Feng Shui & Dreams

Image by Claudio_Scott from Pixabay

You can greatly enrich your experience of life by learning from your dreams. To learn from your dreams, you first have to remember them when you are awake. While you are trying to remember a dream, don’t change your position from the one you were in while you were having the dream. If you switch to a different bodily position, you’ll almost always lose some of you memories of that dream. As soon as you start to wake up, remind youself not to change physical positions. If you need to grab a handy notepad or audio recorder (a cell phone, these days) then do so, but quickly come back to the  position you were in while sleeping, and then start taking notes of your memories in as much detail as you can possibly remember.

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

To really learn from your dreams, start with a really good dream “dictionary”. The best one I know of is contained within a book with a very simple title: The Dream Book by Betty Bethards. She stresses the importance of remembering the details. Did you turn right or left? Were you going uphill or downhill? Remembering details such as that are crucial to understanding the meaning of a dream.

Also, avoid poison arrows aimed at your body while you are in bed. (This video of one of my furniture store talks discusses that exact issue at about the 1-minute point.) That should be common sense, and I will personally testify that poison arrows can cause severely disturbed sleep. I love vintage furniture and recommend it because it rarely has poison arrows.


Feng Shui & Interior Hammocks

I just got this great book from the library—Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer—but even a great book can’t keep me awake in a hammock. (Note the fragrant Angel’s Trumpet blooming outside.)

We usually think of hammocks as outdoor furniture, but I’ve often recommended that clients put a hammock in a large unused room. Unused rooms are too yin for a home, and the correction is simply to use that room. Once a hammock is in a room, it will most likely be used. The hammock can be held by a freestanding frame, or it can be stretched between two hooks. The advantage of the hammock between two hooks is that it can quickly and easily be put away.

We keep a hammock in our bedroom, and it mostly hangs in a corner, and occasionally gets unfurled for taking a nap or reading a book. I’m one of those people who needs a pillow for a hammock to feel most comfortable. What anyone should avoid are hammocks with stretcher bars—those kinds of hammocks can easily tip over and out you go.

The gentle rocking of a hammock is very relaxing. Soon I put my book down and start napping.

What brings this to mind is a photo in a back issue of Architectural Digest (the November 2017 issue; I don’t have permission to post the photo here, but if you follow that link, you can see it)—which shows a hammock in a living room! The article is about the midcentury designer Ward Bennett and a book about him by the same name. The room is plenty big and it looks out onto a lovely view.  The same thing applies to hanging chairs, but be sure you hang them securely. A molly bolt in sheet rock ain’t gonna do it!

What I Read Then

The idea for this article came from reading a charming little book, My Ideal Bookshelf, edited by Thessaly La Force and illustrated by Jane Mount. I first came across the book in the Huntsville, Alabama, main library when I was back there for a few months helping my dear old mother move out of independent living. For the book, about a hundred people were asked to “select a small shelf of books that represent you—the books that have changed your life, that have made you who you are today, your favorite favorites.” The very last page of the book (on what’s called the pastedown) is an invitation to readers to send in their own “ideal bookshelf.” At the time, I thought I might do that when I got back home—but, of course, I had lots of catch-up kind of things to do when I got home, so I never did it. Then I picked up a copy of the book at Big Island BookBuyers in Hilo the last time I was over there, and it got me to thinking about it again. And not long ago I wrote an article for this blog called “What I’m Reading Now,” and some of the feedback I got was from old friends who were grateful for certain books I’d recommended to them in the past. (As someone who has owned three bookstores, I’ve recommended a lot of books!)

So here are six books that meant the most to me as I was developing into an independent adult.

The bookend is my favorite, an old McCoy Lilybud in a soft matte white. The books with titles to be read upright are upright. The books with titles to be read horizontally are horizontal.

My girlfriend at Huntsville High School, Cathy Earnest, told me that her Uncle Danny, whom she rightly adored, had recommended The Crock of Gold by James Stephens. Stephens was part of the Irish Renaissance, a period of writing that produced James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and others. Luckily the Huntsville Library had a copy and even more luckily it was a hardback with all the original color illustrations. Don’t even think of reading a paperback copy of this marvelous book. The illustrations by Thomas Mackenzie are as important as the writing. I realize I’ve told you next to nothing about the book, except read it.

I’d started reading Alan Watts while I was in high school, and one of his books that influenced me the most was The Joyous Cosmology which describes his use of hallucinogenic drugs. It led to the fateful day when Cathy and I went off in the woods on Huntsville Mountain and spent the next several hours “watching the glories roll by” as Neil Young would say, or “changing our minds” as Michael Pollan says. On the way home, Cathy said that she wanted her mother to try it. I told her I didn’t think it was a good idea to even tell her mother, but I appreciated her sentiment.

That night I picked up the book Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon (which had been patiently waiting on my bookshelf, as books do) and read the Preface. I realized that the book was going to mean so much to me that I’d better read it with a dictionary. It had a lot of words I didn’t know, and I wanted to get everything out of the book that the author put in. (Ignore the fact that Dover Publications bound the book together with his earlier book, Last and First Men. Starmaker is the one to read!) It took my conception of how big the universe could be and reduced it to the size of a grain of sand—and gave me a much bigger conception of the universe.

The book that pointed me away from psychedelics and toward sitting in meditation was Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass. It was so important to me that it was in the very first section as soon as you walked in the door of my first bookstore (A Good Book Store, opened when I was 19). In the very next section was Selling Water by the River by Jiyu Kennett, the woman who would eventually ordain me a Zen monk. The beating heart of the entire book is a short section describing how to do pure meditation, and the jist of it all is in these words, “…neither trying to think nor trying not to think. Just sitting with no deliberate thought is the important aspect of Zazen.” (Oddly and frustratingly, the most recent edition of the book completely leaves out this section.)

When I first went to Shasta Abbey in 1976 (and became ordained as a lay Buddhist) the person who ordained me recommended And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran. Lusseyran went blind early in his life and never took it negatively. He tells his amazing story which includes working with the French Resistance in WW2, and being captured and put in a concentration camp. That was one of the biggest lessons in my life, that whatever happened to me, I should take it positively—and thereby get the gift of that moment.

Those are my “ideal bookshelf” titles. I would love to hear about yours.

Even More Feng Shui and Architectural Digest (The Silly and the Great)

This isn’t from Architectural Digest, but it illustrates the “opposing couches” problem I mention at the end of this post. Couches across from each other say “opposing viewpoints,” but you can fix that problem with a crystal between them. (Image by Pexels from Pixabay)

This is what happens when you’ve got as many back issues as I’ve still got—but the pile is rapidly dwindling. Let’s start with some silly things, such as this ad I’m looking at for a closet design. There’s what looks to be a big round skylight in the center of the giant closet, and hopefully everyone knows that direct sunlight is going to fade clothes badly, especially anything red (red being the weakest pigment). In the center of the closet is a giant square hassock with a couch scarf casually draped over it. Now a couch scarf on a couch makes sense—the house is a little chilly and instead of turning the heat up, you pull a couch scarf over or around you. But on a hassock in a closet—it looks super weird! Somebody’s just trying to sell couch scarves—as if they were appropriate anywhere—what’s next—couch scarves on breakfast bars?

Another silly thing—somebody’s Arizona house has got a Stark brand carpet on the floor of the billiard room. That sounds all nice and fine—until you look for more than one second, and you realize that the carpet was probably rolled out minutes before the photographer took the picture. All the lines of it being rolled up are still very plain on the carpet. I’m very surprised they printed that picture! You could practically trip on the roll wrinkles. The lesson here (as far as I’m concerned) is that every rug or carpet needs a pad under it. A pad (and five minutes of walking) would have taken all those roll wrinkles out. The most amazing thing about rug pads is that they add hundreds of years to the life of the rug!

The same issue (January 2015) has a great example of good design and good feng shui. There’s a long darkish hall in a “minimalist” NYC apartment. (I put minimalist in quotes because it’s the busiest minimalist space I’ve ever seen—stuff on top of stuff, stuff in front of stuff.) But in the hall, there’s one entire long wall that’s been lacquered to create a mirror effect. The long wall opposite the mirror has eighteen vintage Charlotte Perriand light sconces, and the effect couldn’t be better. That long hall seems spacious and magical!

Let’s go on to a couple more silly things before we end on a positive note. They’re both ads—the first one is for a lounge chair called Lockheed Lounge designed by Marc Newson for a company called Phillips. It’s made up of little pieces of riveted metal—that’s right—the whole chair, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that looked more uncomfortable. Remember my phrase? More dollars than sense! And that same phrase applies to an ad for an orange sofa by Michael Amini. It’s a lovely sofa, but one of the throw pillows (that’s designed to go with it) has a great big AM embroidered on it. I know where I’d throw that pillow!

That same issue (May 2015) has an article with another piece designed  by Charlotte Perriand—a lovely round, black coffee table—placed in the center between two huge half-circle white couches in a London penthouse. When I showed it to my husband, he asked if they had the problem of “a couch directly facing another couch” (which says “opposite points of view—arguments”). I replied, “Yes, it sure does, but wouldn’t a large crystal look great on that table?” And that would be the solution—the crystal symbolizes “dispersing the opposing energy”. (See page 94 & 95 of Feng Shui for Hawaii for more on this topic.)

Feng Shui and Architectural Digest (My Love-Hate Relationship)

clutter AD mag

The pile is slowly being whittled down…

The rich get richer and the rest of us (hopefully) get by. I’m still reeling from looking through so many Architectural Digests at one time, and then I came across this refreshing article in The New York Times which puts the current over-consumption of the super-rich in the perspective of the past. The article speaks for itself quite eloquently, but one sentence really shines “There was a sense that too much was distasteful.” Ain’t it the truth!

Back to Architectural Digest—the homes are always those of super rich people—unlike Dwell which often features homes of just plain folks (who like super modern design). Before Trump announced his candidacy, Architectural Digest had a half-page notice touting Trump’s new line of furniture. After that, I don’t recall ever seeing his name mentioned again in the magazine. He has quite a reputation for bad taste—one article I saw in The Times said it was a “thing” with autocrats—to have bad taste in their surroundings. “Bad taste” here is referring to a Vegas-like excess which is all show with no substance.

Architectural Digest—it’s a magazine I love to hate, and hate to love—but I do—I love it. But it’s never a lasting love—I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for printing a picture of someone’s dining room and the art on the wall was a super-giant photo of the head of a handsome man with his head tilted back and his throat slit. I wish to God I’d never seen that! Yuck! And in a dining room! It’s a perfect example of my phrase people with more dollars than sense. One of the future books that I’m planning is Feng Shui for Collectors, and in it I will suggest that there are certain things that it’s simply best not to collect—and gruesome things are at the top of the list. They are bad for your spirit.


Lovely work by Rachel Dein. Her Instagram account has stunning photos of her artwork and process.

I have a pile of Architectural Digests next to me right now with pages to mention. It’s too much for this one article, so I’ll probably have yet another article (or two) on them. For the rest of this article, I’ll try to be positive. For instance, I’m looking at a fabulous solution for people who like the beauty of dried flowers but don’t want their home to say “dead—stuck in the past” which is what dried flowers say. (I mention this on page 125 of Feng Shui for Hawaii. The solution that I’m seeing is the work of the London-based artist Rachel Dein. Her work uses fresh flowers (usually wildflowers) to make plaster molds—and that’s the artwork—in white, or white and grey, and occasionally a bit of soft color. It’s lovely and peaceful, and because the plaster was never alive—it’s good feng shui. Cake & eat it too—my favorite!

And to end on another positive note—here is a quote from jewelry designer Solange Azagury-Partridge, “I find the color green to be visually restorative and spiritually calming…To me, green is beauty, and beauty is hope.” A feng shui master could not have worded it better.