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.