Feng Shui and Bad Guests

May this never happen to you. It just happened to us—someone overstayed their welcome as our guest (by every day they were here). So I sage smudged like crazy yesterday as soon as they were gone, laundered their bedding and hung it to dry on an outside clothesline (where the fabric received lots of wind and sun—which are very purifying things).

Inside my head I made the resolve not to think about them anymore. When that person’s memory came up in my mind, I put my full attention on exactly what I was doing at the moment. That’s called mindfulness, and I occasionally teach a class on it at Daifukuji in Kona. On April 28, 2018 (for the first time) I’ll offer a class at Taishoji in beautiful downtown Hilo. I’ve sometimes counseled clients to do that practice when they are going through anguish or turmoil. For me, after the unsettling guest experience, the mindfulness practice has made me grateful for my husband and our home. He’s the one who strung the clothesline, and he’s the one who orders our natural fragrance-free detergent from the Frontier Coop. In fact, he started and manages our neighborhood buying club to get items wholesale (and with no shipping charge, even to Hawaii) at Frontier. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I have to be grateful for—and that leaves no space for nagging thoughts of a oafish guest. (There, I said “oafish,” and I feel better!)

The third thing I did was to take the photo that you see. It’s the walkway to our guest accommodations, and look at those sharp pineapple leaves. It’s as I say in Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens: “Pucker your face into a tight, prune-like scowl. That’s how the energy looks when it has passed by prickly plants on the way to your door.” The pineapples were never meant to stay there, but I just got busy and didn’t move them. The photo is to remind me to move those plant today. You get what you ask for with feng shui.


Feng Shui & Trees

These large, beautiful trees are behind the home, and serve as guardians.

Bill Bryson is my favorite writer, and this is from his book about Australia, Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country:

“Sydney has whole districts filled with palatial houses that seem to consist of nothing but balconies and plate glass, with scarcely a leaf to block the beating sun or interrupt the view. But here on the north shore, wisely and nobly, they have sacrificed large-scale vistas for the cool shade of trees, and every resident will, I guarantee, go to heaven.”

While I can’t guarantee the go-to-heaven part, planting shade trees is a big step toward creating a more heavenly Earth. The chi energy around your home is greatly increased by the presence of large trees. Life itself is a form of chi, and a tree invites a massive amount of life—birds, insects, squirrels, and various plant and animal life need trees. A mowed lawn has very little chi energy. The Earth needs the return of tall trees.

There are three sides of a home that benefit from trees—in the back, they represent guardians, and on the sides they help bring balance. It’s only in the front of a house that trees can be problematic in feng shui. The big rule is: Never plant a tree directly between your front door and the road. (This, of course, does not apply to large properties with woods. This rule is about standard home lots.)

In fact, any tree, anywhere in your front yard is best if it has a rounded, mounded, or flowing shape, rather than a tall vertical shape. Vertical shapes represent the Turtle (one of four archetypal energies that surround and protect a home) and those shapes are best in the back of a home. If there’s already a very vertical tree in your front yard (and you don’t want to remove it), read page 43 of my book, Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens. The information applies to any home anywhere.

This bungalow home has a very inviting look. Unlike the example in my story, the two columnar shrubs flanking the stairs pose no problem because they are small and are not directly in front of the front door.

I consulted for a woman in Hilo years ago. The first thing I noticed about the property was that there was a line of columnar junipers (sometimes called Italian junipers) in front of the house. They looked, for all the world, like jail bars between the house and the road. When I mentioned that to my client, she said, “It’s funny you should say that. Since my brother planted those trees, I’ve become housebound. I used to have a business and drive myself everywhere. Now I have to rely on rides.” She said she would ask her brother to remove them, and that he would probably want them.

Here are the three priorities you should consider for tree planting:

  • Native trees—the trees that evolved in your area
  • Food trees—fruits and nuts
  • Fragrant trees—such as witch hazel and magnolia. The fragrance lifts our spirit.

Feng Shui & Clocks: A Tale of Two Faces

This (much more expensive) clock is what we’re getting rid of—too vague!

Not all clock faces are created equal. Digital clocks are always a bit more stressful to look at than the old-fashioned analog clocks, which have hands that move in a circle. We have a few small digital clocks scattered around the house, including the one on the stove. But the main clock in our house is an analog wall clock above the kitchen door. It’s on the screened-in lanai (porch), which is also our dining room and main hang-out room. Until recently, we had a clock from Macy’s hanging there. It didn’t have much going for it, from a feng shui point of view, except that the back had flocking (sort of a glued-on felt), which dampened the ticking sound. The main problem with the clock was that it had no actual numbers on the face. Where the 3, 6, 9, and 12 would be, there were only little dots. Often I would stare at it wondering, “Is that 4:30 or 5:30?” That kind of vagueness from a clock is not good feng shui.

No vagueness here! It is a slight bit noisier than the other clock, but my husband stuffed fabric in the hollow space in the back (around the frame) and that helped a lot.

Then, a few days ago, my husband and I were in the Salvation Army thrift store in Kailua, and there was this clock that was about the same size as the Macy’s clock, but it had numbers. The store was having a 50% off sale on all items. I asked Steve what he thought, and he said, “Get it!”

So for $2.50 we got a charming clock with all twelve numbers on the face. Every time I look up at it, I automatically blurt out, “I love that clock!” The vagueness is gone.

A few other clock tips:

  • If a ticking sound bothers you, as it does me, get only silent or very quiet clocks. This is essential in the bedroom.
  • Clocks need to be kept accurate; otherwise they are holding you back in the past.
  • If there are several clocks in the home, they need to agree on the time. Clocks that disagree by several minutes bring a vibe of untrustworthiness to the home. (If you collect clocks, you have a problematic hobby—keep them all accurate, or don’t have them on display.)
  • One of the worst kinds of clocks is the kind that has no numbers at all. These were popular in the 1950s, and remain so in some minimalist homes. This is vagueness gone off the scale.

Feng Shui, Circles & Squares


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.

A Feng Shui Relationship Success Story

Kunstige Orkideer

When selecting flowers, choose blooms that are not known for having thorns. The symbology of having thorns in your relationship corner should be fairly obvious! Orchids, like these, peonies (like my friend chose), or lotus blossoms (such as I used) are good, thorn-free options. Photo by Flowerfactory, via Wikimedia Commons.

I recently spoke with a very dear old friend, and he was excited to share his feng shui success story. He’s been single for the last few years and felt ready for a new relationship, but all his close women friends were obviously going to remain just friends. Then he read my latest book, Feng Shui for Love & Money, and here’s what happened.

He went to a store with a very liberal returns policy and bought a bunch of (rather expensive) peach-colored, silk peony flowers and put them in the Relationship Corner of his room. They weren’t really his style, but he was willing to give feng shui a chance. About a month later he was to conduct a workshop, but at the very last minute the venue had to cancel on him. Someone who was with him at the time said that they knew of a woman who had an appropriate space on her farm. So that’s where the workshop happened and the farm owner is now his new love. He took advantage of the store’s returns policy and returned the flowers. (There’s an old saying, “Once you’ve caught the bus, you can stop running.”) Peach (or coral) colored items are only useful for single people in feng shui, because they say, “I’m in between—I’m available.” Peach being a color that’s between pink (the color of love) and yellow (the color of happiness).

In my experience, that’s how feng shui works—in very unexpected ways. There’s no way he would have met this woman if the original venue had worked out. I consider feng shui to be a way of using your physical space to signal to your angels about how you would like your life to be.

And one more thing—don’t expect Mr. or Ms. Right to come knocking on your door. You’ve got to get out in the world so and the right person can actually meet you. I met my husband at the ocean—on Memorial Day. He had the day off and I did too. We both love nature so that’s where we headed to. A few months before, I had put pink silk lotus flowers in the Relationship Corner of my apartment. Next year we’ll be celebrating our 20th anniversary.