Wednesday, January 23, 2008

In need of a little Feng Shui!

Oh dear, the daily posting has slipped a little! Mitigating circumstances: youngest daughter poorly, two friends with man trouble, a weekend house guest, something called housework, tons of paperwork (moving stuff from one place to another, mostly!), my student mum blog, and the first draft of my first short story (almost ever!) ...

But I caught up with lovely comments on here (thank you), responded to a very interesting comment (about characters and identity/identities) by aliqot on her meme post, and checked out the huge variety of comments on Lane's fab post about nits (still scratching!)

Then I decided to do a little research for a post about Feng Shui (as promised ages ago!) I'm an expert at Romance Corner Feng Shui (or maybe not, thinking about the results so far!) and have a fair understanding of the general principles, but have never really thought about Feng Shui for the office or study, so decided to snuggle up yesterday evening (in my Education/Knowledge and Intuition corner) with three Feng Shui books, all of which mostly say the same things ... and I am mostly doing it all wrong!

But here are some things I found interesting from the perspective of a writer:

(I will list the books used at the bottom, most of the following information comes from all three, so I'll only reference an individual book occasionally.)

Desks: It is important to try and 'protect' your back, while sitting at your desk, by positioning yourself to face a room, or as Stephen Skinner puts it: You should try to place your desk in a 'commanding position'. (86)

I am already in trouble, I write at the kitchen table, with my back to lots of to-ing and fro-ing. (And I very rarely feel in any kind of commanding position in this house!) But I like sitting here, and it seems to be a good place with regard to the light, as I have light coming from the right (best if you are right-handed, and vice versa) and although it's natural light through a window, I don't suffer glare as it faces (vaguely) North and is also diffused by the jungle outside!

Belinda Henwood has further interesting points to make about desks:

Square or rectangular desks are more suitable for making money, while oval, round or curved are more conducive to creative work. (Perhaps that's one reason why it's often hard to make money from creative work!)

A desk in too strong a colour, like black, will make working difficult.

Have task lighting if you can.

Tidy distracting clutter. (More about the dreaded C word, later!)

(Henwood, 53)

Light: Natural light is best but avoid discomfort from heat and glare. Light from the East is preferable, so you don't have the setting sun distracting you late in the afternoon when you're tired. Avoid sharp angular lamps.

Angles: Feng Shui, being all about natural energies, would suggest any sharp angles are undesirable, particularly if they point at you (a corner or cupboard, for example). They create 'poisonous arrows' of chi, which should be dispersed by something ... plants are usually suggested, but our coat stand has happily ended up in front of the worst of my own poison arrows.

Clutter: (Oh dear!) Skinner suggests that bookshelves 'if tidy are not too much of a problem' (tidy?!) and continues to explain that if the shelves 'create cutting sha, then fixing doors to enclose them will improve the situation'. (86)

Ok, the shelves in the front room are usually tidy, but those next to the kitchen table are so not, and I couldn't imagine locking my lovely books away in a cupboard. Will just have to live with this one, I think. Although perhaps I could put a gorgeous trailing plant on the top. Speaking of which ...

Plants: Green leafy pot plants encourage positive energy.

Hale has helpfully included a list of plants known to help clean the air:

Lady palm (Rhapis excelsa)
Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)
Rubber plant (Ficus robusta)
Dwarf banana (Musa cavendishii)
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
Heart leaf philodendron
Croton (Codiaeum variegatum pictum)
Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia 'Exotica compacta')
Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Boston fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata 'Bostoniensis')
Syngonium (Syngonium podophyllum)

(Hale, 217)

Belinda Henwood also has some interesting points about plants:

The imapala lily (Adenium obesum) is the flower of wealth and prosperity and is well placed in your living room.

The money plant (Dracaena), an evergreen, will bring wealth and long life and is effective in offices and studies.

Cactus wards off evil spirits.

The chilli plant symbolizes growth and wealth.

At Chinese New Year the Chinese bring plum blossom into their homes because it represents growth and renewal.

Indoor plants with red, yellow or orange flowers will add yang colours to a yin room.

(Henwood, 58)

Ok, back to the office, and the dreaded clutter!

Clutter continued: The doorway/entrance should not be cluttered.

Hmmm, as I look at our kitchen doorway and into the hall, I can see a little clutter:

Said coat stand, actually undetectable beneath assorted coats, hats and scarves
One pair of huge green wellies from youngest daughter helping out on a friend's farm (oh, lambing time soon!)
One large heap of muddy trainers
Four pairs of Ug boots belonging to eldest daughter (bit of a fetish!)
One small white cupboard full of newspaper and magazine articles (and with separate door as it fell off when I kicked it last week)
Seven odd gloves on the radiator in the hallway
Numerous post-it notes on the kitchen door
One towel hanging on the door, waiting to go in the tumble dryer for youngest daughter's bathtime
One pile of 17 books on the cupboard
One rather battered gardening fork and large plantpot filled with bulbs
One wrinkled mat, where the cat has been spending her mad half hour

And that's before you even get fully into the kitchen and the two large tables piled with further books (etc.!) ...

Gill Hale says 'There is no excuse for clutter'. (226) She suggests tidying up while asking the question, 'Do I really need this?' I do ask myself this question when decluttering, and the answer is, invariably, 'I do! I do!' (I will almost certainly need it another day if not right now ...)

Journals: Hale also suggests cancelling subscriptions to journals, and using online journals in preference to printed versions. Ok I get where she is coming from, and I know it makes sense, but I can't shake the word 'sacrilege' ... perhaps there's room for compromise here.

In-tray and bills: Other things I know make sense but find hard to put into practice are having a single in-tray (I have a stack of six) and dealing with bills promptly (no comment!)

Filing: Some more good advice from Hale is to use a revolving card file. I know organised people have these. I did buy one once, and tried to use it, but seem to manage better with my own chaotic system of various diaries, notebooks, scraps of paper ...

Books: 'Many people find books difficult to discard, yet the speed of technological change renders information out of date rapidly and some books ... should be regarded as disposable items.'
(Hale, 227)


Enough about clutter! Am sure you get the idea ...

The 8 sectors of the Pa Kua:

(Stand at the doorway of a room, imagine the eight points on a compass laid out on the floor, North being the wall the door is in, and South being the far wall. East is the wall on the left, West on the right, and the final four points are the corners in between.)

North: Career prospects
Northeast: Education
East: Family Relationships and health
Southeast: Wealth and prosperity
South: Recognition and fame
Southwest: Romance
West: Children
Northwest: Mentors

(Skinner, 62)

Skinner suggests you work in either your Career sector or your Wealth sector, but I think the Education sector or the Mentors sector would probably be great for writers too.

Wealth sector: If you hope to make money from writing, get some fish! Skinner suggests you enhance your Wealth sector with fish as Water produces Wood, which is the fundamental element of the Wealth sector. (86)

The Five Elements:

(Hale 203)

WOOD: Often known as "The Arousing" in its yang form, Wood signifies growth and movement. In its yang form it is more dynamic, suggesting brainstorming, new ideas and snap decisions. In its yin form, often referred to as "The Penetrating", it is more intuitive. Plans are carried forward and executed, ideas turned into designs.
YANG (+) EAST: Development/Ideas

METAL: Yin form "The Joyous" suggests pleasure and reflection, both inward and outward manifestations, mirrors and shiny objects and contemplation. Yang form "The Creative" suggests strength and immobility.
YIN (-) WEST: Small metal objects (knives, ornaments), finance, meditation
YANG (+) NORTHWEST: Heavy engineering, machinery

EARTH: Yin "The Mountain" indicating stillness. Here we sew the seeds, prepare and provide comfort. Yang "The Receptive" is productive - its output is turned into goods.
YIN (-) NORTHEAST: Plant nurseries, printing and reprographic services
YANG (+) SOUTHWEST: Quarrying, pottery, food production

FIRE: Fire is yang and does not have a yin form. Known as "The Clinging" it suggests activities concerned with bringing ideas and products to fruition and promoting them.
YANG (+) SOUTH:Publishing, public relations, laboratories

WATER: Water is yin and does not have a yang form. Known as "The Abysmal" it suggests an area where the energy is not active, but where there is a regular flow.
YIN (-) NORTH: Storage and warehousing, secret negotiations, production lines

Colours and Qualities of the Five Elements:

Green (Wood): new business, growth and development
Red (Fire): dynamic, outgoing, forward-looking
Yellow (Earth): intellectual, rational
White (Metal): fresh start
Black (Water): secret research

The Relationships of the Five Elements: (Hale 223)

Element/Helped By/Harmed By/Weakened By/Weakens

Career sector: Water is the fundamental element of your Career sector, so a fish tank is a good idea here too.

'As the colour of water in the North is either dark blue or black, another symbolic addition to this area is blue light. A fish tank directly symbolizing Water is good, but you should choose black or dark blue fish, rather than too many red or gold fish.' (Skinner, 84)

Other tips for your Career sector are:

Metal produces Water, so try a horseshoe or a windchime.
Earth destroys Water so don't overemphasise this element with crystals, for example.
Wood exhausts Water in its production, so avoid plants as they will sap the Water element.

Buildings and the Five Elements: Hale explains that the Five Elements are also useful in considering the buildings we work in: Buildings and environments associated with each of the Five Elements support different types of business activity.

In her list (page 199), the closest 'business' to Writer, is probably Artist I think, with the element Wood:

Wood buildings are tall and narrow in shape or are made of wood. Wood environments are ones in which there are trees and vegetation. The energy suggests new ideas and new beginnings. (I want a shed!)

Communications might be another useful area to consider, linked to Water:

(I love the idea of writing in a place made of water!)

Water buildings are those which have irregular shapes. Water environments are ones suggesting flow and making links. The energy is that of communication.

Balance: I think the point of Feng Shui is to try and achieve balance in all things (it is referred to as the study of the balance between heaven, earth and man) and encourage the flow of energy in our selves and in our environments.

That is probably why Yin and Yang are important considerations.

Office Yin/Yang: (Hale 214)

In an office, a balance of yin and yang is necessary for the smooth running of business. Too yang may mean jobs don't get done and can result in stressful situations. Too yin and productivity may be low with a resulting failure to move forwards.

Yang offices contain:/Yin offices contain:
Telephones and faxes/Carpets
Rectangular desks/Curtains
Blinds/Art works
Metal cabinets/Dark furniture
People traffic/One person
Conversation/Wooden cabinets
Light decor/Wallpaper
Reflective surfaces/Textured surfaces

Yang activities include:/Yin activities include:

Yang people are:/Yin people are:

Some further interesting points about Feng Shui in general, from Belinda Henwood:

The importance of views: A good view is good feng shui. the beneficial sheng qi it brings encourages good luck and prosperity. If the view is a little gloomy, sheng qi can be increased by window boxes and paying special attention to your window dressing. (39)

Movement: Things that move in the wind like coloured ribbons or wind chimes also stimulate positive qi. (61) (I think there is more than enough movement already in this house!)

Calm, quiet: The qi in your home office or study needs the balance of calm and quiet along with mental stimulation. You will want yin or cold hues to aid concentration (yes, we have a pale green kitchen) and gentle lighting (yes, that's ok too). For practical reasons it is preferable if you are away from the activity and noise of the kitchen or family room (yes, well, every room in this house is active and noisy.) (37)

Missing corners: Square or rectangular offices will bring the most success; you may find it difficult to complete projects in an L-shaped office. (I have an L-shaped kitchen, but have always thought of it as having an 'extra' bit, rather than a 'missing' bit!) (51)

The Collaborative Office: (This made me laugh, thinking of it in terms of my own 'office' aka the kitchen table mostly!)

The characteristics of this approach are:

No personal space. (Nope!)

Communal desks and equipment. (All equipment is communal, though one of us uses things like washing machines and hoovers much more often than anyone else! Desks are MINE! Or at least the kitchen table ... I have too much stuff on it for anyone else to find any space anyway.)

A variety of workspaces. (I work mostly in the kitchen but have been known to work anywhere I can find a little peace.)

No internal telephone calls or memos. (No telephone calls, lots of yelling from one room to another. Memos everywhere!)

Stand-up meetings which reduces length. (Unless they disintegrate into stand-up rows!)

No departments. (There is one department here, of which I am the boss. Not.)

No clutter - anything lying around is thrown out. (Erm ...)

No receptionists or secretaries. (I wish! Someone has to do the paperwork.)

All staff can do all jobs. (They can? Of course, but do they?)

(Hale, 238)

One last thought to leave you with (I love this!) from Belinda Henwood:

The Three Gifts

Feng shui is referred to as the study of the way of heaven and earth in relation to humans. It can help us choose a way of life and a place to live that is in harmony with our ren tao or the way of being human. The Chinese call this relationship san cai or the three gifts. (6)

Well, I certainly need to work on the Feng Shui here! I wish you well with any Feng Shuiing of your own, hope some of this helps. I would write more, there are still scrawled notes all over the table, but if I spend any longer writing my "stupid blog" right now, positive energy and harmonious family relationships will be under serious threat!

Hale, Gill The Practical Encyclopedia of Feng Shui (London: Anness Publishing Limited, 1999)

Henwood, Belinda Feng Shui (Sydney: Lansdowne Publishing Limited, 1997)

Skinner, Stephen Feng Shui (Bath: Parragon, 1999)



That's really interesting - especially about the desk positioning. It's like our bedroom...I only feel right, somehow, if the bed is facing a door. I can't sleep otherwise.

I'm terrible with working out North/East etc, though I'm sure there's an easy way to do it, I can never remember what it is!

I'm looking to buy a new plant for the room I write in, so I'll bear those suggestions in mind :)

Annieye said...

What a whopper of a post. Really interesting. We tried it in our office once but it worked so well that Lucy went to sleep on her desk with her head on her arms - and woke up with a lovely herringbone pattern on her forehead.

She blamed the feng shui!

Moondreamer said...

Thank you, Karen, I'm glad it was helpful!

Have fun choosing a plant ... I think Peace Lilies are lovely and heart-shaped leaves always make me smile. Spider plants are very good 'cleansing' plants too.

I find the Pa Kua difficult, because it is 'upside down' but for normal compass directions, this is the way I remember it: North is like 12 at the top of a clock face. Clockwise I read it as Never Eat Soggy Wheat. I'm used to using this now, but it might be fun to come up with some new ideas! Plus I remember West is left because they sound very similar. :0)

Moondreamer said...

Hi Annieye!

Yes, monster post (good job I had people nagging me to get on with other stuff, or it would have been even longer!) so I'm glad you found it interesting ... and thank you for not mentioning the lousy proofreading! Though ornage flowers and fush tanks made me laugh when I got chance to re-read it with fresh eyes this morning.

Sounds like your office Feng shui worked a treat! Hope it works as well here, maybe I'll get some peace and quiet? (Who am I kidding ... I wouldn't know what to do with it!)


Leigh said...

This is absolutely fascinating.
Well, I have a wooden desk (albeit rectangular), and I'm working in my wealth and prosperity sector. But, I have lots of clutter (clutter-tidying time, is lost-writing time), and many poisoned arrows. (my Anglepoise lamp for a start).

However, I am in the (long) process of organising a room of my own (read: the loft), and will keep this post for reference!

Lane said...

I think I now know where I'm going wrong -- far too much clutter and too many pointy edges:-)

Agree absolutely re 'protecting your back'. I write most of the time at the kitchen table too but always facing the door. It feels safer and no-one can see what I'm writing:-)

Thanks for all the tips.

HelenMH said...

Must get me some fish then! Please do a romance corner post - I soooo need it!

aliqot said...

It'll take a lot to convince me of the more spiritual aspects of feng shui, but the section about disposable books and clutter set me thinking.

(One of the identities I have is a grumpy rationalist)

Moondreamer said...

Hi Leigh, yes fascinating stuff!

Though it can get a little too complicated with numbers and directions when you really get into it!

Perhaps you could drape a pretty scarf over the angle bit of your lamp?

Good loft with the loft! :o)

Moondreamer said...

Me too, Lane (far too much clutter!) and you're very welcome!

I am resigned to the clutter I think ... having decided it's all very useful clutter!

Am just about to write another post and will try and include some more about pointy edges :o)

Moondreamer said...

Fish are good for romance too, Helen!

Having checked the books last night, for some extra advice, I am now off to write you a post about romance corners! :o)

Moondreamer said...

Comments from 'grumpy rationalists' are always welcome, aliqot, as I have tendency to be too much of a 'pie-in-the-sky idealist'!

From a clutter point of view though it certainly works ... when things get out of hand here and I have a decluttering/housework session, I feel like I can breathe better as well as think more clearly. Colour and light definitely affect me too, by making me feel calmer or more energised.

I think a lot of it is to do with intention, if we do something believing it will make us feel better, it invariably does!

I have real problems disposing of books, though, unless I find a loving home for them! :o)

Pacha said...

Thanks for this. Interesting. Lots to sort out in my house!

I've tagged you! pressure incidently

Leigh said...

Yes, a scarf. That's a nice idea. I notice, now I look at it, that the angle bit it actually pointing at himself, so I shall find something to save him from the poisoned arrows instead!

Moondreamer said...

Thank you Pacha, glad you found it interesting ... lots to sort here too!

Thank you for tagging me too, I enjoyed doing the meme!


A scarf would work, Leigh, or maybe a plant ...

Or maybe you could treat yourself to a new lamp, with sexy curves instead of sharp 'pointy bits' (I love Lane's fab take on poison arrows!)