I do have a book on feng shui forthcoming to publication who knows when. The feng shui book was the one I was working on after Holistic Tarot, but by flukes of circumstance my sophomore book became The Tao of Craft on Fu talismans, or sigil crafting. I then set aside the feng shui book, but will pick it up and finish it for publication at some future point.
Learning feng shui. Wow. I grew up with feng shui principles embedded into everyday life, I then studied it intensely for myself as an adult, I’ve served as a feng shui consultant to who knows how many folks, and still I don’t know everything there is to know about feng shui.
I think of feng shui as, like, law school. Learning “the law.” How the hell do you learn “the law”? There’s constitutional law, contracts law, antitrust law, maritime law…. Most law students learn the nuts and bolts of every one of those subjects and all main aspects of “the law” and then graduate hoping they’ve received the best education possible but what does every newbie lawyer learn right away? They don’t know shit about the law. Nothing in law school ended up preparing them for the actual practice of law, for lawyering. To say you want to learn feng shui is like saying you want to learn “the law.” Damn, sure, okay. Where do you want to start? And, with the learning of “the law,” perhaps you’ll specialize in a particular area of the law?
When it comes to feng shui, you have different schools of feng shui thought.
Form School is nature-based. It’s most concerned about natural land formations, and also what we humans have done to those natural land formations and what our, shall we say, modifications (urbanization) have done to the natural land formations. Form school relies heavily on the sacred trinity, the Heaven, Earth, and Man concept and how every natural land formation can be categorized as a “Heaven” form, “Earth” form, or “Man” form. Form school also looks at use. Certain land formations are good for certain uses.
Form School is the oldest tradition of feng shui and may be where feng shui gets its name. “Feng shui” is wind and water. The Form School of thought looks to how wind and water flow (or not flow) through a given area. Wind and water are the first-sign indicators of how Qi is flowing and affecting the area.
Compass School starts to get a bit more scientific, or if the word “science” doesn’t sit well with you in the context of a woo-woo practice like this, then pseudo-science. Compass school gets into directionality and begins to rely more heavily on the Lo Shu magic square. Within Compass School you have a couple of different branches. Flying Star is the most well-known. Under Compass School traditions, you’re probably going to start looking at Chinese astrology and the Chinese sexagenary and luni-solar calendar. Dates of birth become relevant. Zodiac signs matter. Something called a person’s Kua Number is taken into consideration. Under Compass School traditions, whether you’re in the northern hemisphere or southern hemisphere will matter.
There are many other modern schools of feng shui that have emerged, though if I start mentioning them, it’s quite the rabbit hole. Mention one, kinda better mention them all… Let’s just say now there are numerous schools of feng shui founded on different metaphysical principles. You’ve got one that relies heavily on the I Ching 64 hexagrams. You’ve got others that integrate geomancy. What else… I don’t know. There’s just so many. There are some based around one cult figure who rises to prominence and the school of feng shui is basically whatever said cult figure dictates. And anyone learning hodge podge feng shui not guided by any one set school is going to learn exactly that: hodge podge feng shui, an eclectic mix of many different schools of thought.
So how do you learn feng shui?
Start by understanding basic Taoist cosmology. Understand that when you look at a living space, a house, an office space, a building structure, everything you see with your eyes has an unseen energetic component to it. That energetic component is its Qi. That Qi can be characterized in ways pursuant to Taoist cosmological principles. And then, like chemistry, some elements go together and are in harmony; others are in conflict and create tension.
Feng shui is going to be the Taoist-based vocabulary and science to explain what the sensitive intuitive knows already. So at every turn, trust your intuition, not some maxim or principle you read out of a text. Texts convey a general rule and generally speaking, it conveys a valid point. However, the text itself does not possess intuition. It’s not there, in that living space with you, feeling and sensing the Qi energy. Myriad factors specific and unique to your geographic area and even your specific location, given things your neighbors have put up, thereby affecting general Qi, or something unique to the area that a general rule in a text cannot account for. That’s where intuition comes in. You’ve got to be a critical thinker (and intuitive) and hear the general rule, but be critical about whether it applies to what you’re trying to do, or if something feels a bit off.
The Lo Shu in Feng Shui
The Lo Shu reference grid (it’s a magic square; read The Tao of Craft) as applied to feng shui sheds light on what I call the acupuncture reference table for a given space. Just like how your body has certain acupressure points that correspond with other parts of the body (the theory that every coordinate on the palm of your hand corresponds with a body part and acupressure on that coordinate will affect that particular body part; same with your foot and that’s where reflexology comes into play; then of course, acupuncture), every part of your house corresponds energetically with a particular area of life.
The idea here is that Qi, or life force, when it gets modified or influenced in a certain way, will in turn modify and influence livelihood because the resonance of that Qi bears an amplifying or weakening relationship with the resonance of Qi that most affects that area of life.
In Taoist religious terms, the four directions are governed by four guardian deities, and in some sects, are represented by four animals or the four guardian deities themselves are expressed as four animals. There’s also the concept of five directions, and the center corresponds with the Qilin, a mythical Chinese beast. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
These four guardian deities are tasked to oversee certain areas of life. That’s why certain areas of the home per directionality correspond with certain areas of life. That’s the mythical explanation, kind of how like once upon a time the conditions of the sun and moon were explained by gods and goddesses, though now we have scientific vocabulary to match the mythical one. Feng shui, then, is somewhere between the mythical explanation and the fully scientific one.
Please be clear: the above is the first baby step in assessing the feng shui of a given area. It is not the last step, the main step, or anything more significant than Baby Step One. Again: I can’t stress enough– the Qi energy for the specific area you’re assessing is affected by what’s going on in the surrounding area, and if anything, that’s more important to consider than the above grid. Don’t press your nose up and look at one tiny segment of feng shui only. Stand back, way back, and get a broad, complete, and panoramic view.
So. To start, where is the front entrance? Which direction is it facing? In broad strokes, an entrance facing south is most auspicious because it is in direct receptivity of Qi energy that supports ambition and happiness.
To give you a sense of how to consider exceptions to the rule, what if a home faces south but has a large lake smack in front of the entrance? Lake is Water. Lots of it. Water weakens Fire, which is the essence of the Qi that corresponds with ambition and happiness. That same lakefront property facing north, then, is very auspicious, because Water now becomes empowering. Get it?
But… not every single lakefront property facing south is bad. In fact, quite the opposite. Generally, and there we go with another general rule, lakes strengthen healthy Qi. There are things a practitioner can do, what we call “feng shui cures,” that can encourage harmonious flow of the Qi coming from the lake, the Water, with the essential Qi of a south-facing front door, the Fire.
Certain schools of feng shui then talk about compatibility between land and person. Therefore, your date of birth needs to be considered and assessed with year of construction for a building. Noting the numerology corresponding with each sector of the grid, the numerology of your date of birth may need to be in harmony with the numerology of the sector that your bedroom falls in.
Speaking of that bedroom, which way does the door to your bedroom face? A bedroom in the southwest corner, all exceptions to the rule ignored for purposes of the hypothetical, could mean you’re more likely to experience good opportunities when it comes to love and relationships. If the bedroom to your door opens into the ambitions and honor sector, that right there affects the specific nature of energy that will affect you, and it will be totally different if that same bedroom has a door that opens toward the innovation and children sector.
Your very presence also affects the Qi that affects your life path. For example, if the room in your house corresponding with the wealth and assets sector is one that’s very clean, tidy, and one you always buzz about in, where there’s lots of energetic foot traffic, lots of happy chatter, lots of positive energy you and your family have added to that area by just being there, this really amplifies your opportunities for wealth and asset gains, especially if the décor of the area has been fortified with Wood and Water (the Wu Xing that amplifies Qi for wealth and assets).
However, if the room in your house corresponding with children (and fertility) is that room that no one ever enters, that collects dust or is cluttered beyond livability, the door is closed and is only used once in a blue moon, then the couple residing in that house may experience fertility issues and difficulty with childbearing.
One thing my Mom does very well, and many feng shui practitioners seem to do well, is the ability to profile the occupants of a home. She can walk through somebody’s living space and tell you a lot about the people residing there. “Have you been experiencing fertility issues? You know there would be less fighting between you two if you did this and this. Oh… your children must be doing very well in academics! Does someone in this home suffer from severe illness?”
That’s not psychic ability. It’s just an understanding of feng shui principles and assessing the feng shui of that place. When Hubby and I were house hunting, I found that I could get a strong sense of why the sellers were moving, especially if it was because of a divorce. And it was just off the feng shui of the place. If the homeowners left their own original furniture in place and wasn’t using staged furniture, then you could find out even more about them!
Perhaps the most practical you-can-implement-now takeaway point I can convey about the Lo Shu here is for interior décor. What is it that’s lacking in your life right now? Can’t find love? True love just seems to elude you? Well, besides the typical shadow work and self-reflection one does, have you taken a look at what’s going on in the southwest corner of your home?
Struggling with your finances? Are you in university and worried about your academics? Locate the Lo Shu sector that corresponds with the area of life you want to support. Are there any immediate changes to interior decor you can make so the area is more harmonious with its empowering elements? Are there feng shui cures you can add to that area to help a sister out? For wealth and financial prosperity, a common feng shui cure is something called a prosperity bowl positioned in the southeast area of the home.
The Wu Xing in Feng Shui
The below reference chart might help you get a sense of what type of interior décor and what traits correspond with the Wu Xing.
The Luo Pan Compass
Another theory behind feng shui is that magnetism affects Qi. How specifically magnetism affects Qi can be detected, using a compass. In the Compass School of feng shui, the Luo Pan is used. The Luo Pan is basically a compass plus the below reference diagram.
I DIY my own Luo Pan. I basically hold a compass up and a printout of the above image file (called a heavenly dial) underneath it. You can place one of those liquidy-thingies (I’m so technical) that has a little ball inside that helps you determine whether the surface is perfectly flat. I have one of those, too, and I set it on top of my heavenly dial printout to make sure I’m holding it evenly.
You can set the heavenly dial on the floor, position it accordingly with the help of your compass, and then from the center point of the dial, pin down red string and extend that string out across the length of the room. Use red string like that (okay, it doesn’t really need to be red; but if you want to look legit, red string gives off the impression of being legit) to know exactly which areas of a room or home correspond with what.
So just to quickly explain the Luo Pan you see above. Outer periphery of the circle inward, first you have the corresponding degrees for a full circle, 0 to 360. 0 is 360, btw. I hope that was redundant.
Then it’s directionality. You use the directionality here to line up with your compass. Then you see each eighth of the circle subdivided into three sections. (If you’re drawing your own heavenly dial, this is simple division). Mine three subdivisions aren’t precise, because I eyeballed it. The way I approach feng shui, this doesn’t need to be precise to the degree; just, you know, very, very close ballpark. These three subdivisions correspond with earthly branches. To save time, I’m just going to say this is all explained in The Tao of Craft (even though that book is on Fu talismans, not feng shui). Earthly branches matter when you’re applying certain Compass School traditions that involve alignments between land and the occupant’s Ba Zi, or personal astrology.
Then inward after that are Kua number correspondences. This again goes to the occupant’s birthday. Then it’s what that segment corresponds with in terms of area of life. Then corresponding guardian animal spirit and Taoist mythology. Then corresponding planet. Then Wu Xing. Then Lo Shu number.
My heavenly dial is missing the Ba Gua trigrams for each of the eight segments. If you want to include it, just scroll back up to the Lo Shu square to figure out the correspondences, and then include it in the version of the heavenly dial you draw.
Feng Shui and Astrology
So how exactly is personal astrology used in determining feng shui? Well, that depends on which school and tradition of feng shui you’re using. However, today, by and large every feng shui consultant you encounter is going to ask you for birthday information and include that in the consultation. Almost all the widely practiced schools of feng shui now incorporate personal astrology.
You can do something very simple, like compare the Chinese zodiac sign associated with the year the house was built with the Chinese zodiac sign for the head of the household. Traditionally homes were inherited by the eldest son, and so once that happens, if there are incompatibility issues with the astrology, feng shui cures are implemented. Thus, if the zodiac signs are incompatible but relocation isn’t feasible (or the majority of occupants by democratic vote want to buy the house anyway because they love it), then rest assured there are feng shui cures. I’m sure there are lots of free online resources that offer compatibility charts for the twelve Chinese zodiac signs.
You’ll note the earthly branches on the heavenly dial. Earthly branches are part of Ba Zi, or Four Pillars analysis. That’s a form of… I don’t know what it is. It’s not astrology but we basically use it like it’s personal astrology. It’s based on the Chinese sexagenary calendar and your month, day, year, and hour of birth. The zodiac sign, Wu Xing phase, heavenly stems and earthly branches are then calculated. Here’s where we determine house and person compatibility–through the earthly branches.
Yet another school of feng shui uses Kua numbers. Your birthday and gender (you identify as) assessed together correspond with a Kua number, and your Kua number determines auspicious and inauspicious directionality. You can then use the Kua number to decide whether a house or office is going to be auspicious for you based on the directionality of the front entrance.
The below table instructs on how to calculate your Kua number.
And here are the directionality correspondences for the Kua numbers:
The I Ching and Feng Shui
This gets more complicated, but essentially, here’s the theory. You’ll see in the Lo Shu diagram that each sector, other than the center, corresponds with one of the eight trigrams of the Ba Gua. If within a given sector the interior décor or basically, the Qi that is generated by whatever particular circumstances that affects that sector is characterized by another particular trigram of the Ba Gua, well then now you have two trigrams of the Ba Gua.
The trigram of the room is the lower trigram; the trigram of the interior décor (or feng shui cure or just how the Qi there might be assessed) is the upper trigram. We’ve now formed an I Ching hexagram. You then look up the corresponding I Ching hexagram (there are 64 in total) and that oracle will convey a sense of the precise luck the occupants of the home experience.
Now, a feng shui practitioner can get quite creative and really use energy to control the luck of the occupants by precise pairing of the trigram of a room with a trigram of how you’re filling up that room to produce certain results. But if you don’t know what the I Ching is, and your head is still spinning from the conversation on the Lo Shu and Wu Xing, then just read these paragraphs, smile, nod, and say “noted with thanks.” Because yeah. Shit gets complicated.