Intimate connections with nature have been shown to enhance our lives and put us at ease during a time when stress is a global epidemic. There's been a growing trend toward activities that foster a connection with nature, such as forest bathing, earthing, and growing your own food. Fringe earth-based practices such as crystal healing and shamanic ritual are gaining traction too, and now there are even practitioners who will help you develop a deeper connection with nature, such as eco-therapists and nature mentors.
When we're on vacation in a gorgeous setting, chances are we make a point to watch the sunset every night. So why don't we do the same in our own backyards? Do we really need that piña colada and a beach chair to enjoy the natural world around us?
Maybe the trick to harnessing the restorative power of nature is to look in the space we spend the other 90 percent of our days: our homes. Our homes don't just say a lot about who we are; they also influence who we are. Feng shui is one discipline that can help us understand this relationship more deeply. Through the observations of the natural world, ancient shamans learned how to tap into the inner workings of nature to create thriving environments. The five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) were derived from these observations and represent not only physical matter but also the energy of the world around us.
And since we are part of nature, the five elements are within us as well. We use the language of feng shui to get to know who we are and what we are projecting out into the world. From there, we can pull in more nature and help soothe ourselves. In conducting research for my book, Creating Luminous Spaces, I discovered how the five elements could help us connect to nature within our homes in a more meaningful way.
For instance, my home office used to be in an unused bedroom on our second floor, but I never truly felt comfortable there. It’s only now, after years of working there and thinking that something was a little off, that I realize that I had very little nature in that room. A lack of natural light and fresh air plus piles of electrical equipment and files made the energy of the room feel dull. Once I moved the office to a brighter space with views of nature and brought in a teakwood desk and a stone water fountain, the space instantly felt more inspiring.
How to figure out if the elements are balanced in your home.
We often intuitively know that something is not quite right in our spaces, so consider where you have that feeling in your home. Go to that space and sit. Center yourself, close your eyes, and do several rounds of breathing to quiet the mind. Now open your eyes and observe the room and how you feel. Do you feel at ease or impeded? Does the space feel alive and vibrant with energy or dull and stagnant?
Sometimes all it takes is moving things around or positioning yourself so that you can benefit from sunlight, but you may need to bring in one of these elements to balance and harmonize the room.
The five elements and how to bring in more of each.
Wood is symbolized by all vegetation and materials derived from vegetation. Indoor plants, gardens, and views of trees offer living connection to that element. You can also add a natural wood table and a few pillows made of cotton or burlap. Botanical prints on window treatments and even a green wall will bring in more wood too.
Fire is symbolized by real fire, such as candles and a fireplace. But you can also have other visual references to fire, such as prints of the sunrise or a red sofa with leopard-print pillows. Fun fact: Having pets in your home is thought to contribute to the fire element too!
Earth is symbolized by soil and rocks. I love a good brick wall in a living room or a slate path in a garden, but yellow pottery stacked on a kitchen shelf or a photograph of mountains would do the trick too. Tap into earth for more stability in your life and finding greater peace in relationships.
The metal element can look like a shiny silver trophy on the mantel or a copper table that has aged over time. Use this element to bring about more discipline, structure, and refinement into your life.
Water is a great addition to any home! Adding a trickling water fountain at the entry of your home is the ultimate way to bring vibrancy and energy into your home. A quiet plug-in table fountain can welcome a similar sense of peace and tranquillity into your meditation practice. Mirrors, with their reflective quality, and all glass materials represent water.
Check out a comprehensive guide to all things feng shui here.
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