Place Right

Feng Shui for the Spiritual Seeker

This article was first published in Omega Source magazine in 2001.


Feng shui is said to be about creating a positive flow of ch’i energy in the environment. What is the flow? What is the energy? How does it show up in the environment? What are we to do about it?

When we visualize flow, we tend to think of a stream, which can limit our concept of ch’i to traffic patterns: where the carpet needs cleaning. Think, too, of light moving in geometric forms, chaos, a plant rooted deep and secure and one whose roots are drowned or withered. Think of steam rising from a hot bath, a tub ring, warmth emanating from embers, soot on the walls, a snug little house, a musty basement, sparkling glass, the dull film of an unwashed window, the patina of a piece of furniture loved by the family over generations, the piece you don’t really like but needed, the paint colour that is exactly right and the one that was not. Ch’i manifest is both positive and negative. As living human beings we seek to tip the scale towards the positive; we buy products to remove tub rings, not make them.

Ch’i is the invisible aspect of physical reality. Ch’i is in everything. It is frequency or vibration. We cultivate personal ch’i by working on our minds, bodies, emotions and spirits with the aim of being able to direct our individual energy the way we want, that is, to make the choices we wish to make in a given moment. The physical world is suffused with ch’i. The chakras and acupuncture meridians are two views of personal ch’i. Let us turn to how it manifests in homes and workplaces.

The ch’i of a place is called the ba gua (a Chinese term meaning “eight trigrams”). The term ba gua is understood to mean wealth, fame, relationship, and other experiences represented in homes and workplaces. Another way to think of it is the sacred energy of each place.

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We are powerful creatures. When we subdivide a lot, build a building, design an apartment, create a garden, or lay out a city, we carry out a sacred act. The universal ch’i follows our bidding and forms an energy specific to that place. This is called the ba gua. It may be asleep or awake, free flowing or blocked, escaping or contained, contaminated or clear.

Think of the ba gua as having three levels. The first level is earth and environmental influences. The earth’s energy grid, its positive and negative spots, flows of underground water, the composition of soil and type of rock under a building are all part of its ba gua. Earth energy is influenced by weather, individual and societal events, movement of the stars and planets and the earth’s journey of unfolding.

The ch’i of a pristine forest is different than that in an urban setting. Buildings contain electromagnetic fields from appliances, hydro wires, transformers and wiring. These deaden the ba gua. Dull, dense energies like electro-magnetic pollution displace more refined ones like clarity and vitality. Chemicals in the land and in building and cleaning materials contaminate the ba gua and contribute to illness. The slope of the land, watercourses and the water table can give rise to an unstable ba gua.

The second level of the ba gua is site history and construction. Places have perfect recall. All that has happened on a property or in a building leaves its energetic signature. A prehistoric burial ground can influence a home today in unwelcome ways. Death, illness or abuse leave their imprint. It is difficult to nurse the ba gua back to health in a place where someone has experienced an extended illness. Pain and conflict don’t go away; they are held in the ba gua. The same is true of joy, gratitude and laughter. Prayer and spiritual practice leave better ‘vibes’.

Design and construction are to the ba gua as conditions in the womb are to a child. When a place is designed and built with care and respect to reflect the true wants and needs of those who will use it, it has a happy, healthy ba gua. When there is skimping on construction materials and methods, the place starts life like a child whose mother took drugs during pregnancy. A slapped-on addition deflates the ba gua like a puncture in a tire. A problem during construction or cold-joined cement may injure the ba gua.

The third level of the ba gua is the consciousness of the people who live or work in it now. Our thoughts affect our places. A person who consistently gives in to confusion and victimization will have a different ba gua from one who diligently and sincerely tackles her challenges. We each have the choice to confront our challenges in every moment, to direct our personal ch’i in a healthy way.

A place that has experienced illness, loneliness and conflict can be transformed to an oasis of peace and harmony by renovating, redecorating, cleaning and good placement. A place that is lived in and cared for with love supports those who live or work there. There is no guarantee of success. We attract places to further our growth. Maybe a place does not work out despite our efforts. Time to learn from the experience and move on.

The level of psychological, spiritual and emotional development of the current occupants and their willingness and desire for change and integration are a potent aspect of the ba gua. Each of us has personal ch’i (power and energy), which we may direct to treating our places with respect and cultivating their sacredness. As we do, they offer refuge, nurture and wholeness.

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©Helen Williams 2001, 2008. All rights reserved

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