Feng Shui – Q & A

Feng Shui – Q & A
by Nancy C. Canestaro, D.Arch.

Over the past two decades, clients have routinely asked me…what is feng shui, and how does it work? I’d like to respond to these as well as other frequent questions.

1 – What Is Feng Shui?

Can you define feng shui simply for me?
The Chinese realized over a thousand years ago they could adapt their environment to improve health, harmony, and prosperity (and also, by the way, reign supreme). They recognized that chi, life-force energy, flows through natural and man-made environments. Today, feng shui is practiced throughout the world to improve people’s lives.

Are there different ways of doing feng shui that work?
There are different schools of thought as to how the flow of life-force energy can be modified for best effect. Classical feng shui has you modify the energy around you to make changes in your life…sickness to health, arguing to harmony, lack of productivity to abundance. New age feng shui has you arrange symbolic objects in particular places to manifest what you want…wealth, fame, relationships, etc. The remedies don’t cause this change. Your intentions are what matters.

Is this a religious practice?

Does feng shui involve prayers, chants, or affirmations to work?
Classical feng shui does not have a daily practice associated with it. You modify the space with remedies from one of the five elements…wood, fire, earth, metal, or water…and then watch for the resulting changes in your life. This is a cause and effect relationship. In new age feng shui you are asked to reaffirm daily your expectation for change. The arrangement of symbolic objects is a reminder that you must focus on your life’s desires daily to manifest change. This is a variation on the art of positive thinking. It works, but it’s not feng shui.

In feng shui are there fixed positions in a building that relate to wealth, health, etc.?
According to the tenets of classical feng shui, compass directions, a buildings’ orientation on the land, produces 144 unique patterns of energy for each of nine separate building sectors. So, it’s a very detailed view of what the energies are in your specific home at any particular time. However, in new age feng shui your home is considered a symbolic representation of your life. Fame, wealth, relationships, creativity/children, helpful people, career, knowledge always have the same location in a home, based on their relation to the front door.

What credentials should someone look for in a feng shui practitioner?
The training of a practitioner will dictate their approach to dealing with a feng shui assignment. Classical feng shui is an ancient art and science perfected over many centuries, and its knowledge base if transmitted through recognized feng shui masters to their students. New age feng shui practitioners often draw their principles from an eclectic mix of folk lore and motivational psychology found in popular literature that is available in the self-help section of any bookstore.

2 – Why Should I Apply Classical Feng Shui Principles?

Will feng shui make a positive difference in my life?
Most people who apply feng shui come to it because they seek change in their personal, family, or work situations. If your life is in order, most likely your feng shui is also in balance. If you can’t say this about your life, then balancing the energies around you could perceptibly improve your situation. My feeling is…what do you have to lose here?

What can feng shui do for me?
The world outside our homes can seem harsh, out of control. By applying feng shui principles, we can create a more harmonious environment in our homes.

Do I have to spend a lot to get results?
New age feng shui typically deals with small decorative trinkets that are hung on a wall or set up in a space.
In classical feng shui you are asked to take time and energy to shift your furniture and activities in a room or between rooms. In extreme situations, you may asked to modify landscape elements that are blocking positive energy from entering your home. These situations are typically more difficult and costly to remedy than those inside your home.

3 – What Does It Take To Make Classical Feng Shui Work?

Do I have to apply all the recommendations at the same time to see positive results?
From a classical feng shui analysis you may find you have an imbalance of elements in a particular location inside or outside. One remedy or enhancement in each such area could be sufficient to produce a positive change. We’re talking about balance here. New age feng shui has you apply remedies from all five elements in each location to achieve balance or do something to “the marriage sector, etc.” If this works for you, that’s ok, but it’s not feng shui.

In addition, there can be a “best time” to apply the remedies. Your feng shui consultant can help you find the most appropriate time to place and also discard particular remedies.

Will feng shui remedies look strange or out of place?   This depends on the approach you are using. Classical feng shui often incorporates your existing furnishings and objects as remedies. New age feng shui uses an eclectic mix of Chinese symbols, artifacts and new age objects that may look out of context in your home or workplace.

How do I get my family/co-workers to accept or allow me to apply the remedies?
Remember, often change is good. Try asking your family or co-workers to try the remedies/changes as an experiment to see whether there is a positive difference over the next several weeks. Then check back in to see how they feel.

Is there a certification process for feng shui practitioners?
Yes, for example, Master Joseph Yu’s Astro Feng Shui group provides certification for practitioners. I am one of them. We take many classes, are mentored by senior practitioners, and finally submit unique case studies to satisfy qualification standards for a feng shui practitioner. In contrast, new age practitioners may be self-taught.

Bottom Line…
It’s up to you which feng shui you choose.

Article first published in Perspectives Magazine, January 2009.

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