I Tried Feng Shui: Did the Mystical Principles Deliver on Their Promises?

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Arlyn Hernandez)

I work from home as a freelance writer/editor in a room that once was my formal dining room, which I transitioned into an office, as I wasn’t content with sitting at my kitchen island on my laptop for hours on end every day. The room is jam-packed with furniture that didn’t quite work anywhere else in my home. That printed floral chair I bought for a corner of my bedroom that didn’t really fit? It’s in my office. Those marble side tables from West Elm that were too small for my living room sofa? Also in my office. Oh, and that sofa I picked up as a steal of a deal from HomeGoods that used to be in my formal living room but no longer fits because my dining table is there now…yup…office.

Anyway, that smorgasbord of furniture (and lots and lots of books and magazines and newspapers and…stuff), for better or for worse, was my little working haven. Was it tidy and polished? Nope. Was it comforting? Yup, sure was. But after speaking with internationally acclaimed Feng Shui practitioner Christine A. Bushell, I was no longer convinced I was doing myself any financial favors (in the mystical sense, of course) with my cluttered “cubicle”.

The Bagua map is your guide to achieving positive Chi (good Feng Shui) in any given room/on any surface (Image credit: Cara Gibbs)

As she had noted when I interviewed her on the matter: “If you wish to increase your wealth, for example, the back left area of your space (the top left part of the Bagua map) is a good place to start. Go to this area and take a good look. What do you see? 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!” You don’t see it in the photo, but in said back left corner of my office was a broken floor lamp, tons of errant boxes, papers I was hiding from myself…so.much.clutter. Uh oh.

I referenced the Bagua map I drew up based on Christine’s guidance and set about diagnosing all the problem areas in my home office.

As a reminder, my work space looked like this:

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

My office is one of the first rooms you see when you come into my house. It’s rectangular in shape and without a bulky dining table, chairs and buffet, it has a very open feeling to it. It’s kind of my happy place, and I thought I was introducing nice flow by sticking my desk up against the wall (sort of hidden from view at first) and placing a sofa and stacks of books behind me. That left some space between the two setups to move about the area.

To figure out what I might be doing wrong, I decided to FaceTime with Christine so she could see my room from across the pond and diagnose the space. I felt happy and productive in the room already, so I couldn’t imagine I was doing much damage! But when I virtually walked her through my office, she explained that having my desk in the position it was in (up against a wall) was blocking all my positive Chi (energy). I was also surrounded by clutter, and overall, she said the space lacked any symmetry or balance.

(Image credit: Cara Gibbs)

Christine assessed the space and said, “The desk needs to be in a power position, in which you are facing your most auspicious direction—that is how you will be your most productive.” Luckily, I was already facing my best direction—which is realized by your birthday according to the Chinese New Year (for me, it was East)—so I flipped my sofa and my desk, added in some bookshelves that I was in desperate need of, and began the long, tedious process of organizing and purging.

My desktop which I thought was tidy (Image credit: Cara Gibbs)

I’m sure many of you can relate to this: my desk had become a dumping ground for absolutely everything. I believed there was a method to my madness; that obviously, I knew where everything was. That business card from that person I met at a recent networking event I was supposed to call? Yeah, it’s here somewhere…Unfortunately, I was lying to myself, and in fact, there was zero method to my messy madness. Stop the madness…and my half-hearted attempts at organizing (which was code for: shove everything into your desk drawers when it’s time to take a photo); clearly, it wasn’t going to cut it anymore if I wanted to give this Feng Shui business a serious go. Feng Shui concerns everything – every square inch.

My desktop after a little Feng Shui therapy. (Image credit: Cara Gibbs)

With my desk now in a power position (see problem area #1), the energy in the space seemed to shift and I felt very compelled to keep that positivity going. With Christine’s guidance, I laid the Bagua map over my desktop and went quadrant by quadrant, making sure I was complying with each area. She helped me understand that I am a metal element—also determined by your birthday according to the Chinese New Year, I recommend speaking with a professional consultant to ascertain that information because it gets a bit complicated—and needed characteristics of that to support me.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how I used the Bagua map specifically for my desk:

  • I added pink flowers (earth elements) along with an image of my husband and I in my “relationship/love” corner.
  • A red datebook was added under the little brass turtle shell I keep my business cards in (this is said to help with my “reputation”).
  • A purple pen holder full of wood colored pencils sits above a green candle (for wealth and prosperity and for family/growth, respectively).
  • The bottom right hand corner is about communication, networking and support, so I make sure to keep my phone there when not in use (it can’t hurt, right?).
  • I already had a table runner set down the middle of my desk for some added fun, so it worked out that it was appropriate as the “earth” element (it’s a natural straw material) for the center of my tabletop in a yellow-ish color. This is supposed to bring me health, unity and is the “center of Chi”.
  • I purged papers, books, broken pens and pencils, business cards I knew I’d never use, etc.

Now everything on my desk has purpose and there is a place for new ideas and materials to filter in and filter out.

Before Feng Shui, my office looked like this:

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My desk and computer faced the wall that this room shares with the foyer of my home. (Image credit: Cara Gibbs)

Here’s the “After”:

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My sofa is now where my desk used to be, so I can face my guests while I’m working. (Image credit: Cara Gibbs)

So…did any of this actually work for me?

At its core, Feng Shui is about simply taking a look at who you really are through an ancient Chinese lens and applying it within today’s world. For me, organizing my belongings was so important for my productivity level. With my office Feng Shui’d, I truly feel more inclined to get work done here, and frankly, I thoroughly enjoy spending time in there now—it’s become a space that I’m drawn to. The idea of having this road map (the Bagua) that can translate to every area, surface or floor plan in my home is such an amazing tool that I plan to continue to use. As Christine mentioned, it’s about starting with the small actions that you can apply daily—I’ve really taken that sentiment to heart and every day I spend a little time organizing and keeping things tidy.

Even if it’s psychosomatic doesn’t mean its effects were any less real for me. And frankly, I’m okay with that.