Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Feng Shui and the 5 Element System Part 3: The Diminishing Cycle

As you can see from the diagram, in addition to the nourishing cycle, the 5 element system also features a diminishing cycle. This means that each element is destructive toward, or mitigating, one other element. This doesn't mean that the presence of a diminishing element completely erases an element's potency, but it does mean that it lessens it and tames it a bit. This will be helpful to know when seeking to aesthetically and energetically balance out an environment that is characterized by an excess of a certain element.

The diminishing cycle is as follows.

Water Extinguishes Fire
In this photo, notice how the fiery red palm trees, reminiscent of fireworks, the diagonal slant of the brick, and the pyramid-shaped top of the light all combine to create an extremely fiery elemental expression. Indeed, if these aspects were in the desert, rather than overlooking the sea, you'd feel so parched that just looking at it would require a tall glass of lemonade on ice. However, because it is overlooking the sea, notice how tolerable and even pleasant it appears, albeit extremely dynamic in its extreme presence of two elements that interact in a destructive way. Similarly, fireplaces can be elementally balanced quite easily by hanging a mirror or an image of water just above them, and a dry desert landscape can be transformed into an oasis by the simple addition of a fountain.

Fire Melts Metal

This interior is quite metallic: the white, clean lines and metal accents all bring in the metal element, as does the white snow out the window. However, the fiery accents - the lighting, diagonal orientation of the hardwood floor, and the diagonal slant in the chair, as well as the actual fire in the fireplace - all bring a sense of warmth to the room. See how, visually and energetically, it's like a warm, fuzzy melting of the cold, precision of metal? Imagine a straight chair, no fireplace, and a hardwood floor oriented in straight rather then diagonal lines. That would sort of make you want to do your chemistry homework, wouldn't it? On the other hand, the melty fire gives you a bit more passion and emotion: it makes you more likely to want to entertain guests or curl up for an intimate night with your partner (both fire element activities).

Metal Cuts Wood

This environment is extremely woody (with accents of fire), but also features the strongly metallic fireplace (stone, as well as round and oval shapes, bring in the metal element) and the metallic light (round, related to machinery, and actually made of metal). When you imagine the image without the fireplace or light, the predominance of the wood element would be overwhelming, which would probably make you more likely to want to run outside and train for a marathon (as the wood element relates to movement and nature), and less likely to want to hang around and do anything else in the space. Notice also how the presence of the metal element lends the mind more of a sense of focus and precision (both metal element aspects).

As a side note, this environment is devoid of the water element almost completely, which makes it feel parched, unemotional, and overly masculine.

Wood Covers Earth

The terra cotta color of these rock formations, as well as the flat expanse of earth beneath them, are powerful representations of the earth element, while the trees and greenery are powerful representations of the wood element. Notice how by simply covering the earth, the trees bring a freshness and an upward movement rather than the stillness and desolation that would be present without them. A similar effect takes place in your home when you temper too many squares, rectangles, or earthy colors with flowers, plants, floral prints, forest pictures, wood furniture, plant-based fabrics, or any shade of green.

Earth Dams Water

As mentioned in yesterday's post, although it can happen, there is rarely an overabundance of the water element in a space. Still, it's good to understand the diminishing cycle, even in this case, so that you can avoid overly inhibiting the water element when you want it to be prominent in a certain area (such as the career area). With this in mind, notice how, in the picture, the flat expanse of the yellow earth (yellow is the earthiest of earth colors) strongly diminishes the sense of emotional fluidity of the water element. Similarly, earthy elements in your home (yellow, brown, tan, terra cotta, squares, rectangles, things made of clay, images of flat expanses of earth) will, through diminishing the potency of any watery representations, create more of a solid, still feeling and less of a fluid, deep, emotional one.

Elements in Harmony

In conclusion, the idea is to establish a harmonious balance of all five elements, and to look to the bagua to see what element or elements you might especially emphasize in any given area.

Now that you know about the elements, and how they interact, see if you can notice them all around you, both outdoors and in. Also notice how images and settings (such as the one at left) that feature representations of all five elements feel the most livable, comfortable, and inspiring.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Feng Shui and the 5 Element System Part 2: The Nourishing Cycle

As you can see from the outside circle of the diagram, each element is nourished by one other element, and each element nourishes one other element. This means that when you want to enhance, say, the fire element in a certain room, you'll want to add both representations of fire and wood (since wood feeds fire).

At first, this might seem complicated, but when you take a moment to analyze and assess any given indoor environment, or even anything visual such as a piece of artwork, a photo, or an outside environment, you'll begin to see this nourishing cycle in action. Below, we'll talk about each of the 5 nourishing relationships.

Wood Feeds Fire

In this photo, notice how the barn has powerful fire element associations: it's red and its roof goes up to a triangular point (both red and triangles bring in the fire element). Additionally, notice how the wood material of the barn, along with the surrounding greenery, really fuels the warm, fiery feeling of the fire element. If the barn were made of metal and surrounded by a barren dessert, the whole thing would feel much cooler. As it stands, visually and energetically, it feels almost as warm and as blazing as a crackling fire.

Fire Makes Earth

Recall from yesterday's post that animals and people (or images thereof) bring in the fire element. In the elemental system, fire makes earth in the way that a raging fire turns everything into ash, and in the way that people and animals digest food and transform it into manure. In this photo, notice how the earthly colors of tan and brown, as well as the actual earth, is made earthier by the presence of the elephant. Without the elephant, the feeling would still be earthy (and also woody), but without the elementally anchoring element of fire, it would be less so.

Earth Creates Metal

Remember how the earth is represented by a flat expanse of horizontal space, such as the extremely level airport pavement in this photo? As you can see, this flatness enhances and clarifies the feeling of mechanical precision (the metal element) brought in by the airplane. In the natural world, earth creates metal in that metals and crystals (also a representation of the metal element) naturally form within the earth.

Metal Holds Water

The metal element - represented by granite, stone, marble, and crystals as much as actual metal - holds the water element, as literally illustrated in this picture. Energetically, as well, please notice how the presence of the rocks and cliffs gives this water more of a potent, concentrated appearance than it would have if it were surrounded by dirt or grass. This elemental association (metal nourishing water) is also said to be true in the way that water condenses on the sides of metal containers when cool water is placed within them.

Water Nourishes Wood

Water obviously nourishes wood by providing needed sustenance and moisture to green and growing things. Imagine this same picture without the water: wouldn't the greenery feel more parched and less potent? Additionally, notice how the presence of water has covered even the rocks (representations of the metal element) with lush green moss (a representation of the wood element). In our homes, similarly, water pieces (such as mirrors, glass, fountains, and pictures of water) lend visual and energetic strength to representations of wood (such as plants, wood furniture, flower prints, and pictures of plants).

Monday, April 21, 2014

Feng Shui and the 5 Element System: An Introduction

Wow, I've blogged about a lot of aspects of feng shui, but not until this moment have I attempted to blog about the entire Chinese 5 element system and how to apply it to your home. That's because - even though I use this tool quite frequently in my feng shui practice - its dynamic nature makes it somewhat more complex than some other feng shui tools. It's like a language, and it takes just a little getting used to. But hang in there! Once you learn about it, you'll start to see it everywhere, and if you continue to consciously apply your new found knowledge to the world around you, before you know it, you'll become fluent in the "language" of the elements.

For this introductory blog post, let's talk about each element individually. In subsequent posts, we'll talk about how each element interacts with each other element, and how you can employ this interaction in order to establish a sense of balance and harmony in your home.

For now, suffice it to say that in any given room, it's ideal to have at least some representation of each element somewhere in each room. And, if you read the DIY posts for each bagua area (DIY Feng Shui, parts 9-17) certain areas of the bagua feel best when certain elements predominate.


The earth element represents stillness, solidity, nurturing, and receptivity. It shows up in the physical world in the colors yellow, orange, brown, tan, and terra cotta as well as square, rectangular, and cubed shapes. Horizontal lines and flat expanses of space are also representations of the earth element, as are photos and images of meadows, fields, and dirt. Actual dirt (as in flower beds and pots) also brings in the earth element, as do items made with clay of any kind. It's rare for a room to lack the earth element, since squares and rectangles show up so often in our modern architecture. More often, there can be too much earth, which creates a feeling of stagnation and a lack of motivation to move out of one's comfort zone.


The metal element represents inward movement, thought, intellect, science, cleanliness, and precision. It shows up in the physical world in the colors white, off-white, and grey as well as circle, oval, and elliptical shapes. Crystal, stone, and actual metal bring in the metal element, as do any synthetic materials such as plastic or vinyl. Actual machinery or technology, or photos of same (computers, cars, bikes, tractors, wheels, geers, keys, etc.) also represent the metal element. Quite often walls are white or off-white, which makes it rare for there to be no metal in any given room, but when a room lacks metal, it can feel hard to focus. Too much metal (or metal that is not properly aspected by the other elements) makes it hard to relax the mind and allow emotions and passions to flow.


Sean O'Flaherty
The water element represents downward movement, feelings, flow, poetic sensibilities, and emotional depth. It shows up in the physical world in the colors black and deep blue, as well as asymmetrical, tear drop, swirls, or wavy shapes. Actual water in the form of small fountains or water features, or water-representatives such as river rocks or sea shells also bring in the water element. Mirrors, glass, and photos or artwork depicting water are also powerful water symbols. A lack of the water element in a space can feel parched and draining, while an overabundance of water (or water that is not properly aspected by the other elements) in any given area can lend itself to a feeling of drowning in one's emotions, and an alignment with one's depth without a satisfying outlet for self-expression.


The wood element represents upward movement, personal growth, learning, self-improvement, exercise, and health. It shows up in the physical world in the colors green, teal, and light blue, as well as vertical stripes and floral or plant-based prints. Actual wood (wicker or wood furniture), flowers, living plants, or imagery of flowers, plants, or trees also bring in the wood element, as do fabrics made from plants such as cotton or bamboo. Columns are also wood representations in the way that they mimic tree trunks. Not enough wood in a space can have a negative effect on one's motivation and sense of general well-being, while too much wood (or wood that is not properly aspected by the other elements) can lend itself to feelings of annoyance, anger, and impatience.


The fire element represents outward movement, passion, socializing, celebrating, and shining your light through expressing your unique talents. It shows up in the physical world in the colors red, bright orange, and bright pink, as well as radial shapes (such as sun, star, or daisy shapes), diamond shapes, and triangular shapes. Pictures or people or animals also bring in the fire element, as do animal prints and animal-based materials (or materials that are created to look animal based) such as leather, feathers, and fur. Actual fire in a fireplace, candles, and lighting are also physical representations of the fire element. Not enough fire in a space can snuff feelings of passion and vitality, while too much fire (or fire that is not properly aspected by the other elements) can lend itself to addictive behavior and explosive interactions with others.

Friday, April 11, 2014

What Do You Like to Listen to While You Clean? -- 10 of My Faves

Gipsy Kings
Music is a pattern of energy, and it powerfully shifts the overall energetic flow of any area in which it's played. In Magical Housekeeping, I recommend playing upbeat music while you clean in order to help get the energy moving in your house in a healthy and buoyant way. Today, a facebook friend (thanks, Hope!) mentioned that she played the Gipsy Kings while she cleaned, and I thought that was a fabulous idea! Luckily, today was housecleaning day so I got to try it out right away. I made a Gipsy Kings Pandora station, and voila, an energy that was equal parts soothing and scintillating. The perfect accompaniment to the scent of Mrs. Meyers and the springtime sunshine sparkling through the windows.

Since it was so much fun for me to try out a new sound, I thought I'd write a post with 10 artists that I've personally had a good time listening to while I clean. If your musical tastes are compatible with mine, this may help upgrade, or at least vary, your (musical) magical housekeeping practice. Try downloading an album, finding a station, or creating your own (on Pandora or wherever you like to do such things).

And so, in no particular order...

1. Gipsy Kings
2. Daft Punk
3. Django Reinhardt
4. The Velvet Underground
5. The Talking Heads
6. Santo & Johnny
7. Screamin' Jay Hawkins
8. The Rolling Stones
9. Charlie Parker
10. Fleetwood Mac

Please, please - share some of your faves!

The Velvet Underground
Screamin Jay Hawkins/Last FM

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