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Feng Shui, the process of harmonizing energy

Berry Blossoms
Catherine Al-Meten

“Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos, including orderliness, balance, harmony, logic, and abstract beauty” --Deepak Chopra.

Feng Shui is a system designed to aid us in exploring the flow of energy in our lives. It is more than a system of arranging and organizing your home, clearing clutter, or having the right elements in the right place. Feng Shui is a process for creating a harmonious way of living. Keeping the energy flowing in your home and life is about more than having the external elements in place; it is also about a harmonious flow of inner and outer energy flowing in a continuous process. This week try these seven steps to create a better flow of energy in your life.

Create an energy clearing of your body, mind, and spirit.

1. Create daily habits to take care of your total being (body, mind, spirit).
Plan daily exercise, and then begin making certain you take a walk, swim, ride, or exercise class each day.
Set aside time and space for daily spiritual practice (meditation, prayer, contemplative reading, journaling, centering music/dance).
Practice gratitude and forgiveness. Both gratitude and forgiveness help maintain clear, open channels of energy within us and between ourselves and our family and friends. Make a regular practice of writing down all that you are thankful for. Handle disputes, conflicts, negative emotions, and upsets by using a practice of forgiveness. Whether you go to Reconciliation, or use your faith practices to seek and give forgiveness, do something to release whatever upsetting experiences may be hanging on. Negative, trapped energy including anger, fear, frustration, or other unexpressed emotions need a safe release valve. All spiritual and religious traditions have ways of practicing forgiveness, and it is a habit well worth cultivating.
Develop a Breathing/Prana practice. Our breath is one of the greatest tools we have for energizing, centering, and calming ourselves. Spend time before and after taking care of difficult chores, working hard on projects, spending time running around town taking care of business, or doing anything that requires your focus and attention.

A simple practice of putting your attention on your breath, breathing in and breathing out, can serve you well. To help keep focused on just your breath, you may want to inhale counting to yourself (choose a number between 4-7), slowly, pausing, and then exhaling to the same count. Do this for a minute or two to begin with, and over time you may find you can increase the time you spend with your breathing practice.
Learn other breath practices. There are a number of different prana/breathing practices you can learn; each will help you keeping your energy in balance throughout the day. Alternate nostril breathing is a quick and good way to get energized. Belly breath, diaphragmatic breath, and Ujjayi/yogic breath are some of the types of breathing exercises that are helpful to learn.
Incorporate breathing into your prayer, meditation, and sleep practices. As a child you might have been told to ‘count sheep’ to relax yourself for sleep. My mother taught me to use my breath to imagine holding a feather in the air, just above me. Imagine a feather softly floating and deepen your breath to keep the feather just above your head, breathing out, and breathing in. Use whatever breathing practices help you to center, calm, energize, and relax.
Let in Light and Fresh Air. Draw back the drapes or curtains, open the windows, and let fresh air and natural light into your home. As much as is possible, take advantage of the natural light in your home and office:

Get out in the fresh air for a period of time each day.
Do some stargazing in the yard, on the banks of the river, or at the seashore.
Take a daily walk
Air out the linens, cupboards, drawers, mattresses, and all parts of your home that may have been closed up all winter.
Take advantage of the extended hours of daylight to expand activities other than working. Play games outdoors, do some gardening, meet friends for an evening of meditation, yoga, or swimming.
Perhaps rearrange furniture to take advantage of warmer weather, inviting views from the window (move the bed so you can look out into the garden or arrange your chairs and sofas so you can take advantage of extra daylight, inviting views, and fresh air and evening breezes.

Uncover and Clear Out Hidden Clutter. Whether hidden in the bottom of a drawer or cupboard, or piled up in your mind, hidden clutter takes its toll on our energy. Sometimes the act of clearing out physical spaces will loosen up some of the psychological and mental clutter.
Begin with one small space, a drawer, a shelf in a cupboard, or a purse or wallet. Regardless of how neat and clean the surface areas of your house are, the hidden clutter and dirt drains energy.
Make a list of unfinished business in your life. Notice what is still hanging around taking up space and draining energy in your mind. For example, you may have been putting off taking care of a piece of business, returning a phone call or message, or making a schedule or budget. Yesterday, I started the day off getting a number of projects completed, and then went to a yoga class. A musician friend of mine and I were talking, and as we talked she was making a list of her appointments and schedule for the day. It was a busy day for her, so as she put it, “I wrote it down and then it’s out of my head.” I had a blinding flash at that moment-I was carrying around way too many ideas that needed to be grounded and removed from my mind.
Make a list of the projects you would like to work on or the tasks you want to take care of today (or some designated time-this hour or this week). The thought moves into a form of action. This idea works for large and small projects alike.
Plan menus and make grocery lists before shopping. How often have you gone grocery shopping, only to find you cannot think of what you need or want? Stock up on staples that can be used for a variety of meals, and make the menus and lists to provide guidelines and to take the bulk of the chore out of your head.
Put thought into action. Ground yourself by Identifying Internal and External Sources of Clutter. Before you go to sleep at night and when you wake up in the morning, write down anything that is on your mind to do, remember, or work on the next day. Or anything that is bothering your or captivating you (positive energy can also be draining, especially if it causes us to lose too much sleep).
List issues that you find perplexing. Next to each problem/issue, write one simple affirmative statement about how you can take one step to resolve, fix, or take care of the problem. Doing this at night, allows you to go to sleep without as much on your mind. Doing it in the morning, allows you to catch the first glimpses of what is just below the surface of your consciousness-taking up space and draining energy. For example, I might write on my night list a desire to tackle the clearing out of the recycling that has piled up in my office.
Putting this on the list grounds me in a particular task that needs to be taken care of. Identifying the problem, acknowledging it, allows me to take one step toward resolving it. Put all the bags by the front door. Arrange for some assistance in moving the recycling out of the house. Plan a time to take care of the task. Rather than having the negative, blocked energy be part of some amorphous blog that weighs me down, I pinpoint one thing that bothers me and start taking action to fix it. It may sound simple, but that’s how we get difficult things accomplished-we tackle it in pieces.

Take care of the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle of your home includes the Kitchen, Bedroom, and Bathroom.
The Kitchen in a home represents the heart of the family’s health and resources. In Feng Shui this space represents that which nourishes and sustains our health and well being. We often spend more time in the kitchen than we do in other rooms. We store our food, prepare our meals, clean up form cooking and eating, and sometimes eat in our kitchens. This well-used room needs constant attention to keep it clean, cleared of clutter, and well-organized. Some easy tips for keeping the energy flowing in your kitchen include:

Get rid of items you don’t need or use. If you have trouble keeping things organized, it may be that you have too much stuff.
Use open display and storage space. Particularly in small kitchens, this Feng Shui element works by opening up and releasing energy and lightening the energy and increasing its flow.
Have a Kitchen Garden. Keep a container garden in your kitchen, to increase the positive flow of energy and to help freshen things up.
Display healthy, colorful food. Put a bowl of fruit or veggies on the counter. A big bowl of fresh apples or oranges is a classic fixture in kitchens and dining rooms.
Hang a Mirror. Mirrors are good Feng Shui tools for creating the sense of more space and for redirecting energy.
Clear and Clean the Stove and Refrigerator. These two areas of the kitchen seem to be the hardest to keep clean as we use them so much.
Up your organizing game. Develop habits that make the job of keeping the stove and refrigerator less daunting. Whenever you open the refrigerator, for example, pull out one item than needs to go, clean off one shelf or stained area, or reorganize one drawer or shelf. Spend no more than one minute doing this, but build a new habit of noticing what needs to be cleaned up or cleared out. If you are consistent with this, the big messes happen less frequently, and the organization becomes easier and more rewarding.
Make your refrigerator appetizing. With a little planning of shopping lists and menus, you can make your refrigerator the staging area for healthier and more appetizing meals and snacks. Keep fresh fruit in glass bowls, within easy reach of anyone who opens the refrigerator. Prepare fresh, raw veggies (celery and carrot sticks, broccoli and cauliflower pieces, radishes, jicama slices, edamame, or snow peas) and keep where they are within easy reach of snackers.
Stock your refrigerator so that it meets your real needs. You may want to reorganize the way the shelves are placed, so that your organization more appropriately represents your eating habits. For example, if you have something you use regularly stuffed in a drawer or stuck in the back of the fridge, consider moving it to a more accessible place. Items like milk and dairy products, meat, and anything that might spoil easily, should be stored on the lower refrigerator shelves where the temperatures are lowest.

The Bedroom, is the second point in the Golden Triangle. Our bedrooms are meant to be where we are rest and restored, and where we create and cherish our most harmonious, nourishing, and intimate relationships.

Situate the bed out of direct line of the doorway, but make certain the bed faces the entrance to your bedroom.
Have a solid headboard and firm, supportive mattress.
Make sure there is space beneath the bed, and avoid storing anything under the bed. Energy needs to circulate beneath and around your bed.
Have a solid wall behind your head when you are sleeping. Sleeping under a window tends to weaken your personal energy.
Keep work-related equipment, televisions, computers, and electronic devices out of the bedroom. If you have a ‘smart phone’, you might consider leaving it outside the bedroom as well. Keep anything that could be distracting out of the room where you are meant to rest, restore, and rejuvenate.
Create balance in your bedroom by having items like night stands on both sides of the bed.
Avoid using mirrors that face the bed.
Keep water features (fountains, fish bowls) and water-themed artwork out of the bedroom.
Keep plants in other rooms of the house. Plants represent the Yang or active energy, and are not conducive to restful bedrooms.
Keep the bedroom clean. Make the bed daily, and change the sheets regularly. Keep everything in the bedroom clear of clutter.

Bathrooms. Bathrooms need to be kept clean and clear.
Make certain drains and flowing freely, and keep all surfaces and areas clean (bathtubs, showers, toilets, sinks).
Keep the toilet lid closed.
Keep towels and bath linens clean and fresh. Replace old towels, and use bathroom linens (towels, wash cloths, rugs, shower curtains) to help bring color and beauty into your bathroom. Watch for linen sales, and replace towels regularly; do not let towels get to the ragged stage before replacing.
Keep the door to the bathroom closed if it faces the front door or a bed.
Keep shelves, counters, drawers, and containers free of old products and excess items.
Create an attractive, inviting, and a clean space to bathe, and take care of your health and hygiene.

Whatever you do to maintain the Golden Triangle, consider treating the three most-used rooms in your home with loving kindness. Clear these spaces of hazardous or draining influences and conditions. Maintain the proper care of each, particularly to all energy-generating appliances, drainage, and storage. While Feng Shui is not a panacea for everything, it is one way of maintaining a lifestyle of mindfulness and attention to the details of daily living. Slow down, take things in small, bite-size pieces, and let your practices inspire, relax, and refresh you to enjoy your home, your work space, and life more fully and abundantly. Do something nice right now to raise the level of your well being, and you will have more energy to do the same for someone else today.

My Mother used to use the analogy of the principles of mathematics to drive home a point to me about our spiritual nature. She would say to me, “the Divine Principle, God, is, always has been and always will be, and like the laws of mathematics, when you understand the formula, and set forth according to those principles, you find the right answers...the way is shown, the answer is given.” Feng Shui is a system that helps us understand the principles of energy, and when we put some effort and attention into applying those principles, we find greater harmony in our own energy.

To find books and materials to help you with your Feng Shui practice and home organization, visit Luminata Bookstore in Monterey at 631 Cass Street in downtown. Ask Emory Michael to show you the latest books on Feng Shui.