Flirting with the idea of arbitrarily fixing your life because it's a new calendar year? Why not start with your living space. Exploring Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese philosophy and practice of reconfiguring your environment so it reflects your best self, could be a fun home project for the winter. You’re spending most of your time inside anyway; might as well get some good vibes going.
While Feng Shui is an extremely nuanced system and the application is different for every person, there are a few first steps anyone can take to acquaint themselves with the practice. We asked Laura Cerrano, certified Feng Shui expert and founder of Feng Shui Manhattan, how to get started.
Sorry, Marie Kondo did not invent the concept of tossing objects if they don’t positively add to your sense of wellbeing. Cerrano explains that decluttering has been a cornerstone of Feng Shui since the craze first hit the U.S. in the 1970s.
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“[Decluttering] is not to make the house neat and tidy, it’s more about getting your mind refined and very focused on what matters,” she says. “Are the things you have in your home beneficial, or are they draining your focus?” According to Cerrano, objects can have negative energy that can make you tired and irritable. You don’t need that in your life.
Incorporate the five elements
One ordering principle of Feng Shui is to symbolically represent a balance of what’s known as the five elements — water, wood, fire, metal and earth — in your home. Wood, which represents wealth and personal growth, can be expressed through plants. Cerrano recommends plants that grow vertically, such as bamboo, succulents, snake plants.
Water, associated with career, can be represented with a fountain — although, Cerrano says to make sure the water flow is facing into the home and not towards the door, to direct opportunity to you. For fire, which stands for reputation and character, light candles or incorporate warm colors. Metal — communication, travel and creativity — can be achieved through a metal picture frame of you and a loved one, or a metal souvenir from a trip. For earth, a vibe of tranquility and feeling grounded, crystals do the trick.
Whether you’re moving into a new home or trying to move on from a major life event, like a breakup or loss of a loved one, clearing space can help you “clear out the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy that was left behind,” says Cerrano. The easiest way to do this is by lighting white sage and “smudging” your home.
Here’s how: Start at the time of day when the sun is highest in the sky, to capture its healing energy, Cerrano says. Beginning at the front door, take the lit bundle of white sage, or loose leaves in a shell or ashtray, and walk through your entire home with it. Open a few windows so the bad energy can exit and the new energy and can enter. And be sure to do it when you’re in a good mood.
“When you do this type of ceremonial act, you’re amplifying your aura,” she explains. If you can’t channel positive vibes yourself, she recommends hiring a Reiki practitioner, shaman or Feng Shui consultant who doesn’t have an emotional attachment to the space or memories to do the smudging for you.