* I am a Feng Shui practitioner and not a mental health professional. I am sharing my own personal experience, and this information should not be a substitution for the advice of the appropriate Medical and/or Mental Health professional. If you, or someone you know needs help, please contact the National Suicide prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
This week's Oprah Winfrey interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle brought mental health issues to the forefront. I am so pleased that discussions surrounding mental health and encouragement for people to ask for help are beginning to normalize. Her authenticity and vulnerability, while speaking up before the world (and one of its most powerful colonial institutions) was very inspiring. I am a second generation Irish American, so this held special significance for me.
The interview had me considering how I have dealt with my own mental health and the ways that the principles of Feng Shui have been a part of that journey.
My early life started off with some pretty remarkable tragedy. I carried the ripple effects of those events with me for many years in the form of a panic disorder and recurring fatalistic (bad things are going to happen no matter what) thoughts.
I am going to share a little bit here in the next paragraph only. I think it is relevant to do so, but keep reading because I will quickly pivot to how Feng Shui can be a postive light!
You see, when I was 9 my Mother died of a brain tumor. Less than two years later the car I was riding in was struck, head on, by a drunk driver. The accident resulted in the death of a Family friend (who was engaged to my Father at the time) and her daughter (the same age as me). I survived, but the accident left me so severely injured that I received the Catholic Sacrement of Last Rites during my hospital stay. My adolescent years were painful and I faced many obstacles with little direction or no supervision. I had to grow up fast. In the late 90’s, no longer an adolescent but now a divorced Mother of two small children, I read a book called THE WESTERN GUIDE TO FENG SHUI: Room by Room by Terah Katherine Collins. This is where my Feng Shui path began and my healing started. Many thanks and blessings to Ms. Collins.
I see Western Feng Shui as the power of intention and positive thinking in action. So many things, like the events I shared above, are out of our control. Using the Principles of Feng Shui allows us some command of situations and supports our intentions. This is why I refer to Feng Shui as “Empowered Arrangement”. I believe there is a direct connection between our environment and our physical and mental well being.
Our home, office or any space we occupy, fills up with our “stuff” and our energy. It then becomes a direct reflection of what is going on in our life. If the spaces we fill are safe, comfortable and supportive then our life becomes easier to manage, our mind is clear for decision making and we are positioned to conquer obstacles or, just have less stress throughout each day. But, we don't always have the energy to make these changes or even know where to start. That is where your Feng Shui Consultation can help. Below I share some Feng Shui best practices that keep me feeling well and might do you a bit of good too. Namaste.
Less clutter in your space means less clutter in your mind
When you walk in your house or a room in the home, how do you feel ? Are you relaxed and energized or do you feel down and sluggish ? Whatever the answer is, that is the energy and attitude you will bring to activities at home and, when you leave and head out into the World. Go room to room, take a few deep breaths and look around. What do you notice ? Can your eyes travel freely or do they stop on things, like the tangle of cords behind the entertainment unit with dust clinging to it or the old magazines piled in a corner. Do you have a months worth of mail on the counter or mountains of shoes inside the front door ? Maybe you enter from the garage but have to navigate an obstacle course of junk to get yourself inside. This is a safety hazzard, prioritze matters of safety first, this will help you know where to start. Begin by organizing your garage. Clear off the tops of your kitchen counters, toss out the junk mail and shred any documents you don't need. Wash that huge pile of laundry on the floor and then put it away. Clearing away piles and making room for Ch’i (breathe/life force energy/prana) to navigate freely will change the flow of energy in your space and by doing so you immerse yourself in possibilities.
Other things that you can do to move stagnant energy and invite a refreshed flow is to play music, ring bells, clean house, open windows and let light and fresh air in. Do a blessing or space clearing as well. One popular and easy Feng Shui remedy to refresh your space is to move 27 things over the course of 9 days. Find items you have had in place for at least one year and move or discard/donate them. Try doing this with 3 things a day for 9 days. 27 and 9 (2+7=9) are auspicious numbers in Feng Shu and are associated with manifestation and completion. While you are doing this exercise your actions express the positive intention to create, manifest and shake things up to promote positive change.
Create a sanctuary in your bedroom to promote relaxation, sleep and rejuvenation.
The bedroom should be a respite from the World, a place for self care and to unplug from your busy day. But, in our Western world, with its "can’t stop, won’t stop" mentality the bedroom is often the furthest thing from that. For those that suffer from depression and anxiety, sleep can be elusive or it can be overpowering and prevent us from doing things. Adjusting your space can promote the rest or motivation you need to feel better. Maybe you have taken to working from bed on your laptop at night. Or, you have a Peloton in the corner where you get your workouts in. Even worse, it is now only used to hang your discarded wardrobe items on. (another pile of clutter). Certain items can be a hindrance to relaxation or sleep. Mirrors are important conduits of energy and can cause restlessness or even insomnia. I have a full length mirror on one wall that faces the vanity mirror on the opposite wall. Everytime lights come in the window at night it bounces off the mirrors. This creates an over abundance of reflective energy and hinders sleep. So, I cover them before bed. If there are mirrors directly facing your bed, I recommend moving them or placing a barrier, such as a screen. If you have an open concept en-suite bathroom, add a barn door. If you have mirrored closet doors facing you the bed, add some self adhesive wall paper in a color or pattern that compliments the appropriate element. If you can’t or don't want to move mirrors, cover them before bed to promote sleep. Try to avoid the quick moving and stimulating energy of exercise equipment in the bedroom. We all have challenges in our spaces and if the equipment has nowhere else to go and exercise supports your mental health, then we have other Feng Shui remedies we can apply to make sure it doesn’t have an adverse affect on your sleep. To make the bedroom feel restful and calming bring some Yin to the room by using soft, curved objects and avoid sharp corners or overly large furnishings. Avoid red. Cover your bed with linens made of soft, plush materials. You want to use the ideal sheets, blankets and pillows to ensure your bed feels like a nest that you float into and find a peaceful night's sleep. If you want to wake up refreshed and feel ready to put your feet on the ground think about the first thing you see when you open your eyes. If it is that pile of laundry you've been wishing away, you might not feel motivated to leave the bed. I always open the shutters and let some light in right away, boosting the Yang of the space when I get out of bed. If you find it hard to muster the energy to start your day, try decreasing the Yin energy. A balance between Yin, Yang and the five elements is key in order to create a feeling in the space that supports your personal needs.
Yin = feminine, dark, soft, low, floral prints, horizontal, round, ornate, curved.
Yang = Masculine, light, hard, high, geometrical, vertical, linear, plain, straight lines.
Color as therapy
I find that color can move us to feel a certain way and affect our perception. I think back to the cafeteria walls of my Catholic Grade School, an institutional green. When I see that color, immediately the smell of the place comes to mind, and it is all downhill from there. Smell is the best sense memory and color can stimulate it for me. Alternatively, when I see the blush pink of my Granddaughter's nursery, the smell of her lavender baby lotion is immediately with me and my heart is filled with love and light. You can see then how important it is to use paint and decor colors that make us feel good and do not bring up bad memories and feelings. The Five Elements are an important theory in Feng Shui and they incorporate color. Each element represents the constructive and destructive cycles of life on Earth and each element is associated with a particular color as well as a shape, family member, area of life, and area of the body. The associated colors (and shades of these colors) are as follows; Earth is yellow, Fire is red, Metal is gray, Water is blue, and Wood is green. The many colors found in nature help to inspire our hearts, minds and Ch’i. The constructive / destructive theory of the elements is evident in the change of the seasons. In Autumn the green leaves dry and shrivel as they turn to beautiful orange and golds before falling from their branches. In Winter nature withdraws and the landscape turns dark and gray. In Springtime the regrowth of bulbs push through the frost and become colorful blooms that make way for the warmth of Summer (Earth center is the 5th element not referenced in this example). There are many ways we can apply the Bagua map and the Five element theory to identify the colors to use in our spaces that will help us feel more cheerful, calm, motivated, and inspired. Color consultations are cost effective ways to help you balance the use of the five elements to create harmony in your space.
Create a sacred place
Find a place that you can use for prayer, meditation, yoga, writing, journaling, reading or just sitting quietly. If you do not have a space or practice like this today, think about how you can create one. Doing so can be the start of a beautiful self care routine that has a positive affect on your mental health. By calling this area something like your “sacred space” or "zen retreat" you imbue it with the essence of quiet contemplation that allows you to go inward and center yourself each time you enter it. Use this time to connect with the creator, practice your religion, meditate in silence, do yoga asanas or write your thoughts down in a journal. If you are like me, you might do all of these things in your sacred space! The area should be conducive to the activity and if it's not, you can apply the principles of Feng Shui to make it so. Use the Bagua Map to identify the best place within your home (or overlay it on a single room) to pinpoint where to create your sacred space. Mine has a yoga mat and blocks, essential oil diffuser and long, flowing white curtains that open up to a beautiful view. As I sit on my mat, I see a small sign, given to me by a friend, that reminds me to “Inhale the good shit and exhale the bullshit”. Next to it is a list of things I should focus on, such as gratitude, serving others and smiling. This immediately sets the tone for why I am there and what my focus should be. I take several deep breaths and start my meditatation, then do my yoga. My anxiety melts away and my thoughts of worry are replaced by thoughts of gratitude in the present moment. I find time to enter this area of my home every day, even if only momentarily. The sign I have may not be for you, but my space feels authentic and reverent to me, and that is what matters. Your space should speak to you in meaningful ways that you identify with and create a sense of peace that you can take with you into the world.
* I am a Feng Shui practitioner and not a mental health professional. I am sharing my own personal experience, and this information should not be a substitution for the advice of the appropriate Medical and /or Mental Health professional. If you, or someone you know needs help, please contact the National Suicide prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255