Feng Shui, Circles & Squares

Chinese-bronze-coins

Chinese coins—round with a square hole, representing heaven (circle) encompassing earth (square). Photo by Plismo, via Wikimedia Commons

The two most basic shapes in feng shui are circles and squares. The circle represents heaven and the square represents earth—that’s why round dining tables are considered to be better than square ones. That’s also why old Chinese coins are round with a square hole in the middle—heaven encompasses earth and is therefore greater than earth.

My husband loves math and I recently got him the book The Joy of Pi by David Slatner, but I was intrigued by its fun format, and I actually started reading it first. What I found supports the feng shui teaching quite nicely. So nicely, in fact, that I’m going to liberally quote from the book.

The Joy of Pi by David Blatner

“It’s not poetic or particularly pleasing to hear, but we humans are basically pattern recognition devices. Our eyes take in the world, but what we really see are intricate patterns of lines and curves and colors and brightness.”

“A raindrop in a pond produces perfect circles of waves that expand indefinitely until cancelled by the friction of the shore or by the perfect circles made by other raindrops. Planets and stars try to form circles and spheres in space, though gravity and spinning forces push and pull their pure mathematical curves into the complex forms that we see in nature.”

“Circles are everywhere in the natural world, and to the peoples of early civilization, the great circles of the moon and the sun looking down on them each day were sources of infinite power and mystery. Even before civilization began, people probably drew circles in the sand with a peg and a rope, building their own infinite forms. The earliest homes and sacred sites, dating back as far as 8000 B.C.E., were circular, owing perhaps to religions based on reverence for the Earth, the mother-goddess.

On the other hand you have a square—exquisitely formed with four equal sides and four equal angles. Since the earliest recorded history, the square has been the opposite, the antithesis, of the circle. Squares are found rarely in nature—perhaps only in the purest of crystalline structures. Where building a circle comes naturally, we have to measure and calculate to create a square. The simplest squares develop from circles: When you draw two perpendicular lines through the center of a circle, their ends form the corners of a square.

Squares have become symbolic of our human ability to measure, to solve, and to partition. Where circles denote the infinite, squares indicate the finite.”

There you have it—science and feng shui in complete agreement. Something to keep in mind when you’re on the hunt for your next table.

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Feng Shui & Vintage Furniture

To be feng shui-friendly, furniture should have rounded vertical corners. The rounded corners will not cause “poison arrows” which are caused by right-angle vertical corners. The fastest way to find that kind of furniture is to look for vintage furniture. Rounded corners are common on vintage furniture.

A Heywood-Wakefield desk. Look at those remarkably curved drawers! View it here.

If I could afford it, every stick of furniture in our house would be Heywood-Wakefield Blond wood. It looks sleek and modern without looking harsh. It looks a little bit Art Deco and a bit Danish Modern, but mostly it looks comfortable.

Heywood-Wakefield started by manufacturing wicker furniture in the 1800s, and if that’s all they ever made, I wouldn’t have much interest in that brand. But when they started making their Blond furniture—magic happened.

Poison arrows can be unintentionally aimed right at us due to the way we position our furniture.

It’s sometimes called Champagne, and it’s known for its clean modern lines, with no fussy decoration, and no sharp angles anywhere. That’s Heywood-Wakefield! While most other companies were making modern furniture with sharp right angles (causing fierce poison arrows), Heywood-Wakefield always made rounded corners, and not just rounded, but well-rounded. You certainly don’t have to be psychic to feel quite comfortable around this fine furniture. Oh, and did I mention that it is well-made? Famously so!

Another furniture company that had an excellent reputation for sturdy, well-made furniture is Lloyd Loom.

Another Heywood-Wakefield example with lovely rounded corners. View it here.

Those are two words that I had never seen together—until I went to Hilo a couple of weeks ago. I was browsing in the “Collectibles” section of Hilo Bay Books and lo—there’s a book on the shelf with that exact title, Lloyd Loom by Lee Curtis. I had no idea what the book was about, but I saw from the spine that the publisher was Rizzoli, one of the top art publishers in the world! When I took it off the shelf, it looked like something you’d expect to see published by Schiffer or Collector Books. When I opened the book, I was transported into some very comfortable-looking interiors. And I realized why Rizzoli had published a book that (at first glance) had seemed to just be a book about a brand of collectible, vintage furniture. This book is so different from most books about collectible objects, because Rizzoli pumped plenty of money into its production and the result is a book with lush color pictures of room vignettes—vignettes from the company’s original publicity pictures. They’re fabulous, and—almost to the piece—with no feng shui flaws. Rounded corners galore, and when there’s a glass surface on a table, the glass never extends beyond the top of the table.

Here’s our Lloyd Loom table, along with my book discovery. The corners are all rounded by the way that they are woven. And, I will add, this is a very solid and sturdy piece of furniture. It’s also on my list of things to repaint—I’ll use a sage green, sort of like the color of the Roseville bookend tucked on the shelf.

The book is so much fun to browse; there are no catalog sections of just picture, name of design line, years, and value—that’s what most books about collectible objects look like. (I know because I have a lot of those kinds of books.) The layout of most books about collectibles is only going to interest people who collect (or wish they could collect) those kinds of objects. The layout of this book is exactly what you’d expect from Rizzoli—anything but boring. This Rizzoli book will interest anyone (I was amazed to see my husband reading it for days) because the writing is top notch and the amount of material covered is phenomenal! The book even carefully shows you how to repair this wicker-like furniture. Real wicker is made with twigs, and is not as sturdy as the furniture from Lloyd Loom which is made of paper coiled around steel wire.

It turns out, we have a small Lloyd Loom table and had no idea until I got this book. We got the table years ago to use as a bedside table, and have in recent years used it as an extra table for incidental items. I was never inclined to let it go because it felt so comfortable to be around. Now I’m so glad we kept it.

A big thanks to Hilo Bay Books, for having such a consistently interesting selection of books. They have the largest selection of books in Hilo, and the second-largest on Hawaii Island. The largest selection of books is at Kona Bay Books in Kailua.  It’s the west-side the sister store to Hilo Bay Books, and I try to go weekly if I can—it’s that good!

Feng Shui & Birds — Part 1: Wild Birds

This leiothrix (Peking or Chinese nightingale) is rather plain-looking but will light up your day when it starts singing.

In feng shui, birds have a heavenly connection. They are links between Heaven and Earth. Good feng shui consultants learn to become acutely aware of wild birds. My colleague, Susan Levitt, taught me that they can be used as an impromptu oracle. When discussing something, if you see a bird flying to your right it’s an affirmation, and if it’s flying to the left, it’s a negation.

Susan is also the person who informed me about the great feng shui master Baolin Wu. In his brilliant book, Lighting the Eye of the Dragon, he repeatedly refers to wild birds, considering them to be a barometer of the chi energy of the property: “Check for birds at dawn. If a lot of birds are out singing vigorously at dawn, it’s a good sign.” I consider Lighting the Eye of the Dragon to be the greatest feng shui book available in English. I had goose bumps by the end of the first paragraph!

In Feng Shui for Love & Money I tell this story:

I consulted for Hawai‘i Island artist Ira Ono, whose Fame Area was in his laundry room. I said, “Nobody will notice if this room is red.” He agreed, and made it red. A few weeks later he called early in the morning, “Have you seen today’s paper?” I said, “No, not yet.” He said, “I’m on the cover in color!” One of his ornaments was going to appear on the White House Christmas tree.

Artist Ira Ono’s stunning i‘iwi bird ornament.

The ornament featured the beautiful i‘iwi bird, one of Hawaii’s most beloved native birds. I don’t think it was a coincidence. The combination of red (fire) in Ira’s Fame Area and the good omen of the bird made for a very positive combination.

My strong suggestion to those who have a yard: Plant plenty of trees & shrubs—the birds need them! The lives of apartment dwellers, too, can often be enriched with wild birds by adding a bird feeder out a window. In the last apartment that we lived in in San Francisco, we had a finch feeder and a hummingbird feeder, and they were visited frequently, much to our delight.

My next post will be about pet birds—a topic suggested to me by Karen Anderson when she was visiting our kitchen—see my previous post.

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Feng Shui & Gift Giving (and Receiving)

These knickknacks were donated by my publisher’s staff for the purpose of this photo that appeared in “Feng Shui for Hawaii.” And, yes, they reported that MANY were “guilt gifts.”

It’s lovely to give & receive gifts, but you don’t want to give something that will just be clutter for the recipient. Food, money, and flowers are all gifts that don’t have to be dusted.

Don’t be guilty of giving someone a “guilt gift” which is an object that they are keeping only because you’ll see it when you come to visit. And likewise don’t keep a guilt gift, if that’s really what it is. The objects you have on display in your home should be there because you use them or love them—no other reason.

Clothing is often a welcome gift, if it’s truly apparel that will be worn and appreciated. However, never give clothing with bold stripes since stripes portend arguments.

gifts_flowerbowls

I find these vintage pottery bowls (the green from Metlox Pottery, the white from Hull Pottery — the ONLY Hull item I like) quite charming. Other bowls might seem similar to someone less passionate about pottery, but would make poor additions to my collection. It’s always wise to ask a collector before buying something for them.

If you are giving a gift to a collector to add to their collection, make very sure that it will be a welcome addition. Remember, a gift does not have to be a surprise to be welcomed. I’m a passionate collector of vintage pottery—certain vintage pottery. Most vintage pottery is not to my taste—in fact I consider much of it quite tacky. Hull Pottery is a great example of this for me. I don’t care for any of it—it looks like saccharine Roseville to me. But there’s one exception—a sublime, matte glaze, white bowl in the shape of a large tropical leaf. Its charm is explained by the fact that Hull didn’t design it—they bought the mold from Metlox Pottery. It was part of Metlox’s “Leaves of Enchantment” series, which was made in glossy green. Hull changed the bottom slightly and that was all. Then after awhile they couldn’t resist making it tacky—really tacky. They put one bunch of purple grapes in the bottom and made it glossy—that version gags me. Oh, I have digressed—pottery does that to me.

If you need more motivation than this to be cautious about giving gifts that could become clutter, read Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. Here is my review of the title. It’s a very powerful book!

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New Wives Tales—Discovering an Excellent Feng Shui Book

Grace Ho, the Japanese wife of a Chinese businessman, is an author I’ve recently discovered. I just got her book One Minute Feng Shui for Prosperity and I’m now a big fan. It was published in 2010 by a small California publisher, so it slipped beneath my radar—until I saw it in the feng shui section at Big Island BookBuyers in Hilo. It’s primarily Compass School, but I’ve learned that those kinds of books usually have a ton of information that has nothing to do with a compass—and just so with this book. Ho suggests going to each corner of each room of your space and saying, “Thank you, I love you.” (She recommends doing that in hotel rooms also.) I’ve never before heard of doing that, but it instantly felt right.

An example of noren, above a bath house entryway in Japan. Photo by udono via Wikimedia.

An example of noren, above a bath house entryway in Japan. Photo by udono via Wikimedia.

So much of Ho’s book feels right. I often recommend noren (the short, slitted Japanese curtains) and this is the first feng shui book where I’ve seen them recommended—to hide items in lower cabinets that don’t have a cabinet door. She does not believe in what she calls “feng shui novelties”—such as three-legged frogs with coins in their mouths, etc., saying, “…it is not the consumer who bought these novelties [who] becomes rich, but it is the salesman who makes money from the consumers.”

One of the most likeable things about Grace Ho is her refreshingly gracious attitude toward other schools of feng shui. Some authors are very deprecating when discussing other schools, but Grace lives up to her name. It’s also refreshing to see the Japanese name included for things such as bagua mirror (Hakke-kyo) and Black Tortoise (Gen-Bu). She also shows a correct yin/yang symbol and explains how it differs from incorrect representations—very helpful!

Likewise helpful is her motto—“There is always a solution.” She demonstrates her practicality by listing the best Compass School directions for placing the head of your bed (referred to as pillow direction). She lists: First Best, Second Best, Third Best, and Fourth Best. It’s obvious that her advice is grounded in real-world experience where people have limited options. Another example of her practicality is the fabulous index. A good index should serve as an entry point into the book and hers does just that.

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