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.