By Suma Varughese October 1999 A plant here, a wind chime there, can work wonders with your life, claim feng shui practitioners HARMONY AT HOMEWind chimes, plants, screens, drapes, mirrors and lights help enhancech’i. Metal wind chimes are good in the west and northwest corners of the house. Sharp edges of furniture, protruding corners, square pillars and overhead beams create unhealthych’i. Soften them with plants and mirrors. The main door should never open into a cramped hall or a staircase. Place a screen in-between or curve the bottom of the stairs. Toilets should not be located in the north as this flushes away career opportunities. In case of odd-shaped rooms, expand the missing area with mirrors. Never arrange living room furniture in an L-shape. Prefer a hexagonal pattern. Don’t display sharp objects such as swords, knives, firearms or hunting trophies on the wall. They generate negative energy and cause disharmony. Place potted plants or flowers in the east (artificial flowers are inauspicious). Surround yourself with beauty and keep such objects above eye-level to have an aspirational orientation to life. Never sit with your back to the door or directly in front of it. Always keep the toilet seat down and the doors of toilet and bathroom closed. Remove all clutter and keep your dustbin covered. Repair leaking water taps. A leaking tap means loss of wealth. Repair non-working electrical items and non-working clocks. Replace cracked mirrors. While sleeping, make sure that your body is not reflected in any mirror When Bhavesh Wadia found the blade of a kitchen knife pointing upwards, he knew he had reached the heart of the problem. With a dexterous flick of his wrist, he saved the Kapadias’ marriage. For Anuradha Kale, it was the portrait of a sinking ship that bore ill for a business family. Three months later, rid of the portrait, business began to look up again. Grim pictures, overhanging beams, bedroom mirrors, desks and beds with their backs to the door, wind chimes, crystals, clocks… such minutiae can make or break our lives, says feng shui. Pronounced ‘foong shway‘, this Chinese science of correcting the energy of a building is gradually gaining ground over its Indian counterpart, vaastu shastra. Where vaastu advocates expensive measures, such as breaking down walls or relocating rooms, feng shui is content with symbolic ‘cures‘. Is the toilet wall adjoining the bedroom giving you restless sleep? Place the picture of a mountain on the wall to block the toilet’s energies. Is your career graph on a downward swing? Place a metallic leaping frog on your desk. Correct wrong directions by placing mirrors, transform inauspicious zones. In short, buy happiness for the price of a potted plant, a crystal bowl and the color red. No wonder feng shui is skyrocketing into an international trend. Real estate developer Donald Trump used it to design a skyscraper. Hollywood actor Johnny Depp hires a feng shui pro ‘to purify my living space’. Body Shop owner Anita Roddick is another happy convert. The Midland Bank, one of the most successful banks in the world, designed its head office after feng shui consultation. In the 1990s, the Credit Lyonnais bank produced a feng shui stock market index that accurately predicted Hong Kong stock market’s moves. There is even a magazine called Feng Shui for Modern Living published from London. In India, feng shui is still new, having entered the country only around mid-’96, courtesy London-based practitioner Kajal Sheth. But the awareness is picking up. India Book Distributors (IBD), based in Mumbai, India, have designed their new bookshop, Fountainhead, according to feng shui specifications. Says IBD‘s marketing manager Melroy Dickson: ‘We were inspired by the US-based Chain Borders, a bookstore that recently opened a feng shui-correct store in Singapore.’ The popularity enjoyed by vaastu has increased people’s receptivity to feng shui. But does it work? Says Bhavesh Vadia, who had earlier worked with pyramids and vaastu, ‘I arranged my work desk according to feng shui and placed my portrait in the fame area. Soon, The Week (a newsmagazine brought out from India) interviewed me.’ Lizia Batla, who practices Flying Star, a variation of feng shui, was drawn to it by her concern for her physically challenged son. Through it, she discovered her earlier home was potentially injurious. Now, in a new harmonized home, she claims her son is 70 per cent better. Ravi Chadha, a practitioner based in Delhi, India, however, feels that feng shui is not just about the correct placement of objects. ‘It is a way of life. And, like all other disciplines, your lifestyle has to be in harmony with feng shui principles for it to be truly effective.’ Chadha, who was initiated by his guru R. Ranganathan, does both consultancy and workshops. ‘I recommend workshops,’ says Chadha, ‘since if you understand the principles, you can harmonies your house.’ Says Jenny Liu, architect: ‘Your house is an extension of yourself, just like a shirt that you can wear. If you were to wear the shirt so that your neck sticks out through the sleeve, you would not function well.’ Feng shui means wind (feng) and water (shui). It was originally used to locate auspicious sites for graveyards. Gradually though, feng shui began to be used for dwellings as well. The system enables the harmonious flow of ch’i—Indian equivalent of prana or life force. Feng shui maximizes positive energy (sheng ch’i) and eliminates malign energy (sha ch’i). The emerging grid, pa kua, includes the four principal directions—east, west, north, south—as well as the ancillary directions—southeast, southwest, northeast and northwest. Unlike the standard compass, the lo pan (Chinese compass) has the south facing upward. Each principal direction has an animal attached to it. The auspicious dragon is in the east, the white tiger in the west, the phoenix in the south and the tortoise in the north. These animals are symbolized by mountains and their uniting place is said to be the zone of maximum ch’i. However, the dragon range of mountains (or buildings) should be taller than the tiger, for the dragonstands for the expansive, positive, yang energy, while the tiger stands for the nurturing, negative, yin energy. Each direction also has its own element, associated with a specific season and color. The five elements are wood, fire, water, metal and earth. South is the home of fire, summer and the color red. East gets the element of wood, spring and the color green. North, the winter zone, draws water and the colors blue or black. West contains metal, associated with autumn and the colors white, gold or silver. The center of the pa kua contains the fifth element, earth, whose colors are brown and yellow. Each direction is also associated with a specific aspiration. South equates with fame, southwest with relationships, west with children, northwest with new beginnings, north with career prospects, northeast with education, east with family and health, and southeast with prosperity. So, how do you use this pa kua? Assume that you wish to enhance your wealth area. This is the southeast corner, ruled by wood and associated with green. So, you can put plants or the color green in that particular corner. However, only plants with gently rounded leaves, such as the money plant, will make the grade. Feng shui also uses the production and destruction cycles whereby each element produces and destroys the other. Since water produces wood, you could put a fountain or an aquarium. Wind chimes, chiming clocks, mirrors and crystals will further enhance the area concerned. Since metal destroys wood, avoid metal implements in your southeast corner. To facilitate the flow of chi, practitioners prescribe clearing clutter. Clutter could mean old paper, old clothes, shoes, things you haven’t used for the last two years. ‘Eliminate clutter and 80 per cent of your work is done,’ says feng shui practitioner Anuradha Kale. In many ways, all feng shui requires from you is good housekeeping. Don’t let your tablecloth be smeared with yesterday’s curry stains, don’t let your calendar reflect last month’s date, don’t let cobwebs accumulate. Feng shui also advises you to guard against anything that is straight and pointed. Straight roads, sharp angles, dead trees, electric towers are all killing arrows. Protect yourself creating a screen—a wall or a row of trees—between you and the offending object.Feng shui‘s more accessible tenor is winning new converts everyday. At the same time, the field is so unregulated that it encourages fly-by-night operators. The reiki phenomenon is evidently repeating itself here. Kajal is quite vocal about the Pandora’s box she has helped open. ‘Practicing feng shui on others’ houses is a grave responsibility,’ she says. She maintains that the courses she has taught only equip the participants to practice in their own homes. But how do you choose a good practitioner? ‘Check out their credentials,’ suggests Lizia. ‘They should be able to use the lo pan,’ adds Kajal. She, however, warns against taking feng shui too seriously. ‘It can only minimize ill effects during a bad period and uplift a good period. The second crucial factor is your own attitude. It’s no use correcting the kitchen if you are going to eat in front of the TV.’ There you have it. Feng shui works, but in degrees. It won’t lead your life for you, but it can help you take some measure of control over it. And it can enhance your level of harmony. What more do you want?
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