Practicing feng shui in Los Angeles, the hub of both mega-gurus and uber-hedonists, I have found that it is not dragon statues or red strings that create deep changes for my clients. Anxiety, stress, depression: all sorts of physical and emotional maladies are in one way, shape or form tied to ruminating over the past or obsessing about the future.
In the field of neuroscience, practicing the art of staying present has been referred to as "mindfulness." In his now seminal book for mindful philosophers, Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness, Dr James Austin, a neurologist and Zen practitioner, digs deeply into the anatomy of the brain’s hard-wiring and how mindful states can actually physically alter the brain. Research institutes, such as the Semel Institute at UCLA, have devoted themselves to further exploring this link between mindful awareness and overall wellness. The symbiotic relationship between being in a state of presence and having a life of overall goodness is fast becoming a scientific prescription for health.
In my domain of feng shui, I have noticed the difference in my clients when I ask them to get rid of clutter. One client had a full library of books that he did not purchase. They were all left behind by a previous homeowner. He remodeled the entire home and still let this room remain relatively untouched, packed with old books lining the walls. It was as though someone else had created his private space where, incidentally, he meditated and studied yet never quite felt his spiritual practice “click” for all his efforts. In a similar vein, bad memories also accumulate in lives unwittingly. Here I think of a friend who had a closet full of his ex-wife’s clothes in his home office closet and could not seem to focus sitting at his desk beside its closed door. Dumping these clothes for him was like waking up to the world again, and as he awoke he was met with a line of creative projects flooding his office. It is not just the mess of clutter that disrupts the "flow" of a space -- it is the mirror that clutter holds up to one’s life, exposing a lack of engagement.
Though I may be a feng shui fiend, when it comes to New Age philosophy, I am a giant rebel. Funnily, Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now found its way to my nightstand. Begrudgingly, cynically, yet really quickly I devoured the book, and found myself floating when I read one small piece:
"Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be."
That’s major! That’s so true! That’s... WHAT EVERYONE NEEDS! There is a tremendous amount of joy and power in engaging your senses, opening your mind and flowing with the moment. Why not get started right now?
My Top Seven Feng Shui Ways to Get PRESENT Right This Second (all of which I did before I sat down to write this!):
1. Feel the ground under your feet. Take off your shoes and feel the floor. Is it comforting? Hard? Cold? You might want to consider area rugs, even a small plush bath mat to hide beneath your desk at work. The sense of touch is highly important and largely neglected.
2. Move 27 things around your room. Right now, please relocate 27 objects in your room, even if they each are as small as a paperclip. Why 27? Why not?!
3. Get minty-fresh. Grab a mint tea, candy, or gum. Mint, especially peppermint, stimulates alertness. A more elegant and potent cure: Essential oils of mint, sage, rosemary and ginger dropped on a piece of unglazed pottery (like the base of a garden pot) to localize the scent effect at your desk or in your car.
4. Dump some bad memories. Let’s start with the electronic kind. Delete all the negative messages in your email inbox, old document files, regrettable Facebook photos, Twitter stalkers, etc. Now, clear out your phone: wipe out the inbox, delete texts, people you don’t know or don’t want to know. In five minutes you will be much more invested in the Now!
5. Pandora a bit of classical music. Beethoven and Vivaldi are good mind-openers tested by science. Have music flowing for a while in an unpredictable stream. Gregorian chants also have sound healing qualities. Beautiful.
6. Get some air. Now, open the windows, turn on a fan, or go for a five minute walk outside. If you are in a windowless office, please note that you need a window (it’s not optional) so find some artwork to hang in your space that creates a "view to fresh air" on your wall.
7. Hug a tree (or, at the very least, a plant!). If you think you kill plants, get a bromeliad. They are un-killable and beautiful, and imbue spiky-fresh energy. If you can go hang out in a forest or park, do it right now. Plugging in to Mother Nature is the fastest way to the present moment.
image Bruce Nauman via Art Loves Money