Q&A Sunday: Feng Shui and Pregnancy

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Is there any sort of feng shui I should pay special attention to if I'm pregnant?

Stephanie C., Washington D.C.

Hi Stephanie,

First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! 

There are a few things to consider when we look at feng shui and pregnancy. For one, I would encourage you not to do any kind of house renovations during your pregnancy. Your home represents your body, so during a pregnancy, you don’t want to do any renovations or move things around or rebuild things. Not only does this disturb your body's natural chi, any chemicals or substances that become airborne during a renovation can be harmful to an unborn baby. 

Since your body, for the next nine months, is your baby's only space, do your best to keep this space healthy, both emotionally and physically. Avoid high-stress situations and instances where you might come into contact with anything physically harmful for your baby's growth. Check out my recipes for DIY non-toxic cleaners and laundry detergent, and if you feel the need to nest (which you most likely will!) aim for a green cleaning approach, natural space clearing and the like. And don't do any painting yourself, but check out how to create a relaxing atmosphere, use the color wheel and incorporate other feng shui aspects into your baby's space

Don't forget to take time out for yourself to eliminate stress too! Meditate, use essential oils or do any other activities you can to calm down without changing the overall chi of your baby's temporary space. 

In feng shui, there are also some important factors to consider before you get pregnant, when you are trying to have a baby. One of the most important is to avoid cleaning out from under your bed during this time. Though feng shui recommends keeping space beneath your bed clear, it is important to understand the concept of "ling particles" as it relates to pregnancy. 

Feng shui practitioners believe that there are what we call "ling particles" in the air that help create and support life. When a baby is conceived, a ling particle gives the embryo life, and these particles are said to collect under the bed. For this reason, if you're hoping to become pregnant, you don’t want to clean under your bed. I would also encourage you not to do any renovations when you’re trying to get pregnant.

For the most part, feng shui advocates creating a healthy, positive space for your baby. This means not making any drastic changes to the environment you've already created, and doing what you can to maintain a stress-free, healthy lifestyle. This will also help to create a holistic space in which for you to welcome your baby to the world!  

by Anjie Cho


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!


Common Sources of VOCs in the Home

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are chemicals that easily convert to gases and enter the air we breathe, whether indoor or out. Many studies have linked excessive VOC intake to diseases and disorders ranging from headaches to respiratory issues to certain cancers and everything in between. It shouldn't be difficult to conclude that these chemicals have no place in our homes, but surprisingly, that's where they are found more often than not.

An average household, not one that is highly organic or raw, can be a veritable plethora of substances emitting VOCs. The most obvious of these is the paint with which we decorate. The VOCs released from traditional paint are of the class that humans can smell, which is evident in how offensive paint fumes are to most individuals. In this case, the VOCs are easy to identify, and the non-appealing smell often motivates homeowners to turn toward healthier options.

Paint, however, is not the only substance in the home that gives off VOCs, and it isn't even the most common. The list of chemicals and items in an average home that contain harmful VOCs includes new carpet and furnishings, many types of pressed wood and/or boards, new electronics and plastics. On a more alarming note, many personal care and hygiene products also produce VOCs including, but certainly not limited to, many kinds of makeup, shampoos, deodorants, etc. Harmful VOCs are even present in most cleaning materials found in an average home. 

With the number of sources of volatile organic compounds in today's society, it comes as no surprise that most humans have a number of chemicals in their bodies ranging into the hundreds and risk developing any number of health problems as a result. Take a moment and research how to reduce these chemicals in your home and keep your family as healthy as possible

See more articles on VOCs

by Anjie Cho


Q&A Sunday: Feng Shui for a New Home

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We are looking to move to a new home. What positive feng shui elements should we look for when looking for a new home?

Margaret W., Seal Beach, CA

Just in case you didn’t know, Margaret is my sister and the co-owner of Holistic Spaces Studio!

Margaret, I get this question a lot! First of all, it really is the best to start looking for or designing a home from the beginning with feng shui in mind. This way you can avoid doing remedial feng shui. While most feng shui is remedial, it’s most ideal to get it right to begin with! Because each home and family has different needs, I’ll address the general exterior elements that affect the feng shui of a home.

Neighborhood Chi

As you approach the new home, pay close attention to the chi (or energy) of the neighborhood. Are the trees healthy? Is the neighborhood vibrant? Do the neighbors appear happy? You can gather a lot of information from observing the area. From the feng shui perspective, when the natural and human elements in the surrounding area are lively and lush it’s a good indication that the inhabitants will dwell similarly.

Curb Appeal

Getting closer to the prospective home, examine the condition of the exterior including the landscaping, the curb and location of the entry door. Like the neighborhood chi, in feng shui we look for healthy landscaping and good curb appeal. The exterior appearance influences how the world will see the homeowners. We want the exterior to be welcoming and well manicured. The location of the door is also important. Was it easy to find the front door? Or is it hidden behind an overgrowth of bushes? The ease in which you can find the front door indicates how effortless it will be for opportunities and positive energy to find their way into your life.

Predecessor Chi

If possible, research as much information as you can about all the previous owners. The fates of the preceding inhabitants surely affect the feng shui of the home. The predecessor energy may indicate a happy and abundant lifestyle. On the other hand it may expose leanings towards health or money troubles. This is especially true if there are recurring patterns. But if you find a home that you love, there are usually ways to clear the home of the negative predecessor chi with space clearing techniques.

By the way, in case you're also selling a home, here are some feng shui tips for sellers!

Overall, it’s important to look at the location, exterior and history of a home before you decide to move. We want your home to improve and support the health, happiness and prosperity of you and your family.

by Anjie Cho


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!


The Benefits of Orange Essential Oil

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On a typical day, I start with five drops of orange and one drop of frankincense essential oils in my diffuser. This is my favorite way to clear my work space to begin to create. In feng shui, oranges and orange peels represent vibrant, life affirming yang energy. Yang energy is like the energy at high noon – bright and strong.

It is good practice to clear your space at least once a year. The most auspicious time to do this is on Chinese New Year.  The Lunar new year is symbolically a great time to clear out the old stagnant energy in your home to make space for new positive energy. Changing seasons can also be a great time to practice space clearing!

Fresh orange peels work the best to bring out the good, but you can also use 27 drops of orange essential oil. Place the orange peels (or essential oil) in a spray bottle and fill it with water. Walk around your home and spray this citrus essence all around, paying special attention to dead corners and closets. Orange peel carries with it vibrant life energy to clear space and, in turn, rejuvenates you and your home. This is excellent to do on an annual, or even monthly basis. 

Besides its feng shui applications, the benefits of orange essential oil range from internal to external, from mental to physical. Many of us are looking for a heal-all for modern struggles, and we may all be overlooking the immense benefits of orange essential oil. 

Orange essential oil is almost a miracle substance! It is an organic anti-depressant to some degree. When treating mild depression, orange essential oil works to lighten the mood and reduce anxiety by increasing circulation and cleansing the liver. While orange oil is also safe to use with severe depression requiring medication, it should not be used in place of medication. Some research also supports the use of orange essential oil as an aphrodisiac, as it works to reduce stress and promote relaxation in the body, which is often the cause of sexual issues and frustration. In this same function, orange oil can serve as a natural, non-toxic sedative following a long day.

Physically, orange essential oil goes a long way as well. On a surface level, orange oil can help to reduce inflammation, no matter what the cause. It can also be effective against inflammation for everything from excessive consumption (of food or drink) causing gas or pain to fever, infections and more. In addition, orange oil not only alleviates pain, but also acts a regulator for the body and its functions. Orange essential oil rids the body of excess gas and flushes bodily toxins through urination, which in turn promotes healthier digestion.

Other uses for orange oil are almost endless, from relaxing spasms to acting as a disinfectant to promoting healthy menstruation and alleviating acne. The list goes on, and it’s worth taking a peek. You have little to lose except negative thoughts and unwanted gas!

by Anjie Cho


Q&A Sunday: When You Cannot Move Your Bed

How does one deal with a space (such as a small NYC apartment) where moving the bed or having two nightstands is not possible?

Sacha J., New York City, NY

In feng shui, the most ideal layout of the bed would be such that there is space on both sides of the bed with nightstands and lamps on each side of the bed. Your bed location is one of the most important things to consider in feng shui philosophy, because it's where you spend many YIN, or passive, hours sleeping. So where your bed is placed greatly affects you when you are most susceptible to influence.  

So, why does it matter if you have some open space on both sides of your bed? When your bed is pushed up next to the wall, the person sleeping on the closed side of the bed may feel constrained or trapped by life. Also, the side of the body that's facing the wall has less energy (chi) flowing around it, so it may become weaker. If you sleep alone, you also may have the issues with the side of the body facing the wall.  

What can we do about it? Well of course, the ideal situation is to change the location of the bed. If that's not possible, as Sacha suggests, you can try to safely and securely fasten a large mirror on the wall. This would be the wall the bed is pushed up against. The mirror will expand the space next to the bed to help alleviate the feng shui and energetic blocks. Now, I know this is going to bring up another question I often get asked: Isn't it bad feng shui to put a mirror in the bedroom? No, it depends! And in this case it's okay, as long as you make sure it is securely attached to the wall so the occupants feel safe. Take a look at this Q&A Sunday answer for insight around when mirrors in the bedroom are okay.

Thanks for your question, Sacha.

by Anjie Cho


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!


Benefits of Low and Zero VOC Paint

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound) are chemicals added to paint for a variety of reasons including color enhancement, increased adhesiveness and increased ease of spreading. Despite these conveniences, VOCs are extremely dangerous to humans, and the use of them in many paints results in indoor air being anywhere from 3-5 times more polluted and harmful than outdoor air.

What can you do to prevent this? Buy low- and zero-VOC paints, which are now available from almost every brand. Though the main, and obvious perk to using low-VOC paint is reducing the toxicity of your breathing air, benefits do go a bit deeper.

Lower Toxicity

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), VOCs are some of the environment's arch enemies and a huge risk to humans as well. One of the easiest ways to reduce this risk, both for our environment and our bodies, is to use paints with lower or no VOCs.

VOCs are even more toxic to those with high vulnerability to smells and chemicals as well as allergies. Using lower VOC paints reduces the uncomfortable side effects for this group of people as well.

High exposure to paints with excessive VOCs can result in a wide variety of complaints, from watery eyes to respiratory infections, and in some cases, even cancer. Using paints with a lower level of VOCs can directly reduce these health risks.

No Smell!

Low VOC, No VOC paint contains zero or a minimum amount of compounds, which basically makes the paint almost unscented when wet, and leaves it with no smell at all as soon as it is dried.

Better for the Environment

The toxins emitted from regular, high VOC paints end up in the atmosphere and ultimately the ozone, adding to an already colossal problem of greenhouse gases. Using paint with reduced VOCs significantly decreases the amount of toxins that are released into our ozone. In addition, these paints reduce toxicity in landfills and water, as excess, discarded paint is nowhere near as toxic.

Low or zero VOC paint is also very easy to clean and requires only soap and water, rather than heavy chemicals. One more point for low VOCs versus air-killing chemicals.

by Anjie Cho


Q&A Sunday: Feng Shui for Pets

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How do pets, especially their living quarters (crates/pens, etc), factor into the feng shui equation?

Carlissa K., New York City, NY

This is a great question!  I know a lot of people who are curious about how to feng shui their home for their pets. Since I am allergic to most dogs and cats, I’m not sure I’m the best person to respond to this. But a fellow New York City feng shui consultant that I know, Sabine Millauriaux was kind enough to share her knowledge with us. Sabine specializes in feng shui for pets.

Sabine suggests:

Pets should definitely be taken into consideration in the feng shui equation. Concerning their living quarters, you should follow some basics:

  • Crates and beds should not be in a commanding position or in the mouth of qi, which means not facing the door, but in a quiet place where they can relax, except in the case of a guarding dog (this also applies for outdoor pens).
  • Litter box and pads should not be placed in the left area of any entrance door since this area is one of the purest of the feng shui bagua map (Self Knowledge/GEN) and corresponds to the knowledge, self development part of the room. If possible, they should be placed out of view and never in your way (such as pads in front of the door or in the middle of the room).
  • Play areas with items such as scratchers, playing posts, or wheels may be placed in a feng shui bagua map area that you want to activate since they bring life and yang energy. Having an animal in your house usually brings energy to it (good qi), and your pet can be a very good “tool” to pinpoint what areas in your place and in your life should be taking care of.

Remember you are sharing the same energy field as your pet and, being an animal, it can pick up bad energies (such as residual energy from predecessors) or resonate with any unresolved emotions in the members of the household. So watch your pet, consider its crazy or loving behavior and think about what it tells you about you or your family. It will guide you in how to feng shui your place and have a more harmonious life.

by Anjie Cho


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!

Note:  To locate the areas of your home in which you want to activate, please refer to the Feng Shui Bagua Map here.  New blog post to come soon discussing the Feng Shui Bagua Map!


On Meditation with Joseph Mauricio of Shambhala Center

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As an architect and feng shui practitioner, I help my clients create holistic home and work spaces. One of the most important aspects of the feng shui work includes meditation and visualization. I had the honor of taking one of Joseph Mauricio's meditation classes at the Shambhala Center in NYC. His teachings are very approachable and digestable. I believe it is incredibly beneficial to include meditation in everyday life.

AC:  How did you get involved in meditation and with the Shambhala Center -- what's your story?

JM:  I used to run a comedy club years ago in New York, I was a comedian, an actor and that was an exciting lifestyle but it was a little heavy and I was looking for something to help me balance out the pressure. Then I came across meditation. I had always known about Jack Kerouac, the Dharma Bums and Naropa University, founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (also founder of Shambhala Center) along with Allen Ginsberg, Ram Dass and a number of people back in the ‘70s. So it was kind of legendary in my mind, the beat poets. They were an influence in my work as a performing artist. I ended up going in to a Shambhala Center and finding out there was this whole connection. I decided to drop out of the comedy club, moved to a dharma center up in the woods, then ended up at Rocky Mountain Shambhala Center at 8,000 feet in the middle of winter -- which was crazy. I went from being an actor in New York to a cabin with no heat. I met my teacher there, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and I ended up studying with him.

I became intrigued by the mind (my own mind) and the idea that I’d (maybe all of us) create the limitations and disabilities in our own world because of the way we think and the way we perceive the world. So I became really fascinated with that concept. It’s not something that you just pick up and put down, and I gave up my whole life and career to study. I studied in India, Mexico, a number of places for number of years. I was actually studying personally with Sakyong Mipham in 2003 when he suggested I move back to New York and go back to doing performance, which just shocked me. I didn’t expect that at all. I thought I would just be a yogi. I moved back and that’s when I started teaching at the Shambhala Center. I found my calling putting meditation together with performance and comedy. I’m also a life coach, motivating people towards a more healthy balance vision themselves.

So for other people, the way I recommend meditation is not that they drop out of their careers like I did for 17 years, but that they incorporate it in the same way with a good instructor. They study and go to classes and let meditation actually bring stability into their life. I recommend everybody read Sakyong Mipham’s books, particularly The Shambhala Principle. He teaches practical meditation, and it is not particularly religious. I study and teach meditation and training people of all backgrounds. I go in to jails and you can’t even mention Buddhism or any kind of religion. You just teach straight mindfulness training and it helps people. I’m a real believer that meditation can bring a lot of stability and clarity to people, to their lives.

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How would you describe meditation to someone who's not familiar with the concept?  

I would say that it’s a tool whereby you sit in an upright posture, which helps you to wake up and gain confidence. There are tests and studies showing the mind can change brain chemistry in only two minutes when you sit up straight. It starts to lower cortisol and raise testosterone levels. In short, you begin to feel more confident just by sitting in an upright posture. And relaxing down into the earth allows us to open up our heart and begin to feel our feelings and our sense of things. The upright meditation posture is very powerful in re-training the mind into believing that life is possible, that life is workable.

How is meditation helpful in everyday life?

Any given meditation session could be wonderful; maybe they feel very clear or calm. Or maybe their back hurts the whole time. But the real power of meditation comes from consistent practice. I recommend that people practice as little as 10 minutes a day, if that keeps them practicing every day. It’s more powerful than just an hour every few days. But to practice at the same time every day, you develop a consistency that brings stability to life. It becomes like a reference point. Every morning you get up, seat yourself up, recharge your confidence, open your heart and face yourself. It can be very powerful to do that in a few minutes.

Obviously, as time goes on, with longer sessions we can go deeper. I’m a believer in consistent practice even if the practice isn’t very long or arduous. I teach that practice doesn’t have to be perfect, great, or good, and not to be hard on themselves. If they’re on a cushion consistently, slowly and in time lengthen their practice up to 20-30 minutes, and settle in to their practice, they will see a profound difference in their life. But as I said, for beginners, I stress that consistent process.

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Now for my holistic space question:  Where do you like to meditate and what makes it sacred to you?

I have a number of altars. When I was single it was really embarrassing! I have one in my kitchen, and my room is basically a huge shrine. But that’s me and that’s not what I recommend for other people, I’m just obsessive and very devoted. And that’s why I teach it, it’s my living, it’s my life. But for other people, according to my teacher Sakyong Mipham, meditation should support your life, not be a burden to it. So I think if people are creeped out by a shrine, they don’t need a shrine.

I do think meditation in their house is helpful because it actually settles the energy of the space. If you start to feel open and calm in your own house, then that really makes you feel open and calm when you come home. A focal point is also helpful.

Meditation with community is good in a different way. If you just meditate at home, you tend to not have the same level of motivation as when you show up in room full of people. You’re not going to slump as readily. So I do recommend both for people. But I do think some kind of a meditation area in the house really empowers the home. And for some of the hardcore meditators, we have that instead of a television…Often the television is the central part of the home, that’s great and that’s fine, but what kind of energy does that create? So I think to balance that, a meditation area is wonderful, especially in New York apartments, where you can’t have the fireplace or a big beautiful kitchen and stove, the kinds of things that bring more warmth and life in to your house.

I think a little meditation area kind of does that, they can. I do also believe that the meditation changes the energy. If you go into a meditation center, it’s easy to meditate because people have been doing it there for years. That starts to happen in your house and it starts to feel a little more contemplative and meditative because of the practice.

I absolutely agree! Thanks Joe!

Read my other blog post where Joe shares his tips for beginning meditators here.

by Anjie Cho


Joseph Mauricio is a speaker, teacher, workshop presenter, and meditation instructor in academic, business and private sectors. A senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist Tradition, Joseph began teaching twenty years ago at Karma Choling Buddhist Meditation Center in Vermont, and has subsequently taught in meditation centers, schools, businesses and community centers throughout North America, Canada and Europe. He has served as the Director of Public Programs and Outreach at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York, and has recently become the Executive Director of the Baltimore Shambhala Meditation Center.

Joseph is a close student of Meditation Master, Sakyong Mipham, Rinpoche, the Head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage. He has studied with renowned teacher and author, Pema Chodren, and many prominent teachers in the meditation and yogic traditions in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. He has completed dozens of solitary and group retreats, including three month-long meditation retreats, two month-long solitary retreats, an eight week silent group retreat, numerous shorter group retreats and years of advanced study. Joseph is a graduate of the Shambhala School of Buddhist studies and advanced meditation instructor and teacher trainings in the Shambhala Tradition.

www.josephmauricio.com


Q&A Sunday: Five Common Feng Shui Mistakes

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What are five common mistakes people make with feng shui?

Jacqueline R., Cleveland, OH

1.  There are mistakes in feng shui! 

I would not necessarily call these mistakes, but rather misinterpretations of feng shui. And sometimes the misinterpretations lead you to what you really needed! My point is: everything you do is right and correct if you do it with the best intentions. But this is a great question, because I always like to share with my clients the meaning and reason for the feng shui concept. If possible, we should strive to do things in the proper way. But mistakes happen and sometimes for a good reason!

2.  Feng shui is simply about moving furniture around

Feng shui is not just about moving furniture around! It’s about creating harmony in our lives by unifying our inner and outer environments. The inner and outer are not separate, because everything that we do to our spaces – positive and negative – affects our daily experience. In BTB feng shui we incorporate many personal chi adjustments (meditations and rituals to change your personal energy), adjusting objects to your space (such as adding plants, mirrors, or crystals), in addition to re-arranging your furniture.

3.  Using items made out of wood for the wood element

The wood element is about new beginnings, family and kindness in feng shui. Sometimes people misinterpret wood as the dead material of wood, like a wood desk. But in fact, objects made of wood do not embody the wood element. To add wood element you can add green plants or objects that are green/teal or tall and expansive. Brown wood objects are actually earth element!

4.  Fountains flowing wealth away from the home

Fountains can be used as feng shui adjustments to bring more wealth into the home. The best way to do this is to position the fountain so that the water flows into the home, rather than right out the door. So just turn that fountain around.

5.  What direction your door faces is very important

In BTB feng shui, it is not critical if your door faces north, south, east or west. We look at the relationship of the space to the formal entry to the room, home or property. We call this the “mouth of chi,” where the energy comes into the space. There are other schools of feng shui that use the compass directions. The other schools are as valid and equal to BTB feng shui. But the feng shui I practice does not follow this particular discipline. We care more about where the energy enters the environment, and how to look at the flow of chi. 

by Anjie Cho


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!