Article: Speak Easy

Feng-shui:  The Nonsense  That Makes Sense with Michael BoturFeng-shui:  The Nonsense That Makes Sense with Michael Botur

Firstly, a list of costly things my wife has done to our home to try improve it:
• Crowding the lounge with antique furniture
• Hoarding medical curiosities she buys off trademe, such as a violet ray or 1930s chamber pot
• Purchasing a $40 pecan seedling which didn’t grow*

And now, a list of cost-free, simple changes to our place which have made a surprisingly large difference:

• Getting RID of furniture so the open interior spaces feel more inviting
• Keeping clutter off wooden surfaces
• Rearranging the position of our bed

It’s this last one which I can’t get over. The missus and me both come from that sort of Generation Y religious-without-acting-religious attitude in which we’ve been raised to believe in a God we can’t feel, while we believe equally strongly in scientific scepticism. So, while we feel feng shui is a bunch of BS, we also believe it has effects which are plainly evident.

Known to us Westerners as “the art of furniture arranging,” feng-shui (which means ‘Wind and water’) is not something you need to externalise or segment or consider a fringe practice. People call it “the Chinese art of furniture arranging,” but it’s not something which is rarefied; it’s not an ‘art’ in the way that painting or writing is an art. It’s a permanent practice and it’s based on the belief that every location has a natural vital energy force binding the universe, earth and humanity (chi) and that building and furnishings must be in harmony with chi. To determine chi, you use a bagua, which is vaguely like a compass or dowsing rod. You may scoff, but there are some scientifically verified concepts underlying feng-shui. Everything in the universe is composed of energy. Certainly energy flows in many forms – the human circulatory system, air, water, electricity and sound. Magnetic lines, though? Not so much – magnetic lines would have to be up to 1000 times as strong as they currently are to have an effect on the flow of energy around people.

Still, the concept of ‘flow’ in your house is something everybody can sense (except hoarders.)
‘Flow’ (which is equally nebulous to feng-shui) means when you’re moving through your house in a routine way, putting on or taking off clothes, creating or disposing of food, getting up or sitting down. Flow means the features around you are unobtrusive, helpful and comforting. If it feels to you like that’s a mystical force you would like to label as ‘feng-shui,’ that’s cool. Also, having familiar things arranged in a way which we won’t bump into, with windows and gaps in every room, allows us quick uncluttered escape from predators, which satisfies the primitive reptilian cortex of our brain (I just made that up, but it factual.)

Some unassailable facts, though:
• cleaning a house and increasing the symmetry of its interior spaces reduces the levels of stressor hormones like cortisol.
• Having a proud, clean, inviting home will induce you to invite companions over, creating further spiritual satisfaction.
• Respecting windows and gaps means increased exposure to vitamin D within sunlight.
• Having air circulate through gaps, windows and ventilation can shift harmful bacteria away.

And, while feng shui isn’t a religion, being religiously spiritual can improve happiness in people according to lots of indicators.
So even if it is a bunch of mumbo jumbo, it pays off. 
*because I killed it with the lawnmower

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.

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