Feng shui for the high-strung house

   A guide to the ancient art of rerouting energies.

Posted: August 03, 2007

Woe to the feng shui novice who learns that his house greets the street from an unlucky spot.

Like many a shadowy ancient art, feng shui can prompt as much anxiety as harmony in a newcomer. But a new guide may help you dip into the practice without feeling like you're going to drown.

In The Feng Shui Doctor: Ancient Skills for Modern Living (Sterling, $14.95), author Paul Darby charts baby steps for beginners on this esoteric path.

Feng shui, referring to wind and water, is based on the concept that surroundings give off subtle spiritual energies, which can be blended and modulated to benefit people at home and work. Northern Chinese used the idea more than 4,000 years ago to position gravesites, and terms such as poison arrows, chi and pa kua can still grip any follower in the midst of moving his couch.

Darby, who is known as the Feng Shui Doctor on British TV, enlists the forces of yin and yang plus the traditional five elements of earth, water, fire, wood and metal. But he spoons up his Eastern wisdom with West-friendly rules of thumb.

Among them:

Choose a solid front door or one with small glass panes. The front door is the "mouth" of the house and gatekeeper to indoor and outdoor energies, he says. "Feed it well."

Slow down the flow of energy racing through long, narrow halls by hanging a series of mirrors on alternating walls, or by placing a few rounded rugs along the floor.

Resist seashell knickknacks and the color blue in the bath. Water symbols sap energy from this sector already prone to depletion. Counter the "downward pull of energy" with earth-tone walls, bowls of pebbles, and closed toilet lids.

Tame ill winds wafting from a microwave oven by storing the appliance in recessed cabinets, with only its face exposed.

Switch on study lights 30 minutes before working. Place the desk lamp at the upper left corner, to rev up energies in this "place of the shining mind."

Avoid sitting with your back to doors, windows or corridors. If you must station yourself so vulnerably, seek refuge in a high-back chair.

Outside, Darby touts curvy garden paths and borders over sharp geometry.

"Chinese tradition teaches that devils and evil spirits travel in straight lines and can't go around bends!" he notes.

For a home aggravated by location, Darby lends stiff-upper-lip solutions that include fences, hedges, or, in the case of noisy neighbors, a pot tipped over and pointing their way.

Perhaps the most jittery dwellings are those flanking busy streets, resting at T-junctions, or on sharp bends in roads, he writes. But he assures us that even these embattled sites can be calmed with the right feng shui.

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