“Heaven is high, the earth is low; thus the Creative and the Receptive are determined.” —I Ching
D E C O R AT I N G WITH THE
FIVE ELEMENTS OF
About the Author Tisha Morris is a feng shui consultant, interior designer, certified life coach, energy healer, and yoga instructor. She is also the author of Feng Shui Your Life (Turner Publishing, 2011). She is based in Los Angeles, California, and can be found online at TishaMorris.com.
To Write the Author If you wish to contact the author or would like more information about this book, please write to the author in care of Llewellyn Worldwide, and we will forward your request. Both the author and the publisher appreciate hearing from you and learning of your enjoyment of this book and how it has helped you. Llewellyn Worldwide cannot guarantee that every letter written to the author can be answered, but all will be forwarded. Please write to: Tisha Morris Llewellyn Worldwide 2143 Wooddale Drive Woodbury, MN 55125-2989 Please enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope for reply, or $1.00 to cover costs. If outside the USA, enclose an international postal reply coupon. c
Many of Llewellynâ€™s authors have websites with additional information and resources. For more information, please visit www.llewellyn.com.
D E C O R AT I N G WITH THE
FIVE ELEMENTS OF
FENG SHUI Ti s h a Mor r is author of Mind, Body, Home
Llewellyn Publications Woodbury, Minnesota
Decorating with the Five Elements of Feng Shui © 2015 by Tisha Morris. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Llewellyn Publications, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. First Edition First Printing, 2015 Book design by Bob Gaul Back cover photos: iStockphoto.com/66136765/©loonara, iStockphoto. com/41849560/©suprun, iStockphoto.com/15181981/©AlexandrMoroz, iStockphoto.com/44461192/©janniwet, iStockphoto.com/33411352/©worac Cover design by Ellen Lawson Cover art by 500786295/Astronaut Images/Getty Images Editing by Laura Graves Interior art by Llewellyn Art Department Llewellyn Publications is a registered trademark of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Morris, Tisha, author. Decorating with the five elements of feng shui/Tisha Morris. pages cm Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-0-7387-4652-4 1. Feng shui in interior decoration. I. Title. BF1779.F4M685 2015 747—dc23 2015018749 Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. does not participate in, endorse, or have any authority or responsibility concerning private business transactions between our authors and the public. All mail addressed to the author is forwarded, but the publisher cannot, unless specifically instructed by the author, give out an address or phone number. Any Internet references contained in this work are current at publication time, but the publisher cannot guarantee that a specific location will continue to be maintained. Please refer to the publisher’s website for links to authors’ websites and other sources. Llewellyn Publications A Division of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive Woodbury, MN 55125-2989 www.llewellyn.com Printed in the United States of America
Introduction 1 Using Feng Shui to Live in Harmony with Nature 2 What Are the Five Elements? 6 Why Use the Five Elements? 7 The Three-Step Formula to Feng Shui Your Life 9 Remove 10 Rearrange 10 Energize 11 How to Use the Five Elements 12
Part One: Discovering the Five Elements of Feng Shui Chapter One: The Duality of Yin and Yang Energy 19
Yin and Yang Energy in People 21 Too Much Yang 24 Too Much Yin 24 Yin and Yang Energy in Land 25 Yin and Yang Energy in Interiors 26 Chapter Two: Characteristics of the Five Elements 31 Wood Element Characteristics 35 Fire Element Characteristics 36 Earth Element Characteristics 38 Metal Element Characteristics 39 Water Element Characteristics 41 Chapter Three: The Cycles of the Five Elements 45 The Constructive Cycle 48 Water Feeds Wood 48 Wood Fuels Fire 49 Fire Creates Earth 49 Earth Produces Metal 50 Metal Nourishes Water 50 The Destructive Cycle 51 Wood Takes Over Earth 52 Fire Melts Metal 52 Earth Contains Water 52 Metal Cuts Wood 52 Water Puts Out Fire 52
Part Two: The Five Elements and You Chapter Four: What’s Your Element? 57 The Five Elements Quiz 61 Quick Element Profile 65 Chinese Astrology 67 Chinese Numerology 69 Face Reading 71 Wood Facial Features 71 Fire Facial Features 72 Earth Facial Features 72 Metal Facial Features 72 Water Facial Features 73 Western Astrology 73 Chapter Five: Wood Types: The Pioneers 77 Personality Traits 77 Challenges 79 Excess Yin and Wood Energy 80 Excess Yang and Wood Energy 81 Compatibility 82 Wood and Water 82 Wood and Wood 82 Wood and Fire 82 Wood and Earth 83 Wood and Metal 83
Chapter Six: Fire Types: The Manifestors 85 Personality Traits 86 Challenges 86 Excess Yin and Fire Energy 87 Excess Yang and Fire Energy 88 Compatibility 88 Fire and Wood 89 Fire and Fire 89 Fire and Earth 89 Fire and Metal 89 Fire and Water 90 Chapter Seven: Earth Types: The Stabilizers 91 Personality Traits 92 Challenges 92 Excess Yin and Earth Energy 93 Excess Yang and Earth Energy 94 Compatibility 95 Earth and Fire 95 Earth and Earth 95 Earth and Metal 95 Earth and Water 95 Earth and Wood 96
Chapter Eight: Metal Types: The Organizers 97 Personality Traits 98 x Contents
Challenges 98 Excess Yin and Metal Energy 99 Excess Yang and Metal Energy 99 Compatibility 100 Metal and Earth Metal and Metal Metal and Water Metal and Wood
100 100 100 101
Metal and Fire 101
Chapter Nine: Water Types: The Philosophers 103 Personality Traits 103 Challenges 104 Excess Yin and Water Energy 105 Excess Yang and Water Energy 106 Compatibility 106 Water and Metal Water and Water Water and Wood Water and Earth
106 106 107 107
Water and Fire 107
Part Three: Using the Five Elements in Your Home and Property Chapter Ten: Incorporating the Five Elements in Interiors 111 Wood in Interiors 114
Shape 114 Color 115 Common Wood Element Household Items 115
Fire in Interiors 115 Shape 117 Color 117 Common Fire Element Household Items 117 Earth in Interiors 118 Shape 119 Color 119 Common Earth Element Household Items 119 Metal in Interiors 120 Shape 121 Color 121 Common Metal Element Household Items 121
Water in Interiors 122 Shape 123 Color 123 Common Water Element Household Items 124
Chapter Eleven: Incorporating the Five Elements in Outdoor Areas 125 Wood in Outdoor Areas 126 Common Outdoor Wood Elements 127
Fire in Outdoor Areas 127 Common Outdoor Fire Elements 128
Earth in Outdoor Areas 128 Common Outdoor Earth Elements 129 xii Contents
Metal in Outdoor Areas 129 Common Outdoor Metal Elements 130
Water in Outdoor Areas 130 Common Outdoor Water Elements 131
Combining Elements in Outdoor Areas 132 Hot and Sunny Areas 132 Damp and Shaded Areas 132 Sun and Shade Areas 133 Chapter Twelve: Integrating the Five Elements Using the Bagua Map 135 Applying the Bagua Map 137 Energizing Each Gua with the Five Elements 139 Career & Life Purpose Gua 140 Wisdom & Knowledge Gua 142 Family & Community Gua 143 Abundance & Prosperity Gua (Wealth Corner) 145 Fame & Reputation Gua 147 Love & Relationships Gua (Love Corner) 149 Creativity & Children Gua 151 Helpful People & Travel Gua 153 Health & Well-Being Gua 155 Using the Bagua Map as a Self-Help Tool 156 Chapter Thirteen: A Room-by-Room Guide for Using the Five Elements 159 Kitchen 160 Change Colors 161 Reduce Clutter 161
Clean Out Cabinets 162 Clean Out Refrigerator and Pantry 162 Spice It Up 162
Bedroom 163 Bathroom 165 Living Room 165 Home Office 166 Desks for Wood Types 167 Desks for Fire Types 168 Desks for Earth Types 169 Desks for Metal Types 169 Desks for Water Types 169
Chapter Fourteen: Integrating Your Personal Element for Optimal Balance 171 Decorating for Yang Types 172 Example: Decorating for Yang Types 173
Decorating for Yin Types 174 Example: Decorating for Yin Types 174
Decorating for Wood Types 176 Decorating for Wood Types Summary 178 Example: Decorating for Wood Types 178 Decorating for Fire Types 179 Decorating for Fire Types Summary 180 Example: Decorating for Fire Types 180 Decorating for Earth Types 181 Decorating for Earth Types Summary 182 xiv Contents
Example: Decorating for Earth Types 182
Decorating for Metal Types 183 Decorating for Metal Types Summary 185 Example: Decorating for Metal Types 185 Decorating for Water Types 186 Decorating for Water Types Summary 188 Example: Decorating for Water Types 188 Decorating for Other Element Types in Your Household 190 Chapter Fifteen: Using the Five Elements to Heal You and Your Home 193 Metal: Using Crystals and Gemstones in Spaces 194 Programming Your Crystal 195 Selecting Crystals for Spaces 196 Best Crystals for Protecting Against Electromagnetic Energy 203 Best Crystals for Protecting Against Unwanted Energy, e.g., Disturbing Neighbors 203 Best Crystals for Attracting or Enhancing Love 203 Best Crystals for Attracting or Enhancing Money 204
Wood: Using Plants in Spaces 204 Good Feng Shui Plants 206 Bad Feng Shui Plants 207 Fire: Using Transformative Properties of Fire 207 Water: Incorporating Water Features 208 Earth: Grounding with Earth 209
Conclusion 211 Bibliography 217 Recommended Resources 219 Appendix 221 Figure 1: Characteristics of Yin and Yang Energy 222 Figure 2: Yin and Yang Characteristics in People 222 Figure 3: Yin and Yang Characteristics in Outdoor Areas 223 Figure 4: Yin and Yang Characteristics in Interiors 224 Figure 5: The Five Elements 225 Figure 6: Properties of the Five Elements 225 Figure 7: How the Five Elements Work Together 226 Figure 8: Constructive Cycle of the Five Elements 226 Figure 9: Destructive Cycle of the Five Elements 227 Figure 10: Insulting Cycle of the Five Elements 227 Figure 11: Personal Element According to Chinese Astrology 228 Figure 12: Five Element Personality Traits in People 231 Figure 13: Examples of Five Elements Found in Interiors 232 Figure 14: Examples of Five Elements Found in Outdoor Areas 233 Figure 15: Bagua Map with the Five Elements 234 Figure 16: Bagua Map with Crystals 234
p r e fa c e
When I first began practicing feng shui, the five elements were a very overlooked part of my practice. I understood the concept from an academic perspective, but I didn’t have a particular appreciation for them. And then, like most things in my life, a house changed that for me. On the day of closing the sale of my home, a contract snafu came out of nowhere that ended up delaying the closing for almost a year. The stress during this time started to take a toll on me physically and so I visited an acupuncturist. As it turned out, I had an excess of the Wood element and needed more Earth with a dash more Metal, a typical imbalance for Wood element people. Not coincidentally, there was also an overabundance of the Wood element in the home’s finishes, furnishings, and décor. Based on feng shui principles, I found ways to bring more Earth and Metal elements into the home. These changes helped shift my energy and the home’s energy. I ended up falling back in love with the home that had caused me so much angst, which finally led to a successful closing. This experience showed me how xvii
we can use the five elements in our interiors to balance not only the energy of our home, but ourselves. From then on, using the Five Elements with clients took on new meaning and took my feng shui practice to a new level. Working with the Ffve elements has also allowed my passion as an interior designer to come out and play in a new way. It’s one thing to create beautiful spaces, but it’s quite another to create beautiful spaces that heal and support its occupants. This is what I call conscious design—where spirituality meets design. We will begin to see this integration more and more in all creative arts. In essence, it is the resurgence of sacred geometry that architecture once had. But it is no longer just for cathedrals and sacred sites. Conscious design is now available in our homes and in our everyday living—from the items we purchase to the placement of them in our spaces. Using the five elements in our spaces is the conduit through which we can live in harmony with the earth and create our own sacred spaces. This book was about to go forward with no acknowledgments until I found myself sitting in a very sacred space at Esalen in Big Sur. I wrote this book during a solitary time of my life. In hindsight, I was in a Yin phase, specifically Water phase, and I fought it the entire time! There are seasons in all of our lives. These seasons are the five elements and a necessary part of our growth and evolution. What I was really fighting was the Tao. The Tao called for this season of my life to be Water, even though I so badly wanted it to be Fire. The Tao had other plans for me. To find the flame of your heart you must sit in the stillness, in the dark night of winter. We teach what we most need to learn. This book taught me that you can only fight the Tao for so long. It is after all your divine plan. Notice which way the wind is blowing and surrender to it. For it is the only Way, or at least the way of least resistance. When I walked out of the meditation space at Esalen, I noticed a plaque on the side of the building inscribed, “Tao follows the Way of the Watercourse as the Heart Mind through Meditation Returns to the Sea.” The universe keeps giving us opportunities to learn until we eventually get xviii Preface
it. This book would have been incomplete without a special Thank You to my mom and dad for truly being the Earth below my feet and a grounding support as steadfast as the force of gravity. I also want to thank my publisher, my editor, and everyone at Llewellyn for believing in me and in this book. It is a blessing to have a good Metal element around for editing so that my inner editor (critic) can stay quiet. And finally, this book is dedicated to you finding your Way, the Tao. My hope is that these pages help you find beauty and harmony in your home and in your life and that you find your Way with grace and ease.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them—that only creates sorrow. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” —Lao Tzu
Our existence is a delicate and intricate balance of energies. From the earth as a whole to our physical body, even to our relationships, balance is essential to not only our peace and happiness but also our survival. It is crucial to the survival of all things living on our planet and the primary ingredient for our continued existence on the planet. It is easy to forget that we humans are only part of a bigger macrocosm that also includes plants, oceans, animals, rocks, and Mother Earth herself. Nature is always striving to find balance, and with minor adjustments or cataclysmic disasters, she will always find a way, and whether it seems “good” or “bad” to us is irrelevant to Mother Nature. The duality, the intertwining of yin and yang energy striving for harmony and balance on the planet as a whole, is the basis of the Tao. Taoism is a philosophical way of life that focuses on the relationship between humanity and the Universe. Tao means “the way” or “the path” and within the context of its philosophy is considered the primal energy of the Universe. To be in alignment with, or in the flow of, Universal energy 1
is Taoismâ€™s goal. Taoism is widely considered more of a philosophy than a formal religion, and its principles have been infused into Zen Buddhism and folk religions of ancient China. Taoism recognizes the human body as a microcosm (mini-universe) manifested from the union of the creative yang energy and receptive yin energy. The human body is an exact small-scale model of the Universe comprised of the same principles, matter, and laws. According to Taoism, it is the mind that creates the illusion of separateness. Similar to other Eastern philosophies, through Taoism we can achieve Oneness, that is, not only to reunite the mind, body, and spirit within ourselves, but to also dissolve the separateness we have created with nature and the Universe as a whole. By living more in harmony with nature, we can begin to see and appreciate that we are all One and break down the barriers that create separateness in our minds. Chinese Medicine, also known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is heavily based in Taoist principles. Chinese Medicine is being integrated more and more into Western medicine, most commonly in the form of acupuncture, qi gong, and the use of herbal tinctures. These modalities are used to help balance the physical, mental, and emotional bodies in tandem. In accordance with Taoist principles, Chinese Medicine views the human body as a microcosm of the same energies seen in nature and in the cosmos and treats accordingly. These energies are known as the five elements.
Using Feng Shui to Live in Harmony with Nature Not only do the five elements apply to our mind and body, they apply to our living spaces as well. Feng shui was first practiced in China approximately four thousand years ago, and like Chinese Medicine, has its basis in Taoist principles. It began as a science to locate auspicious burial grounds based on unforeseen energy and forces connecting humans with the cosmos. Feng shui is now used to bring homes and living spaces into balance and harmony with nature and Mother Earth. The idea of living in harmony with nature
may sound idealistic, but you will learn practical ways to do just that. In doing so, you will experience more balance and harmony in your life. We naturally feel better in nature. On a nice day, most people would prefer spending time outdoors usually for enjoyment, such as going to the park, spending time at the beach, going for a hike, or even opting for outdoor dining. When I moved to California, I was amazed at the quality of outdoor living. Due to the mild climate, low humidity, and few bugs, most restaurants, coffee shops, and homes are designed to accommodate outdoor living. When it comes to living spaces, I had always been of the mindset of bringing the outdoors in, but now it is how to bring the indoors out. Patio furniture is of equal importance as living room furniture. As much as I love outdoor living, my crab-like self still craves a cozy room with walls and a roof on occasion. For those who live in harsh climates, it’s quite a challenge to enjoy outdoor living, which is why it is so important to incorporate the principles of nature into our spaces through the five elements so that there is a seamless bridge between our own energy and that of nature. The word “harmony” is often used in conjunction with feng shui. “Harmony” is another word for living with ease, whereas “disharmony” would be equivalent to disease. All disease in the body is rooted in dis-ease, mental, emotional, and physical. The more harmony we can incorporate in our lives, the more ease we will experience. Our homes are second only to our body as a space that we have control over and can positively affect and create harmony within. By bringing more consciousness to creating a harmonious environment, the benefits will carry into all areas of your life. Our home is a mirror of our own energy. The harmony of your space will have a direct correlation with the harmony within your mind and body. Our living spaces connect us with nature, the planet, and beyond. If it weren’t for our built environment, humans would be living among the animals, insects, and flowers. We would be in harmony with nature but also living at its peril—friend and foe.
Universe Milky Way/Earth Nature Living Spaces
Living Spaces as a Bridge to Nature
Most of us agree that we would gladly trade our four walls and a roof over our heads at the expense of living in total harmony with nature. In fact, the built environment not only has provided us with more comfortable lifestyles but has also paved the way for our evolution and expansion. The built environment can be a positive connector or disconnector to nature, depending on the integrity of the architecture and design. By intentionally using the five elements, we can strike a beautiful balance of living in comfort, living in harmony with nature, and also living in an environment supportive to our personal energy. The five elements are the bridge connecting our living spaces with nature. The concept of the five elements is integral to the practice of feng shui and for that reason most feng shui books include a section on them. However, my intention for this book is to provide you with a comprehensive and practical approach for incorporating the five elements into your home.
Until now, you may not have been familiar with the five elements and yet everything in your living space is comprised of one or more of them. I have taught several feng shui courses in person and online over the years. The five elements portion is a popular component and the inspiration behind this book. For example, one of my students commented: I have long dabbled in interior design classes, to little avail. In contrast, my mother just has that intuitive touch. I know what I like but couldn’t connect or present it …until now. Just using the principles of balancing the elements, colors, or rooms works like a dream. This kind of work is such an anchor to an otherwise overabundance of choices for the home we live with for a long time once made. In my own experience, the five elements concept has been the common denominator between my background in interior design and my experience as a feng shui consultant. When I discovered the five elements while studying feng shui, I realized that I had been intuitively working with them as an interior designer without being aware of it. Any time you are pairing furnishings, materials, finishes, colors, shapes, and textures together, you are working with the five elements. In addition to the aesthetics the five elements provide a space, each element embodies a particular energetic quality that affects the energy of a space and therefore that of the occupants. For example, I have observed that my energy shifts in certain restaurants depending on the five elements present. In one particular restaurant in Los Angeles, I noticed that I became irritable every time I went there. I finally realized it was because the décor is primarily comprised of Metal elements. Being dominant in the Wood element, I am not the most compatible with spaces that have a lot of Metal elements. Despite having amazing food, I have to be careful with my energy when I go there or warn my dinner companion.
As you become familiar with the five elements and learn about your own elemental constitution, you will start to see spaces through a different lens. You may also notice yourself shopping for home furnishings in a new way. It is my hope that you will be able to take what you learn from this book and create your own sanctuary—a space that feels great and looks fabulous. In doing so, you will experience better health, more harmonious relationships, an improved flow of happiness, and a boost in your prosperity.
What Are the Five Elements? The five elements are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. Throughout this book, you will learn how each element is expressed not only on the planet but also in you and your home. The five elements system is based in the Taoist premise that we are all One, and everything is made up of these same five energies. The galaxies, planets, rivers, mountains, animals, plants, and humans all consist of these elements, and each is interdependent on another for sustaining life. In other words, we humans are made of the same energy components as the trees, the sun, rivers, the earth, and mountains. Each element has its own unique characteristics as to how it is expressed in the world. Each element also plays a vital role in the cycle of life. All living beings experience the cycles of birth and rebirth, waning and waxing, growth and death, and yin and yang. This process is referred to as the five elements cycle, and it can be seen in all aspects of life, including the seasons, time of day, age, moon cycles, planetary orbits, and of course literal birth and death. We as a society tend to forget or at least overlook the importance of death. Nature, however, knows that birth would not be possible without death, just as light would not be possible without the dark. Again, it is all about balance where the labels “good” and “bad” have no relevance. Untouched nature is our best example of the five elements cycle. We can see nature finding balance of birth, death, and rebirth in the animal food chain, trees competing for sunlight, seasons promoting growth and death, and even in drastic compensations in the form of forest fires and 6 Introduction
volcanic eruptions. All are necessary for survival of the species, and in the end it is about the sustainability of our planet Earth. After all, without Earth maintaining its balance, all species would perish. It is easy to think of natural disasters as bad; there are tragic consequences when human lives are lost. But natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are Earth’s way of achieving balance to prevent even larger catastrophes later on. Just as we go through occasional emotional upheavals in our lives, so too does our planet. The earth is a large living organism that emits energy and takes on our human energy. It must heal the trauma that has been afflicted upon it just as we must.
Why Use the Five Elements? The best way we can positively contribute to achieving balance on the planet—clearly so much larger than ourselves—is to take care of what we do have control over, that is, our own spaces: our body and homes. We each have our own cycle of the five elements taking place within ourselves constantly striving for balance. For example, the specific goal of acupuncture is to correct imbalances of the five elements within us and to properly promote the flow of chi throughout the body. Each organ system and meridian line correlates to one of the five elements. Aware of it or not, we are constantly attempting to strike a balance in the five elements cycle within ourselves through the kinds of food we eat, the amount of sleep we get, and the types of relationships in which we engage. An imbalance of our internal five elements cycle can result in diseases, aches and pains, mental and emotional disturbances, or virtually any ailment a Western doctor would treat. This same balance (or imbalance) takes place in our living spaces as well. Achieving balance within spaces is not only important for the healing of the space and the land it sits on, but also for the occupants residing in and using it. Feng shui is the science of balancing the energy in our living spaces in accordance with nature. While there are many facets of
feng shui, including furniture arrangement, the Bagua Map, space clearing, and even the modern practice of clutter clearing, the five elements are one of the primary tools used to balance the energy in spaces. The five elements connect us with our homes and our homes to nature and beyond. Living spaces are in essence living beings and thus the five elements cycle applies as well. Spaces, especially our homes, are living and breathing beings just as we are. The front door is the mouth of energy being inhaled through the front door and exhaled out the back door. Our energy and that of our homes is so interrelated that each aspect of the home is a symbolic representation of us. This was discussed in detail in my 2013 book, Mind, Body, Home, where I relate each aspect of a house to the physical, mental, and emotional counterparts to ourselves. Because our energy is so interrelated with our home’s energy, we are positively or negatively affected by the positive or negative energy within our home. If there is an energy imbalance in our home, the effects of that imbalance will show up somewhere in our life. Our home is a mirror of ourselves. Imbalances in the energy of our home could show up anywhere from health issues to relationship problems. For example, have you ever experienced a sudden shift—good or bad—in your life situation as soon as you moved into a new home? As a feng shui consultant, I often hear stories from clients where sudden changes occur as soon as they move into a new space. Even if not familiar with feng shui, they can sense the direct relationship with something about the house affecting their luck, so to speak. The homes we choose to live in play an important role in our destiny while living there. The good news is that these imbalances can usually be remedied through feng shui. The five elements can be used as a remedy or a preventive medicine tool for you and your home. As you balance the five elements within a space, its occupants will receive the benefits. The healthier your home, the healthier you’ll be too.
The Three-Step Formula to Feng Shui Your Life For years I have been coaching, assisting, and writing about the process and benefits of decluttering. I am happy to have the opportunity to assist readers in suggesting what can be added to their homes regarding decorating using the five elements. That being said, I want to emphasize that adding things to your home is actually the last step in feng shui. The idea that feng shui is about adding things to your home has been perpetuated in our consumer-centric world. Be it frogs, roosters, ducks, crystals, or flutes, adorning one’s home with objects to bring good luck is a misconception of what feng shui is and its potential effects. Whether you are looking to overhaul your life or simply make decorative changes, there is a process. We often think that adding something new to our home or life will create needed change. But in fact, there are two steps before this. Otherwise, you will still have the current situation but with the addition of new things or situations. This is one source of clutter in our homes and can overwhelm our lives. Our home is a metaphor for our life: It can only hold so much stuff. Even if we have beautiful, expensive art, we only have so many walls. Our walls will start to look chaotic and cluttered if we put too many paintings on them. This is the same case with our lives. If we took a job without quitting the job we had before it, there would simply not be enough time in the day to do both jobs. There is only so much time and space in our physical world. We have to prioritize, revise, and choose what we want to put on our walls, where we want to work, and with whom we want to be in relationship. Otherwise, we keep adding, adding, adding until we have a nervous breakdown. This is also what causes our lives to stagnate: too much stuff to the point where energy can no longer circulate or move. It’s important to note that cluttering is different than expansion. We are meant to expand. Our world is meant to get bigger with more experiences, more people, and perhaps even more possessions. But sustainable expansion
only comes with contraction. Otherwise, we expand too much too quickly. This is what causes stress and anxiety. Before you can add new stuff to your life without becoming overwhelmed, there has to be a refining process. Each week I go to the grocery store. I come home and place my grocery bags on the counter. Before unloading them, I clean out anything in the refrigerator that is no longer edible either because it has gone bad or I know Iâ€™m not going to eat it. I then move the existing items around so that there is some organization among what is left. And then I place my new, fresh grocery items in the refrigerator. This is the same three-step process to feng shui anything in your life: Remove, Rearrange, and Energize. Letâ€™s take a closer look at each step. Remove To create change in your life, you must remove what is no longer working; create space for new energy. This is the decluttering phase. In the five elements cycle, it is the Metal phase where energy is refined and purified so that rebirth can later take place. Clutter is whatever is no longer in your highest and best interest to keep and whatever takes up valuable space the new incoming energy needs. Only have in your home items you use or love. When I do home consultations, oftentimes this is the only step needed. In cases where there is too much stuff within a space, it simply needs to be cleaned out. In doing so, favorite items can stand out and be seen. Rearrange As soon as you have decluttered, your tendency may be to immediately add new things. However, this second step is important! When I moved from Nashville to Los Angeles, I sold practically everything I owned to drive across the country in my car. I had thoroughly gone through the decluttering phase, but became discouraged when new things were not showing up yet. I realized that I had skipped this important step, of rearranging. I was living in a space that was only temporary. I was still getting 10â€ƒIntroduction
my bearings, and a lot of rearrangement was needed as I lived in such a large city. The rearranging step gives you time to organize and clarify what you really want. After you declutter, you may see your rooms in a whole different light. You may decide that a room needs an entirely different function. For example, after decluttering a guest bedroom, maybe you realize you would rather it be a home office instead. Or maybe after decluttering, you can finally move the bed to its optimal position with space to add nightstands. The point is to make any necessary adjustments with what is remaining before adding new energy. This way, you will have more clarity about what new energy you want to bring into your space. Referring back to my refrigerator analogy, I probably should do the rearranging step even before I go to the grocery store to get an even better idea of what I want and need. Energize This is the step we usually want to jump to first. There is something exciting about adding new things to our home or life. However, when not done with proper timing, it can end up making us feel stressed and overwhelmed. Instead of creating positive change, we end up even more clouded and confused, with more mental, emotional, and physical clutter than before. On occasion I have been to clientsâ€™ homes that contained very few possessions, little to no dĂŠcor, and a void of any energy. This is a rare example in which skipping the first two steps and jumping to the Energize step is okay. Metal or Water types would be the more likely candidates for this scenario because they are more attuned to refining and letting go of things, as opposed to accumulating. Once you have removed and rearranged, it is time to energize or enhance the space. This can be done using the concepts discussed in the following chapters. You can use the five elements to decorate your home. You can enhance certain areas of your home in conjunction with the Bagua Map using the colors, elements, and personal items discussed. The more
you enjoy a space, the more it will be energized with positive energy. Our own energy is the most powerful and significant enhancer of our space. Making a room functional and aesthetically pleasing so that you spend more time in it is the best feng shui enhancement you can make.
How to Use the Five Elements In Part 1, you will learn the characteristics of the elements and how they interact with one another. While the elements can be thought of as literal elements such as actual fire and water, they are more accurately considered to be aspects of energy. You can think of each element as an aspect of change. Each element plays its unique role in the birth and death cycles of change which together are known as the five elements cycles. Through the constructive and destructive cycles (discussed in detail in chapter 3), energy is transformed in order to have sustainable expansion in all aspects of life. In Part 1, you will also learn how each element expresses itself in our everyday world. Each element’s energy manifests into physical form in a variety of ways. The same is true within our home. A burning candle is a Fire element, and so is a triangular décor item. Both embody the Fire element’s energy. The same is true for someone who is dominant in the Fire element. They are obviously not made of fire but instead embody the essence, or energy, of Fire. In Part 2, you will discover your own personal constitution of the five elements. If you are familiar with Ayurvedic medicine, then you are most likely aware of the three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. According to Ayurveda, we are each born with a varying degree of these energies that make up our constitution based on our physical traits and personalities. The case is the same with the five elements in Chinese Medicine. We all contain aspects of all five elements, but we express them in different ways and in varying amounts. For example, a very outgoing person would embody more of the Fire element, whereas a more introverted person would contain more of the Water element, and so forth. 12 Introduction
Knowing your elemental constitution will give you energetic insight into yourself. You will discover personality characteristics of which you may not have been aware. Youâ€™ll also be able to see how your element complements or is potentially challenged by other element types. Your personal element type gives insight into your personality traits, but it is more indicative of how you run your energy, and how you operate. It is how the creative source energy is expressed through you. Think of a beam of God or Source energy coming downâ€”you are a prism of that energy. How that energy enters you and is expressed through you into the world can be measured in your unique expression of the five elements. We each have a primary way in which we run our energy in the creative process. Each of these five energies are necessary for the creative process. For example, if a CEO were to assemble a team, it would be in her best interest to have a balance of each of the five elements to make sure the team is well balanced. We each play a role in how these energies are expressed into the world. You may be a strong Fire element that adds enthusiasm to every project. Or you may be the Earth element that helps everyone get along. Regardless, knowing your dominant energy type and how to use it most effectively will benefit you and the world. Knowing your dominant element(s) is helpful for self-inquiry as well as recognizing when you are out of balance due to stressors. You will discover what energy you embody in your most balanced state versus when you are out of balance. When stressed, do you tend to be anxious, depressed, worried, frustrated, burned out, or lethargic? Each element has a common emotion that results in times of stress. In becoming aware of your tendencies of being out of balance, you can correct your course more quickly and even prevent it from happening. When we are out of the balance of our normal constitution, it can show up on physical, mental, or emotional levels. If the imbalance becomes chronic, it can result in a pattern of mental or physical disease. The goal is to use preventive medicine tools such as the five elements
before patterns set in. For example, having Wood as my dominant element, my imbalances are almost always related to having either too little or too much Wood energy. In becoming aware of your tendencies, you can use the other elements to help strike a balance. Based on this information, you can use your home and environment to help maintain balance in your own personal elemental constitution. In Part 3, you will learn how to use your interiors to help maintain your own balance in accordance with your dominant element. You can actually use your home’s décor to bring more balance and harmony into your life. Chapters 10 and 11 will show specific ways the five elements express themselves within spaces and also in the exterior environment, through materials, finishes, colors, shapes, and décor items. Have you ever wondered why you are attracted to a certain style of decorating? Perhaps you have an inordinate amount of wood furnishings in your home. Do you love metal art, clay pottery, or anything made with glass? There’s a reason we are attracted to certain media, finishes, colors, textures, and styles. The décor items in our home and the finishes we select have a direct correlation to our own energetic constitution. For example, by simply changing the color or material of your work desk to be more compatible with your personal element, your productivity or energy level will increase. After learning how the five elements express themselves in interiors, you will soon become your own interior decorator. Decorators intuitively balance the five elements through patterns, textures, contrasts, and colors. Even if you are not naturally inclined to decorating, you will have a new eye for decorating by understanding the five elements, as they are in essence the science behind decorating. We can use our home’s décor to not only decorate in a new and exciting way, but also to bring ourselves balance. When you come home, you really are coming home to a healing sanctuary. Most people decorate their home without giving too much thought to it, unless they happen to love interiors, like myself. Once you understand the five elements, you will never shop for home furnishings in the 14 Introduction
same way again! You will be able to create a beautiful centerpiece for your dining room table, as well as balance the elements to fit your energy. As a result, your home will look fabulous and you will feel great too. Your home will feel like your sanctuary. In chapter 12 you will add another layer by applying the five elements to your home based on the Bagua Map. The Bagua Map is a commonly used feng shui tool that shows where different facets of your life fall within spaces. Each section of the Bagua Map correlates to one of the five elements. You will discover where these sections are within your home and how to enhance those aspects of your life using the five elements. In addition to using the Bagua Map, we will explore the best elements to use room by room based on the room’s function in chapter 13. In chapter 14 your personal energy enters into the equation to discover the best use of elements for you within your home. Finally, chapter 15 involves a deeper explanation of using the five elements in their purest form. Just as an acupuncturist uses tiny needles to generate the flow of chi through the body, so can we use crystals and other elements to do the same to enhance our energy and that of our space. The purpose of this book is to give practical application to a concept that practically predates written language and continues to be used in many parts of the world to better our individual living spaces and lives. There is a song by the artist Moby called “We Are All Made of Stars.” I think of the five elements in this same way. The energies that make up the five elements are the fabric of our universe, or at least our planet as we know it. The five elements are the energetic blueprint running through everything from the creek behind your house to your kitchen table to your teenage son. All are necessary for the survival of the other. As modernday humans, we have evolved past surviving on a day-to-day basis and instead we are looking to thrive in this lifetime and learn that it involves consciously co-creating with nature and one another. My hope is that this book will help you to not just survive but thrive in your life.
Discovering the Five Elements of Feng Shui
The Duality of Yin and Yang Energy According to Taoist philosophy, the universe was created as a result of the combination of creative yang energy and receptive yin energy. If energy could be subdivided into two categories, it would be yin and yang; they are in essence the two basic building blocks of energy. It is essential we understand them before discussing the five elements. Yin and yang energy are replicated in all of creation, including the conception of a child where the sperm and egg join to create one. All theories of creation, from Adam and Eve to the Big Bang, involve the joining of two energies creating a new, singular energy. And even within the new energy, yin and yang are present. Yin and yang are two sides of the same coin; one cannot exist without the other. Think of a butterfly with two wings. The butterfly is a singular energy, but both wings are needed to fly. Not surprisingly, humans have two legs and two arms, and both sides are needed for balance. When one side is injured, the other side has to overcompensate, oftentimes leading to additional stress and injury as a result. The yin-yang duality is always
striving for balance. Too much yang results in rushing energy, whereas too much yin results in stagnation. When the two are in perfect balance, harmony is achieved. The yin and yang are present everywhere we look. Here is a list of some of their most common characteristics: Yang
The concept of yin and yang energy was first recorded in the I Ching, translated to Book of Changes. The I Ching was written in ancient China approximately six thousand years ago. The I Ching is the foremost authority in Taoism and the foundation of Chinese Medicine. Originally, the I Ching contained no written words and only consisted of signs made up of three lines, broken or solid, together called a trigram. A broken line represents yin, a solid line represents yang. The eight possible combinations of the three lines became known as the pa kua or ba gua, which later became the basis for the Bagua Map used in feng shui.
Over time, the lines were doubled to make six lines, called hexagrams. This increased the combinations from eight possibilities to sixty-four. These combinations represent the possibilities in which energy can manifest. The hexagrams have been interpreted by various sages and scholars over thousands of years. These sixty-four possibilities of the I Ching are now commonly used as a divination tool. Tossing three pennies and seeing on which side each coin lands is the easiest and most accessible way to use the I Ching for divination purposes. Heads represents the solid yang line; whereas tails represents the broken yin line.
Yin and Yang Energy in People Each of us is made up of both yin and yang energy, also known as masculine and feminine energy. The left and right hemispheres of the brain are another way in which yin and yang energy is expressed in the human body. The left hemisphere is the masculine yang side, which controls analytical and logical reasoning. The right hemisphere is the feminine yin side, which gives us intuitive and abstract insights. Each hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body, so the left side of the body rules our feminine energy and the right side expresses our masculine energy. As a result, the left side of our body rules our emotions, while the right side embodies the actions we take.
The Duality of Yin and Yang Energyâ€ƒ 21
Yin Yang Yin and Yang
Most people are not aware of this intricate yin-yang balance that we are trying to achieve mentally, physically, and emotionally, and yet it rules our relationships, biorhythms, activities, and just about every action we do or don’t take each and every day. Yin and yang is a primary factor in who we are attracted to. In fact, it is such a ruling energy that we don’t even have to think about it. It just is, like a pea fitting into a pod. If a couple isn’t a yin-yang match, they wouldn’t have gotten together in the first place. If the yin-yang balance within one or both of them changes out of proportion to the other, then friction within the relationship will ensue. Our soul is always trying to work toward a perfect balance of 50 percent yin and 50 percent yang energy. We only embody a portion of our energy, and just as most people are more right-brain dominant or leftbrain dominant, the same is generally true with our energy. Since nature is constantly seeking a yin-yang balance, most of us end up “completing” ourselves (or attempting to do so) by finding someone who is a yin-yang match to us. For example, if you are embodying 60 percent yin energy and 40 percent yang energy, you will attract someone with 40 percent yin energy and 60 percent yang energy. It is no wonder we feel like someone 22 One
fits perfectly with us when we find that sort of match, because in essence it is a completion of an energy seeking to be whole. The circle is complete. Nature is always striving for balance. This is also the reason why many parents often remark on how their two kids couldn’t be more different. The composite energies within a household are another microcosm striving for harmony. Each child is a component of the overall yin-yang balance within the household. For example, if one child is extroverted, the other will usually be introverted. This is perhaps an oversimplification as there are other factors at play and influencers in our lives. As we will see further in the book, there is also the balance of the five elements within a household. It’s easy to think of yin and yang energy as female and male, respectively. However, yin and yang energy shows up in many other ways. While men usually do have more yang energy and women have more yin energy that is not always the case. Gender and sexuality is only one facet through which yin and yang are expressed through people. The list below shows other ways yin and yang energy can be expressed.
Yang characteristics: People
Yin characteristics: People
Tends to feel warm
Tends to feel cold
The Duality of Yin and Yang Energy 23
You may be wondering what is so important about striking a balance of yin and yang energy within yourself, your relationship, and family. So far we’ve talked about yin and yang characteristics at their best. However, when there is an excessive amount of either yin or yang, disharmony sets in. Below is a list of characteristics of when there is imbalance of yin and yang energy in people. Too Much Yang: • anxiety • hyperactivity • little or no emotion • absence from home • distraction • lack of focus • worries about the future • underweight Too Much Yin: • depression • lethargy • over-sensitivity • homebody • hopeless • holds onto things • dwells in the past • overweight
Yin and Yang Energy in Land Yin and yang energy are also expressed in natural land formations, geographical features, and landscapes both natural and artificial. Cities and regions also embody aspects of yin and yang energy. Some mystics have theorized that Tibet represents Earth’s yang point and Lake Titicaca in the Andes represents Earth’s yin point. Mountain peaks are yang. Valleys are yin. Water is inherently yin, but can take on yang energy depending on its speed. Cities with meandering hills, mountains, and water are usually a nice balance of yin and yang such as Vancouver, San Francisco, and parts of southern California. It’s not surprising that cities with a balance are also thriving and abundant cities, whereas cities with an imbalance of yin or yang generally are not. Weather can also affect the yin-yang balance in certain regions. For example, rainy areas are more yin, while desert areas are more yang. If you live in a region that has a predominance of either yin or yang it is important to use your interiors to help create balance, as discussed in the next section. Outdoor areas and landscaping also express yin and yang energy, which can affect the overall energy of your home. The sun (or lack thereof) is a major determining factor in how much yin and yang energy outdoor areas have. Shaded areas are more yin, while sunny areas are more yang. In the case of shady lots, keeping trees trimmed around the home will help let in more natural light and therefore more yang energy. Having adjustable drapery around windows is also important to allow as much natural light in during the day as possible. Homes located in dry, desert areas or with few trees will be primarily yang and need more yin energy. Incorporating more landscaping can help provide shade, as can using more window coverings.
The Duality of Yin and Yang Energy 25
Here are other ways yin and yang show up in outdoor areas and landscaping: Yang characteristics: Outdoors
Yin characteristics: Outdoors
Few or no trees
Lots of trees and shrubs
Front door is clear to street
Front door not visible
Lots of light entering windows
Brush covering windows
Lots of ivy and greenery
Outdoor water features
Metal and glass patio furniture
Padded outdoor furniture
Wet or moist landscape
Dirt or mulch
Yin and Yang Energy in Interiors By now you can see how yin and yang energy is everywhere—from the macro to the micro levels. The balance of your environment, personality, and those around you all play a part in balancing this energetic seesaw. It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that your home’s interior also plays a role. In fact, you can use your home’s interior to help balance your own energy so that you can have more harmony and overall balance in your life. This is the purpose and goal of feng shui.
There is a general rule in feng shui that your home should have approximately 60 percent yang energy and 40 yin energy. The variable is how the yin and yang show up in the space. A home in dry, desertous Palm Springs will be starting out with about 90 percent yang energy and needs more yin in the space. On the other hand, a home in the soggy Oregon forest requires hard work to bring more yang into the space. The occupants’ personalities should also be taken into account. People who exhibit yin energy—perhaps prone to depression or lethargy— will want more yang energy in their space. And people prone to hyperactivity will want more yin energy or at least some yin rooms to help balance their energy. This could explain the popularity of “man caves,” as men generally have a predominance of yang energy. After coming home from a busy office with lots of yang activity, the yin cave is a perfect balance. In fact, it should be called a “yin cave” instead of a “man cave.” In cases where multiple occupants (inevitably) have different yin-yang personality traits, having yin spaces and some yang spaces throughout the home is important. For example, a hyperactive child exhibiting a lot of yang energy should have calm colors in the bedroom, window shades that lower or block light, and soft fabrics and finishes. Ideally, common areas should have a yin-yang balance to accommodate everyone. Not surprisingly, yin and yang energy show up in every aspect of a home’s interior. The materials, finishes, décor items, colors, and textures all have properties of yin and yang energy. Consider your home while keeping yin and yang energy in mind. Look around your home and notice if a room feels more yin or yang. The first clue will be how natural light enters the room. Another factor is the amount of artificial light in it. From there, consider the finishes, furniture, and accessories. Refer to the following chart to see how common interior finishes express yin and yang energy.
The Duality of Yin and Yang Energy 27
Yang characteristics: Interiors
Yin characteristics: Interiors
White, light, and bright tones
Black, brown, and dark colors
Light, sheer, or no window treatments
Heavy window coverings
Many and/or large windows
Few and/or small windows
Open floor plans
Natural and bright lighting
Dimmed and ambient lighting
Light use of fabric (drapery)
Heavy use of fabric, e.g., pillows, blankets, etc.
Hardwood, tile, laminate
Thick-piled carpet and rugs
Minimalist, modern, contemporary styles
Traditional, Victorian, Colonial styles
Slick, hard surfaces
Few interior doors
Many interior doors
Front of house
Back of house
Yin and yang really are at the root of everything on our planet and in our lives from relationships to family dynamics to even our mood shifts. When you look at your environment through a yin-yang lens, you can begin making adjustments based on your own internal balance. For example, now you can be more conscious of times when you prefer an active, sunny room in your home versus a cozy, quiet spot.
You can now start using the principles of yin and yang energy to help create a more supportive environment to complement your own energy. In the following chapter, we will further break down yin and yang energy as expressed through the five elementsâ€™ cycles. Using them, you will learn even more ways to create a sanctuary that looks and feels great.
The Duality of Yin and Yang Energyâ€ƒ 29