Q. "What is feng shui, and how does it work?"
A. Feng shui (say "fung shway"), often called the art of placement, could just as accurately be called "the art of flow." This ancient Chinese practice, literally translated as "wind" and "water," aims to maximize the beneficial movement of chi (the universal life force present in all things) through an environment.
Just as fresh air and clean water nourish our bodies, so does fresh, clean chi nourish our homes and our lives. When the flow of chi through our space is blocked, weak, or misdirected, our relationships, cash flow, creativity, health, and career can suffer. Chi wants to meander gracefully through a space, like a gentle breeze or a winding stream. When it flows too strongly, it becomes like a hurricane or flood. We are likely to feel tossed about by winds of change, unstable, prone to crises, struggling to "keep our heads above water." Where chi is blocked it becomes stale and stagnant, like a pond choked with algae and fallen leaves. We may feel tired, run down, depressed, unable to focus, hampered in our efforts to move forward in our lives.
Q. "Do I need a special compass to do feng shui?"
A. You do not need any kind of compass to practice contemporary Western feng shui or to apply the principles taught in "Fast Feng Shui" to your home. This is one of the great advantages of this style of feng shui. The compass school method of feng shui does use a compass, and special feng shui compasses are available for those who wish to use them although a standard compass from your local sporting goods store will work as well. Analyzing the lucky and unlucky sectors of your home according to the Eight Directions method requires knowing with some degree of accuracy which direction your home faces, but a few degrees of variation one way or the other will not matter quite as much as it does for the compass method.
Q. "How do I know if feng shui will work for me?"
A. You don't. All you can do is try it and find out.
It is impossible to predict exactly what results you will see from feng shui, or how long they will take to manifest. Sometimes results are seen within days-or even hours!-other times it can takes weeks or months for the energy to shift. Bear in mind that feng shui is a tool, not a magic wand. There are many other factors determining what happens in your life, including your karma and astrology, and - very important! - your own attitudes and actions.
making powerful changes to the feng shui of your home may not result in a noticeable improvement in the situation. This is because you are the critical factor in the equation, and your mental and/or emotional rigidity is interfering with the manifestation of a desired change.
Another thing that can happen is that there is a very obvious shift in the situation, but the results of feng shui are not exactly what you had in mind. This doesn't mean feng shui is not working. It may mean that what you think you want is not what you need, or that your transition will evolve through a series of shifts over a longer period of time. Your issues and priorities can and should change over time, which means that you can come back to feng shui again and again to help make your progress easier.
If you approach feng shui with an attitude of flexibility, an open mind, and a sense of adventure, you are well on your way to a successful and rewarding feng shui experience. Rigid expectations, fear of the unknown, or resistance to change can all stop feng shui from working no matter how much time, effort, and money you put into it.
Q. "I have a lot of clutter. Can I still do feng shui, or do I have to clean up the whole house first?"
A. If your house is full of clutter you are living in the midst of a lot of very stale, stuck energy. Since feng shui works by shifting the energy of your home, it's going to take a lot more effort to get results if you don't deal with your clutter first. Stop thinking of cleaning up your clutter as a tremendous chore, and start thinking of it as one of the most effective feng shui tactics available to you. Every magazine and piece of paper you recycle, every book you give to the library, every item of clothing you release to a new owner creates space in your life for new energy, joy, activities, and companionship to come in.
It can be very helpful, at the start of your clutter-clearing efforts, to spend some time thinking about what you are making room for. Write these goals in your feng shui journal and keep them in mind to inspire you as you clean up and clear out your house. Don't try to clear out all of your clutter at once, since that's a good way to get overwhelmed and give up before any real progress is made. Think about what kind of energy shifts you would most like to experience in your life right now, then focus your clutter-clearing efforts on the "power spots" where new energy will have the most effect on you.
Q. "I live in a tiny apartment, and want to use feng shui. My bedroom has a lot of stuff in it, including a fish tank and a glass curio cabinet. How can I best arrange my space?"
A. Feng shui for a small space is usually a challenge, because of precisely the situation you are in: too much stuff in too small an area. The first thing to do is to try to place your bed in the "command position," across from the door, but not directly in line with it. If this is not possible, place a mirror so that you can see the doorway reflected in it when you are lying in bed. Try not to block too much of the floor space. If you have to twist sideways to get past a piece of furniture, you are blocking the chi.
Fish tanks are not recommended for the bedroom; too much yin water chi where you sleep can drain your energy; plus the pump is probably creating EMF fields that you don't want to sleep in. If you need to keep it there, move it away from the bed. Look for ways to consolidate (place the stereo on top of the dresser, for example) to free up space. Look forward to moving into a larger apartment, and make that one of your intentions.
Q. "Which direction is best for me to sleep in?"
A. The practice both these questions refer to -- defining auspicious and inauspicious directions based on the year of birth -- is one of several methods of traditional Chinese feng shui. While many follow this practice, others (including my teachers of both Chinese and contemporary western feng shui) believe that it is much less important than creating a good flow of beneficial chi through the home and removing or counteracting negative chi caused by poor design or other conditions.
In my experience, sleeping with your head in your most auspicious direction (for example) most often can not be achieved without creating an awkward arrangement within the bedroom. This may cause more problems than it solves. I suggest you educate yourself a little more about basic feng shui principles (both western and traditional) before making any changes to your home.
Please also remember that feng shui is a tool for helping us achieve greater success, prosperity, and self-actualization. It is rarely effective when applied as a quick cure-all in hopes that inner work and personal development will not be required.