THE ALCHEMY OF SPACE
Module 1.2 - Fundamentals of Feng Shui
About Feng Shui:
Feng = wind.
Shui = water.
With a history of more than 4000 years, and a popularity that spans the entire globe, Feng Shui is the most recognised practice for using physical spaces to impact our lives and our personal development. For this reason, it felt right to bring this topic forward to the beginning of the training allowing us to explore its fundamental principles and take notice on how this age-old lineage fits within the broader practise of The Alchemy Of Space.
The british institute of Feng shui practitioners describes the practise as "the art and science of designing harmonious environments based on the profound Chinese understanding of how people are affected by their close surroundings."
The principle aim of feng shui is to introduce specific positive changes and adjustments into living and working environments so that they are able to support people better, rather than hinder them. The core of the practise lies in nurturing the Qi, seeking a balanced and non-dual relationship between yin and yang, the exploration of the five elements, and the relationship between man and nature.
THE HISTORY OF FENG SHUI...
As mentioned in the previous module, Feng Shui evolved from the ancient vedic practice of Vastu Shastra which originated in India over 7000 years ago and was carried over the Himalayas by monks. Vastu Shastra, in turn, was created based on ancient sacred design principles similar to those used in the construction of ancient sites in Egypt, Mesoamerica and other civilisations.
Until the invention of the magnetic compass, Feng Shui relied on astronomy to find correlations between humans and the universe, as its purpose was to recreate Heaven on Earth. Feng shui first came into existence from the early time of people settling to farm animals and grow crops. It was initially used to identify safe dwelling places where families would be able to flourish and to determine the best burial sites for relatives. Later it was used to site palaces, government buildings and other public monuments. Even whole cities were designed and built according to its core concepts.
Feng shui developments over time
The practice of feng shui remained an integral part of Chinese culture until recent times when communism temporarily quashed it, on account of its more mystical elements. The Chinese used it to their advantage in Hong Kong in the construction of the Bank of China building, apparently aware of its capacity for assisting businesses and individuals to thrive.
The classical practice of feng shui evolved to make an exacting detailed observation of the natural and man-made environment. In recent times a parallel consideration is the way the earth’s energy affects places, and how they in turn influence their occupants.
In the past, feng shui was fundamentally shaped from generation to generation through the cultural paradigms of China, with its unique geography and social structure. However, the essence of feng shui does not depend entirely on its cultural aspects and can be synthesised with other bodies of knowledge so that it can be applied equally well to meet the specific requirements of people and places anywhere in the world.
Feng Shui as part of the Alchemy of Space
The practise of the Alchemy of Space takes its origins in the early days of temple making almost 20000 years ago, yet finds its true strength in being adapted to fit the individual and contextual challenges of today.
This is reflected in how it uses Feng Shui as well.
The Alchemy of Space uses Feng Shui in alternative ways, using a more intuitive, intentional and personal approach based on the individual context and journey. The principles of Feng Shui have a strong scientific and metaphysical backing, but their true potency comes from being used in an intentional way, applied to the specificity of the context and of the individual.
The principles are used as a guide, and they will ideally be used in a way that they will create a vibrational resonance to the being's soul. It is this resonance which will truly be the transformational tool which will allow lasting changes to be enabled, rather than temporary, short-term changes.
This involves getting to the bottom of the core programme which is behind the situation in the person's home, exploring and decrypting the core belief systems which are existing and being manifested and reflected through the space.
The four pillars of the Feng Shui Practice
- QI- Energy : The unseen, cooded force behind everything
- Yin/yang : the balancing art of non-duality
- The 5 elements : connecting to the balance of the Earth
- The Bagua Map : using orientation and layout to affect specific areas of our lives.
1-Qi - Energy
The chinese word Qi is the word for energy, expressing the complex natural force generated by a combination of both real and abstract sources, ie sunlight, cosmic influences, colour vibrations, the movement and quality of the air around us, the flow of water, the nature of our thoughts and emotions, the form of objects, and so much more. Qi, energy, influences how a place feels and how we feel in it, depending on whether it can circulate harmoniously or not. As in the broader field of the Alchemy of Space, energy is the ultimate core principle of the practise and the success of the practise relies on its balance.
2-Yin / Yang and the balanced art of Non-Duality
Non- duality / Yin and yang
In a similar way that ancient temples represented the sun and the moon, the second principle of Feng Shui relies on the dynamic between the yin (feminine, moon) and yang (masculine / sun) and the essential balance to be achieved. The concept of yin and yang is that interconnection and continuous change is the dynamic process of nature, which is the significance expressed by the familiar yin-yang symbol. It is fundamental to Chinese cultural philosophy, as reflected in Daoist perceptions and in the Yijing. The Yin, for example, can be represented by shade, inner-world, and stillness, while the yang opposites to these forces are light, outer-world, and movement. Balance between yin and yang creates harmony and stability in a place, as the natural equilibrium becomes disrupted whenever there is too much of one or other.
3- The 5 elements - exploring the connection between Man and Earth.
The concept of the 5 elements refers to the 5 elements which work together to run the balance of the Earth's physical system, the mechanism which runs its very functioning.
By connecting to this organic relationship we connect to the effortless flow of life which is inherant to the proper functioning of every organism including our own.
The connection to the 5 elements is therefore a way for us humans to connect to the Earth being and the balance which keeps it alive and functioning.
As we are beings of the earth, coming from the same source and sharing the same system, we are microcosms of the macrocosm of this system, therefore each and everyone of us embodies this balance within our beings. When this balance is disturbed we begin to have health and or emotional issues which can be addressed by restoring this balance.
Five elements (wu xing)
The 5 elements are water, wood, fire, earth and metal.
Each element is correlated to one or more of the eight feng shui trigrams and each trigram relates to a specific compass direction, colour, shape, season, family member and body part. It is this fundamental system which created the Bavgua system which is at the root of Feng Shui planning.
The five elements can be either physical objects or metaphoric representations, used in various ways to strengthen, support, enhance, weaken, manage or control one another, depending upon their relationship and placement.
They are introduced to beneficially influence a living space and to support its occupants as each element holds an important role in the cycle and its balance creates the balanced flow we are seeking.
The mutual generation cycle of the 5 elements:
This cycle is based on the supportive relationship between the 5 elements, how they feed and nurture each other and is demonstrated by the circular arrows on the diagram above.
It refers to the manner in which the elements create one another.
- Wood easily burns and makes a fire.
- Fire produces ash, creating earth.
- The earth contains mineral from which metal is mined and extracted.
- When metal is heated and cooled, water droplets will be found over the metal as a result of condensation.
- Thus, metal creates water.
- Water promotes the growth of trees, which are wood.
The cycle is cyclical and continually gives rise to change and transformation.
The mutual restriction cycle of the 5 elements:
This cycle is based on the elements which control or obstruct each other. These are represented by the straight lines crossing each other in the center of the above diagram.
This cycle refers to the manner in which the elements restrict and control one another.
- Wood breaks up the soil and depletes the earth's nutrients, thus controlling earth.
- Earth contains water in many places, and as dam prevents flooding, earth controls water.
- Water extinguishes fire, and therefore, controls its spread.
- Fire controls metal by its ability to melt it.
- Metal can be made into an axe that cuts wood into pieces, thus controlling wood.
- The control repeats in a cyclic fashion and provides an opposite force to balance the generative power.
The generation and restriction properties of the five elements hold each other in check, preventing over-functioning
4- THE BAGUA MAP
Similarly to the ancient temple-making practises which used orientation and layout as a base-line principle for enhancing the sacred nature of the space, the bagua map is the tool which brings this exploration to Feng Shui.
The bagua map is a very basic tool used in feng shui to learn which parts of a space correlate with particular areas of life. Once we know which area of a space corresponds to which life aspiration, we can enhance our environment in such a way that our environment helps us achieve our goals.
The 9 areas of exploration are:
1- career and life path
3- ancestry and family
4- wealth and blessings
5- helpful friends
7- contemplation and spiritual growth
8- creativity and children
9- fame and recognition
The Bagua can be used in two mainly distinct ways. The way of the classical feng Shui (left chart), is the original method which initiated the practice 4000 years ago, and uses compass orientations to define these 9 areas.
The second method is the Tibetan black hat method (right chart) which originated in the 80's when Feng Shui began to become popular and widespread across the west.
The tibetan black hat method is also known as the 3-gate method, because the house can be entered by any of the three gates at the bottom of the plan on the wall which has the front door. As it is more modern, it is more aligned with intentional principles. The center of the bagua is known as the Tai Chi.
In the Tibetan method, we put the center of the bagua, the tai chi, on our heart and overlay the plan on our home, and by doing so we set the intention of the work which is about to be done.
By setting the map onto our home, we define which area should be observed and addressed to bring light and awareness to any specific area of our life, of the 9 listed above.
Bagua maps can be placed either on each room or on the home as a whole. It is important to note that in the Tibetan Black Hat method, when you go up the stairs, the bagua shifts as the point where we are standing at the top of the stairs becomes the new "front door" reference point, meaning the bagua may differ from floor to floor of the house.
As we place the map with intention, we have made an energetic commitment to making changes to a specific area.
This practice is about observation of these areas of our life, as well personal projection and connection.
It becomes an intentional psychology exercise as we put energy and intention in it.
How to decide between both methods.
With the two options at hand, how do we decide which method works best?
Traditionally, it is believed that if a home is located on an open field with a lot of space and very few neighbours, we should use the first method, the classical feng shui which is based on compass orientation as the earth's elements (sun, water, earth etc) will interact more closely with the space.
The tibetan method would therefore be used when we live in a more urban setting with more neighbours.
Another way to define the method to use is to begin by first establish what the main problem is.
By identifying this, we can then go to the two areas which would be defined (one for each of the systems) and see if there is anything indicative of that issue in that space. Depending on if there is an indication in either of the areas, we can then choose that this is the method which wants to be used by the home.
For instance: if a client is talking about money issues, we would then look at the area 4, wealth and blessings, of two different methods. if the area which is defined as 4 in the classical method doesn't have an issue, we would then look at the area defined as 4 in the tibetan method and then look for a problem. If there is a problem there, it is the Tibetan method which wants to be used. if there is a problem in neither of the areas, perhaps there is another more pressing question to explore.
Since the front door alignment of the Tibetan black hat system represents the same area as the northern orientation on the classical system, it is quite powerful to have a front door which is orientated north as this will mean both systems will work together in unison.
Some home layouts sometimes mean that certain areas of teh bagua may be missing in a home.
Tthis can be remedied in man creative ways, by using mirrors or adding physical, symbolic or energetic node points.
What happens if a home-owner wants to add an extension to the home. Are we extending the Bagua area or creating a void?
This is to be determined in a case-by-case way. Sometimes an extension can cause for something to expand out of the house, and can have the negative effect of disrupting the balance of the home.
For instance, extending the relationships area can cause for one of the partners to leave the family.
With regards to extensions, we need to get to the bottom of why this is necessary and what is the motivation behind it to understand what needs to be looked at. very often, when we do improvements or extensions in a home, we are simply looking to fill a void which could be better addressed another way. This needs to be determined through methods of psychology of space.
Symbolism, objects and Decluttering
The lineage of Feng Shui uses many symbols and decoration cues which are recommended as cures to improve the alignment of a space.
In the Alchemy of Space, we take a much less prescriptive view of this practice, making personal decisions which resonate vibrationally with a person based on their personal context.
Symbols and objects hold codes, a vibration, a frequency, an energy. It is therefore important to determine which of these we want to nurture and hold within our spaces and which we need to let go of.
Often, people are unavare or oblivious to the fact they dont want to let go of pieces which have a certain energy for some "unknown" reasons. The question we need to ask is "how does it serve you?"
So whilst decluttering is an important part of the Feng Shui practice, in sacred space work, we only look at one principle which relates to it:
Clutter represents a belief, a support system. Each object in our home carries an energetic frequency and somehow influences its container. This means that each object influences our life in a certain way, either minor or major.
When it comes to clutter, it represents stuck Qi, sha-Qi, and we need to understand why this is something that we are allowing in our home and or life, what is the belief behind it, what "agreement" are we making with ourselves?
There is no use in removing the clutter without looking at the root of teh issue first and addressing that.
The Form school of Feng Shui
The form school of Feng Shui looks at placements, ie how do we place specific furniture or decorative elements ina home to create a balanced flow, and maximise the Qi energy.
When working with placements, we are working on 2 levels.
the first level is the actual physical level, ie: how something feels when we place it in a certain place.
the second level is the symbolic, sub,limina;l and sunbconscious. Ie: what does it mean to have placed something in a certain way, what does it represent to you, and what is the unspoken language, the unseen force which is behind it.
The form school started when the ancients were looking for the ideal burial grounds for their relatives. In the ideal settig, we would create an energetic armchair in which we are supported by mountains at the back and behind us and have a body of water before us carrrying energy.
This then evolbved to create placements which are basically logical when it comes to aligning furniture and decorative elements in space.
Examples of these include:
- Avoiding beams, as these can cut up a room, and cut up the energy flow.
- Avoiding putting a desk or a bed against a wall.
- Avoiding putting a desk or bed in the energy draft between the door and the window as this may drain your energy.
There are however cures which can be introduced to counter certain placements which dont work very well.
- Uplighters to expand energy up when there is a low ceiling.
- Drapes in front of beams to soften the impact, etc.
Placement of a bed or desk:
The bed and the desk will both have similar rules for placement and good form.
Generally, they will require a wall behind supporting, a window to the side allow for some dreaming and contemplation, lots of space ahead to see opportunities, a clear view of the door to feel confident to see oncoming dangers but also to be facing opportunities
In the class, together, we will overlay the Bagua Map onto this floorplan and look at ideal placements for furniture and decoration.
As an assignment, you will be invited to download the below floorplan, overlay the bagua map on top of it, and make recommendations for placements.