation, nourishment, upward growth, primal anger
VIRTUES:Love of humanity, benevolence, balance between roots and branches/family and career, flexible thinking
SYMBOL:Mythical green dragon
TIME:Early morning, youth
MATERIAL:All types of wood; organic natural fibers and fabrics (silk, cotton, linen); vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, plants (alive, artificial, or represented in photos or art)
INTERIORS:Dining rooms, children's rooms, bedrooms
SHAPES AND TYPES:Tall, oblong, rectangular, columnar, shapes often used for memorial or religious structures, skyscrapers, high towers
IDEAL USES:All matters related to creativity, nourishment, and growth: nurseries and buildings where plants are grown, such as hothouses; hospitals, nursing homes, healing centers; restaurants, cafés, and catering businesses; manufacturers or retailers of wooden goods; artists' ateliers
Fire: The Element of Summer
The element FIRE is represented by the sun at its zenith — the middle of the day when the sun is high and hot and bright. This is similar to the energy expressed during the summer, a season of promise and full growth. The sun travels through the southern part of the sky so south came to be known as the direction of Fire. Flames give Fire its red color and triangular, pointed shape.
Landscapes that feature sharply peaked mountains, or buildings with peaked, angled, or sloping roofs, are considered to be Fire sites. The Great Pyramids at Giza, near Cairo, Egypt, are classic Fire-shaped structures. Their closeness to the Nile created a perfect Fire-Water matrix for life to emerge, and, indeed the Nile flowed through a lush valley.
Fire is the element of understanding, courtesy, and ceremony. A Fire-dominated individual is usually reasonable and able to communicate feelings appropriately. This person holds no grudge and has compassion for others. There is an imbalance in Fire, however, which can manifest as an inability to project oneself forward with passion or spirit. A person working in a kitchen or bakery or other hot, enclosed space, or someone living in the desert or in the shadow of a triangular (Fire)-shaped mountain, would manifest extremes of emotion — from passive and lifeless to manic and overactive.
With lack of Fire, we suffer from stiff joints, dry skin, bad eyes, poor circulation. We may be tired, lack passion, and find it difficult to participate in sex or come to orgasm. We may feel panic and anxiety and fear about the future. If your environment needs Fire, add fish, a birdfeeder or birdhouse, or dogs, cats, or other animals. Or build a fire in the fireplace, have a barbecue, light candles and incense, place red flowers on the desk, bed, or table. Paint the front door red. If you feel you need Fire in your life, go outside during the day and breathe in the light of the sun, an easy way to increase your internal fires.
On the other hand, too much Fire might manifest as a volatile, critical, loud, and obnoxious individual who angrily incites disputes and arguments. If you want to reduce the Fire, add ceramic pots, clay tiles, and other earthy substances or colors. Think of a Mexican hacienda with its tile floors and roofs. There is a good reason tropical places often use tile as a primary building material. Earth materials provide good insulation from the heat of the sun. They make a house cool in summer and warm in winter.
The addition of water will also cool off a hot condition, which is why those same Mexican haciendas always feature a fountain or pool by the front entry. Use water in its many forms — fountains, bowls of water, glass items, or pictures of oceans and lakes. If you feel you have too much Fire, go outside during the night and breathe in the light of the moon. Breathing outside at night is a sure way to calm down. This is an old folk remedy.
Remember, Fire is the element of life and light. Without it, we perish. With it, we blossom and grow. Fire corresponds to the following:
QUALITIES:Intelligence, spirit, human and animal life
VIRTUES:Wisdom, reason, etiquette
COLOR:Red (any shade, hue, intensity)
TIME:High noon: young adulthood
MATERIAL:Animal products, including leather and wool; anything that generates light or heat; shiny fabrics that reflect light and heat
INTERIORS:Kitchens and other places where cooking takes places; stoves, fireplaces
SHAPES AND TYPES:Pointed, slanted, sharp angles; buildings with sloping roofs; buildings where animals are housed (Fire is associated with animals)
IDEAL USES:Fire-type buildings are suitable for libraries, religious schools, and other places of learning, as well as for businesses involved in design and fashion; manufacturing processes involving fire or furnaces or chemicals; veterinary clinics because of Fire's association with animal life
Earth: The Element of Indian Summer
Between summer and fall comes Indian summer, a period of calm and stability when the hours of darkness equal the hours of daylight, and when life seems balanced and easy. To the Chinese, this phase was most like EARTH itself — enduring, unchanging, forever supportive of life. It had no direction because it was the center around which we all belonged.
The energy of Earth is reliable, dependable, calm, and centering. The planet Saturn rules Earth and is represented by solidity and security. The color associated with Earth is yellow, probably derived from the yellow soil of China.
The time for the element Earth is the middle of the afternoon, when the high energy of the morning has peaked and is beginning to decline. Earth represents the middle time of life, when experience has, we hope, created wisdom, and the impetuous fires of youth have calmed to a warm glow. All the materials that come from the earth — clay, bricks, concrete, ceramic tile, marble, sand, and rocks — are associated with Earth. The shapes that represent the Earth element are square, boxlike, or flat. Landscapes that feature plateaus or flat, featureless areas are Earth landscapes, as are flat, low, unadorned, square-shaped, humble structures. Remember the story of the three little pigs? The first pig built his house out of straw, the second out of wood, and the third one built his house of bricks. Of course, the house of bricks lasted the longest. If you want to have a solid and reliable life, live in an Earth-type house.
Earth is represented by sympathy, trust, integrity, and a well-balanced person who is reliable and sincere and handles material resources appropriately. An imbalance in Earth results in either an opportunistic cheapskate or a generous fool who gives away everything. The person with too little Earth will disappear when the check comes. The individual with balanced Earth will divide the check into who ate what, and the individual with too much Earth will offer to pick up the entire check but will have to borrow money from the others to do so.
Living very high up in a tall building or living underground may cause an imbalance in Earth. With too much Earth, we become too stable. We may feel stuck and unable to change. With too little Earth, we may have difficulty attracting money or resources. To create a more balanced environment, add any kind of Metal, such as silver, brass, copper, mirrored or other reflective surfaces, or the color white. The addition of plants or the color green also reduces the imbalance in Earth.
If you feel lethargic or off-balance (like a feather in the wind), or suffer from low self-esteem, lack of direction, and an inability to set goals, there may be too little Earth in your environment. Add Earth in the way of sand and rock gardens, bonsai trees in ceramic bowls, rocks, stone jars, pottery, marble, statuary, or earthy colors of gold, orange, ocher, yellow. Fire increases Earth, so add animal products such as leather, cotton, and wool; or pottery oil lamps; incense; candles; or the color red.
Remember that the element Earth is calm and stable. Without it, we drift. With it, we are able to stand tall. Who could ask for anything better?
Earth is represented by the following:
QUALITIES:Sympathy, honesty, faith
VIRTUES:Reliability, responsible handling of material resources
SYMBOLS:Earth, the center
DIRECTION:The center or southwest
COLORS:Yellow, earth tones
TIME:Middle of the afternoon; middle of life
MATERIALS:Clay, bricks, concrete, tile, marble, porcelain, crystal, sand, anything that comes from the earth
INTERIORS:Storage areas, seldom-used lounges, garages, conservatories (when combined with Wood), inner courtyards
SHAPES AND TYPES:Flat, low, unadorned, boxy, or square; appearing to be humble and constructed of bricks, concrete, clay, or other earth materials (even a steep-roofed brick building is still classified as an Earth building)
IDEAL USES:Hospitals, jails, government buildings, or businesses that need to be perceived as solid and enduring; tombs, mausoleums, vaults, and storage buildings; businesses that involve mining or tunneling, the production or sale of ceramics, agriculture, farming, or civil engineering; banks and financial institutions
Metal: The Element of Fall
At the end of summer, the leaves turn color and frost glistens like diamonds on the grass, announcing the arrival of fall, a season to match the fading light of the sun in the west. The principles of contraction and reduction are at work. Pressure reduced and compressed minerals in the earth, creating metals, which could be extracted, melted, and formed into spades, shovels, and scythes to assist in the harvest. Coins were minted out of silver and gold, so the element METAL became associated with the west, the color silver, and round, coin-like shapes.
Excerpted from Feng Shui by Angel Thompson, Gabriel Jorge Ruspini, Karen McCauley. Copyright © 1996 Angel Thompson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
PART 1: Feng Shui Basics,
CHAPTER 1. UNDERSTANDING THE ELEMENTS AND DIRECTIONS,
CHAPTER 2. THE POWER OF CHI,
PART 2: Feng Shui and the Home,
CHAPTER 3. THE FENG SHUI OF REGIONS, CITIES, AND NEIGHBORHOODS,
CHAPTER 4. THE FENG SHUI OF A HOME'S EXTERIOR,
CHAPTER 5. THE FENG SHUI OF A HOME'S INTERIOR,
CHAPTER 6. APPLYING FENG SHUI PRINCIPLES TO DECORATING AND ARRANGING INTERIOR SPACE,
PART 3: Feng Shui and the Workplace,
CHAPTER 7. THE FENG SHUI OF THE WORKPLACE,