Seeking the Armchair Position

by Linda Lenore

Published in Catalist Magazine
November/December 1995

Feng Shui embraces the principles of harmony and balance-a balance of the physical dwelling on the land and with its occupants. All are interconnected. If there is an imbalance in one, it is usually reflected in the other. In our culture, we don’t often think of the interconnection.

Do you view a building as an extension of the land? Do you perceive yourself as an extension of your home?

Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings that blended into the landscape, often repeating the rhythm of the space. One of his projects, the house at Falling Waters, is a perfect example. Using materials from the region to construct it, the colors blend with the palette of the landscape. Part of the house is built over a stream. The water falls over several large, flat boulders, and the descending balconies of concrete portray those boulders. The spirit of the land is repeated in the spirit of the home.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau spoke of the harmony within nature, the spirit of each living thing and its relationship to the whole, and how all elements were in balance.

Emerson wrote: “Nothing is quite beautiful alone; nothing is beautiful but in the whole. A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace. The poet, the musician, the architect seek to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point.”

The words “feng” and “shui” refer to “wind” and “water” respectfully. These are the two elements that have shaped this land, forming the mountains, canyons, plains and caves. The ancient Chinese masters would scour the countryside to find a mountain range that would protect their clients from the cold northern winds of winter, allow the tropical breezes to cool in summer, and provide water for drinking and cleansing, as well as for soothing sounds and a beautiful view. This is called “the armchair position” because the mountain configuration is like sitting in a chair with a high mountain in back and lower mountains on the sides. One feels very protected, stable and balanced.

Although many people would love to live in a place as described above, it is not possible for everyone, and some people prefer the more arid locations of the desert. No matter where we live, there is still the need for wind and water, as well as other elements, to sustain life.

Our modern buildings and high tech environments isolate us from the elements. They allow us to live and work in very hot or cold areas, but often in buildings with few or no windows. The air we breathe is piped through tubes. We can spend days, weeks or months without seeing much of the sun itself, particularly this time of year. We become out of touch, out of balance with what is natural. By bringing certain objects into our structures, we can start to bring balance back into our lives.

If your location in the office is in the middle of a large building and you have no natural wind or light, consider a couple of options. A mobile that moves with the circulation of air from the ventilation system would make you feel more in touch with nature or in balance as a spirit in motion. We also need to experience the sun; we appreciate its warmth and light. Any image of the sun or a landscape photo or painting depicting daylight can be uplifting.

Many times our homes don’t seem balanced. Sometimes it’s because of an odd-shaped building, irregular lighting or lack of a focal point. It could also be an imbalance of the building elements.

Unusual shapes can often be “solved” by placing plants or rocks outside the dwelling to form an overall shape that is rectangular or square, or inside to complete room shapes the same way. A room with poor lighting can be enhanced by lamps, mirror or even angels, as they bring a feeling of “lightness.”

Focal points of crystal, flowers or colors create a sense of sacredness, enhancing the “heart” of a home. A rainbow of colors has a positive, healing effect within a room. Who doesn’t feel good at the sight of a rainbow?

When a space seems out of balance due to an abundance of one element, bring in more of another. The wood of a log cabin can be balanced by adding metal artifacts, as metal seems to offset the overpowering density of wood. The sight and sound of water can serve to restore calm to a stressful, cluttered or cramped environment.

Thoreau taught, “Every man is the builder of a temple called the body.” Our body is the temple where our spirit is housed. Wright expressed, “The space within the building is the reality of that building.” Create a “building” that reflects who you are and what you believe, allowing your spirit to accept that you belong in and on this earth, thus creating a balancing of heaven on earth.