Living Chi & Feng Shui

The ancient Chinese knew that connection with the living Chi (also spelled Ki or Qi) around them can help them find their place, meaning and purpose in a dynamic, ever changing world. In these modern times we can also stay whole despite the fractured times. We do have a saving grace, in the Chinese Taoist concept that Life is full of immense possibilities. The Taoists were devoted to the spiritual holistic world view in the essential nature of things and the Way of Nature.

30 years ago the thought of sticking needles in certain parts of the body to help it heal and repair itself was considered laughable in the West. Now you can get a medical refund for acupuncture services. Any skeptics who try to explain its benefits away on the basis of a “placebo” effect are hard put to explain why acupuncture is enjoying equal success in the veterinary field. After all, why should an animal believe that it should get better because someone has gone to the trouble of sticking a needle in a particular point?

Other Chinese practices such as acupressure and exercise systems such as Tai Chi have also become mainstream activities. All of these practices have one thing in common: they are based on the harmonisation and regulation of Chi energy.

Chi is often referred to as “life” energy, which can be somewhat misleading as one could then think this energy is only involved with living things. The term “animating” energy is much better as the Chinese maintain that all movement and transformation that occurs within the universe requires Chi.

In a sense Chi is the Chinese solution to the Grand Unified Theory that we are searching for in the West. It is the name given by the Chinese to the primal energy that underlies all activity and change. We can experience the effects of this energy in various ways which we describe as heat, light, sound, gravity, time, electricity, magnetism, etc.

Chi lies at the heart of another Chinese practice that is becoming more and more popular in the West – Feng Shui. (Feng means wind, Shui means water – in Chinese terms wind carries and disperses energy while water attracts and collects it). Whereas acupuncture, Tai Chi and the Chinese practices referred to above deal with the attempt to read, understand and regulate Chi within the human body, Feng Shui is the complementary practice dealing with the reading, understanding and regulation of Chi within the external environment.

When the theory of Chi flowing through a series of channels or meridians first emerged in the West it was immediately derided on the basis of where was the proof? Could anyone demonstrate the existence of these meridians and show they flowed one way rather than another? How could anyone prove what influenced the flow of Chi in a meridian and even if it did, what effect this would have on the body.

Fortunately there was a considerable body of knowledge that had been written down, particularly about the behaviour of Chi in terms of yin and yang and the five elements. Practitioners who claimed “revealed” knowledge (whether from ancient master-student lineage or more recent spiritual connections) could be called into question when what they were saying was clearly inconsistent with this established body of knowledge.

Today of course we can measure the electro-potential changes that identify the existence of acupoints. We can trace the passage of radio-isotopes as they follow meridian pathways throughout the body and, using the latest brain-scanning technology, we can measure location and changes in electrical activity that occur in the brain as different acu­points are stimulated. In a hundred different ways modern technology has confirmed the traditional knowledge while never overturning it.

Understanding of Feng Shui is now at about the same stage in the West as internal Chi theory was about 25 years ago. There are lots of claims for success but not a lot of proof about the mechanisms by which Feng Shui works. This is not to say that such proofs will not emerge over time as they did for internal Chi theory but it can leave us confused about Feng Shui. Should we believe everything we are told? And, if we are told different, contradictory things, how can we tell what is right?

The essence of Feng Shui is the idea that the health of a person is influenced by the environment they live in. This fact is so self-evident in every day experience that I don’t think you would find anyone who would dispute this. But let’s see where this point of common agreement takes us. When we refer to “external environment” we tend to think of things rather than energy – but this is just cultural conditioning. (You might say that the Chinese are always talking about mountains, rivers and lakes too, but this misses the point that to the Chinese it is the nature of underlying energy that these mountains, rivers and lakes represent that is important.)

Think, what generally concerns you about the environment where you work and rest? How hot or cold you are? Whether the place is excessively noisy or quiet? Do you accept these things will affect your health? Do you think your productivity and creativeness suffer when temperature and noise become extreme? Do your relationships work as well in such environments? Do you sleep as well? If not what does that do to you the next day?

So without being overly presumptuous we can say with some confidence you probably accept as a matter of course that the energy in the environment that you live and work in impacts strongly on the important things in your life. Your health, productivity (at work or at home), relationships and creativity. You also probably recognise that as these things suffer so does your financial health and quality of life.

So you buy heaters and fans and use them to maintain appropriate levels of heat. You put up blinds and curtains on your windows and have lights and lamps in your house to regulate the levels of light. You might double-glaze your windows to prevent sound or put in trees, bushes and walls to screen noise. Then you have been practicing a very elementary level of Feng Shui albeit in an ad hoc uncoordinated fashion.

“Whoa!” I can almost hear you say, isn’t Feng Shui about mountains and rivers, about locating white tigers and green dragons, about dragon veins, compass directions and strange astrologic and numerological calculations? The answer is not difficult but needs to be broken down into a number of parts:

First, do not confuse the objective of Feng Shui with some of the methodologies used. The objective of Feng Shui is simply to make the energy of our external environment supportive to health and quality of life. There are a number of approaches varying from the common sense and the scientific to the mystic and spiritual – you can use what you are comfortable with. In our society today we have both scientist and priest, some believe science and religion are exclusive, some find no problem in reconciling these worldviews.

When you practice Feng Shui you can take the same approach, accept it all, or reject the scientific or mystic aspects. In the Feng Shui Academy we take the scientific approach but rather than rejecting other aspects put them into an “as yet unproven” basket. In doing this we build on our experience from our study of Chi in the internal arts knowing they function quite well without having to resort to mystic or spiritual aspects. Please note that the statement is “without having to.”

Internal Chi arts such as Qigong (energy circulation techniques), can make use of mystic and spiritual techniques and perhaps when used in this way they can result in more success and higher quality lives. It is an individual matter.

Second, remember that the words and images used in any practice from different cultures and times often simply reflect the words and imagery that were available to communicate concepts in that culture at that time. If the same concepts are to be successfully communicated in a different time and culture the words and imagery may need to be reinterpreted.

Before we get carried away with our own cultural superiority we might reflect on the fact of how many of us still have an image of the atom as being like a miniature solar system. This outdated (and largely wrong!) image of the atom is, nevertheless, still a useful image for introducing the concept of the atom for those who cannot visualise the atom in non-physical mathematical terms. There just aren’t any solid lumps in an atom!

There are a number of reasons we would like to advocate the approach to Feng Shui of only accepting what can be proven but being open minded enough to experiment with the remaining techniques. These include:

Our firm belief that people will not only benefit from even limited experience with Feng Shui but that “a journey of ten thousand miles” does indeed start with the first step.

Like health, the prime responsibility for Feng Shui lies with the individual. You might call on the doctor when you are sick or for a check up. It is your lifestyle – your diet and the exercise you get that will have the greatest impact on your health and quality of life. In the same way it is what you do on a day to day basis about your energetic environment that counts. Become sensitive and attentive to your environment and your Feng Shui health will tend to take care of itself.

Such an approach is the best protection from becoming a victim of the “fear and greed” approach to Feng Shui that can otherwise develop. Most practitioners of Feng Shui are honest dedicated people who can do much to benefit their clients. Some, however, drum up business by either:

  • Terrifying their clients about the doom and disaster that will stalk them if they don’t rush out and take the (not inexpensive) advice of the Feng Shui consultant.
  • Promising a life of indolence and riches for the person who follows the advice of the Feng Shui consultant (makes you wonder why they have to charge fees at all!)

Learning to regulate the Chi of your external environment is a valuable living skill that can significantly impact on the quality of your life. You can use either a mystic or common sense approach to Feng Shui with beneficial effects. Effort and luck almost always play a greater role in life than Feng Shui.

This is not to say Feng Shui isn’t very important but that it should be placed in perspective. It relates to just one aspect of life, the energetic influence of the external environment, and it must be used in balance with other living skills. Devoting oneself to maintaining one’s internal health while ignoring the influence of the external environment is as silly as thinking you can ignore diet and exercise as long as you practice Feng Shui.

This article was published in New Dawn 96.
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About the Author

GRANDMASTER GARY KHOR is the Founder & President of The Australian Academy of Tai Chi & Qigong and The Feng Shui Academy of China. He is the author of many oriental health and healing books including Tai Chi for Stress Control, Living Chi, Tai Chi for a Healthy Lifestyle, Feng Shui for Personal Harmony, Tai Chi for Better Breathing (Asthma), Tai Chi for the Over Forties and Reflections on Qi. For more details on his Tai Chi classes and much more visit www.livingchi.com.au.

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