by Linda Lenore
Published in the American Society of Interior Designer’s Design Power ’96
Long ago humans were in touch with their environments. They slept under the stars able to see the movement of the earth, or in caves etched out of the stone by the power of wind or water. Awareness of their surroundings was imperative to their survival. They awoke to the sounds of birds and other living creatures. Everything lived in close proximity to the rivers or lakes where they could drink and bathe, plus have the lush growth upon which to feast and protect themselves from the elements. The wind brought cool breezes to clear the stagnant air, bringing the seeds of life that would burrow into the ground and the storms to moisten the soil plumping the seeds to life. We’d walk barefoot in the sand and grasses, literally touching the earth with our feet.
Life may not have had the wealth of material things, but it had a natural richness of being truly alive. All the senses were stimulated by nature. We resonated with the earth, being regenerated by its energy day and night.
Many cultures have terms they use to describe this energy or oneness with the environment. Some call it geomancy, the Chinese call it Feng Shui—that balance and harmony of man, nature, and the environment.
The words, Feng Shui, themselves refer to “Wind” and Water”, the two forces, or energies, that change the shape of the land, contributing to life on it. They also are the two elements necessary for a human to live-air, the breathe of life, and water, the largest substance of the human body. Although we almost never think of it, we are very much one with the earth.
Then we, as a human species, started to evolve. We got smart, building houses to shelter us from the elements and the energy that rejuvenates us. Instead of sleeping on the land, we raised ourselves up in structures holding us above the land, and then increased the distance even more by building beds.
We closed out the sounds of nature that sing to us, bringing us alive in the morning. Light from the sun was blocked out. Natural air did not circulate freely. We stopped working the soil with our hands. Plants were mainly outside, also preventing the natural cycle of fresh oxygen to be produced inside. No wonder we are out of touch. No wonder our bodies are stressed and we can’t think clearly.
When you go on vacation, or to a retreat, sitting with your back up against a tree or lying on the beach, you start to physically reconnect with the natural earth energies. The tree is pulling nutrients from the soil through the form of water and taking in elements from the air as well as sunlight. The sand conducts the sounds of the rhythm of the ocean coming in and going out, just like your breath. Or when camping, you’re lying on the ground. The warm sun shining on you radiates every frequency of the spectrum for your body to absorb. You “naturally” come alive.
Now let’s look back at the spaces where you live and work. How much naturalness is there? Does natural sunlight stream in through doors and windows, or are they covered with window treatments? During the winter is the only air that you breath in the buildings coming from a gas furnace or do you open the windows letting in fresh air? Because its cold, do you stay inside, or do you walk in the rain letting it cleanse your spirit? Do you allow the soft sun to gently nurture new life into you, as it does to all the other life forms? Are you in touch with the gentle subtleties of the spaces around you?
I see the essence of Feng Shui as a balancing of man, nature, and environment. Its bringing awareness of our oneness with everything around us, back through us so we can create the peace and harmony we so desire. With a background in construction and design, I became very aware that most people really don’t pay attention to the physical places in which they live, play and work. Some of my clients have had no idea which side receives the morning sunlight much less the nuances of winter sun verses summer sun. In fact, some people don’t even clean their own living spaces themselves. Having someone else cleaning their homes, removes them even more from the energies of their environment
We can do simple things like expanding space and light through the use of mirrors. A few plants bring oxygen and life forms to surround us. Mobiles and crystals delight the inner spirit. The sound of trickling water or wind chimes soothes the soul and brings it alive. You see this in good design and you FEEL it when you walk into a place.
People need to create environments that support them through life and its changes. Bringing in naturalness to and awareness of space-creating peace-is foremost in my mind. A home, in particular, represents many things. There is image and functionality, but it also holds the areas for us to build partnerships with others and ourselves. Our history, brought through in pictures and furniture, and our future, represented in our children and symbols of our hopes and dreams, are all a part of it. We learn responsibility of our actions and obtain rewards for them through our efforts that we put forth into a living space.
Yes, our physical environments create a personal space to:
- Gain your strength
- Focus on the true meanings of life
- Affirm your values
- Express your joys and sorrows
- Reach your full human potential
- Reinforce self-esteem
Through a living space that reinforces your balance and harmony, your surroundings become an extension of all you are.
Find your place of power and peace.