fengshuiFeng Shui is a practice  in aesthetics as well as optimal use of one’s surroundings.  Like Chinese medicine,  Feng Shui  is based on the principles of the flow of Chi energy; the life energy that is thought to be in all things in Chinese Philosophy, along with the Five Elemental Theory (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood.  Like Chinese medicine and Martial Arts there are thousands of forms and schools of thought on this practice.  Some of these forms are very complex and use tools such as a compass or a calculator.  A professional is needed to perform these styles as they take a great deal of calculation and time.  The simplest important factor that connects most of the styles of Feng Shui is the basic principle of decluttering one’s space.  Clutter is where Chi flow gets stuck.

Feng Shui translates to wind and water-this basic premise alone is enough to understand the philosophy behind this ancient art form. It is the effect of the wind upon the water that is the image with which one is striving for.  When the wind flows across the water the water moves and curves to respond and to absorb its movement in an appropriate way just as our space which is a reflection of our lives hopefully can respond to and flow with life’s challenges and even celebrations.   The nature of wind and water is flowing or malleable.  They can both be very gentle or very powerful depending on how much force is behind them.  Feng Shui does not translate to stone and earth which are more stationary energies.  Flexibility and flowing clarity are sentiments in Chinese philosophy to practice through meditation and Feng Shui.

An example of how clutter can effect you is something most people have a challenge with-desk papers.  Every time you pass by those papers cluttering your desk,  it drains your energy because you feel negativity towards yourself (lazy, messy, not  perfect etc.) A good trick is to have a drawer that you can put all your current papers which you need to sort because they just keep coming and this way your eyes don’t have to be their victim each time you walk by.  Try to clear the drawer on a regular basis so you can use it for incoming mail and bills that need to be mailed or filed.

Another area where many of us get “stuck” is the closet-clothes!  A great tip a professional organizer friend of mine (www.simplifyou.com) gives for going through clothes in your closet are, when going through clothes ask yourself:  Does it fit?  Does it flatter? Is it in style or classic?  Does it project the image I want to project now?  If any answer is “no” release it!

It is also important to have balance in your life and to not spend time obsessing on your stuff.  Prioritize and streamline your eye level as much as possible by putting books and notebooks in the same direction as one another this is more pleasing to the eyes and gives your eyes and thoughts a rest.  You can get to the nitty-gritty work over time.  Nick knacks are best enjoyed when there is a rotation of them instead of all being displayed at once-put half away in a cupboard and when you take them out again they will seem like new.

The practice of Feng Shui is a daily, weekly, and lifelong practice and like exercise when done consistently and at reasonable levels, the best outcome is achieved.  Decluttering can be a frustrating and prolonged task but hang in there because it is worth it.  Also, I find going through old stuff and releasing what needs to be released can bring up old emotions and attachments -you may feel depressed or even anxious at times.  Honor these feelings and allow space for them.  It is natural after all that is why we hang on to things for so long.  Patience and prioritizing are key. Create specific, reasonable goals by chunking down the large goal of having a calm, well functioning space.  Remember that decluttering will help the flow and balance of Chi energy and help one’s presence of mind by keeping you in the present moment and in a better mood.

winter bluesWinter can become a very melancholic time for some.  The shorter days and cold weather tends to keep us inside more and out of the sunlight.  Being indoors too much can make us feel less active and our bodies can become lethargic.  The indoor air is not as oxygenated as the fresh outdoors which can also contribute to our feeling stagnant or down.  Of course we may need to stay inside more at times so it is good to let your home and office have some color stimulating and sense stimulating factors in it.  It is important to try to keep your spirits up and embrace the winter.

This is also true for those who live in warm weather climates such as Florida or California.  Post-holiday crash can contribute to a depressive feeling.  There have been cases of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) in the summer though it is more rare.  We will be focusing more on mild cases of winter SAD.

Depression comes in many forms and on many differing levels.  This is not meant to treat or diagnose true depression.  Please contact a doctor or health-care professional for treatment of severe or even mild, chronic depression.  These are, however, preventative measures for mild winter blues.

1.   Force yourself to get outside and get some much needed sunlight and fresh air.  Fight the urge to stay in.  Get yourself some silk long johns-they really make a difference in enjoying the outdoors.  You may get out of the house for work or school but it is important to make a special effort for recreation as well to see some new stimulation and get out of a rut. Destinations such as a museum can be excellent if it is really cold.

2.  It is very important at any time of year to maintain a regular cardiovascular routine.  Cardio exercise is vitally important for your health on many levels, ranging from strengthening your heart and lungs to improving your digestion and your sleep.  With better circulation one can feel as though they have an inner furnace keeping them warmer than if they don’t exercise.  An increase in endorphins (the hormones released when you exercise) will lift your mood (check this article for great tips on the benefits of cardio exercises).  Wouldn’t you feel great at the end of the winter if you are slimmer and more in shape than when it began?

3. Using Aromatherapy can be very uplifting for your mood.  It can also have a clearing effect on negative feelings.  You can use it to trick yourself or your mind into enjoying scents of other seasons such as lavender or rose/geranium.  A simple soy-based candle can do the trick.

4. The use of full spectrum light bulbs is very popular in places where it is complete night for 6 months out of the year ( i.e  near the poles and within  the arctic circle)  These bulbs mimic actual sunlight in that they contain the full spectrum of light and not simply one color as many conventional bulbs.  They do tend to cost a bit more but they can outlast a regular bulb by several years!

5. By understanding and embracing this season one can relish in the quietness it can embody.  Remembering that wintertime is a time for the land to lay still and replenish itself for the spring,summer, and finally the harvest of the fall. It is a good time for us as well to regroup and find our stillness.  There is a natural slower rhythm to the winter maybe it is time to connect to that slower and more subtle energy.  Make time for the slower more mindful activities like reading writing and meditation.

6. Set some manageable and even enjoyable goals for the winter.  When we are focused on something and have positive intention toward that focus, it keeps our minds active and productive.  Some examples are as mentioned health related or books to read, projects completed etc.

7. Be sure to make time to visit with friends and socialize.  Winter is not a time to isolate yourself too much or for too long.  There’s nothing like friendships to brighten your spirits and to lighten one’s mood.

8. To donate time or money to someone else can help get you out of your own head!  Being active in caring and practicing effective empathy is an excellent way to create a positive results from your time.

Remember that your perception towards winter is  a state of mind.  How do we perceive the winter?  Cold, Dark, inactive.  In Chinese medicine this is a very yin time– a necessary time during which the earth rejuvenates itself.

Bolsters and pillows for joints comfort

Supporting your joints with the right pillows is more important than you might think.  With good support as you sleep or rest on the couch, you can help retrain your body to be in better alignment.  You can also reinforce any training you are doing throughout the week.  Bolstering means to support or to strengthen.  A pillow that is not correct for your head and neck alignment can cause pain and discomfort down the road.  It can also lead to headaches.  This is so simply avoided by taking the time to find the right fit for you.

Bolstering can really help relieve your knees, lower back,  hip, neck  and shoulder joints.  The correct  pillow between your legs/knees aligns your hip and keeps them from knocking together.  They also allow your bones, muscles and ligaments to decompress because they are able to let go and feel supported.

It is soothing and comforting to use pillows this way.  For example. many of us hyper-extend our knees.  In this case, it’s great  to place a pillow under them while laying in a face up position watching t.v. or using a  a laptop computer as it helps decompress your tendons, ligaments and muscles.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

The cylindrical-shaped pillows are great for both your neck and knees. However, make sure that the size is not too large since you don’t want your head to be pushed too far forward.

Tempur-Pedic memory foam pillows are designed to cradle your head and make space for your shoulders to keep you in good alignment as you sleep.  This way your shoulder does not creep  up into your ears while you are sleeping.  Experiment with different ones till you find the brand that works best for you.  Be aware that some of them are expensive but they can keep you in comfort for over three years.  Generic brands can work well, but tend to wear out faster.  Both cylindrical and Tempur-Pedic type pillows are available at local medical supply stores and on the Web.

For neck and shoulders, use Tempur-Pedic contour pillows (memory foam).  For lower back, use wedge-shaped pillows by placing them under the knees.  Cylindrical-shaped pillows are used for either knees or neck.

Often I will place a heating pad directly on my Tempur-Pedic contoured pillow because the heat is then pressing just on the right spots  to to relieve my tense neck and shoulders.  Keeping these area as relaxed can prevent headaches and other aches and pains.  Be aware  that your pillow will probably not last as long doing this because it does wear down its firmness.  Do not use a heating pad if you have high blood pressure or any other condition where it is advised not to use heat.  Do not fall asleep with it on, and do not use for more than ten minutes as it can actually begin to tighten your muscles if placed on too long.

There is an emotionally supportive and restorative benefit to relaxing and feeling held by the pillows.  It is a great way to decompress and meditate at the end of the day.  Place your pillows strategically under your joints  to let them feel held and they will repay you in the long run.  Helping to relax your body will help you feel centered and connected with more focus and energy for your mind.

In this new age of computer screens and Blackberries, our eyes are forced to undergo a whole new adaptation to decipher and process digital information. The nature of computer screens themselves present a vision challenge. Computer images are not solid characters since they’re made up of pixels, which makes focusing on them difficult for the human eye.

Here are two exercises that can help relieve tired, sedentary or strained eyes. There are six external muscles of the eyes. They are: Superior, Inferior, Medial and Lateral Rectus, and the Superior and Inferior Oblique muscles. Just as we need to stretch our hamstrings or our gastric muscles, it is equally important and worthwhile to stretch our eye muscles. It feels good too. You will probably want to do this one alone or with people that know you really well-since you might look pretty crazy while doing it!

Procedure one: Counterbalancing eye strain for the external muscles of the eye:

Imagine a large clock in front of you. Look up to the TWELVE. Now down to the SIX. Do this movement three times slowly. Now look to the THREE and then over to NINE. Repeat three times slowly. Next, do ONE and SEVEN. Three times slowly. Now, ELEVEN and FIVE. Yes, three times slowly. TWO and EIGHT. Three times slowly. Lastly, do TEN and FOUR. Three times slowly. When you have completed the whole cycle move your eyes in a clockwise circle three times slowly and then counterclockwise three times. Now, rub your hands together fast to warm them up and cup them gently over your eyelids.

Notice the interesting sensation when you do the diagonal movements. These muscles are not used as often(unless you are a frequent eye-roller:-) and its good to activate and get circulation to these areas of the eyes. You may notice more of your periphery (side vision) as this is a good way to enhance it.

Procedure two: Counterbalancing eye strain for the internal muscle (the Ciliary) which controls near and far vision.

The constant close proximity to our computer screens does not give our eyes the chance to use the long distance focus as often as we probably should. Get outside and look at a far distant point and give this muscle a chance to shift into far focus.

This heightening and care of your senses leads to a more tactile awareness overall. Our eyes receive and are at times even bombarded with so many images. These exercises should help in giving them some much needed relief. As with all of these exercises they are meant to promote good health. Please see your eye doctor for regular checkups and any issues.