Feng Shui: real or self-hypnosis?

Short answer:

Is there a difference?

Long answer:

I am skeptical — too skeptical for my most self-avowedly woo-woo (and remarkably happy and abundant) friends. And yet here I am loving, practicing, and teaching feng shui.

So: Why Feng Shui?

~ Because it’s fun.

~ It’s a different canvas for self-expression. One that can be huge or tiny, depending on what you feel like doing.

~ It creates pleasing interior design (and exterior too, if you decide to go there).

~ And because it works so WELL, which is …

… weird? — Yes!

… powerful? — Yes!

… non-sensical? — Maybe not. Maybe there’s a rational reason.

Maybe “energy” is real.

Well, I mean, I know it’s real because of my favorite engineering class: thermodynamics. I did homework actually CALCULATING energy and “lost energy” and “potential” and other terms so metaphorically woo-woo you can’t believe it.

But I mean: maybe it’s literally true that there are different kinds of energy affecting different parts of our lives and that they’re tied to the environment and even specifically linked to different colors and tastes and geographical parts of the environment  (like Feng Shui’s nine energies/directions: career, knowledge/insight/spirituality, children/family, money, fame, romance, mentors, creativity, and health).

Or maybe just telling ourselves “this is an effective practice” and then undertaking that practice makes something magic happen.

There’s lots of evidence for this possibility, and not “just” the placebo effect in medicine. (Which actually is good enough for me! Whatever works.)

~ We know from all the cool new neuroscience research that our unconscious brain is more powerful than even our magnificent  conscious mind.

(I have heard people say 40 bytes of information per second for the conscious mind and 40 million bps for the unconscious. I have heard 2,000 bps for the conscious and 4 billion bps for the unconscious. As a skeptic, I have looked a little bit into where these numbers come from and cannot be sure on the exact answer, but I like the calculation methods enough to agree that both processes handle A LOT of information, and it seems reasonable that the unconscious process is exponentially greater than the conscious one. Especially because we have all had that experience where we know things without knowing we know them until somehow we magically DO know it and wonder how. Not to mention the experience of driving to, say, Gillette, Wyoming, and, all of a sudden, “coming to” and realizing we are THERE and we were paying no attention whatsoever to driving for the last hour, yet some part of our mind got us there.)

~ And we are seeing that this mega-strong unconscious works to re-create whatever it has determined to be our “normal” way of being.

Your brain seeks out situations, people, activities, and things that feel normal. Likely this was an evolutionarily strong trait — giving an advantage to cave people that went for safe-feeling watering holes and paths and yummy-tasting nuts and berries.

True, it is not a pleasant phenomenon if we are re-creating something unpleasant from our childhood. BUT: when we figure it out, it is our secret weapon in shaping our own lives because it works just as well if not better for “positive” feelings and situations .

There are a million inspirational quotes(only half of which are on my fridge!)  about how when you start doing something you want, magic happens.

I don’t think we know for sure why — this, as with all of life, is so much mystery! Most of the quotes on my fridge attribute it to the universe or God conspiring to help us. Or maybe it’s our unconscious minds. Or maybe the universe/God helps us THROUGH our unconscious minds. Regardless, it is The Way of The World.

 ~ Feng Shui, at its most fundamental level, is you giving form to your intentions.

This is important. It’s not JUST you formalizing a desire for a certain situation or, more precisely, for a certain feeling. It’s you physically doing something about your desire — something that creates the actual feeling you want.

And that’s translating your CONSCIOUSNESS (your intention) over into your UNCONSCIOUS with a language it understands: images. Symbols are how the unconscious communicates. They create a very specific quality of awareness for your spirit.

~ Then your unconscious  — your soul, you might say — gets it: “Oh. THIS is what we are doing. This is how we roll. This is our normal.” And, like a heat-seeking missile, it goes about creating more of that.

My basic coaching process is based on wanting what you want and getting that feeling you want. It gets deep fast and works best with a coach — although the worksheet is available free here and many people like doing it on their own. But here’s the thing, in my experience:

Feng Shui works as well.

Because you are DOING something right away.


Okay, this is hard for me to tell publicly because I am after all an ENGINEER, but here’s what happened to me once:

I wanted more money. (That’s hard for me to say for other reasons, because I am after all a yoga teacher, but that’s another discussion!)

photo-1I cleaned and de-cluttered the southeast corner of my house. Which is also the southeast corner of my living room.

It’s the Feng Shui sector for “wood,” so I moved some plants there and cleaned them up. I moved our comfy brown chair to that spot, added a light-colored little pillow with embroidered sprigs of lavender, and draped it with a snuggly, purple blanket. On the windowsill,I tucked a Chinese coin and a tiny but mighty plump carved purple elephant. On the wall, I put a painting (by a painter I know and adore — all that good will is important!) of a green and lavender Scottish moor and also a Wide Ruins Navajo rug because that is my favorite style and it is muted greens and pinks and tans. It looks like the best smells of my childhood.

Within six weeks we got a tax refund TEN times larger than we expected, and my husband got a surprise check for some forgotten business travel plus an inheritance check. (We are not from families that have inheritance checks! This was shocking!) I got very well-paid gig (that I completed in that chair, on my computer and phone) plus a small cash gift out of nowhere for no reason. Seriously. Weird.

Now maybe taking this Feng Shui action made me somehow more likely to file taxes (late as usual) or open myself up to a cool job or a lovely gift.

Or maybe it made me more likely to notice good fortune.

Or maybe it made it happen.

I don’t know. I don’t care. Because it was so fun and abundant-feeling.

And, no matter what, with Feng Shui, I end up with a cleaner, more appealing-to-me house (without any grimness or martyrdom!).

In other words, we return to the short answer:

Making my life the way I want it be by priming my unconscious in its own non-verbal language of symbolic images and actions? That’s always real.

PS — Come take my two-night Feng Shui Easy class at Sheridan College next week! Tue and Thur 6-7:30, $35, call 674-6446 x 2200 to register.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are books daggers?!

In Feng Shui, sharp edges pointed straight at you are considered Sha Chi — poison arrows directing dangerous energy your way. Some people will try to tell you that book spines fall in this category. Not true.

Reasoning#1 — If books were dangerous, all dorm rooms would be dagger dungeons and feel terrible. Obviously that’s not true. Some rooms end up feeling pretty icky (for other reasons involving corn chips and socks!), but plenty of dorm rooms are beloved sanctuaries and NOT just the ones where the residents are book-less, drape covers over their bookshelves at night, or keep their belongings on the floor!

Reasoning #2 — Book spines aren’t really sharp edges. Poison arrows are more like the edges of a triangle — sharp. Books are fatter and their spines are actually rounded.

Reasoning #3 — Books hold a highly treasured place in Feng Shui. They contain wisdom and joy. They are solid, trusted anchors.

That said, here are some practices that will enhance your books’ impact on the energy of your room:

  • Do not place books immediately near the head of your bed lest all those words and ideas rumbling around disturb your sleep.

The thing is, a lot of college students read in bed! It’s your couch/armchair/bed all in one. And it’s hard to get up and stow your book somewhere else as you pleasantly drift off into slumberland.


  • If you have a drawer next to your head, keep it empty and reserved for the books you’re actively reading.
  • If not, invest in a rolling cart and use its drawers for that purpose. [No, we do not own stock in rolling cart companies! Yes, we recommend them for so many dormitory Feng Shui issues.]
  • If there’s no room for a cart at all, toss an extra pillow or throw blanket over your books before you nod off.
  • Display only books you like.

Any objects associated with unpleasantness have no place in your room. Truly! If you have an Econ. book that you MUST use, keep it in a drawer.

No offense intended. Some of our best friends are Econ. majors:)

  • Put books in the Northeast corner of any space. The Northeast (Small Earth) is home of self-knowledge, including study and meditation.

You may not be able to move your bookshelves, but you can always stack books on the northeast corner of both your desk and your dresser (no matter where those pieces of furniture are in your room). Remember you can superimpose a bagua map on ANY SPACE — including the top of your desk or dresser — and use it to enhance your life. If all your books fit there, maybe you’ll use your shelves for other purposes — folded tees for example. Or a tidy display of your shoes or bags.

  • Try to keep books out of the straight-up-North part of your space.

Don’t store books in the northern “sector” of your desk or dresser.

Remember — Your primary Feng Shui space in the dorm is YOUR HALF of the room. So don’t worry if your roommate’s books are in the northern part of the overall room — just tend to your half as that’s what will influence you.

>>If you really dislike the way your roommate’s books or bookshelves (or anything else) are directed, screen the effect. Best bet (other than the rolling cart which you KNOW we have to mention): hanging a crystal with fishing line and a thumbtack from your ceiling. Preferably in the middle of the room. <<

If your shelves are on the northern side of your half of the room, it’s best to move your books to a creative new location. Use your dresser drawers as library and your shelves for your clothes. (Well maybe not your private coverings — we don’t want your Mom emailing us after Parents Weekend, ok?)

So don’t abandon books. Not only do they help you by embodying and symbolizing a main focus of college (i.e. knowledge! Social life’s up there too, we know, and we’ll cover that in another post!) but also books will ground you in a way you’ll treasure during this exciting roller coaster ride that is college. Kindles, iPads, and computers are nice, but books are your friends — always — and especially now.

Posted in Bagua map, Books, Buffering and screening, Knowledge/Northeast, Storage | Leave a comment

How to Keep People Out of Your Bed

Well, uninvited people anyway! People who slide between your sheets with their dirty jeans — WHILE eating crumbly cookies.

There’s rarely any other comfy furniture in a dorm room, and even with written roommate contracts or bodily threats, visitors probably will sit on your bed when you’re not there.  Even if you love these people, you may not like the invasion of your most private space.

Rather than investing effort in trying to keep people away, turn your energy toward making the most of your bed. Create two energetic faces for it — a “public furniture” aspect for guests and a “private-happy-place” aspect for you.


  • Cotton sheets

Even a little polyester and your sleep can be unknowingly irritated. Choose a soft color (blues or greens are especially restful). Remember, some dorm beds require “extra long twin” sizes.

  • Soft comforter

Neutral and gently colored is restful.

  • Dynamic bedspread

A lively design will stimulate you to socialize, join activities, and study during the day.

  • Fun throw pillows

[hint — two matching pillows will enhance your love life.]

  • Throw blanket(s)

Make ’em cozy.


  1. Make your bed, being sure to tuck in the outside edges of the sheets and comforter quite securely.
  2. Cover the whole bed (including your pillow) with your “public” bedspread.  Do not tuck this in with your private covers, but instead let it hang over the edges of the bed.
  3. Finally, loosely throw your snuggly throw blankets and pillows on top.  These layers allow guests to nestle on your bed without the need to burrow into your blankets. If they are persistent and get under the “public” bedspread, it’s unlikely they’ll go to the extra effort to un-tuck your comforter.

This strategy makes an extra welcoming place for you and your friends while still preserving a private, clean bed-like feel — for when it counts.

Posted in Bed, Roommate relations | Leave a comment

The Secret of Creativity: Plump and Colorful…

… or metallic. Your piggy bank, that is.

Yes, a piggy bank is your secret creative-mojo enhancer. Put it on the west side of your desk or dresser (and if that can be in the west part of your room, even better).

Where it all starts:

The West is home to Small Metal’s creative energy. This area’s also called Joyous Lake. How perfectly do those words capture the feel of creativity?!

That sense of celebration, abundance, and inspiration is what you want to keep in mind for enhancing the Creative area of any of your spaces.

But what if you’re not an artist — should you care about creativity?

Remember CREATING covers not just traditional “arts” but your very life. You’re fashioning this day — always. Especially now that you’re out on your own.


And what says happy, plentiful, clever, and “let’s-get-dirty-and-make-some-freshness!” better than this chrome fella? It’s the most ideal pig we’ve found online (ever read those words before?) and is only $14. Click on the Pinterest button (to your right) to see if you prefer some of the others — like the $83 gold-and-rhinestone model! It really is pretty cute.

We do caution you against going with blue or black for your piggy, and actually you don’t want too much of those colors anywhere in the western part of your spaces if you’re concerned about creativity. Remember: Water rusts Metal.

[Move aquatic stuff to the very northernmost corner where it will do you real good.]

When you think “gift-giving,” think “PIG!”

These high-powered little darlin’s would be perfect, with or without a crystal, in your BFF’s going-away swag bag. And if your friend was born between 1/31/95 and 2/18/96, then this is a MUST because she or he IS a pig! Which you probably already know. Chinese Zodiac speakingly, of course.

Also that person is probably a genius since he or she would be going to college when they’re 16.

So maybe it’s for your little sib. You don’t have to be in college to benefit from Feng Shui magic — everyone has a bedroom…

… and here’s to letting your room make you happy no matter how old you are!

Betsy and Tori

PS — Of course it’s also weirdly wealth-friendly to feed the pig. Apparently money likes been so well cared for — it multiplies like crazy in there. Three days ago, the girl cutting my hair told me she funds her Roth IRA with money she throws in a jar everyday. (I complimented her on having an IRA when she’s so very young. She told me she started it when she was 10! Not what I expected from someone whose hair changes color every time I see her… which goes to show stereotypes are bad, which of course we all KNOW, but still). And the woman in the next chair said HER friend paid for all of Christmas last year with coins she collected. Oink indeed. — B

Posted in Bagua map, Creativity/West, Gift ideas and recommended products, Money/Wealth/Abundance/Southeast | Leave a comment

Mid-summer money matters

Plan: make gobs of money this summer!

Mid-summer reality check: wellll…

Yeah. Whether your nest-egg was earmarked for that big road trip blow-out before fall, for buying decent shampoo year round, or for giving to your favorite charity, right about now you might be noticing that the slush fund somehow isn’t what you’d predicted lo’ those six optimistic weeks ago.

Reinvigorate your mid-summer coin outlook with the four best Feng Shui money fixes:

1. Glamorize the Southeast corner of your bedroom — the Abundance part of a Feng Shui bagua map.

  • Add ANYTHING luxurious, expensive, or extravagant OR anything symbolic of wealth.

EASIEST FIX: Tuck a coin in the Southeast part of your space.

[Chinese coins? Even better. Click on the above image for a site that sells bags of them. major Feng Shui fun.]

  • Add a  mirror to double the abundance
  • It helps to tidy up this area too — makes the wealth feel welcome.

2. Add plant colors to the Southeast of any space where you spend a lot of time: green! Also brown… and even a little purple.

The Southeast is the home of Small Wood energy. Think: joyful abundance of lush vegetation. Get creative and combine this fix with #1:

Example: If your idea of luxury is silk, drape a green silk scarf over a chair.

3. Add an actual plant in the Southeast.

VERY BEST BET: a jade plant. This is one of the most powerful Feng Shui tools. BUT if keeping plants alive isn’t your forte, best to stick with one or more of these other strategies. No worries — they are plenty strong.

4. Fire burns Wood, so get rid of red colors and pointy shapes in the Southeast.

Fire is the energy of Fame. You’ll find yourself less concerned with your reputation and more with your own actual experience of abundance.

We invite you to join us in being scientific about this stuff:

Sit down today and pull up your bank account balance, count your cash, tally any debts and come up with your total net worth. Try one or more of these ideas for three weeks, then reassess your financial situation.

Please let us know what happens!

Betsy and Tori

Posted in Bagua map, Money/Wealth/Abundance/Southeast | Leave a comment

Your Chinese Zodiac totem + Feng Shui = power with a twist

Pig, Dog, and Rooster got your back – literally.

Who doesn’t love reading about their Chinese Zodiac sign on those place-mats in Chinese restaurants?* Well, it can be more than entertainment when you combine your Zodiac animal with Feng Shui principles:

  1. The door to your room serves as an invitation AND a boundary between you and the outside world. Add a picture of your totem animal — it will provide you with just the right balance.
  2. Energy also enters and leaves your room through the windows. Set a statue or stuffed-animal of your own personal Zodiac guardian on the windowsill to invite joy and ward off unpleasantness — ESPECIALLY if your bed’s under the window.
  3. If the foot of your bed aims right toward your door, a large stuffed version of your Zodiac animal is a strong and snuggly screen.
  4. Carry some small token of your sign in your backpack or purse. Check out our  Pinterest board for some ideas.
  5. Each year’s sign has not only the usual animal you read about on the place-mats but also either a yin or yang quality of one of the five elements — water, wood, fire, earth, metal. Since each element’s associated with a direction, you can place an image of your totem animal in that part of your room for extra energy.

*Double check your sign — especially if your birthday’s early in the year. The Chinese Zodiac’s based on the lunar calendar:

1/31/95 — 2/18/96 = Pig (Yin Wood — East or Southeast)

2/10/94 — 1/30/95 = Dog (Yang Wood — East or Southeast)

1/23/93 — 2/9/94 = Rooster (Yin Water — North)

2/4/92 — 1/22/93 = Monkey (Yang Water — North)

2/15/91 — 2/3/92 = Sheep (Yin Metal — West or Northwest)

Then rest easy knowing your companion animal’s there for you.

Posted in Bed, Chinese Zodiac, Door, Gift ideas and recommended products, Windows | Leave a comment

Never be ashamed to ask for directions!

“I found a jade plant for the Southeast corner of my dresser, to help the whole money situation like you said, but there’s just one problem. I’m almost embarrassed to ask. But which part of my dresser is southeast?”


No problem, Maya! Here are four ways to get oriented in any new room:

1. The sun — Spend a day noticing how sunshine comes into your room . It feels oddly reassuring to do this.

  • If sunshine pours into a window in the morning, that window faces east-ish. Technically the sun rises in the Southeast during midwinter (in the Northern Hemisphere) and the Northeast in midsummer. But you get the idea.
  • If the sun glares into your eyes in the evening, that window faces west-ish. (The sun sets in the Southwest in midwinter and Northwest in midsummer.)
  • The side of a building that seems shady all day — where windows rarely receive direct sunbeams —  is usually facing North. Snow lingers longer here.
  • A window that feels especially appealing is often South-facing — because it’s somewhat sunny all day. Snow melts faster on the south side of the building too.

2. A map — Is there a street outside your window? Pull up a map on your computer and figure out which direction the street runs.

3. Nature tricks — definitely the most fun.

  • The north-facing side of a tree:
    • Moss often grows thicker — true for buildings too.
    • Branches may be thinner.
  • The south-facing side of a tree:
    • More likely to house a bird’s nest in the branches or an ant’s nest at the base.
  • The north-facing side of a hill:
    • More luxurious vegetation. Snowier longer.
  • The south-facing side of a hill:
    • Drier. Snow melts faster.

4. A compass — Okay, fine, there’s an easier way than counting branches! If your smart phone doesn’t already have a compass app, get one here or here for free. But here’s hoping you spend a day looking for sunshine, moss, and birds’ nests anyway…

Posted in Bagua map | 2 Comments