Feng Shui is based on the Taoist vision and understanding of nature - that the land is alive and filled with Chi (Qi), or energy. It can be helpful to look at the concepts within this framework of thinking in order to understand that everything begins with The One (Tao) and then divides beautifully as follows:
The concept of the tao is at the same time both very simple, and one of the most complex and profound concepts ever. It basically is the idea that 'all is one'. Everything is interconnected.
Qi is simply the life force energy that exists in all things. For all things, at all times, there is an ideal flow of qi - not too fast and not too slow, not too unfettered and not too contained. One could argue that feng shui is simply about balancing the flow of qi in a physical environment. Likewise, traditional Chinese medicine is all about balancing the flow of qi in a human body. Illness in a body or building is a result of too much qi, a lack of qi, or the wrong kind of qi.
Yin and Yang are the mechanisms through which the Tao is expressed. All of the mechanics of feng shui emerge from the elaboration of yin and yang. An original experience of yin and yang was yang as the sunny side of the hill, and yin as the shady side. Hence, we start to see some of the attributes of these two polarities.
YANG tends to be:
- Warm, hot
- Expanding energy
- Opening up
YIN tends to be:
- Internal, going inside
- Contractive / concentrating
As with all things in this universe, when anything comes into being – in this case, the hill – there is necessarily a duality, a polarity, a front and back. No thing can exist without its unseen shadow side. Whether we are in an experience of yang, or in an experience of yin, we can know that we and the thing we are experiencing are parts of something much bigger. Nothing can possibly be 100% yang or 100% yin; for as soon as one reaches its zenith it is already changing back into the other. This is represented by the “eyes” in the typical yin/yang diagram, which we refer to as the “seed of yin” in yang and the “seed of yang” in yin.
Since there are no absolutes, then something can be yin or yang only in relation to something else. For example, in a home we may say that the kitchen is very yang. But in general, the home itself is yin in relation to the outside world.
THE THREE TREASURES
HEAVEN, EARTH AND HUMANITY
Three is an auspicious number to the Chinese, one that is seen over and over again throughout Chinese culture and in the study and practice of feng shui. The number three connotes “The Three Treasures”: heaven, earth and humanity. As discussed above, heaven and earth are the two energetic forces of the universe: Yang is “heaven qi” while yin is “earth qi”. These two energies move constantly in a beautiful dance with each other. The points at which they meet are where they become alive – spirit is made real by becoming matter and matter comes alive with spirit. The vehicle through which they are activated to become alive is humanity. Humans thus fulfill a unique role in the universe. We are the result of the heaven and earth. We are both physical and spiritual beings, and energy moves through us in both directions – from heaven toward materialization and from matter into energy or spiritualization.
THE FOUR DIRECTIONS
Many of nature’s phenomena have been observed by indigenous cultures throughout the world to have a “quartered” nature. For example, there are four directions. There are also other ways to naturally divide time and space into quadrants.
In the Northern hemisphere the sun is overhead and in the south at noon. Noon is the most yang time of the day, as midnight is the most yin. Hence, we correspond both south and noon with yang, and north and midnight with yin. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Hence, the morning hours and East are considered “rising yang,” while the afternoon and evening hours and West are considered “descending yin.”
Just as the day can be divided, so can the year. Summer solstice, on June 21, is the height of yang, while Winter solstice on December 21, is the depth of yin. The return to the sun in the Spring is rising yang, and the drop into Winter is descending yin. The most Eastern point is associated with the Spring equinox, and the most Western point is associated with the Autumn equinox.
Hence, we have a system that includes and divides both space (directions) and time (day and year). Everything that we as humans can know on this earth exists within this world of space and time. Hence we now have a system that can encompass and provide a basis of understanding for everything we experience.
THE FIVE ELEMENTS
The ancient Taoists observed that there are five basic energetic qualities that can be found in the human experience of the world. These have come to be known as the five elements. The five elements are a further elaboration of this grid that starts with the tao - is distinguished as yin and yang and is quartered by time and space. It should be understood this is not referring to wood itself, fire itself, earth itself, metal itself, or water itself, but rather the archetypes of these energies.
- The wood element is rising, growing energy. It corresponds to the east, the morning, and springtime.
- Fire is expanding, outward energy, radiating out in all directions. It corresponds to the south, high noon, and summer.
- The earth element is a downward energy, a movement back into earth. It’s time for the growing energy of crops to take a rest to sweeten and ripen before the harvest.
- Metal is concentrating, compacting, gathering energy. It also corresponds to the west where the sun sets, evening time, and autumn.
- Water is a “floaty” energy, and stillness. It is associated with the north, midnight, and winter.
The theory of the Five Elements is very complex. We each have all the Five Elements in our energy make-up, but in different proportions. We each have a Predominant Element determined by the date and year of our birth.
Feng shui uses the understanding of the energy of the Five Elements to either strengthen a supportive element or drain or control a destructive element. It isn't necessary to completely understand this theory. It is important to know the basics of the interactions of the Five Elements. Knowledge of the Five Elements is the key to creating a balanced, healthy home. If one of the Five Elements is too overpowering, or if an Element is missing, it is important to bring this into balance in the home, especially if the Element is supportive of your own Personal Element. I will be referring to this in any consultation.
It is from these basic principles, feng shui assessments are interpreted and analyzed .