Mindful Design Feng Shui: Behind the Scenes - Feng Shui Design Altars

We turn the cameras around to talk about our own feng shui, homes, offices and design ideas. See how we have set up our own homes...

Sacred Space & Altars
- what is an altar?
- what do you have on it?
- Why do you use one?
- What we have on ours !!!

We chat about how to set up an altar and the show you our altars and shrines and what elements we have used.


If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.

Q&A Sunday: Best Feng Shui Location for an Altar or Shrine

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I read your "9 Feng Shui Things in Bedroom" and find it helpful. I'm currently remodeling my whole home. My question that I've tried to find an answer to in my books and online: Where is the best position to place an altar...what direction, and is the bedroom not a good place to have it? I am a single woman and my bedroom is in the front right section of the bagua map. 

Carolyn K., 

Hi Carolyn,

Thank you for your question, and I’m so glad you like the MindBodyGreen article, “9 Things That Should Be in Your Bedroom (According to a Feng Shui Healer)”.

Wonderful that you have an altar (or shrine) in your home. My first response would be to ask what’s most appropriate from your teachers and spiritual lineage. If there’s no specific place required, the next suggestion would be to locate it where you will use it. I’m assuming this is where you would practice meditation, so it’s a good idea to have it placed so that it works for you functionally. 

When I created my first altar, it was after I started studying and practicing BTB feng shui. My teachers taught me that, if we’d like, we could create an altar in the BTB feng shui tradition to honor the teachings and as a focal point for our attention. We were even encouraged to assemble “altar committees” in class so that we could have a special sacred place in the classroom. Here we offered an image of the teacher (a Buddha and/or Professor Lin Yun), a musical instrument, a red ribbon on a stick, saffron water, rice, and a mirror in a rice bowl.

Since I live in a small New York City apartment, I have my shrine in the living room. I’ve even included a photo of it here. If I had more space, I would like to have a separate shrine room near the rear of the home. It’s ideal if the shrine can be in a more private space. I’ve been told that the bedroom traditionally is not great, as it’s seen as disrespectful for the Buddha’s image to gaze upon our romantic activities. But remember, the mundane and functional is as important as the spiritual and transcendental. It’s up to you and your specific situation. I can only share guidelines.

I have a spiritual Buddhist shrine, but there are also secular altars that you can create. Laura Morris (together we founded the Mindful Design Feng Shui school) has a blog post about more secular altars. An image of a deity is not required... you can even have a vision board or beautiful inspiration piece of art, like from my talented friend Amy T Won. On my shrine I also have a manifestation list and my ikebana cutters. The cutters are there to remind me to "cut my thoughts" and a tool of my contemplative art practice.

Since I practice BTB feng shui, the direction is not important. However, my shrine is located in the commanding position of the living room. And when I sit to meditate, I face the shrine, so I’ve also placed a small convex mirror so that when I’m sitting, I can see behind me as well. This corrects and places me in command as I meditate. But the Buddha holds the leading seat - the seat that’s most in command.

On a final note, wherever your altar ends up, you can see what area of the feng shui bagua maps it corresponds with. Or alternatively, if you have total flexibility, you could choose the feng shui bagua map location based on your intention. For instance, the Knowledge (dark blue) area would be wonderful if you seek to deepen your self-cultivation. The center area of your home, or the Health area, would be useful to have your altar become the central focal point of your life. A shrine in the New Beginnings area might give you a sense of freshness and nowness every time you sit to practice.

As with so many aspects of BTB feng shui, the optimal placement of your altar does depend on you and your preferences. Of course it helps to observe any feng shui guidance, so I would encourage you to consider the feng shui bagua and the energy of the area when selecting your altar space. Don't forget to arrange your altar with intention as well!

by Anjie Cho


If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.


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!


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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: Chinese Astrology for a Horse in a Rooster Year

This year of the Fire Rooster has been really tough for me so far. Big snow making getting to work difficult, 3 squirrel infestations in my new Nissan Rogue (wires chewed...in shop three times). I'm a Wood Horse. Please advise me how to improve my luck. Maybe a dragon in the entryway?

Shauna R., Abbotsford , British Columbia, Canada

Hi Shauna

I’m so very sorry that you have been having such a challenging year. It’s actually been a quite challenging year for many others as well. As far as the relationship between Horse and Rooster, it’s actually neutral. It may be useful for you to consult directly with a Chinese Astrology expert as it sounds like this is where your interests lie, and there are great astrologers I can recommend. Beth Grace, Doris Ingber and Yasha Jampolsky are all Chinese Astrologers you can hire. They can look at your specific natal chart, based on the time of your birth, in relationship with the energies of this specific year. Without seeing your actual birth information, there’s not much more I can advise in terms of your astrology.

As far the feng shui aspects to improve your luck, the founder of BTB feng shui, H.H. Professor Lin Yun always advised to first take of the mundane issues. That simply means what are the practical things you can do to improve the situation. Luckily the winter has passed, but as far as the squirrels, is there something you can do to prevent this happening again in the future? Then, I have a sense that you should start with the most basic feng shui adjustment of making sure your bed, desk and stove are in the commanding position. You can find more information about that here, here and here.

As far as the car damage, you can look at the feng shui of your car. It represents how you connect to the world, right? And the electrical wires are akin to your blood and nervous system. It maybe helpful for you to check that out. It might be interesting to also look at symbology of the squirrel. The squirrel is associated with playfulness but also preparation. The presence of so many squirrels may be a sign to take life a little less seriously and have more fun. However, it can also be a note to take a look at your preparations in life and ensure they are all in place. On a less obvious level, the squirrel can also be a reminder to remain mindful. Squirrels only find 10% of the nuts they hide for winter, but all of these unfound nuts do develop into larger plants and trees. So be mindful of what you "plant", because it will inevitably come back up!

Since the damage was carried out by nature, you can also create a shrine to invite the nature spirits to appease them. You can create a special place, ideally outdoors, where you make a humble offering to the nature spirits so they are happy and feel invited into your home. This would include water, liquor, rice and a small rock or statue. Do this to dedicate a small space for magic from the universe in your life, and be sure to ask nature to visit your home! There's more on that here

Finally, you inquired about a dragon in the entryway. I’m assuming you’re suggesting this because the Dragon is the best friend of the Rooster. In BTB feng shui we advise you carry on your body a three-dimensional dragon in the Year of the Rooster. So this is the adjustment, to carry it on you. It’s not the same to have it in the entryway. If you had another reason, let us know so we can comment on it. You can purchase the charm in the Holistic Spaces shop, and it will definitely help you have a more auspicious year. Since the Dragon is the best friend of the Rooster, the Rooster will see the dragon charm and bestow good luck and protection. 

Thank you for submitting your question, and I hope the rest of your year improves! 

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!


New Year's Inspiration with Your Own Personal Shrine

First, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! I hope it was wonderful and relaxing for everyone. I stayed in the neighborhood and shared an inspiring toast to the future with some friends and my husband.

Ok, moving along :) In my last podcast, Feng Shui and the Winter Solstice, I shared some ways to welcome the winter and new year into your home and life. Instead of just writing up a list of new year's "resolutions," I offered a way in which to create a personal shrine to embody how you want to FEEL in 2016. 

Here are the instructions! Note: I'm sharing the one I created in this post.

Materials:

  • Photographs and/or small items that are special and feel inspiring to you. My selections:
    • Celestite crystals, an angelic and spiritual stone
    • Origami paper crane, white for precision, and the paper crane as a nod to creativity and the story of folding a Thousand Origami Cranes to receive one wish
    • Blessed feng shui cinnabar rice in a red envelope from a teacher, for protection, wisdom and to honor the feng shui lineage that so inspires me
  • Mint tin, match book, any small box
    • I found this old mint box that held some paperclips. And how PERFECT, I opened it up and was reminded of the quote printed inside:
    • "Every thought we think is creating our future" Louise L. Hay
  • Other decorative materials such as paper, plant life, ribbons, shiny things
    • I found a mirror-like silver paper and a beautiful gold satin ribbon
  • Glue to put it all together!

Directions:

  • Decorate the interior of the box with your special objects. Keep in mind the FEELING you want to embody and be inspired by. 
  • Find a special place for it or carry it with you!

Please send along photos of your personal shrine! I hope this project inspires you!

Note: I'm sharing this (somewhat modified) DIY activity from the Winter catalog for the Rubin Museum. The Rubin Museum of Art "is an arts and cultural hub in New York City’s vibrant Chelsea neighborhood that inspires visitors to make connections between contemporary life and the art and ideas of the Himalayas, India, and neighboring regions." Be sure to check it out if you're ever in NYC!

by Anjie Cho