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Welcome to Thursday Coffee Hour. This is an open topic thread so help yourself to the goodies and sit a spell and let us know what is going on in your life. Lately I have had to try and incorporate elements from my parent’s home into my own. My place is a small two-bedroom apartment with a definite lack of closet space so I had to try and work around the lack of places to store things. I wanted to honor both of my parents who are deceased and my older brother who recently passed away. I also needed to be mindful of my own tastes and things I like. One of the things I have been interested in is using feng shui, yin-yang, and the Tao Te Ching to try and reach a balance. For someone who was brought up Irish Catholic that is quite a new experience. Follow me below the orange squiggly-de-do for one women’s quirky attempt at balance.

In a recent Sunday Brunch I talked a bit about yin-yang. I found this explanation to be a good starting point.

In Chinese philosophy Yin is a symbol of earth, femaleness, darkness, passivity, and absorption. It is present in even numbers, in valleys and streams, and is represented by the tiger, the color orange, and a broken line. Yang is conceived of as heaven, maleness, light, activity, and penetration. It is present in odd numbers, in mountains, and is represented by the dragon, the color azure, and an unbroken line.
When I looked into feng shui, which means wind and water, I discovered that the purpose of feng shui is to balance chi or energy in a way that leads to harmony, good health, and fortune. The five elements of feng shui are wood, fire, earth, metal and water.

If you look at the five elements you can see both the positive and the negative about them. Wood is a basic building block but if the wood is rotten it will not stand. Fire warms us and provides light but if it gets out of control it will destroy things. Earth is necessary for us to grow things in to eat and to put our homes on however if the earth becomes unstable as in an earthquake things will be destroyed. Water is essential to life but too much water will flood and destroy. Metal is useful to make things but metal can be unstable. My Dad before he retired headed a project that showed that the Bay Bridge in San Francisco was vulnerable at a certain point for metal fatigue and would likely break in a strong earthquake. The report was ignored and when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck in 1989 the Bay Bridge collapsed at exactly the point he told them it would.

Classic feng shui emphasizes simplicity and the free flow of energy and that means basically means no clutter. That is where I fall down completely. Take my living room for example. The long wall is my art gallery for my own work. I’m sure classic decorating would say only a couple of pictures and don’t fill the whole wall. Me I look at that wall and say I have room for another ten pictures. I took all of my Mom’s silk flower arrangements and added them to my own so there are lots and lots of flowers in the house. I like being able to see the things that I have collected over the years. Yes the place is cluttered and takes a while to clean because of it but I like it that way.

In spite of not following all the “rules” that some feng shui experts proclaim the place has a definite peace about it. Each room has its own element of design. My living room is Oriental fantasy. I have my Oriental dolls and pictures in there. I also have my artwork that is space and fantasy oriented. I have lots of red in there. I have both dragons and tigers featured. I have two fountains on either end of the couch one a lotus flower design and one a Buddha. My tiny kitchen has lots of metal in the shelving and equipment. The bathroom has a moon and stars motif. The bedroom is pink and feminine and has my dolls. My computer room has the tributes to Mom, Dad, and Mike as well as all my toys. Marvin the Martian features prominently in the computer room.

I try to bring all five elements into my décor. The kitchen/laundry/dining area has an abundance of both wood in the cabinets and metal in the shelving and appliances. Of course there is water from the faucet, dishwasher, and washing machine and the element of fire in the stove. Earth is anchored by the flowers on the dining room table. The living room has metal in the end tables and wood in the furniture. I have two fountains for water and rocks holding the candles for fire and earth. The bathroom has candles, rocks and seashells for earth, metal shelves, wood cabinets and of course water. The bedroom has a lot of wood in the furniture, a fountain for water, rocks holding the candles for earth and fire, and a metal bookcase. The computer room has an equal amount of wood furniture and metal shelving. It has candles for fire and stone decorations. The only thing it doesn’t have is water unless you want to count my cup of coffee every morning. ;-)

I think what I pulled from feng shui may not be what purists would consider essential but that I had to have a balance in my home that honored my deceased family, made it comfortable for my living family to be here, and still retained the essence what makes me well me.

Feng shui also applies to cooking with the spicier dishes being yang and the mellower being yin. I try to bring a balance to my cooking and that is one of the reasons why some of my dishes are spicy and some are more mellow. I try and balance out flavors so that the dish isn’t so hot that you can’t eat it or so bland that you don’t want to eat it.

So I guess what I pulled out of the study of the Tao Te Ching, yin-yang, and feng shui is that it has to be balanced according to the individual. Balance is the important thing to consider. I could do a perfectly balanced home with all the feng shui principles adhered to but I have no place to store the stuff I would have to remove and no desire to remove things I love looking at. What would be clutter to some is balance to others. You have to balance your own life and do it your way.

Back in 2003 my niece asked me for some pictures based on feng shui. It would take six years before I had the models that I could use to do her request justice. Christmas of 2009 she finally got her pictures. These were her instructions and these were the resulting pictures.

“I was hoping I could commission some artwork from you (something I think others might want to buy as well). I’ve been doing some research into Feng Shui, and hoped you could do some art for the four primary directions. The following is the description of the best elements to include (and avoid) for each of the directions.”

West: Seven white tigers, in the marsh, round shapes, aqua blue as a secondary color, and metal. Area represents children and creativity. Avoid anything red or representations of fire.

North: One black turtle, lots of blue and navy, in the water, free form shapes. Area represents career. Avoid anything representing earth, yellow, flat or square.

East: Three cerulean green dragons, thunder in the background, lots of wood, rectangle shapes. Area represents Family. Avoid anything white, round, or metal.

South: Nine Phoenix, reds/purples/burgundies, fire and sun, triangle shapes. Area represents Fame and Reputation. Avoid black, water, and free-form shapes.

Feng Shui - East
 East photo FengShuiEast2_zps7a71800f.jpg

Feng Shui - North
 North photo FengShuiNorth2_zps51e94a95.jpg

Feng Shui - South
 South photo FengShuiSouth-1_zps6ab6f0a8.jpg

Feng Shui - West
 West photo FengShuiWest-1_zps77bf1425.jpg

Yin - Yang
 Yin Yang photo YinYang_zpsac902418.jpg

Originally posted to Street Prophets on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 11:59 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Cookies (28+ / 0-)

    "A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world." Oscar Wilde

    by michelewln on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 11:52:25 AM PST

  •  I always enjoy your artwork. You can tell you (14+ / 0-)

    really think this through before putting "brush to canvas" or keys to board as it were.

    Like everything in life it is important to strive for balance, or peace or harmony where we live.  I don't think you're quirky at all.  Although feng shui and some of its disciples have strict rules and laws that they follow, I also believe that we must honor our loved ones and remember them once they leave us in the way that resonates most strongly for us.  And I believe both disciplines (feng shui, collections) can live peacefully side by side.  If that means some momentos or physical material being placed about, if it's done with love then those vibrations are "read" by the Universe or the Divine and accepted to co-exist.  My two cents...

    I keep my grandmother's doughboard in my apartment.  To some it's just a piece of used wood but to me, each time I pull it out to use it it reminds of all those times she kneaded bread, made noodles, rolled out sugar cookie dough, chopped veggies for soup...I wore one of my grandfather's favorite fishing shirts to ribbons, and keep several of my mom's scarves and jewelry too.  None of these items has monetary value but they evoke strong and loving memories of each person to me.

    These "things" that feed our souls, and elevate our spirits I believe are more important than rules and laws.  Rules and laws and orders are fine so long as they don't diminish our own essence, or quash loving vibrations.


    "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy 1980 DNC Keynote Speech

    by Dumas EagerSeton on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:25:05 PM PST

    •  Oh, the dough board! (5+ / 0-)

      I have my New Hampshire grandmother's board too. She was a baker, after her husband died (and before Social Security - she had to make a way for her four kids - another story.) A 20 X 16 board of solid wood. She used it for every kind of dough but never for chopping. I was sad when my daughter used it for cutting veggies because it left cuts in the wood that can only be got out by sanding, which I haven't done yet. I love that board and make bread, pitas, tortillas, dumplings, noodles, and biscuits on it. You are so right about the memories these thing evoke. I would love to know what kind of wood it is made of. One hardly finds that kind or size of slab-wood any more.  Peace to you.

      The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right. Mark Twain

      by BlueMississippi on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 06:14:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually my grandmother used one side for dough (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        michelewln, BlueMississippi

        the other side for chopping.  You can tell too because it has little knife cuts or nicks in it and the other side is smooth.  I don't know what kind of wood it is made of either.  What I do know is her husband did carpentry work and he made this board for her.  Actually he made two, one for my grandmother and one for my mom which is still in use at my dad's house when I go home for the holidays and make rollout cookies, or a I need a big chopping space for veggie soup.  Again one side is for doughs and one side is for big chopping jobs.

        Tortillas?  Cool!  I decided that I want to become a great biscuit baker so I'll see how I do this year.  My grandmother just had the touch with breads and doughs.  Her noodlelinks, her name for Bohemia-style noodles that were similar to shape in spaetzle but lighter - were sooo good.  I could eat just a bowl of them with some butter or in chicken broth.  Honestly I've never been able to duplicate their lightness or taste.  Ugh.  Even my mom's were super good but note quite grandma's either.  My quest continues though.

        "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy 1980 DNC Keynote Speech

        by Dumas EagerSeton on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:10:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great pictures - I like all (12+ / 0-)

    of them! I think studying feng shui is a lot of fun. It really makes you think about where everything should go and which colors to use.

    I can relate to your need for having things in your home that once belonged to (and remind you of) family members who have passed away. A lot of my furniture was handed down to me from various family members who meant a lot to me. So, even if the piece of furniture isn't exactly my style I can't bear to part with it. I have a dining table and chairs that I really don't like but I love the person who gave them to me - so, I'm sure I'll keep them for the rest of my life. I don't think there's anything wrong with keeping things for sentimental reasons if being surrounded by those things makes us feel good.

    Progress is made peace by peace.

    by StateOfGrace on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 03:02:09 PM PST

  •  Harmony and balance (14+ / 0-)

    are an important part of Native American healing and spirituality. This seems to be somewhat similar to the Asian concepts.

  •  My favorite is the last; the tiger and the dragon. (8+ / 0-)

    And I liked where you tell me that my collection of stuff, if it feels balanced to me, is "ok". My stuff feels right to me if it all has a place. If something doesn't have a right place, the balance of the room, or even my whole place, is off. It doesn't necessarily have to be in that place, it just has to have one. I am so lucky to have a place to keep the things I have wanted to keep over a longish life. An example is my crab trap. It's red wire mesh. I don't use it these days, and I don't need it, but I like looking at it. Needless to say, I am not a minimalist.

    The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right. Mark Twain

    by BlueMississippi on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 05:06:30 PM PST

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