I met some friends at Carriageworks the other day and realised I would have to go back with some more time to see “Waste Not”. And so I did.
What would happen if you could spread ALL the contents of your home in a big shed?
This installation shows everything that Song Dong’s mother had accumulated over the years. Some items there she had for fifty years! Growing up in communist China pre-industrialisation you were trained to save and re-use. So she started keeping everything.
The exhibition was a healing experience as they as a family went through everything each time they re-assemble the show.
As a good Cancerian my hoarding tendencies are quite strong, so it was a great mirror for me going through the exhibition looking at all the items, big and small.
I loved the bird cages. My grandfather used to grow quails and other birds, so there were always lots of wooden cages around. I was never fond of keeping birds in cages, but I had such a great relationship with my Grandad as a young child. I was always fascinated with all his artesan skills, building things out of wood, including the cages and pieces of furniture.
However the main thing I felt while looking at the exhibition was raw exposure. Are the things that we keep able to tell a story of who we are?
What an amazing act of bravery!
I actually spent quite a bit of time there, but noticed that most people, apart from the reading part, would not spend more than 10 min looking around the whole exhibition. Was this a sign of our short attention spam? Or were they feeling generally uncomfortable?
I felt uncomfortable. (Would I feel different if I lived a less cluttered existence? Not sure). But I stayed. I felt some sadness for the pure impermanence of the material world. One day, everything fades away. Material possessions loose their beauty and become junk.
I felt like invading someone’s privacy as well. But I stayed …
And then I started looking for treasure.
The bird cages were treasure-like for me. But then I realised that the true treasure were the bars of soap, some from the early 60’s! The soap bars were rationed and scarce at that time, so they were very precious.
I think once one feels the need to save everything, they may continue to do so for the rest of their lives. In a continuous journey of disenchantment and lack of trust in providence. I suppose part of the sadness I felt was brought by that as well, the obvious hardship that appear to have lead to the compulsive hoarding.
After being in Song Dong’s installation my questions for us in the modern world were:
Can we go fanatic about re-cycling and start accumulating too much clutter?
Is there an underlying connection between frugality and hoarding?
The exibition ends on Sunday 27th Jan. I hope you can go. And let me know how you liked it.
As a parent I was quite shocked with the news of record teenage suicide numbers in one region in Victoria recently. How good are we as a society in looking after each other’s mental health in a satisfactory manner?
Many people feel depressed and think this is a permanent state and feel there is no way out, especially for those who experience strong negative emotions for the first time. Many people believe it is genetic and this makes them feel even powerless towards their strong self-denigrating thoughts. However from the meditation point of view most mental disorders arise from the mind.
Dr. Bruce Lipton in his eye opener best seller “The biology of belief” explains how our thoughts affect our body chemistry for better or for worse. He also shows how our thoughts activate or de-activate genes concluding that genetics does not determine who we are. He spent more than 20 years studying and teaching developmental and cellular biology to arrive to these conclusions.
Neuroscientists are also arriving at similar results on how the mind works. One of the greatest discoveries of neuroscience in the last decade is neuroplasticity: the ability the neural-network in the brain has to change in response to experience and training. This ‘re-wiring’ of the brain has been shown possible and has helped many people with chronic depression, anxiety and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) to not only find respite, but to cure themselves using mindfulness meditation.
Although many people think that meditation is some practice of reaching blissful states, which appears to be totally self-indulgent, that’s far from the truth.
Meditation is a practice of learning how to observe the world for what it is without the influence of our perceptions, or coloured glass lenses. And that includes observing our own habitual responses to what is happening around us. By doing that we learn that we can cultivate better inner qualities, such as unconditional compassion, openness to others, and inner peace, letting go of our mental negative addictive patterns. But to let go of these negative patterns we first need to be open and brave to come face to face with them. That takes a lot of courage.
One of the most difficult things to let go of when first coming to meditation is the thinking. Many people feel that if they let go of their thinking they would feel helpless. This is because we have identified ourselves so much with our thoughts and our ideas of who we are, and what the world is, that the feeling of letting go of that for a couple of minutes is one of fear or terror. And here we go back to an important question ‘who am I?’ and little by little we find out that we are not our thoughts.
Behind our obsessive thinking, however, there is just openness. By experiencing this openness in mindfulness we can find great relief, ‘we can start to taste enlightenment’, as Jack Kornfield writes.
This is very much in line with ancient Buddhist teachings of mind-training. Happiness can only be found through rigorous mind-training. Through those experiences we become present to our attachments to material and mental objects and we practice letting go of them. Little by little we feel lighter, being right becomes less and less important, and we start experiencing moments of true joy more often. And the inner peace that one finds, that joy and contentment, becomes a gift that is naturally shared with others.
Although mindfulness meditation is being used medically and psychologically with great success in depression, anxiety, anger, OCD and other addictive negative mind traits, its potential goes much further leading towards finding true inner peace and unconditional joy and happiness. The question is how far down the rabbit hole is one prepared to go?
Matthieu Ricard said : ’We should understand that mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness. Often we find ourselves in the pangs of torment from mental toxins such as hatred, obsessive desire, arrogance, nagging jealousy. Those are certainly not optimal ways of relating to our own experience or to others. We know we can experience genuine altruistic love and compassion, but couldn’t we do so more often, so that those states of mind become the normal way we relate to others? Hence the ideal of long-term transformation: becoming a better human being for one’s own well-being and that of others as well. These two go together.” (extract from ‘The mind’s own physician’, edited by Jon Kabat-Zinn).
USING FENG SHUI TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR EMOTIONS
If someone asks you how well you know your partner, or your child, it might sound like a rude question. We believe that we know the people close to us very well, but do we really?
Our relationship with our home is another very important and intimate relationship in our lives that we often take for granted.
How deep is your relationship with your home? Do you know the feel of every part of your home – all the nooks and crannies?
When I run space clearing sessions with my clients we go around each wall of the home, mindfully, rethreading the energy of the home, reuniting and moving that energy so it can flow again. Sometimes this is the most powerful aspect of the session: reconnecting with each part of the home again, in mindfulness.
Here is an exercise for you to check how connected you are with your home.
Take your time to go around the home along each wall of each room being present to what is there, being very mindful: open and non-judgmental. Notice when an unpleasant feeling arises in your body when you arrive in a certain corner, maybe tightness in the throat or stomach. And notice the pleasant feelings also when you see an inspiring picture or photograph or a perfectly arranged corner. Be also mindful of the emotions that appear with those primary feelings in the body: grief, sorrow, regret, maybe frustration, or happiness, joy. The more open and honest you allow yourself to be, the more clarity you will receive from this exercise.
Now think of a room or corner that you felt uncomfortable in. Walk to that uncomfortable place, take a seat there and be fully aware, fully mindful of the physical feelings in the body and the emotions arising from it.
What are the memories that come associated with those feelings and emotions? Write them down. Then you repeat to yourself gently for a few minutes: I accept these feelings and emotions in my body; I accept this part of my home. Do it for a few minutes. Then let unconditional love arise in your heart: think of a young child or animal and allow that love to arise in your heart. Become aware of your heart softening and opening, allow the love to fill your entire body. Now share that love with the space around you: visualise the love from your heart pouring from your body and filling the space around you. Continue for a few more minutes. Now write down what this experience has brought to you: any thoughts and emotions, clarity or insight.
Now think of a room or corner that you felt happy or joyful in. Walk to that part of the home, take another seat there. Again become aware of the feelings arising in the body. What are the emotions associated with these feelings? What are the memories that arise with those? Just be mindful of the feelings, emotions and memories that arise for a few minutes, then write those down.
Now notice the contrast between the first part and the second part of the home. Why did they make you feel quite different?
In mindfulness practice we say that we can only change that which we understand and know really well. The things we push away and deny cannot be changed. In the same way it is only by being fully present and open to our negative habits that we are able to change them, it is only by being fully open and accepting the problems in our home that we will be able to change them.
Awareness is always the best gift we can give ourselves: it frees us from our established and fixed ways of looking at the world and allows us the freshness and clarity to find new and exciting solutions for our old problems.
Have you ever felt that nothing really interesting has been happening in your life for a while? Everything is fine, but somehow you are always meeting the same people again and again, eating at the same cafes or restaurants, and at work, oh well, it’s just the way it has always been?
Your home represents your life, if your home has been the same for a while, guess what? Your life continues on the same path. Hopefully it is a very comfortable path, however sometimes sitting in your comfort zone is not that comfortable anymore. You feel ready for change! You would love to meet new people, have different opportunities at work, go to new places, read inspiring books that change your perception of the world, or just feel more alive!
Your living room is always a great place to start. Just by moving your furniture around you can get rid of stagnant energies that are locked into that area and bring some fresh energy into your relationships. Arrange the furniture in a ‘friendly’ way, with the main lounge against a solid wall, and two other seats that can ‘converse’ with it, semi-circle style. Push the TV to the corner, so it is no longer the centre of attention. WOW that feels heaps better already: with only a few moves you already expressing that YES you do have time for others in your life. To finish it off, add some new cushions with nice colours, a couple of plants (peace lilies are lovely and easy to keep) and… Voilà! You are experiencing the fresh new energy there.
Even small changes like these to your living room are able to support you in making new friends, freshening up your relationship with family and loved ones and feeling more energised.
I have a client who decided to leave her five-bedroom house interstate and moved with her family to Sydney Northern Beaches. Because they wanted to keep two homes, they first rented a small apartment, and the kids had to share a bedroom for the first time since they were very young. When I met her in the in Sydney, in the relatively small apartment, she said that the kids were getting on much better than before. And they both had to do their homework on the dining table, which brought the whole family closer together. Her conclusion was that she would never move back to a large home again!
From the Classical Feng Shui point of view, people are one of the main sources of chi or life force in the home. If the house is too large for the number of people, there will be not enough human chi to fill the place up. If the house is too small, the stress levels can rise.
If you are planning on building a new house or renovating yours, here are some ideas.
These represent an ideal Form for a house. However it is worth reminding you that Feng Shui always has simple remedies for your existing home.
When you are planning a new home it is important to focus on the common areas. Common areas that are attractive, with plenty of natural light, North-facing (in the Southern Hemisphere) and designed to contain the chi (instead of walking-through spaces) are ideal. They can even be positioned in the centre of the home: the place where we sit together, the Tai Chi of the home, the confluence of yin and yang, where all the energies flow to and become one.
The bedrooms, kitchen and other rooms can then become an extension from that centre, like clusters around it.
The home design from bio-architect Michael Rice in Figure 1 below, called the Triple Octa, is a very good example.
Figure 1 – The Triple Octa has a large living area in the centre of the house with kitchen, bedrooms and other rooms around it.
We live in a society that has increased the size of bedrooms to make each family member more independent and self-contained.
My concern here is that this has the potential to create separation in the home.
If each person arrives home and retreats to his/her room, the amount of time the family spends together in the living areas, the heart of the home, decreases.
Energetically, if most human chi is spread out into bedrooms instead into the common areas, this will be highly detrimental to the energy of the home, as it becomes fragmented, without flow.
Spiritually, when family members are not communing, the idea of I, the false self or ego, is reinforced, supporting the illusion of separatedness and creating isolation.
My advice is to have bedrooms that are comfortable, but not necessarily so large that they become independent units inside the home.
Most new homes or newly renovated homes in Sydney are adding a double garage, not only attached to the house, but under the same roof as the house. Because garages are such large areas they deserve special attention in Feng Shui. My advice is to build a separate garage block or, even better, to simplify and build a carport instead.
Garages have a very different energy to homes and energetically works best if they are separate buildings. Garages are service areas that contain fumes, and often oil on the floor, and for health reasons, are best away from the house.
Also, when a double garage is attached to the house (i.e. under the same roof) the energy of the house is ‘diluted’ to include the large car ‘room’. The centre of the house is dislocated towards that area and the house becomes out of balance. And more often than not, garages become dumping grounds and have little or no natural light. So to avoid bringing the energy of the home down, it is best to keep the garage independent from the house.
Spiritually our cars are utilities, and although it is important (and good Feng Shui!) to treat our cars well, it is best not to equal our utilities to our offspring by giving the largest room in the house to the cars! This implies that subconsciously we are giving too much energy to our material possessions- energy that is best spent with our loved ones.
Garden and backyard
One more important point about the home is how the house connects with the outside environment.
If you look at Figure 1 again, you will notice how Michael did not finish his design at the front door, but placed importance in how the house is blending with the grounds around it. Although it makes the house look great, the implications are far greater from the energetic point of view.
The same way that it is good for the life force of the home to have bedrooms that communicate well and are a true part of the home, it is also important that the home communicates well with the outside world.
A home that opens up to a beautiful garden and backyard represents a family that socialises and is open and unafraid to connect with others. Also at a deeper level such house represents an understanding that we cannot live an isolated life, focusing solely on our own family (inwards). It is important to connect with homes around us, and with the larger community. It is important to realize we are all one large family!
Remember that a bigger home is not necessarily better than a small one. The important thing is to keep your relationships with loved ones in mind when planning a new home or renovating an existing one, focusing on creating inspiring communal areas: places that bring family and friends together to celebrate life’s beauty at each moment.