Can making the right changes to our external environment help support our health, attract wealth and invite more happiness into our lives? Almost certainly, says Kintsugi founder Al Reem Al Tenaji. Here, we take a look at the ancient Chinese art of feng shui
In her book Exuberance: The Passion for Life, Kay Redfield Jamison notes that we’ve formulated many words for sadness and sorrow, but few words for having a passion for life. When we discover our passion, our ‘exuberance’ as Jamison terms it, our energy changes. We are open to life’s possibilities.
But what if it could be the other way round? What if our energy is actually blocking our path to joy, to exuberance?
In the ancient Chinese art of feng shui, which translates to ‘wind and water’, there is a belief that our external environment has a huge effect on how we feel. Its goal is to enhance the flow of chi (life force or spiritual energy), and to create harmonious environments that support health, attract wealth and invite happiness.
Feng shui is about balance – the yin and the yang. The Yin is a feminine energy, associated with night, coolness and quiet. The Yang is masculine, it is heat, day and socialability. By making sure that there is an equal amount of both energies around us, we can achieve a calming balance that runs throughout our lives.As Lada Ray notes, ‘In its highest and purest form, good feng shui signifies perfect alignment between inner and outer worlds.’
Underpinning the philosophy of feng shui is the idea that there are invisible forces around us that sap our energy and reduce our mental capacity just by being around them. Anyone who has ever lived or worked in a cramped office or small apartment will understand how hard it can be to thrive in such environments. As author and feng shui expert Laura Staley puts it: ‘Too many things in too small a space cut off flow, block creativity, and bury beauty, much like a bad cold can make it hard to breathe.’ When we don’t have enough light, air or space, the world can feel oppressive. Feng shui is the art of clearing those forces.
‘Every aspect of your life is anchored energetically in your living space, so clearing clutter can completely transform your entire existence,’ says feng shui expert Karen Kingston.
By following a few simple but powerful principles to carve the right environment, feng shui experts believe that you can improve nearly every aspect of life. It doesn’t matter if you have a five-story townhouse or a one-bedroom apartment, the philosophy really can work for anyone.
‘If you create a balanced representation in your home, it can reflect how you’re reacting to outside experiences. It becomes a metaphor for everything in life,’ says Laura Cerrano of Feng Shui Manhattan.
Inspired by all I had heard, I decided to apply the principles of feng shui to my home office. I began by decluttering, removing anything that was not serving me – anything broken or with negative connotations (unwanted gifts and so on). I then moved my desk to take a ‘commanding position’ in the room – facing the door, with my desk chair set to the right posture. Experts recommend that around fifty per cent of the desktop be occupied so I added some inspirational books and several new plants, inviting more creative wood energy into my workspace. The plants perform a dual purpose as there is also a lot of research to suggest that the colour green has a positive impact on both productivity and wellbeing, being associated with fresh energy and a new start.
The process took less than a day but made such a difference to my working life, the space feels lighter, more open. The decluttering feels internal as much as external – negative thoughts and fears that have been occupying my mental energy have been dramatically reduced. Things feel calmer inside and out.
A few weeks later and I find that the positive effects are not only lasting, but they also gain in momentum. With more awareness I can see when things start to feel out of balance. I started meditation for clarity, journaling to organise my thoughts on paper, and taking time each morning to consider my priorities and needs. I learned to challenge negative self-talk to replace it with positive ones. I started spending time more in nature, limit social media intake (something that feels designed to make us out of balance) and regulate my sports and wellness routine to focus on incomplete dreams and goals. Feng shui has been the catalyst to energise and transform so many areas of my life.
Ways to feng shui your life
Invest in a headboard
Keep anything work related outside
Avoid sharp edges
Don’t have your bed close to the door
Don’t keep books in here
Remove all clutter
Face your chair towards the door (the door should never be behind you)
Use desks or chairs with curved edges
Add plants but remove any dead plants straight away and stay clear of anything spikey such as cacti
Add paintings, plants and wood elements to attract positive wealth energy to this area
Keep the five elements in balance – metal, fire, wood, earth and water
Fix anything broken or chipped
Keep the entryway clear and welcoming
Let in as much natural light as possible
Open windows every day – even in winter
Replace any broken light bulbs
Don’t place mirrors opposite each other (this bounces the chi back and forth) Have a strong front door that opens wide into the home without creaking.
Get rid of anything you don’t find beautiful or useful
Invite nature into your home as much as possible
Start a journal
Take meditation breaks
Say no to things more often
Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables