the original kStyle blog.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Feng Shui

Ann asked about feng shui in the comments recently. And I was like, Duh...dunno. Lucky for all of us, one of my classmates is an architect who specializes in feng shui, and he was kind enough to give me a generous Feng Shui 101 course after anatomy class tonight.

Feng shui began in ancient China for survival. In the freezing cold north, a house or a village needed to be placed so that it was sheltered from the winter winds. Ideal was a large mountain to the north and a smaller mountain to the east. This situation would create a relatively mild microclimate where plants would sprout earlier and live later into the summer--more food. Eventually, as all successful societies do, China moved past mere survival. Feng shui took on a new level: where is the most prosperous place to situate the homestead? For example, a farmer would want to have his fields near a river for irrigation, but the farmer would do better to have his fields uphill rather than downhill from the river. The downhill farmer will experience some flooding and his lands will be gradually eaten away from erosion. (I dubbed this part "keeping up with the Changs".) Stagnant river water would fester with disease and breed pests, but too fast a river would wash away the minerals; like most Chinese tradition, feng shui seeks the balance between yin and yang. Feng shui means "wind and water". Make sense so far?

The feng shui of each village would be different, of course. If, for example, a village had a mountain pass through which winds whipped, the local feng shui master would create a compass with that pass marked and plan accordingly. This sort of outdoor feng shui can be applied to modern urban planning. Are the roads too wide? Too narrow, causing stagnation (like traffic jams)? Will wind tunnels make for unpleasant walking?

The same principles developed outdoors came to be applied inside. Corridors should be wide but not too wide. The space should flow logically. As Ann suspected, Chinese mysticism was layered on to some schools of feng shui. Some get into astrology and such things.

My mentor pointed out that many Buddhists believe that your mind creates your entire world. Therefore, for example, placing plants in your wealth corner to make your wealth grow could very well work, because you are manifesting that with your mind. So, in a sense, it matters less that you follow some of the esoteric principles of feng shui than that you give conscious thought to your space and how you would like your life to reflect it.

Now, dear readers, try an experiment with me.

1. Go to a corner in your building that points away from you. Stand there, facing the meeting of the walls. Let go of thought, take a couple of deep breaths, and observe how you feel there.

1a. Place a plant in that corner, or, if there is one, take it away. How does it feel now? You can also try placing a fountain there or turning a light on or off in that corner.

2. Go to a corner that points toward you, out into the room, and face it, so that the corner points right at you. Clear your mind, breathe, and observe for a minute or two. How do you feel there?


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