Archive for May, 2008

The Feng Shui Way – Final Project

I have selected images of two different bedrooms and I will be analyzing them in terms of feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of placement. I selected these particular images because they each convey a message about feng shui and how its use can influence the way we feel, mentally, emotionally, and even physically. I have chosen to analyze the bedroom because in terms of feng shui, it is the most important room in the home. According to the author of a popular feng shui book, Kirsten M. Lagatree, “you spend fully one third of your life in the bedroom, whether sleeping, reading, making love, or just retreating into the kind of privacy that no other room can afford” (37). Feng shui, which translates as “wind and water”, is based on the belief that our surroundings affect us. It is very easy to see how our surroundings can affect us just by looking at these two contrasting images. But, it is not about owning nice things and living in a fancy house. Feng shui can be applied to any space, even a dorm room because it is not about what you own, it is about where and how you place it.

            The goal of fung shui is to enhance the flow of Chi, or spiritual energy, in the room by achieving balance between the forces of yin and yang. Chi is everywhere, but it can exist in forms that are either beneficial or harmful, depending on its flow and speed. The placement of objects in a room will determine how and where the Chi force will flow.  The first image depicts good feng shui for several reasons. The placement of the bed is the most important. The bed is against a solid wall meaning there are no windows or other structural openings above or directly next to the bed. This is important because the Chi force that flows through your body while you sleep will escape through the window leaving you with less than good sleep. It is also important because a solid wall holds symbolic support and protection that will make you feel safe and comfortable while in bed. There is a window on the adjacent wall but it does have a curtain that can be closed at night, making it acceptable. The bed has plenty of room on both sides of it, which allows the Chi to flow in and around the bed. It is also important to have the sides of the bed away from a wall because it allows for two people to get in and out of bed comfortably. This is important even if you are single because it welcomes love into your life. The bed should always be raised off of the floor like it is in this image because this allows Chi to flow freely beneath and around you while you sleep. The bed has a headboard and no footboard on it which is perfect feng shui because a headboard provides additional support and strength behind your head while footboards are seen as blocking forward progress in life (Lennon 206). The headboard in this image is particularly great because it has the two spires on either side. This upward motion will make you feel less weighed down and/or stressed so that you can sleep more peacefully.

            The images hanging on either side of the bed are restful and do not depict people. This is considered good feng shui because what hangs above you influences you each night and you don’t have any defense against things that influence you while you sleep (Lagatree 41). It is best to not hang anything directly over the bed as in this image. It is okay to hang images of people in a bedroom, but it should never be an image of just one person because this signifies solitude and it will not enhance your love life nor will it encourage you to obtain love. Love is a very important aspect of feng shui, especially in the bedroom. The image of this room represents and encourages love in its balance and symmetry. There are two pictures on the wall, two nightstands, two lamps, and more than one pillow on the bed. It is very important to create a space that is meant for two, even if you are single because it is believed that doing otherwise can actually hold your single status in place. Looking at this image, it appears to be designed for two people.

            The next important aspect of feng shui that can be seen in this image is the use of color and lighting. The soft natural color of the walls promotes restful nights because it is a yin color. It contrasts nicely with the monochromatic color scheme of the rest of the room because white is a yang color. The colors in this room are restful but they are not too cool. Blues and greens are restful colors but they tend to cool down romance as well. The choice of this warm color in combination with the ambient lighting coming from the lamps makes this room appear to be warm and cozy, which will invite a healing energy and create a tranquil vibe.

            The lines and angles that are created through the placement of furniture are also very important. Sharp edges and angles should never point toward the sleeper in the bed. “The energy coming off the two planes that create the corner is dangerously fast and sharp” (Lagatree 41). Pointing rays of energy can cause irritability and can even be harmful to your health. It is extremely difficult to accomplish this aspect of feng shui. There are very few negatively pointing rays of energy in this image. The corners of the paintings and the corner of the nightstand on the left are the only items that interfere with the positive flow of energy for the sleeper(s). This could have been prevented if the nightstand on the right were also used on the left and if the paintings were framed with circular frames.

Because we cannot determine what is in the areas outside the range of this image, it is difficult to determine how affective the use of feng shui really is in this bedroom. There could be a huge mirror directly across from the bed and the flow of spiritual energy would be completely disrupted. This is because “when the sleeper’s spirit rises at night it will get a nasty shock coming face to face with its own image, which can be very disturbing to the serenity of the sleeper” (Lagatree 40). One thing that contributes to the good feng shui of this image that we cannot see is suggested through the angle from which the photo was taken. It makes you feel as though you are standing at the entrance of the room because there are no doors visible in the image. If the entrance to the room is indeed located diagonally across from the bed, this would be considered good feng shui. This will allow for the best flow of energy and it is called the “commanding position” because it allows you to keep an eye on the room’s entrance leaving you with a sense of safety and protection while you rest (Henwood 27). The angle of this shot also leads me to believe that the foot of the bed is not directly across from the door, which would be considered very bad in terms of feng shui because it is considered to be the “death position” by Chinese. This is because the deceased are carried out feet first. Chinese practitioners believe that sleeping this way can drain your life force (Lennon 164). Overall, this image exudes many important feng shui principles and elements. Whether or not the actual room has good feng shui in its entirety is questionable. Regardless, it is clean and clutter free and that is the first and arguably the most important step to creating good feng shui.

The second image I have selected depicts what I would call “bad feng shui” or no feng shui at all. Clutter symbolizes unfinished business and impedes forward progress in life. This bedroom is a disaster. It is important to consider what memories and associations the objects in your bedroom hold for you and if they are negative or meaningless, get rid of them. Your bedroom should reflect your true spirit. The boxes, the dirty dishes, and the long list of items strewn all over the room block the flow of good Chi and lead to stagnation in life (Lagatree 36). An organized bedroom will give you a sense of control over your life, if nothing else. It is important to remember that if your bedroom inspires tranquil feelings and leads you to peacefulness and proper rest, you will reap the benefits in a multitude of ways. “Sex, wealth, health, and happiness of a marriage can all be enhanced by a bedroom with good feng shui” (Lagatree 37). The bedroom in this image does not inspire tranquil feelings. I would ague that the person who must sleep in this space has a hard time getting out of bed in the morning because they feel overwhelmed, stressed, and possibly even depressed. The first step to creating good feng shui in this room would be to clear the clutter. I believe that a positive emotional, mental, and physical difference would be noticed immediately after doing so.

After pointing out all of the elements that make the first image one that is of good feng shui, it is easy to see how the second image is lacking in terms of feng shui. Clutter aside, there is a long list of items in this room that are misplaced and are preventing and blocking the flow of Chi. The bed is pushed against the wall and is directly under a window. It also appears to be sitting directly on the floor so there is no room for Chi to flow under or around the bed. It does not have a headboard and it is pushed up against the metal heating unit. This is especially bad because metal is a yang element which means it is a conductor of energy and electricity. Water and metal elements should not be used in the bedroom, especially next to the head of the bed because they promote activity and prevent good sleep. The heating unit is an unavoidable feature of the room so the bed should be placed as far away from it as possible. All of the junk sitting on the windowsill is directly influencing the mental state of the sleeper because it is directly above their head while they sleep. These items contain “depressing energy” that literally pushes down on you while you sleep. The window does not even appear to have blinds or other coverings, which will cause the Chi force to be depleted during sleep.

The bedroom is meant to be a relaxing, comfortable retreat away from the worries of our busy lives. It is very difficult to achieve this when computers, televisions, exercise equipment, and piles of bills and homework surround us. There is a laptop computer along with piles of papers and books on the desk next to the bed in this image that are giving off and taking up a lot of energy. Again, electronics are considered to be yang elements and belong in more active areas of the home. The bedroom should consist of the yin elements, earth, wood, and fire, whenever possible. For many college students it is very difficult to maintain good feng shui in the bedroom because we usually live in very tight quarters and we live very active and stressful lives. If it is impossible to minimize the yang elements in the bedroom then they should be covered with a nice fabric or stored in the closet while we sleep.

Unlike the first image, this image represents solitude and chaos. There is no balance or symmetry, no color scheme, and no ambient lighting.  There are too many things going on for Chi to flow throughout the space. When Chi cannot flow gently and easily throughout a space because the placement of items are adversely affecting its movement, bad Chi, or Sha is created. “Sha can bring on poor health, family quarrels, business difficulties, bad luck – any number of problems and misfortunes” (Lagatree 6). This space is very uninviting to a second party and it does not hold the qualities that promote love, health, and prosperity. The camera angle and framing of this image do not help. The camera angle leads you to believe that the bed is in the “death position” because you are looking at the bed almost straight on. The framing cuts through the window and across the front of the bed making the space seem even more cramped. The image feels off balance, just as the person who occupies this room must also feel.

When you lie in bed, you’re doing more than resting, you are literally gaining the strength and the spiritual refreshment needed to go out into the world and carry on with the rest of your life. “According to Chinese thought, the soul leaves the body while we sleep to wander and restore itself in the astral plane, which most people in the Western world think of as dreaming” (Lagatree 38). In other words, your subconscious mind takes over while your conscious mind sleeps. The interplay between your conscious and subconscious mind is crucial to your ability to function well. A bedroom such as the one displayed in this image would hinder your ability to reap the maximum benefits from the experiences your subconscious mind is having while you sleep.

I have only touched the surface of feng shui in analyzing these images. The ancient Chinese discipline of feng shui can be very complex and it is unlike anything we consciously practice in terms of interior designing and decorating here in the United States. It has become quite popular across many cultures but not necessarily because all people have come to believe in its principles but because many people have come to realize that it simply makes for good design. The practice of feng shui ranges from very basic and simple to very complex. For some people it is a way of life, for others it is a simple application that makes their living and working spaces a little more comfortable, even if they are unsure why. Western cultures tend to perceive the principles of feng shui as more superstitious than religious because we see it as relying upon unjustified beliefs, or beliefs that are different from our own. We have been taught to believe that our fate is completely out of our hands; we cannot control or manipulate it. We become so ethnocentric when it comes to the way we choose to live our lives that it is often difficult to see how something such as feng shui can be beneficial.  It is important to learn how other cultures perceive things, even in the field of interior design and decoration because it opens our eyes to new ideas and possibly even life-changing experiences.

 

Bibliography

Henwood, B. (1999). Feng Shui: How to create harmony and balance in your living

            and working environment. Storey Books, Vermont.

 

Lagatree, K.M. (1996). Feng Shui: Arranging Your Home to Change Your Life – A

            Room-by-Room Guide to the Ancient Chinese Art of Placement. Villard

            Books, New York.

 

Lennon, R. (1997). Home Design from the Inside Out: Feng Shui, Color Therapy, and

            Self-Awareness. Penguin Books, New York. 

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