Sunday, June 23, 2013

Living With Intent - Part 4: Feng Shui

So far we've discussed "permaculture" and "cradle-to-cradle", two design philosophies to help us begin living with intent. This week we'll look at feng shui.

It's Not Just About The Furniture!

Feng Shui
Feng shui is often popularly thought of as a means of rearranging the furniture in order to enhance one's luck or fortune. However, this is only a superficial view at best. Instead, feng shui can be more properly and easily understood as an ancient Chinese design discipline, itself arising out of the even older discipline of the "Tao" (pronounced DOW). Translated, this means "way" or "path". Taoist principles guided thinking about the universe, nature's rhythms and man's place within that context. Feng shui, literally translated, means "wind" and "water" and emphasizes balance (yin & yang) and the mindful awareness of nature and the physical objects (including furniture!), that exist within our interior and exterior environments.

The Flow of Chi

According to Chinese tradition, "chi" (pronounced "CHEE") is believed to be the universal force or cosmic breath possessed by all things. Chi flows through all spaces, whether it be your apartment, home, office, back-yard, a park, etc, and must be properly managed, so that it moves neither too quickly or too slowly. It's speed is governed by both the presence of the natural elements of earth, water, fire, metal, wood as well as the arrangement of physical objects within a space, such as the aforementioned furniture. Adjustments to enhance that flow are known as "cures" and help to optimize a given space to better support the physical and psychological well-being and resilience of its occupants.

The Ba-gua: A Feng Shui Tool

Ba-gua - Dreamstime_m_26603960, tn.jpg
The Ba-gua: A Diagnostic Tool Used in Feng Shui

The "ba-gua", is a key feng shui tool that helps practitioners evaluate a space, the components within it, and their effect on the flow of chi.  As you can see in the figure, it is octagonal in shape.  In fact, literally translated, ba-gua means, "eight trigrams".  I've listed the names of each trigram or "gua" and their primary attributes below:
  1. LI: Fame or Reputation
  2. KUN: Marriage & Commitment
  3. DUI: Children & Creativity
  4. CHYAN: Mentors & Travel
  5. KAN: Career
  6. KEN: Knowledge & Spirituality
  7. CHEN: Family
  8. HSUN: Wealth & Power
As you can see they govern many aspects of our lives.

Our Modern Lives

Rain Garden - 005, tn 15 Obviously much has changed since these practices first emerged centuries ago. In our modern lives, technology has helped to mitigate many of nature's impacts. For example, at one time careful consideration was critical for siting a building in order to take advantage of prevailing breezes or winds for good ventilation or cooling. Now we have air conditioning! However, technology has its limits and in some cases has contributed to the very problems we now face. That same air conditioner can consume enormous amounts of electricity, which in turn contributes to other adverse effects on the environment.

Rain Garden - 011, tn 15Bottom line: whether we call it feng shui or sustainable design, members of the building and planning communities, as well as governmental institutions are beginning to recognize the importance of incorporating principles, also found in feng shui, when designing modern structures, neighborhoods and cities for both commercial and residential comfort and health.

Utilization of the "environmental services" provided by nature such as trees and other plantings, the sun, wind, rain, etc. can provide options to traditional infrastructure, that are more cost-effective to construct and maintain. And, as we saw with Hurricane Sandy, critical infrastructure in the built environment often fails, either during or in the wake of catastrophic or disruptive events.

Why Feng Shui?

Feng shui focuses our attention, not only on what or how we construct our spaces, but also on how we feel while spending time in them, and how well our activities are supported while there. With its recurring motifs of balance and reverence for nature, feng shui, is well suited not only for a transition, but for maintaining a life of intent.

Next week will bring us to the final segment of the Living With Intent series.  At that time, I'll wrap everything up and summarize why I believe combining the three design philosophies of permaculture, cradle-to-cradle and feng shui equals something greater than each one of them individually, for creating mindful lifestyle change.

See you then!

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