What the Chi?

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When I dreamed up the wacky name to this blog, I was mostly thinking of it as a play on words.  One part “Feng Shui” – the ancient Chinese art of rearranging your environment to create a positive energy flow.  Another part “schwa” – the most common, ordinary sound in the English language.  Juxtapose the two and you have this blog – Feng Schwa – my tool to rearrange the way I think about my profoundly ordinary life.  Ha ha.

Today I was reading up on the real Feng Shui a bit, and found myself floored at how much sense it made.  I was browsing a title called Practical Feng Shui by Simon Brown, where I found many riveting quotes.

Brown’s description of  “personal chi” almost made me commit the sacrilege of highlighting in a library book:  “While blood carries oxygen and nutrients, chi energy carries thoughts, ideas, emotions, and your dreams in life.”  Why had I never thought of this before?  Of course there needs to be a venue for all the random ideas pinging around my brain that constantly rob my sleep!

I read on, and came across another gem:  “Feng Shui literally means wind and water.”  Woah.  It’s fate.  We recently moved to a new home with a 180 degree ocean view:  water.  But our proximity to water makes us vulnerable to Chinook storms:  wind.  Coincidence?  I thought naught!

Then I picked up Feng Shui for Beginners by Richard Webster.  He took this wind and water thing one step further:   “If we live in harmony with the winds and the waters of the earth, we attract good luck and prosperity.”

This is where they started to lose me.  I can live in harmony with the water.  It’s not pretty, but at the end of every winter I still marvel at Cook Inlet’s slow progression from a solid mass of frozen filth into individual icebergs that are perfectly suited to a Giant’s game of hopscotch.  As the daylight hours lengthen, those chunks shrivel into black wedges until finally it all melts free into a frigid gray pool for belugas and hooligan and a few crazed para-sailing humans.  Summer!  Hail Cook Inlet!

The wind is another story.  If we lived in Florida, the storms we endured this winter would have been national news.  That footage of Al Roker vs. Hurricane Wilma would have looked like a comedy skit next to these tempests.  (Somehow Alaskan weather never makes the Today Show – what is up with that?)  I guess 120 mph wind storms that decimate  roofs and uproot trees aren’t as newsworthy when they happen all the way up here, but they were pretty epic for us.  We spent many dark, cold, nights without power in our shaking home this winter.  I still vividly remember trembling on the steps in the middle of the night, trying to escape any room with windows due to my sudden and paralyzing fear of imploding glass.  Next time, I promise to be more Feng Shui and harness the energy of that wind as I watch it rip off my roof, shingle by shingle.  Sure.

But I swallowed my skepticism and kept reading.  Maybe that wind was my yang and the water my yin?  We are in our 40’s now, so perhaps we need a little more of that yang thang?  What could it hurt to try a few of these Feng Shui practices?

The instructions were certainly specific enough, and incredibly detailed for every room of the home, including the bathroom:   “Ideally, the toilet should be as inconspicuous as possible.  To minimize its draining and flushing effect on the chi energy of the rest of the home, position it well away from the bathroom door.  Keep the toilet lid closed as much as possible, but especially when it is being flushed.”

Uh-oh, this is a problem.  I can go out and buy a plant or two, but how am I supposed to fix this:

Oh shit!

Seriously, the toilet in our bathroom has been staged as spectator seating for the shower.  Clearly our home’s architect skipped Feng Shui school.  Since a total bathroom remodel is not in the financial cards, I decided to shut the lid and call it good.  I must admit, it felt good knowing that less of my chi would be flushed into the septic tank.  (My husband is paranoid about that thing clogging, so this is win-win.)

On to the living room. “Clean your home regularly to revitalize its chi energy.”  So what exactly do they mean by “regularly”?  Because it takes a lot of actual energy – not just the dreamy chi kind – to clean up after two dogs, two kids, two parakeets, numerous festive guests, a sock-dropping husband and (I admit it) myself.

The book also warned about the hazards of dust.  “Dust has its own chi energy, which tends to stagnate when it becomes stuck in one place.”

Phew – no worries there.  I can assure you that the dust in our home is never stagnate.  The kids are constantly writing in it, dog tails are are always swishing it, and I can see it floating through the air every day at sunset.

But then they just had to bring up clutter:  “Clutter harbours old chi energy and makes it difficult for chi to move smoothly through a building.”

I live in Alaska, and the avalanche I fear most is the one that will eventually occur when the enormous pile of junk mail, catalogs, homework, lunch menus, expired coupons, old magazines, reading charts, overdue library books, birthday cards, spelling lists, bills, photographs, tooth fairy money, grocery lists, and coloring books slides off of our desk.  And that’s just the kitchen!  The spare bedroom has a pile of Easter decorations waiting to be hauled up to the attic. The dining table has a deck of cards scattered about (we are still in the Rummy phase).  The living room has a stack of birthday cards lying on the floor from Maggie’s party (wasn’t that three weeks ago?!) and our bedroom still has two boxes we haven’t unpacked from the move last March.  The garage is the worst room of all, but it’s my husband’s domain and I’m not too worried about garage chi.  One has to draw the line somewhere.

I admit it:  clutter is a problem in our house.  I’d be able to vacuum and dust a lot more if there wasn’t always so much crap lying about.  But I’ve had enough!  I’m starting to think this ancient Chinese Feng Shui stuff was just a grumpy old man’s way of getting his wife to clean more often!

To be honest, I’m not so sure about our home’s Feng Shui-bility, but I do think it’s pretty common.  Which brings me right back to Feng Schwa.  And you know… I think I’ll stick with that instead.