Monday, February 7, 2011

Feng Shui for Kitchens

By Erica Sofrina

Kitchens are considered one of most important rooms in the house. They represent the hearth and home and should be clean, well-lit, happy places for friends and family to gather and connect.
They are also a key place for you and your family’s health, which is closely connected to wealth. Having good health is paramount if we are to be able to successfully go out into the world and make a living.
This is one of the more active or yang areas of the home so bring in active, happy and inspiring artwork and brighter lighting.
Get Organized
Kitchens are magnets for everything to land, so you want to head it off at the pass and create places for everything to land. Vowing we are going to turn over a new leaf and keep counters clutter-free is often self-defeating.
Give the Small Stuff a Place to Land
Install a key rack/holder on the wall near the main entry door and train yourself to always hang them there when you come in. A small table next to the door with a basket on top is another option for organizing keys and spare change. Give them a place to land and discipline yourself to always put them in their designated place when you come in. After one week it will become a habit.
Mail and papers can be dealt with in many ways depending upon how you receive them. I get mine from the post office, which is great because I de-clutter all junk mail and shed all unnecessary envelopes into their recycle bins before leaving the premises. If you have to walk to get your mail, try passing by your recycle containers on the way back and do the same.  Always try to deal with junk mail the instant you get it and bring into your home just what is necessary.
Have an attractive basket on the kitchen counter where everything seems to be deposited. It should have a lid and be large enough to handle a week’s worth of mail and papers. Commit to emptying it and sorting everything out at least weekly. If the papers haven’t been read – recycle them. For unread magazines, give yourself a place to store them and limit it to five issues. As you bring in new ones, either recycle them or deliver them to places that would welcome them such as senior centers, beauty salons or non-profits that can use them.  Remember the three R’s – Recycle, Reduce, Reuse.
Organizers for Larger Objects
Pottery Barn and IKEA have an inexpensive piece of furniture that is great for organizing some of the larger things that land in the kitchen. It has hooks to hold book bags and coats with drawers, cabinets or cubbies below to hold multiple articles. Shoes for a shoeless home can be stored there, as well as books and homework that needs to be addressed later. If you enter the kitchen from the garage, train family members to unload these objects here.
Refrigerator Clutter
Refrigerator doors are great places to celebrate achievements and display pictures of friends and loved ones. Use this prime real estate for affirmations, vision boards and celebrations. The problem is that the few pictures displayed tend to have offspring and now you have a cluttered hodgepodge. If this has happened, take them all down, store in a shoebox and rotate five or six pictures each week giving everything and everyone a place of honor.
Clutter Clear Drawers and Cupboards
Kitchens are great places to do some quick purging of clutter and the junk drawer is a great place to start. If you haven’t used it in six months, deep six it. You will become inspired and will want to continue. Next tackle the pan cupboard and utensils drawers. You may be surprised at how many of those objects that were supposed to save you time just takes up space. Pack them up and donate to a charity that can use it for the benefit of others.
Clear Counter Tops
Discipline yourself to keep objects off the counters that you do not use on a daily basis such as toasters, blenders, mixers and Cuisinarts.  Store them in your newly cleared cupboards and replace with a few lovely vases and/or objects that inspire you. Juxtaposing functional cooking objects with whimsical or uplifting ones will greatly enhance the cooking experience and bring a higher vibrational energy into the food you are preparing.
Safety is Paramount
Safety is always of utmost importance in Feng Shui. We not only look at the things that are obviously dangerous, but the subtle things. Anything that looks like a weapon will keep us on ‘alert’ in the space.  Kitchen knives should be put out of sight in knife blocks or drawers designed for them. Remove all heavy pans, hooks or objects hanging off walls, ceilings and up high on cabinets. Store up high only lighter things such as baskets that will not injure if they fall.  Remove all flammable objects from close proximity to the stove. You will be amazed how much more you enjoy being in the space when the pans hanging on unfriendly hooks are removed.
The Importance of the Stove
The stove is considered extremely important and is connected to our health and wealth.  Stoves and burners should always be clean and in working order and ideally be in the empowered position, where the cook can see the action. If they have their back to the door while cooking, put a mirror or a reflective metal piece behind the stove so they can see what is going on behind. If you are remodeling your kitchen anyway, the happiest place for the stove is on a cooking island where the important chef will always feel like a vital part of the family while preparing meals.
Have an Attractive place to Share Meals without Televisions
Sharing a meal with family and loved ones should be an intimate and nurturing experience.  It is an important time to share our day, calm down and replenish our bodies. You need a good place to eat everyday, a place for people to connect and communicate. It is important to have comfortable chairs and an inspiring piece of artwork on the wall. Television shows are fine to watch as a family but are not conducive to good conversation or good digestion during a meal. Discipline yourself to always keep them off during meals.
If you live alone, make a ritual of eating. Turn off the television, light a candle, put on inspiring music and treat yourself as if you are the important person coming to dinner.
                    Bring in the Earth Element

Balancing the Five Elements in each room is an important part of Feng Shui for the home.  Kitchens should have a good amount of the earth element represented by earth tones, squares and rectangles and things made from earth such as tiles, adobe and stucco. The earth element encourages us to be in our bodies, which is important in kitchens where we are working with potentially dangerous things like fire and knives.
If you were planning on remodeling your kitchen, a good choice for the counter tops would be earthy granites or tiles in earth tones. There are beautiful tiles made of recycled glass that look spectacular on counter tops and will support our commitment to green building. Avoid darker tone in counter-top materials such as black, dark green or dark blues.  These represent the water element and encourage us to be out of our bodies, which is counterproductive to the activities we need to perform in kitchens.  If you already have a lot of black and metal you can add still add the earth element by bringing these colors onto the walls, adding terracotta or earth- tone pottery, table mats and table cloths.
Bring in Nature

We are all deeply connected to the natural world and biologically programmed to feel a sense of belonging and connection when we encounter it. Bringing in vibrant plants along with pictures and objects made from natural elements will energize your kitchen and make every one feel truly ‘at home’ here.
Creating a nurturing, happy, organized and inspiring kitchen will support the needs of the family while uplifting their souls, making your hearth truly the heart of your home!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Feng Shui Room By Room - The Living Room

By Erica Sofrina

Living Rooms
Living rooms are considered more Yin spaces where we want to relax and rejuvenate. They should be calming places with muted colors, more tactile fabrics with soft, comfy furniture.

Place the Main Pieces of Furniture in the Empowered Position
In every room that we spend time in we want to make sure that we face the main pieces of furniture, such as the sofa and bigger chairs, in the empowered position. This is where it is facing the main entrance but not positioned directly in alignment with it.  You will find that people will instinctively sit on the furniture placed in the empowered position first.  We naturally feel more comfortable and safe when we can see the action and don’t have activities going on behind us.
If you cannot move the sofa in this position because of room limitations, create a faux wall behind it. This can be done by placing a sofa table behind the sofa with tall lamps and plants on it, or by placing taller screens or trees behind. A mirror placed in such a way that you can see the entrance from the sofa will provide a greater sense of protection and comfort when you have to sit with your back to the door. You can always place the smaller chairs with their backs to the entry. The room will look silly with everything lined up in a row, but try to make sure the key pieces are in the best place for easy viewing.
Televisions should ideally be disguised in an entertainment center. This is the room often use for rest and relaxation and when televisions are the prominent piece of furniture it is tempting to have them on all the time. The more we can balance our television watching with reading, listening to music or other more creative activities, the more balanced we will feel in our lives. You can also cover them up with an attractive shawl when not in use. For rooms with huge wide screen televisions, I encourage my clients to get a CD or DVD that is like a screen saver. There are wonderful fish tank and fireplace scenes you can purchase that will change it from a black hole when it is off, to a lively interesting scene, attracting chi and balancing that part of the room.

Rooms with High Ceilings
High ceilings are very popular in more modern homes and apartments. They create a feeling of spaciousness, but are not very cozy. The chi or energy goes up to the ceiling rather than circulating nicely within the living space. As creatures of comfort, we seek comfy cozy places to relax and rejuvenate.
For rooms of this type we want to create what we call ‘a line between heaven and earth.’ This can be accomplished by creating an eye-line at about 8-10 high positioning pictures and furniture at the same height around the room. This will create the illusion of a lower ceiling and bring the chi back down into the space. Using earth tones and heavier rugs and furniture will also help anchor the living space in rooms with vaulted ceilings.

Bring in the Five Elements
Create an environment that brings in shapes, objects, colors and patterns from the natural world. The five elements are a powerful component of creating an environment that nurtures and inspires.

If you have a fireplace, hanging a mirror over it is a great way to balance this large fire element with the water element represented by the mirror. For fireplaces that are unused, cover the ‘black hole’ opening with an attractive fan or screen. You can also create an interesting scene within the fireplace such as sand with candles on black wrought iron stands. (My readers with cats will say they will use them as a cat box, so only do what is appropriate to your situation). Plants within unused fireplaces are also an attractive option.

Ceilings with Heavy Beams
Rooms with heavy dark beams on the ceiling will feel oppressive to be in and you will often find yourself gravitating towards cozier spaces with lighter ceilings. If you rent and cannot do anything about them, one idea to lighten up the dark ceiling is to hang small white Christmas tree lights on the beams or put track lighting on them angling some of the lighting upwards. Always move the main pieces of furniture you spend the most time on out from under a beam. If you own your home you may want to consider painting or staining them a lighter color. It is a big undertaking but if you have the means to do so it will make a huge difference in the way you feel about being in the space.
Hang pictures at the right height. Most people hang them too high, causing the same feeling as being in a room with high ceilings. A good rule of thumb is to hang the top of the picture at about 53 – 56 high. If you are sitting on the sofa facing a picture, hang it lower so that you can enjoy it while seated.

Create Conversation Areas
After 5 you no longer have a conversation area, making people feel a bit isolated if they find themselves sitting across the room from the sofa. Larger rooms will require two conversation areas or more. To allow for an easy and more intimate dialogue, arrange all seats in the same conversation area to be within about five feet of each other.

Group Objects in Relationship to Each Other
Objects have more interest if they are grouped in relationship to each other. You may have three or four objects that look great together. They make a stronger statement as a whole rather than individually. An example might be a low side table with a lamp and a picture that all work together. Put the lamp on the left side of the table and hang the picture low down on the right side just a few inches above the table top. (An occasional exception to the picture hanging ‘height’ rule) The eye will see all of these wonderful objects in relationship to each other creating interest and liveliness. Nature never bores us but our eyes do get bored in interior spaces. We need to create visual interest and invoke the element of surprise!

Clear Clutter and Remove Weapons or Weapon-like Objects
Clutter clearing is always paramount. Remember every object is alive and talking to you according to Feng Shui. Clearing clutter is considered a powerful way to make room for new opportunities in our lives and if nothing else, will make us feel better in the space. Arrange the furniture in such a way that you can easily move around the room. If your room feels cluttered with too much furniture, a good rule of thumb is to remove two pieces of furniture per room and see how much more spacious it feels!

Crate a Focal Point
This can be a mantle or a coffee table with an attractive candle, floral arrangement and decorative piece of art. One or two per room is all you want. If a colorful patterned rug is the main attraction, give it prominence. Compliment with a glass oval coffee table that shows it off with just a few objects placed on it. Enhance this with pillows that compliment the rug on a solid colored sofa with no pattern. You can have too much of a good thing creating a too-busy room with nowhere for the eye to rest. A good yin/yang balance in a room will juxtapose complexity and detail with simplicity and straight lines.
For those of us who collect treasures, arrange them in special places that showcase them but don’t allow them to take over the energy of the space. A moderate amount is interesting, but don’t over do it.

Safety First
Make sure all furniture is ‘people proof’ i.e. without sharp edges that can injure. Remove any object that looks like a weapon or is an actual weapon. No matter how interesting the artifact, our primitive instincts will register “danger “around them. Always store weapons behind locked cabinets.

Stay tuned for the next post on family rooms.

Feng Shui Room By Room - The Foyer

By Erica Sofrina

Welcome to the wonderful world of Feng Shui and my series on Feng Shui Room By Room. Over the next month, we will cover Feng Shui tips for all of the key areas of your home, room by room. Today, we will focus on the foyer, an area that’s especially important for welcoming opportunity into your life.

Whether you live in a house, a condo, an apartment or a one-room studio, hopefully you will find something helpful to take with you and apply to your own space.

The ancient art of Feng Shui is a wonderful study that brings together an eclectic mix of good interior design practices, the Chinese five element theory, Taoist principles of yin and yang based on the I Ching, and folk wisdom passed down from generation to generation in China.

At the foundation of Feng Shui is the belief that everything on the planet is imbued with life-source energy or chi and embodies consciousness, whether animate or inanimate objects. We, as humans are continuously interacting with everything we encounter. We are either being fed and inspired, expanding our chi, or our chi is being depleted by objects that bring us down.

Feng Shui acknowledges our profound connection to everything that surrounds us. Since we spend so much time in our homes, they are considered to have a powerful influence on our lives affecting our relationships, careers, prosperity and health, and are given utmost consideration. Creating a home that supports, uplifts and nurtures is considered tantamount to creating a balanced, healthy and happy life.

The Entryway – the Mouth of Chi
In Feng Shui we always begin at the front door, which is considered the mouth of chi where all of our opportunities come to us. My earlier article on How to Welcome Opportunities addresses the front door and entrance to the home, so I will move on to Feng Shui principles for the foyer of the home once we enter.

The Foyer

This is the transition area where we come in from the outer to the inner world. We want to make it ‘entrancing’ no matter what kind of foyer we have.
Homes and apartments have a myriad of different entrances areas. Some encounter a wall as soon as they enter, some have no foyer and we literally fall into the living space, some have elaborate entrances with room to create an ‘entrancing’ area.
What ever your situation, think about creating breaks and accelerators, stopping the chi before it rushes into the home, and creating a positive first impression. You can do this by creating a beautiful area that allows us to pause and reflect, lifting our chi and inspiring us as we enter.
The foyer is considered our most public area and not a place to display personal items such as family photos or religious artifacts. Save these for the more private areas such family rooms.

This is the place to hang your most lovely artwork, put a graceful table beneath it. Arrange an attractive floral arrangement (silk is fine) with ornamental objects that are pleasing. If there is no room for any furniture, you can hang a shallow shelf on the entry wall and put your arrangements there. No matter what kind of entry way you have to work with, make sure it inspires and uplifts.

Putting an attractive mirror at the entry way is a gracious way to welcome in the chi. Just make sure it is not placed directly across from the front door or it will send the chi (often interpreted as money) right back out!
Insure that the door can open fully, without encumbrances behind it. Front doors are considered very important in Feng Shui allowing in our opportunities and hence, money. We want to make sure there are no blockages here.

Clearly mark where people are to go if it is confusing.  As creatures of comfort, we never like to feel confused when entering any space. You can use directional art, which will cause the eye to go in the direction you want guests to go.

Stay tuned for later posts on the living room, family room, and more.

Space Clearing for the New Year

 By Erica Sofrina

A powerful way to set the stage for an auspicious new year is to clear out the old and start with fresh new energy in your home.

In this article I will show you how to do a major space clearing which will allow new energies into your life- in the form of opportunities, just in time for the New Year!
The 2,000-year-old art and science of Feng Shui teaches that every thing in our world is made up of life-source energy called chi. The goal is to arrange the chi or energy in our living and work spaces to utilize the optimum flow of positive chi in our lives.
Ancient civilizations have always acknowledged the power of the elements and our connection to this life-source energy. You may be familiar with the Native American practice of using dry sage “smudge” sticks to clear negative or denser energy from spaces.  The physical act of lighting the sage, combined with purposeful prayer and intention is what gives it the energy to clear the space.

Approaching energy in this way is not something we have language for in our western culture, which tends to be more left-brained, but we do feel and sense it all the same.
Have you ever heard the phrase “the energy was so thick you could have cut it with a knife”?  Perhaps you have gone into a home of a person who died recently and felt a thick oppressive cloud hanging over you that you did not come in with.

You are simply picking up energies. The more intuitive you are, the more you will feel them. Good energy hygiene is about knowing how to protect yourself from being an energy-sponge and having the discernment to know when something is coming from you or from someone else. teaches that our homes are a compilation of energies. They come from the objects we have chosen to put in them — our interactions with these objects and the emotions we experienced and expressed while living there. These energies collect in solid substances like furniture and fabrics and need to be cleared periodically. If not, they will anchor in old patterns that may not be reflecting what we truly desire in life.

A good time to do a major space clearing would be before or shortly after moving into a new home or dwelling.  It is also an effective way to set the stage for a positive new life direction such as  welcoming a new baby, celebrating a  marriage or a new career. Clearing the energies after accidents, arguments or illness would also be important. New years day is one of the most powerful times to purge your home of the old energies that have collected throughout the year, setting the stage for fresh new beginnings.

Many of you may already have your own methods of doing a space clearing. If you don’t, I will share with you a technique  that I teach to my own students These are instructions for doing a major space clearing, but you may want to do a mini space clearing every time you clean your home or at the beginning of each day to start with a fresh new energy. Open the windows and light a stick of incense or a smudge stick and move it around your home with the intention of clearing the space.  A note when traveling: opening the windows, using your hands to clap loudly up and down the walls, is a very effective method to clear your hotel room from energies of the prior occupants.

How to do a Major Space Clearing
Start with taking a shower and washing your hair. You want to start fresh and end fresh. When you finish the space clearing take another shower that evening, washing your hair again along with your clothes.  Energies collect on fabrics and you want to insure you are not keeping any of the residue of old energies.

Remove all metal jewelry, belts, etc. Metal inhibits your ability to feel the energy.
Thoroughly clean your home and open all windows. If you live in a very cold climate at least open your windows for the main part of the space clearing.  Fresh air is always a natural space clearer!

Remove all animals, children, and invalids from the premises. Cats and dogs can be put in a safe space in the yard.  Remove fish, birds, and smaller animals as well. Large amounts of energy can strongly affect and even harm them. (Just make sure you don’t put the cats next to the birds and fish or you might have the kind of space clearing you don’t want!)

Prepare a bowl filled with water for each room of your home. Float nine flowers in each bowl. The flowers can come from your garden or the store. Choose small ones that you can pop the heads off and easily float on top. You can also use nine petals from a flower. Nine signifying the magical number of Bagua.

Put one bowl of flowers, a stick of lit incense and a small lit votive candle in every room of your home including the garage.

Choose your space-clearing tool. It can be a loud bell, drum, rattle or gong. There are bells you can purchase which have four types of metals that are specifically used for space clearing. I prefer to use a bell because it will make a noticeable thud when encountering areas where the chi is stuck.

Stand at the front door with your space-clearing tool.

Do a grounding exercise where you visualize roots coming from the bottom of your feet going deep into the earth. Pull this loamy brown earth energy up through your torso feeling the rooted grounded energy in your body.

Call in your spiritual guides and say a prayer of protection and intention that all past energies be completely removed from the premises and do not enter into anything and anyone on the way out.

Starting at the front door, go around your home counter- clockwise, using your space-clearing tool of choice.  If you use a bell, ring it up and down the wall as you walk slowly around the room. Then move on to the next room. Tune into the energy and see if you can feel where the more stuck areas are located.  You may want to go around again in these areas. 

Visualize the stuck energy releasing from the ceiling and walls and furniture and moving out the windows.

When you are finished with the entire house, go back around each room from the same counter clockwise direction, and smooth the energy by using softer bells, a smudge or rain stick. You can use your hands to make “smoothing” gestures to move the energy out of the room and “calm down” the existing energy.

End back at the front door. Say a prayer releasing and thanking your guides, intending for the space to continue to be protected and blessed.
Bring the children and pets back in.

Let the energy sit an hour or more, keeping the window open as long as possible, preferably the rest of the day.

Then gather all the bowls of water and flowers and pour them together into a bucket.  It is very important to not touch the water or let any little people or critters drink it.  This is one of the vehicles for the dense energies to go into and is powerful stuff. Pour the water with the flowers somewhere off your property. You can put it down the gutter, it is all biodegradable and won’t harm the environment, but it should be entirely off your own property.

Finish by standing in each energy center of your home and saying an affirmation about that area of your life. Speak it out loud, in gratitude, with enthusiasm and in present tense, as if it is true now. 

Clearing out the old and bringing in the new energies with purpose, intention and passion will set up an energy grid in your home that will help move your life into an auspicious and powerful new direction for  2011. 

Have a happy and blessed New Year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Feng Shui For the Office

 By Erica Sofrina
Creating an inspiring work environment is an important factor in generating more abundance in your life. The more your spaces uplift and stimulate you, the more time you want to spend there and the more energy you put into what you are doing.
We spend a lot of our life at work. I don’t need to tell you how uninspiring an office full of faceless, featureless cubicles can be and how drastically that lowers morale.
Whether you work in a home office or in a big corporation, you can still do something to make your workspace more inspiring for yourself and raise your energy level or chi.
When you feel safe, comfortable and happy in your space your energy field expands. As a result people want to be around you. When people are drawn to you they naturally want to spend time with you and bring you opportunities. You thus might find doors starting to open, blockages starting to unblock and people offering you options that often translate into more money and more general abundance.
In this article we are going to investigate simple and inexpensive ways to revitalize your workspace by shifting the chi.
Our basic instinct is to be safe. It is in our DNA and a part of our genetic makeup. When you are sitting with your back to your office door you are going to feel disempowered and vulnerable. One key component in making us feel safe is to make sure your desk is placed in an empowered position facing the door. It’s also important not to sit directly in front of the door because chi flows strongly through doorways and you will never feel at ease. It would be like standing in a strong river current. It is too stimulating to sit in for long periods of time.
Here are some other ideas for how to place your desk and still be in the empowered position facing the door.
If you have a window and you want to enjoy the view, turn your desk to the side that allows you to see the door along with the view.
You can also bring a desk facing the wall out into the room and sit behind it, arranging printers and file cabinets behind you.
For those with built-in desks that can’t be moved, buy a rear view mirror with a sticky back (sold at auto supply stores) and position it onto the top of the monitor so that you can see what is happening behind you.

Another aspect of safety is physical comfort and prevention of injury. If you feel uncomfortable sitting at your desk and are straining or aching after a few minutes, hours or at the end of the day it is not set up correctly. If you are hurting as a result of working, the message your body sends to you is “don’t go in there, it is an unsafe place that will injure you.” This is why it is important that your office is set up ergonomically and that your chair, desk and computer are all at the right height for easy work.
A last area of safety is to make sure all cords are housed in safety runners so that people cannot trip and injure themselves. From the Feng Shui perspective if anything feels like it can be unsafe you won’t feel truly at ease in the space.
Besides the safety factor, clutter is also disturbing to us. A tangled snake pit of cords will disrupt our sense of serenity in the space. Roll them up, tie them up and drop them into an attractive container such a beautiful basket.
Nix the fluorescent lighting and bring in incandescent lights whenever you can. Even turning off half of the fluorescent lighting in your office and using a desk lamp will make a huge difference in your energy level at the end of the day. They may be energy saving but they are also energy sucking and are extremely draining to your energy field.
Protect yourself from EMF’s or electro-magnetic fields. This is a subject that deserves an entire article dedicated to it, but in short, studies have shown that EMF’s scramble and weaken our energy fields and are suspected to contribute to serious illnesses. However EMF’s are prevalent in our lives, especially in areas that use a lot of technology. Protect yourself by not sitting close to the back of a computer monitor and using laptops whenever possible. Use landlines rather than cell phones if you can. You can purchase devices and pendants that will help re balance your energy fields and that can be used on electronic equipment such as cell phones. Two tried and true products I recommend to clients can be found at these web sites: Gia Wellness and Omega products. Both are reputable companies that sell EMF protectors. You can find many more on- line.

Clear Clutter and Organize
I know this is always easier said than done. If you are overwhelmed by this piece, as many of us are, give yourself the gift of a professional organizer. Don’t berate yourself if this is not your forte. Hire someone who can instantly see how to arrange things in your office for maximum effectiveness. After this you will get the knack yourself and be able to continue on your own. Don’t underestimate the importance of asking for and hiring help, even for two hours. It can make a huge difference in your life. Offices are often the most disorganized spaces in hectic lives but order in this sphere is actually crucial to your success in the world. To take care of your physical environment also takes care of your mind, body and spirit.
Inspire Yourself!
Bring in art that you love. Even when your bookshelves are filled with those unattractive binders and manuals that you need for your jobs, juxtapose them with art and objects that bring you joy. Make sure your shelves reflect who you are and what inspires you in life. Make sure every object has its space so that it does not look like a haphazard arrangement of clutter.
Bring in Nature
At our essence we are ancient creatures who came from 100,000 generations of ancestors who lived in the natural world. Surrounding ourselves with objects and art depicting those origins are essential to mental and emotional well being, reminding us who we truly are. Studies have shown workspaces devoid of nature cause depression and lower productivity among workers. Commit to having beautiful plants or fresh flowers. Bring in a water feature and nature art and calendars depicting beautiful landscapes. Bringing in the five elements of wood, fire, earth, wood and metal is a key component of the Feng Shui teaching. In terms of your family pictures, a few are comforting but too many are distracting. Your workspace is for the development of who you are in the world and what your contribution to that world will be. Reserve the private spaces in your home to display images of your loved ones.
Bring in Environmental Affirmations
Use the important ‘real estate’ of your office walls for affirmations of what it is you want to bring into your work life. For more private home offices this is a great space for your career vision board. Create a collage with words and images of the true work you imagine doing, whether you are there or not. Your pictures and images create powerful environmental affirmations, sending this message continually to the conscious and subconscious mind. We must think it first in order to create it, so make it up and put it on your walls and watch it manifest in your life!
Offices are Yang Spaces
Offices are places where you want to generate energy and should be light, bright and happy spaces that by their color schemes contribute to lifting your spirits.
Remember that your office is your space for manifesting who you are in the world. Think of it as your altar to call in that energy in your life and let your imagination soar!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Yin and Yang, the Key to a Balanced Home

By Erica Sofrina

Have you ever been in a room that didn’t feel good to be in but you couldn’t figure out what was wrong? Chances are the Yin/Yang components were out of balance.

Yin and Yang is at the foundation of the Ancient Practice of Feng Shui. It has to do with the recognition that the universe is made up of opposite forces of energy, which cannot exist without each other. They are finely balanced and, like polar sides of a magnet, are innately attracted to each other.

The Yin/Yang symbol (picture at top) depicts two fish gliding together in perfect balance. Each carrying components of the other; the black fish with the white eye and the white fish with the black eye. The two swim together in perfect harmony creating a circle, the most ancient symbol depicting wholeness.

Feng Shui acknowledges that we are ancient creatures who naturally seek balance. If our living spaces are not balanced, our lives feel out of balance as well. By learning to work with the Yin and Yang components in our homes, we create supportive spaces that bring our lives back into harmony as well.

The concept of Yin refers to the feminine principle, which is passive, dark and yielding. Yang refers to the male principle, which is bright, active and extroverted.

In physical environments Yin objects would be reflected by circular shapes, darker more muted colors, lower darker rooms, upholstered furniture of soft chenille, velvet and corduroy fabrics, carpeting and area rugs, and smaller detailed prints. In building materials adobe, brick and stucco would be considered more Yin materials. In design history, the eras that incorporated Yin qualities would be the Victorian era, Louis IV and VI and the Baroque period.

In architecture the Bauhaus period in Germany from around 1919 – 1933 was the beginning of modernist design utilizing more Yang components. Slick glass and mirrors, metal and plastics, high, vast ceilings, bright angular spaces, bold stripes and geometric patterns, square, hard angular furniture without detail, flooring of hard woods, cement and tile, all reflect Yang design materials and features.

In balancing a home we want to first determine the use of the space and then incorporate the Yin and Yang qualities appropriate for it. Passive spaces should incorporate more Yin features and active spaces more Yang features. The key, however, is to make sure we always have some of both qualities and not an over abundance of either.

Yin rooms are the places you want the energy to calm down to support rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. Yin rooms would be bedrooms, dining rooms, living rooms, possibly family rooms and bathrooms.

In these rooms we would want to bring in more Yin features such as comfy furniture, more muted colors and lighting, plush fabrics and more detailed patterns and accessories. Having a bright, light ultra-modern bedroom with high ceilings and slick fabrics would not serve the occupants and will often translate to sleep disorders.

Yang spaces are the more active spaces such as children’s playrooms, kitchens, gyms, home offices, laundry rooms, family rooms (depending upon the use), hallways and garages. These spaces should incorporate more Yang components with brighter lighting, whites and/or bolder colors, more angular shaped furniture and accessories with less detail.

In using modern Yang qualities make sure to choose furniture with more rounded edges. Sharp-edged furniture is considered weapon-like in Feng Shui. It may be subtle, but you will never fully relax in a space that has objects that can injure you. Our homes always need to be ‘people friendly’ no matter the style of decor you are drawn to.

We also want to bring in all of the Five Elements, which include plants and things that are either from the natural world or represent nature. Ultra modern homes devoid of nature will never allow us to feel truly ‘at home’ because of our deep innate connection to the natural world.

The key is to have a balance of both Yin and Yang qualities in every room, emphasizing more Yin or Yang features depending upon the use of the room. Yang features will make the space more active and Yin features generate a more restful atmosphere. Make sure your design choices and styles are serving the people who need to occupy the space, and not the other way around.

Once we have achieved an appropriate Yin/Yang balance in each room, we will be well on our way to creating a balanced and harmonious home that supports, uplifts and nurtures our lives!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Importance of Bringing Nature into the Home

By Erica Sofrina

This picture is of the creative Thanksgiving table created by my nephew at age 12. It was a sad time, the Thanksgiving after his mom passed away. She had always created wonderful holiday center pieces with her children  and  we were all feeling bereft. I asked my nephew to create the center piece from the wonderful collection of pumpkins and gourds that I had, thinking he would just use these. He went out for half hour and and brought back ferns and nasturtiums, nuts and berries, autumn leaves and  many other fabulous treasures and created the most marvelous arrangement. I saw that her spirit lived through him and that he would teach this to his children and on down the ages she would be remembered. Her creative and wonderful spirit influencing these marvelous creations for generations to come.

The fact is that we need to bring nature into our homes especially when the days get shorter and colder and the weather more inclement. It is is our DNA to respond positively to nature. When stressed , just spending 20 minutes in nature will balance and rejuvenate our energy field. Bringing nature into our homes is a key component of the teachings of Feng Shui (See last week's article on Beating the Holiday Blues with Feng Shui).The goal is to have all of the five elements of fire, earth, metal, water and wood balanced in every room of of our living space.

The elements when closest to their natural state will contain the most vibrant 'chi' or energy. However, there are colors, objects and shapes that represent these elements as well. Some are more subtle and some more obvious. A tall cylindrical shape (reminding us of a tree) represents the wood element, along with medium blues and greens, anything made of wood, plants and trees and pictures of them.

When the elements, or an element is not in balanced in a room it can have a profound affect on us, especially children who are energetically very sensitive.(See my article on Feng Shui for Children's Bedrooms). A bedroom with soft green walls, wooden furniture, floral prints on the walls and and a floral print bedspread will have an abundance of the wood element. When in balance the wood element represents healthy growth. Too much of the wood element, however, will make us feel over expanded and overwhelmed.

This is why that green bedroom you thought would feel so soothing is making you feel agitated. The wood element is out of balance and you are responding energetically to this You can bring it back into balance by removing some of the wood element and bringing in things that represent the element that controls wood, which is metal.

The metal element is represented by white and cream colors, pastels, circular shapes, rocks and stones and metal. Just by changing the floral bedspread to a pastel or cream color that is not a floral print and accessorizing with whites and pastels will begin to bring the room back into elemental balance.

If we find we are staying 'too small' in our lives, our environment will often reflect too little of the wood element. Staying too small is a symptom of too little of the wood element. Perhaps your bedroom is all whites and pastels representing the metal element. This is the element which controls the wood element, which is not serving our needs here because the little bit of the wood element we may have in this room is being overpowered by the metal element. In this instance we might add a floral bedspread, a green chenille throw and pillows on the bed and some floral prints. Just remember to get the right amount of all of the elements, not too much and not too little.

The Feng Shui Five Elements theory can provide invaluable insights as to why our lives are out of balance by looking at the elemental imbalances in our homes. In future articles I will demonstrate how some of my clients teens went from combustible to manageable just by elementally balancing their often 'too fiery' bedrooms.

I encourage you to learn more about these powerful concepts to help make your home into a vibrant and rejuvenating place that feeds your soul and nurtures your spirit!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beating the Holiday Blues by Bringing Nature into the Home

One of my favorite fall rituals is to fill my trunk with an abundance of the multicolored, unusually shaped pumpkins and gourds that richly grace the Half Moon Bay, N. California coast side where I reside. I especially love the lime- green and tangerine ones with exotic curly handles. I throw in handfuls of dry, crackly autumn-colored corn and drive happily home where I arrange them artfully around a haystack on my front porch.
Inside I arrange a bountiful ‘horn of plenty’ with the smaller multicolored gourds and mini-pumpkins along with the acorns, dry corn and colorful autumn leaves I have collected. This is my celebration into fall. I don’t really feel it has arrived until I greedily scoop up nature and feature it prominently in my home.
The Chinese art of Feng Shui emphasizes the importance of bringing nature into our living space, which is called the Five Elements Theory. This is the part of Feng Shui that I have found the most powerful when working with
my clients, and the part that I most enjoy teaching to my students. I think it must be because this teaching is so intuitive and simple, yet transformational. As human beings we are connected to 100,000 generations of ancestors who lived in the natural world. It is embedded into our DNA to feel a deep sense of balance and well being in nature. Studies have shown that people become depressed, lethargic and unproductive when deprived of it. We don’t need science to prove the joyousness we feel sinking our feet into white sands while watching a magnificent sunset. We experience it healing our soul and nurturing our spirit.
One powerful way to remedy winter blues is to work with balancing the elements that begin to diminish during the fall and winter seasons. In working with the Feng Shui five elements of fire, earth, metal, water and wood, we work with the controlling and the nurturing cycles. When we have too much of an element we control it by bringing in the element that is stronger. An example would be the element of earth, which we would enhance in order to control the element of water. When we have too little of an element we can nurture it with the element that feeds it, such as the element of wood which will strengthen and feed the element of fire.
By bringing into our homes more of the elements of fire (red), wood (green) and earth (gold) during the colder months, we overcome the abundance of the water element and bring them back into balance. Because we are deeply affected by our physical surroundings, our physical bodies come back into balance as well. As a result depression and lethargy often naturally lifts.
It was no surprise to me to discover that our ancestors had been decorating in this same fashion for centuries. As creatures of comfort we will always try to bring our environment into alignment. In so doing they were naturally balancing these seasonal imbalances. My favorite winter ritual is to fill my trunk with large branches from the unclaimed fir trees and berry bushes around my home. I give them their seasonal ‘haircut’ and into my trunk they go. That evening, I put on my favorite holiday music and immerse myself in the creative process of adorning my home with these bountiful earthy treasures. Always preferring to save a Christmas tree, I create my own ‘greener’ recycled version and adorn a tall vase with pine boughs with twinkly white lights, shiny gold balls, strings of red cranberries and my collection of small unique ornaments. I cover the mantle with pungent greens, red poinsettias, strands of magical white lights and shimmering silver and gold ribbons. A cherished Angel holds the place of honor at the center. Every tabletop gets a
unique variation on this theme creating a sense of interest and visual surprise everywhere the eye rests. I encourage you to play, create, feel and experience the objects, textures, smells and magic of nature. Bring it into your homes in abundance during this time and especially emphasize the more earthy, woody and fiery aspects. It will replenish your soul and create a deep sense of joy and well being within you, making the fall and winter a magical cozy and happy time to be in your home.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Entrancing" Entryways that Call Opportunities to Your Front Door

The ancient Chinese Practice of Feng Shui puts a great deal of emphasis on the entryway to the home. It is considered the “mouth of chi” where all of our opportunities come to us. This may seem like a bit of a stretch to westerners, however, in recently reviewing my old Interior Design textbook from years ago, I saw that it presented some of the exact same concepts as this 3,000 year old practice.
It stated that choosing the right entryway was the most important part of the design of the building and should be chosen after a great deal of study and care.  A poorly designed entryway would hamper the success of the business and/or negatively affect the occupants of the home, which is also a primary Feng Shui teaching.
It went on to say the entry should be strongly differentiated from the immediate surroundings making it easily identifiable from the street, and should make a graceful transition between the street and the inside. If it was not easy to see and people had a hard time finding it, they would arrive grumpy and out of sorts which would negatively impact the occupants.
It talked about how people need 15 feet to adjust from the outer to the inner domains. How the experience of arriving at a front door after enjoying a fragrant and attractive garden was considerably more enjoyable and helped make the transition. If the transition was too abrupt there would be no feeling of arrival and the inside of the home would fail to be an inner sanctum.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Pumpkins and Feng Shui

Me with my Fairy Godmother, Anne delivering a bounty of pumpkins

I love pumpkins. They combine the earth and fire and wood elements and bring such a nurturing earthy quality into our homes. One of my greatest joys is getting a car load of pumpkins and making beautiful harvest arrangements on my porch and in my home. I also create wonderful pumpkin arrangements for dear friends, my special fall gift to them.  Here are some pics of my fall pumpkin arrangements. Do you have creative ideas for pumpkins?

Your Home is Attracting Your Future!

 By Erica Sofrina

A missing component from the popular book The Secret is the important role our environment plays in manifesting the life we desire.
According to the laws of attraction, every thought radiates a signal and attracts a matching signal. Every object in our homes is a physically manifested thought-form of our conscious and unconscious belief system about what we believe we deserve to be, do and have in life. The single woman who desires a relationship but surrounds herself with single objects and pictures of single women is vibrationally anchoring into her home unconscious affirmations of the opposite future she desires.
Feng Shui is powerful because it teaches us to become conscious of the hidden messages in our physical surroundings that may not be serving us, giving us valuable insights as to why our lives may be headed in the directions they are! It provides valuable tools for getting our lives back on track and teaches that we can literally shift our future by shifting the vibration of our physical environments. As we arrange our space to reflect what we truly want, our lives follow suit. It is simply the law of attraction: like attracts like.
Feng Shui addresses the subtle things in our environment that wear on us over time and bring our chi (energy) down. Examples might be clutter piles, the sharp-edged furniture that can injure, plants dying or limping along, objects from past relationships that bring us down, dis empowering or disturbing art, heavy objects like beams or ceiling fans overhead create a feeling of being unsafe. Beds and key pieces of furniture placed with our backs to the door will also create a feeling of dis empowerment. Highly manufactured products like plastics and synthetics not only pose health issues because of the out-gassing, but will also carry a denser vibration.

Is Your Child Not Sleeping? Feng Shui Tips

At its essence, Feng Shui is a collection of practical, tried and true ideas about how to create living and working environments that support, nurture and guide our lives in a direction that promotes optimum well-being.
If our children are not happy, healthy and thriving, every family member is impacted. Creating a child’s bedroom that supports rest and rejuvenation is a key component of a happy home.
You might be a well-meaning parent who believes in empowering your child to design their own room. Your little girl may have selected bright purple, pink or yellow wall colors with bright pink sheets and a bedspread to match. She filled it with stuffed animals, dolls and wall art depicting Disney animals and people whom she admires. She loves playing in her room during the day but, when night comes, she wants to sleep anywhere else but there.
You may have designed a little boy’s room with bright yellow or blue walls filled with jumping, zooming, flying and crashing action figures. He loves his room, but getting him to sleep at night leaves you exhausted and him in meltdown mode.
Children are ultra sensitive to energy. I have helped numerous clients change their nocturnal monsters into little lambs that can go to bed easily and sleep through the night. The key is to change the balance of Yin and Yang. and create a more restful space conducive to sleep.
Yin and Yang are the balance of activity and rest, or the play of opposites. In a home, Yin energy encourages rest, rejuvenation and relaxation and should be used  in bedrooms, dining rooms, family rooms and living rooms. Yin spaces use more muted colors, ambient lighting, soft and sumptuous fabrics, curved and circular furniture and peaceful artwork.