Can the Mystical Powers of Feng Shui Really Overhaul My Life?

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

With cold-press juice bars sprouting up on every corner and new iterations of yoga (aerial, water and candle flow) hitting a studio near you, it’s safe to suggest that people are more cognizant than ever about their health, achieving balance and the overall quality of their lives. And, naturally, this holistic-centric health wave is extending itself to our most personal retreats and sanctuaries by way of the ancient Chinese art of placement: Feng Shui.

We’ve all likely heard of it, wondered about it and questioned its validity. Can one really gain in success/happiness/love/health by putting a plant in a corner or moving around furniture? Regardless of where you stand on the mystical practice, one thing is certain for me: it was worth a try. With some big-name celebrities following its philosophy to a tee—the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Sting, Oprah and Richard Branson (just to name a few)—Feng Shui seems to have found its footing, becoming as mainstream as organic kale.

To truly understand the art behind these seemingly esoteric spatial laws, I turned to London- and Paris-based, internationally acclaimed practitioner Christine A. Bushell, who helped to distill down the elements of this enigmatic world…and I had plenty of questions.

So Christine, break it down for me…what exactly is Feng Shui?

“The literal translation of the Chinese term is “wind” (Feng) and “water” (Shui). At the most basic level, Feng Shui is the interaction of people and their environments. Feng Shui makes you aware of how your surroundings affect you. It provides tools and methods to change the way you live to achieve specific results and increase your overall well-being, happiness and success.”

Say no more (well, actually keep talking). I want all of those things in my life, so how do we get started here?

“There are many ways to practice Feng Shui. It can be used in a general way, to create harmonious and balanced rooms by positioning furniture, artifacts and art, as well as by using color and fabrics, in accordance with Feng Shui principles. Others use Feng Shui in a more personal way, to improve their relationships, health, finances and careers. It is a broad practice involving small actions such as moving a chair or hanging a piece of art, as well as larger efforts, such as clearing years of accumulated clutter and honestly evaluating your life, goals and desires.”

Okay, say I want a more harmonious home in general. What do I need to know to achieve balance?

The first steps in any Feng Shui consultation is to review the overall shape of the space in question and determine the entry of Chi. This can be the door to the room or the designated entry point; it’s where the greatest flow of energy comes into the space.

Another layer in Feng Shui design is to balance out a space by introducing just the right ratio of Yin & Yang qualities. Nothing is absolutely Yin or Yang, so it is necessary to know what calms down a space (Yin qualities) or energizes a space (Yang qualities). For example, look at your flooring, is it soft pile carpet, which represents Yin qualities or is it a hard surface like wood or tile which represent a Yang quality? Knowing the formula is how you can best determine furniture placement, and once you know how to apply the Bagua map, which is an instrumental element of Feng Shui analysis, you will be on your way to achieving balance.

(Image credit: Cara Gibbs)

Tell us more about this Bagua Map. How does it work?

The Bagua allows you to discern how the areas of your space (home, garden and office) are impacting the corresponding areas of your life. The Feng Shui Bagua is an energetic map; a tool to diagnose energy qualities in your space. Using this map, you can divide any definable space (either a room or a surface, like a desktop) into nine sections, each with its own corresponding set of influences and energies. A definable space must have specific boundaries and one main entrance.

So how do we use it?

To use the Bagua, stand at the entry point of your “room” and note the position of the colors. Each area on the map corresponds to the most important life changes you wish to make. If you wish to increase your wealth, for example, the back left area of your space (the top left part of the map) is a good place to start. Go to this area and take a good look. What do you see? It is surprising how things can simply be overlooked. If in this area you see clutter, dead plants or flowers, anything that is broken or does not operate properly such as blown light bulbs, cloudy/dirty windows, stuck doors or an odor, this is seen as diminished Chi (energy) in the corresponding area of your life. Set about fixing them: clean, de-clutter, install fresh plants or flowers, replace, refresh and revive and see how quickly the corresponding area of your life attracts positive Chi! Also note the color purple and the “wood” element; two things that would be good to add to the actual back left hand corner of your room to increase positive Chi (and prosperity).

If you were going to Feng Shui only one area in your home, which should that be (asking for a friend)?

If you work from home, it should be your home office or desk (you can reduce the Feng Shui placement to a surface, it doesn’t have to be a full blown room). Otherwise, the kitchen, where food is prepared, nourishing the occupants of the home. Being well nourished, with a bounty of whole foods is seen as abundance and prosperity in one’s life.


Armed with Christine’s expert advice, I took a look at my own home (specifically my home office, as I in fact work from home) and quickly realized I was commiting major Feng Shui faux pas.

(Image credit: Cara Gibbs)
(Image credit: Cara Gibbs)

For instance, in the back-left corner of my home office are literal stacks of magazines, newspapers, paint samples, waiting to be hung artwork and who knows what else (no really, I have no idea what else, so maybe someone else does?). And, the top of my desk? I don’t even know where to begin. Could my messy papers, cluttered drawers, and random doodads be keeping me from my ultimate success? I think it’s safe to say that I’m in need of a Feng Shui makeover to really find out.

Ready to see the “after” of my office and find out if Feng Shui helped me IRL? Skip on over to my next post in this series.