Feng shui is a) the scary red Pokémon, b) a vegetarian noodle dish, c) a popular Asian rap musician, d) the art of home arrangement that commands us to keep the toilet lid down.
If you answered "d," you know your yin from your yang. Feng shui (pronounced "fung shway"), the 5,000-year-old Chinese art of placement, says that how your home is decorated and organized can enhance -- or disrupt -- your well-being. There are many different schools of feng shui, and it can take decades to master the art, what with juggling bagua templates, Chinese astrology charts, and color wheels.
"Although it's a deep art form, feng shui's basic principles can be applied by the average person," says Anne Stevens, a certified feng shui practitioner and founder of the Graced Space School of Feng Shui in Lakewood.
Feng shui's most basic idea is that there is an invisible energy called chi (pronounced "chee") that constantly circulates in the universe. People need a healthy flow of this energy to be well. Feng shui's principles are about fostering chi's movement throughout the home. And what can happen if your home's chi doesn't circulate well?
"What I see most often is people "stuck' in some way -- either with bad health, financial problems, or relationship difficulties," says Stevens about the symptoms of poor feng shui. "They want to get out of the rut, but don't know how."
Case in point: One of Stevens's married female clients moved into a house with bad feng shui regarding marriage and love relationships. Shortly thereafter, the client split up with her husband. The woman stayed in the house and made some changes to improve the feng shui regarding that life aspect. Three months later, she met a man whom she now plans to marry.
Changes may not always be so dramatic. But if you're out to solve a simple problem, like getting your child to sleep in his own bed at night, feng shui just might help.
Three years ago, Robin Perez of Westlake heard about feng shui from her brother-in-law's Chinese mother, who solved her grandson's sleep problems by repositioning his bed so that he could easily see the bedroom door. That success spurred Perez to research feng shui and start changing her own home. Her first mission was to eliminate clutter, which blocks chi and causes careers, relationships, and physical health to stagnate.
"Clutter is the worst," insists Perez, who has sent 35 bags of clothes to charities overseas. "I used to have a rocker and a stool right by our front entrance. It felt so cluttered, because you always had to squeeze past when you walked in."
Perez recently hired Stevens, who offers private feng shui consulting services, to come out to her home for advice on some problem areas. "I had a brand-new desk that I didn't want to sit in, and I couldn't figure out why," says Perez. "Anne pointed out that the bookshelf next to the desk was blocking my view of the window. Also, my desk shelves were crowded with framed photos. Anne said to move the bookshelf and keep only a few pictures, a mirror, and a candle on the desk.
"I love working there now!" Perez exclaims.
But Stevens had a lot more suggestions for Perez. Because the house sits on a main street, she told her to hang wind chimes at the front door to mask traffic noises and to encourage the inward flow of chi. She had Perez hang a mirror on the wall above the stove to allow her to see people as they entered the kitchen behind her. Finally, Stevens recommended that Perez always keep the toilet lids closed to prevent loss of wealth and positive energy. Did Perez follow all of Stevens's advice?
"Now," she chuckles, "all of our toilet lids have little notes on them that say "Shut me!'"