Feng Shui and Common Sense
The recent surge of interest in Feng Shui has brought a publishing boom. More books on Feng Shui have been published in English in the last ten years than ever before. Those who buy and read these books are attracted by the underlying principle of being in harmony with nature, and by the suggestion of something ancient and mysterious.
The shallowness of some popular presentations of Feng Shui has lead many thoughtful people to simply reject it, out of hand, as a fad or just another kind of “New Age” nonsense. In fact, the core principles of Feng Shui, while very old, are not at all mysterious. Its central concept – to follow the laws of nature – is thoroughly rooted in common sense, that is, common to everyone: East or West, ancient or modern.
Common sense is the joining of human instinct with life experience. As members of the human race, we are all subject to common influences through living on the same planet: the sun and moon, wind and water, the alternation of day and night, and the change of seasons. We are nourished by the same kinds of things: the fish, rice, meat, vegetables, grains and so on, that provide us with the necessary fuel for living. Despite regional and cultural differences, all human beings share common influences and respond to them in very similar ways.
Feng Shui is the application of these common patterns of influence and response to the places in which we live and work. It brings knowledge of these patterns to bear on finding appropriate places and building livable structures where people will be nourished and protected. Much of the classic Feng Shui literature, which is concerned with the understanding and application of these basic patterns, is still fresh and relevant. Take the principle of building a house on a flat, dry site, not too far up on a hill and not too low in a valley, finding a balance by avoiding a place that is either too high or too low, too wet or too dry. This may seem like ordinary common sense, yet we often hear of people who have built houses in high places and on steep slopes where they are subject to landslides, or in low valleys where they are subject to floods.
The Feng Shui classics also state that the ideal house should be square or rectangular, with a good open space in front. These forms are not only more wholesome, but are also more ergonomic and more economical. This too is common sense, but modern buildings are increasingly quite irregular, with indentations, out-croppings and other variations. Such features not only make the buildings less ergonomic and functional to live in but also more expensive to build.
In the Feng Shui classics, rooms are classified into Yin and Yang categories depending on their function. Thus Yang rooms (like the kitchen or living room) should have more space, light and other yang factors, while the Yin rooms (like the bedroom or study) should be more private. Yet many modern houses, over-emphasizing certain fashionable features at the expense of practicality, have overly large bedrooms or bathrooms, or are over-exposed in quest of a better view. But in an overly large room, energy becomes scarce, often resulting in chronic illness or low energy for the occupants. Over-exposure, or an over-abundance of windows, can create more uncontrolled or conflicting energy.
The classics always emphasize balance: between the rounded and the square, between warm and cold, between exposure and privacy. They also stress the importance of achieving a balance between the size of a house and the number of its occupants. A house should be proportional to its lot, and not too different from other houses in its neighborhood in terms of size, style, form and color.
Feng Shui is an ancient art, but it is also timeless, because it can be applied to any current situation. Throughout history, in every country, people have applied these same principles; they are not unique to Chinese culture. You may encounter them in any graceful structure: mosques balance a square base against circular domes; cathedrals balance a square structure with circular stained glass windows, and so on.
But if Feng Shui is a matter of common sense, why does it seem so unusual, so exotic? Why has there been this recent surge of interest? In this fast-moving and ever-changing modern world, we are losing our balance. We struggle to grab knowledge and information from the outside instead of looking within, and we don’t pay attention to balancing our inner and outer activities. This leads to lopsided development, and fosters an unbalanced and over-extended life-style.
Nowadays, when people have emotional problems, they go to see counselors; when people have physical problems, they go to doctors; when people have trouble in school, they go to educational experts; when they have financial troubles, they go to money managers, and the list goes on. We no longer trust our own ability to solve things; we no longer look inward to seek the answers.
Unfortunately, the experts we consult are not always able to solve our problems either. From the Feng Shui point of view, when there is a problem, there is also a solution, and the answer is often nearby. We should not always depend on outside answers or experts, although sometimes we do need some external feedback.
Recently a Vietnamese herb doctor developed a treatment for drug addiction by applying the principle that where there is a problems, there is also a nearby solution. He sought, and found, the healing herbs for his formula in the opium fields. Similarly, as most people in the Pacific Northwest are aware, horsetail ferns are an effective treatment for nettle stings – and these two plants grow in close proximity to each other.
Although Feng Shui is rooted in common sense, it has grown over the centuries into a huge body of knowledge derived from long observation and repeated validation. This body of knowledge cannot be transmitted or even described in a single burst. To receive it, we must first become more aware of, and more attuned to, the patterns of energy movement in the natural world. As our awareness increases, we become more able to assimilate the available information. In order to do so, we must begin by reflecting on what our common sense tells us. Authentic Feng Shui gives us the language and structure to connect our innate knowledge with universal natural principles, allowing us to analyze, understand and improve our surroundings.
© 2012 Blue Mountain