House shapes and how they shape our lives.
Learning More About Shape
Both of the course texts contain a great deal of detail about the effects of shapes on our lives. Please take some time this week to refer to them for more information than we can possibly cover here. Pages 65-78 of Interior Design with Feng Shui discuss shapes and some elementary ways to balance inauspicious ones, and in Feng Shui Design you’ll read more about shapes on pages 46-47.
How Shapes Affect Us: There are many stories about how building shapes affect our lives.
Back in the 1970s, the Chinese in Hong Kong witnessed the circular windowed Connaught Centre rise on its waterfront. Plagued by expensive tiles falling off the exterior and elevators plummeting in their shafts, water mains breaking, and even some businesses going bankrupt, the Westerners dubbed the hapless building “Hancock East,” after the trouble-ridden John Hancock Insurance Building designed by I. M. Pei in Boston. The Chinese traced the Connaught Centre’s unforeseen structural problems not to poor cement or bad engineering, but to feng shui, saying it wasn’t balanced with natural elements.
Several explanations related to the death-oriented shape of the building: the round windows apparently resembled circular photographs of the deceased on Chinese tombstones, and the headstone-shaped building lined up with the Peak Tower, which looked like an urn in which incense sticks are burned as an offering. Other said the building resembled a crab cage being drawn out of the harbor, with water, symbolizing money, pouring out.
The Big Picture
The Chinese have long seen a direct relationship between the symbol of a building’s shape and the behavior, welfare, and destinies of its inhabitants, or even its neighbors. Sometimes this is graphic, such as the story of the feng shui master who warned a family to move out of their home on a hill above an apartment building, saying it was “ready to pounce.” Shortly after they moved, the frog-shaped building slid down the hill during torrential rains and destroyed the apartment building.
Closer to home, we are affected by the shape and configuration of our houses and the rooms within. With modern design, many shapes and layouts are possible, but some are clearly better than others. Generally, regular shapes, such as rectangles, squares, or even round layouts, are good, solid bases for residents to build solid incomes and steady lives. We’ll talk more about specific shapes on the next page.
If a garage is in a wing that juts in front of the main section of an L-shaped house, this can be unbalancing to occupant’s bodies and minds. The garage obstructs the path, giving residents a blocked feeling on the garage side of their exit. Their path in life can be expanded by a walkway installed heading in the opposite direction of the garage, thus expanding occupants’ prospects.
Bad Shapes and How to Cure Them
Irregular shapes have greater chances for having imbalances than those of regular shapes. Most of the imbalances spell trouble for residents. While some L- and U-shaped houses are fine, many of these can be problematic and particular attention should be paid to the placement of rooms, especially the master bedroom, the kitchen, and the dining room.
Take the clients who owned a fast-food restaurant in the Northeast. Seeing that in their L-shaped home, the dining room jutted out in front of the entrance, I commented that the layout meant that they symbolically ate outside the home and indeed they often ate at other restaurants.
Master Lin Yun consulted for a couple whose master bedroom was in a wing of their U-shaped house that also jutted out in front of the entrance line. Such an arrangement can threaten the stability of a marriage. Master Lin Yun noted that one of the couple probably slept away a great deal, and if they did not “cure” the layout, the spouse would eventually be away permanently. Since the husband was a pilot, the couple quickly worked to resolve the problem and they are still together.
The cure for a master bedroom, a kitchen, or dining room that juts outside the main part of the house is to hang a mirror on an interior wall facing the outside room to symbolically draw that room into the rest of the house. Good rooms to place in the outside jutting wings are living rooms, studies, home offices, or libraries.
The worst L-shaped houses or rooms are boot-shaped or cleaver-shaped ones (see diagrams on pages 69-70 of Interior Design with Feng Shui). With boot-shaped houses or rooms, avoid placing your bed, stove, or desk in the “toe” area of the boot or you will trip up in life and, as a result, your fortunes will dwindle and you might feel downtrodden. With the cleaver-shaped house or room, avoid placing your bed, desk, or stove against the “blade” wall or you might be living on the edge, exposing yourself to illness, career disappointment, or financial losses.
The best place for a bedroom in a cleaver-shaped home is the “handle” of the cleaver so that you have more control over your life. With both boot and cleaver shapes, the cure is simple and symbolic. Merely hang a mirror on an opposite wall to draw the bed, stove, or desk away from the edge or toe. If the L-shape is a house, a plant or light can be installed to symbolically square off the L-shape and make it seem whole.
Applying the Ba-Gua to Your Home
To determine where the areas of your room or home are, stand at the threshold. Imagine the octagon of the ba-gua lies on the floor like a carpet, with three possible entrance locations. If you are standing on the right side of the entrance to the room, you are in the “helpful people area.” The middle of the entrance wall puts you in the “career” area, and standing to the left places you in the “knowledge area.”
Another way to analyze the feng shui of a house or a room shape is to apply a mystical octagon called the ba-gua onto the blueprint. This octagon, deriving from the ancient Chinese classic, the I Ching, symbolizes the perfection of the universe. (For more information on the I Ching, read Interior Design with Feng Shui pages 125-145, or Feng Shui Design, pages 43-46.)
The ba-gua — translated as “eight trigrams”– is a mystical octagon based on the eight trigrams of the I Ching. The I Ching is an ancient Chinese classic of divination that is used both for spiritual guidance and for fortune telling. The octagon is a map of eight life fortunes with corresponding colors, body parts, directions, natural elements, and so on. The ninth direction — the center — is associated with yellow, health, and all body parts not aligned with the trigrams. You can enhance your fortune by applying one of the nine basic cures to a chosen location.
The octagon can be divided into eight life situations — marriage, family, knowledge, career, helpful people, fame, wealth, and children — that are then superimposed onto a home, office, room, or even a piece of furniture. In a sense, the ba-gua is a map of our life condition. By analyzing how the ba-gua fits into your space and then adjusting it, you can manipulate certain corresponding aspects of your destiny.
Using the Ba-Gua to Make Improvements
The ba-gua is both a way to interpret your life by analyzing the configuration of your home or bedroom, and a method to improve specific areas of your space. Fortunately, there are numerous ways we can seek to enhance our life by adjusting specific areas of our homes.
Some of these improvement methods are the ubiquitous nine basic cures, such as mirrors, plants, or colors. For instance, not trusting innate intelligence or good study skills, one anxious mother adjusted the “knowledge” area of her teenage son’s bedroom before both his SATs and his final exams, and was pleased with his results. A businessman installed a fish tank in the “wealth” area of his office to improve company performance.
Looking at the country home of a couple, I commented that it was missing the “helpful people” area and part of the “children” area. Later, the wife was a bit spooked as she confided that they couldn’t get contractors and workmen to even show up to renovate the place, and that they had had a stillbirth pregnancy. After planting evergreens and flowers in the missing areas, the renovation was completed, and the wife gave birth to a baby boy within a few years.
It is useful to determine whether a wing of a house creates a deficit — something missing — or endows the shape with an addition. If the ell is small, less than half the width, or length, of the house, the ell is considered an addition. If, on the other hand, the ell covers more than half the width or length of the house, the house is considered to be a shape missing an area. The shape missing an area can be balanced on either the inside or the outside.
To find out more about how to analyze a home or room according to the ba-gua, read Interior Design with Feng Shui pages 128-130.
We’ve really talked about exteriors so far. Lesson 4 will introduce you to the ways we are affected by entrances. Understanding the ba-gua is imperative as we move forward, so please be sure to do the assignment for this week.
The ba-gua is multifaceted and a very new way for most people to think about the space they inhabit.
Assignment: Mystic Manor
Start by drawing a blueprint of your home.
- Is it rectangular?
- Is it an irregular shape?
- Does it have an addition or a missing area?
- If there is a missing area, what feng shui cure would complete the shape in the most aesthetically pleasing way?
- If the house is a regular shape, is there anything out of balance with it? Can you determine a cure for that imbalance based on what you’ve learned in Lesson 3?