Feng Shui blog
Tips to help you rearrange spaces, shift energy, and transform your life.
Welcome to Carol Olmstead's Feng Shui For Real Life Blog
. Read her musings about Feng Shui, design, and clutter clearing, and how Feng Shui can come to your rescue. You'll also find success stories from her clients, guest posts, and some fun posts that go "beyond Feng Shui."
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Fri Nov 01 2013 |
What is it about the color pink
that makes you either love it or hate it? Mention pink Cadillac, pink flamingos, Pink Floyd, the Pink Panther, or a 1960s bathroom in Pepto Bismol pink, and everyone has a different reaction. One of the questions on my Feng Shui certification exam was, "Which color is the most calming?" Answer: Bubble Gum Pink. And then there's the color of everything in my granddaughter's closet - PINK. Pink has been used in some college locker rooms to lessen the power of opposing football teams. And, I couldn't resist writing about Drunk Tank Pink, a color thought to help calm even the most violent of offenders in prison.
In Feng Shui, pink is a Fire Element
color, especially the deeper shades. A combination of the color red and white, it's thought to make a person concentrate more on the feminine aspect of life.
But, does the color pink really make strong men weak, violent prisoners calm, and football players too "chilled out" to beat their opponent?
The answer is "yes" and "no," based on whether you believe opinion or fact.
Drunk Tank Pink
is officially a color called Baker-Miller Pink
, a tone that was originally created by mixing one gallon of pure white indoor latex paint with one pint of red trim semi-gloss outdoor paint. It's named for the two Navy officers who first experimented with its use in the Naval Correctional Facility in Seattle at the request of researcher Alexander Schauss.
In the late 1960s, Dr. Schauss, Director of Life Sciences at the American Institute for Biosocial Research in Tacoma, Washington, studied the psychological and physiological responses to the color pink, especially one particular shade of pink. He found that merely looking at a card printed with this color resulted in "a marked effect on lowering the heart rate, pulse and respiration as compared to other colors," especially after exercise.
In 1979, he convinced the correctional facility to paint some prison cells pink to determine the effects on the prison population. He found that this special shade of pink suppressed anger and anxious behavior among prisoners. "Even if a person tries to be angry or aggressive in the presence of pink he can't," said Dr. Schauss. "The heart muscles can't race fast enough. It's a tranquilizing color that saps your energy. Even the color-blind are tranquilized by pink rooms."
Unfortunately, there were some issues beyond the early findings. First, there was no proof that these reactions to the color pink last longer than 15-30 minutes. And more important, although prisoners did respond and calm down, if they stayed "in the pink" too long they became even more violent.
But the legend of Drunk Tank Pink still lives on.
Perhaps that's what led to the strategy of painting the locker room for visiting football teams in a shade of pink. The University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium
has been home to a unique visitor's locker room painted almost entirely in pink - walls, floors, showers, and even the toilets are pink. The legendary locker room is believed to be a key to the school's home field success record. Of course, it has come under criticism for being sexist, but that's the subject of another post.
So what does this mean in Feng Shui terms? Well, it certainly doesn't mean that you need to replace your white toilets with the Drunk Tank Pink version. And, it doesn't mean you have to surround yourself with the color if you find it too "girly." But, a little accent of pink in your home and office can have a temporary soothing effect and lower your blood pressure.
Your don't need splash pink on your bedroom and office walls, but you could think about adding a pair of pink pillow to your bed, drape a pink throw over your sofa, use pink Post-It notes in your office, or display pink flowers on your desk. Or, simply try to "think pink" as an accent when you pick out your clothes in the morning, especially if you will be working with a group that day, since the color pink can bring energies together. A little pink can go a long way.
Thu Oct 31 2013 |
I got a new watch last Mother's Day, a Raymond Weil with a beautiful mother of pearl dial, which I picked out myself. I started out look for my standard round dial but when the salesman suggested I try something new I decided on the rectangular face. So why, I've been asking myself for the past six months later, can't I warm up to my new rectangular watch? Well, it looks like I finally found the answer in an article shared by one of my colleagues at the International Feng Shui Guild. According to the article "Why Our Brains Love Curvy Architecture"
on FastCoDesign.com, people are far more likely to call something beautiful when its design is round instead of linear. It seems our brains may just be hard-wired to love the curve.
Time and again when people are asked to choose between an object that's linear and one that's curved, they prefer the latter. That goes for everything from architecture, to curly fonts (is that why I love Comic Sans?), to curvy cushions on couches, to dental floss with round packaging, and you guessed it, round watch faces.
As a Feng Shui practitioner I'm always recommending that my clients replace their hard angled furniture with curved pieces. And, I recently started consulting on a landscape plan for a campus that was a World War II airfield, where you can bet I'm recommending nothing but curves to combat the long runway-like walkways. But, it never occurred to me that my abrupt change from a round to a square watch face would make such a difference.
And here's another example of how the Feng Shui requirement for curves has some science behind it - neuroscientists have shown that this love of the curve isn't just a matter of personal taste, it's part of our basic brain chemistry. A research team led by psychologist Oshin Vartanian of the University of Toronto at Scarborough compiled 200 images of interior architecture. Some of the rooms had a round style, while others had a rectangular shape. The researchers put their subjects in a brain imaging machine, showed them the pictures, and then asked them to label each room as "beautiful" or "not beautiful." They reported that participants were far more likely to consider a room beautiful when it was filled with curves rather than straight lines. Twice as many women as men took part in the study, but the preference for roundness seemed to be universal.
The researchers also found that people looking at a curved design had significantly more activity in a brain area called the anterior cingulate cortex, compared to people who were looking at linear decorations. This brain area has many cognitive functions, including its involvement in emotion, causing the researchers to suggest that curved designs use our brains to "tug at our hearts."
"Our preference for curves can not be explained entirely in terms of a 'cold' cognitive assessment of the qualities of curved objects," says Vartanian. "Curvature appears to affect our feelings, which in turn could drive our preference."
Another brain imaging study, conducted several years ago by Moshe Bar and colleagues of Harvard Medical School, found that viewing objects with sharp aspects - like couches with pointed edges and watches like mine with a rectangular face - activated the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that processes fear. These researchers suggest that the reason human brains associate sharp lines with threats is that pointed objects have long signaled physical danger. Curves, by comparison, are seen as the absence of threat, and therefore harmless and safe.
Who knew that my brain would feel this way about a watch face?
Looks like it's time to Feng Shui my watch face (pun intended). Guess it's a good thing that Chanukah and Christmas are right around the corner.
Tue Oct 01 2013 |
People either love or hate the color orange. It's the color we associate with Halloween because it can get you in the mood for fun. Surrounding yourself with the color orange can make you feel energized, creative, and motivated, even if you don't really like the color.
But on the serious side, in both Feng Shui and in color therapy, the uplifting color orange is used to overcome abuse, shock, depression, and codependency. Some color therapists believe that If you don't like orange, it's an indication that you need it for healing.
One vibrant example of the boldness of orange was the project call "The Gates," where artists Cristo and Jeanne-Claude weaved miles of orange fabric gates throughout New York's Central Park. The gates were an especially expressive demonstration of how powerful the color orange can be. You may not need to produce such drama with your use of the color orange, but you can add the color to your home and workplace in both dramatic and modest ways. Here are just a few Feng Shui ways to use orange:
Orange represents the Feng Shui Fire Element, so use it to power up a space located in the Fame, Reputation, or Love area of your home. Click here
to download a bagua from the Basics section of my website www.FengShuiForRealLife.com to find these areas in your home.
Choose orange, terracotta, or peach paint for a room where you need to bring people together, like your family room.
Orange in combination with other warm desert colors can stimulate collaboration in small offices.
Add some orange to your studio space when your creativity feels blocked.
Wear orange when you are meeting people for the first time and it will make you seem more approachable, especially if you're in a communications profession.
Surround yourself with the color orange if you are recovering from an accident, surgery, or a dental procedure.
If you are a family therapist or work with family groups, add orange accents to your office to symbolize joy in relationships.
Display orange flowers like gladiolus or begonias when you need to boost the energy in any commercial space.
Orange stimulates hunger, so use accordingly in your kitchen.
Throw orange pillows on the sofa or armchair, or hang artwork with orange accents to bring energy into a windowless office or dark room.
Avoid orange in a bedroom or any room where you want to avoid need intense focus and concentration.
What about you? Do you love or hate the color orange?
Sun Aug 25 2013 |
It seems that "obesogenic" is a real word meaning "causing obesity," and it was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary last year. And you can imagine that as a Feng Shui practitioner I was pretty intrigued by the article "Is Your Home Obesogenic" in Real Simple
magazine. I had no doubt that a house could affect your weight, especially since I've written articles
about how to rearrange a house to encourage weight loss. But I wanted to see how the science matched the Feng Shui. Here are their suggestions that pass my Feng Shui checklist:
Dine Off Salad Plates.
The average size of a dinner plate has ballooned by 23 percent since 1900, and therefore the amount we put on it has ballooned, too. Cornell researchers suggest that switching from 12-inch to 10-inch plates could help you consume up to 22 percent fewer calories. And I add my Feng Shui suggestion to dine on blue plates, since they make you eat slower.
Rearrange Your Food.
"We find that people are three times as likely to take the first thing they see when they open the cupboard than the fifth thing they see," says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., Director of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab. "Hide and eat less" even works with candy, because Wansink's team observed that people dip into candy bowls 71 percent more frequently when the bowls are transparent than when they are white.
The Cornell researchers found that when people put four boxes of crackers on their shelves instead of their usual two, they ate the extra boxes faster than normal, until they were left with the amount they usually have on hand. The simple solution - keep everything you wouldn't typically go through in a week on a high shelf or in the garage.
Make Your Food Look Dramatic.
Serve light foods on dark tableware and dark foods on light. This is basic Feng Shui yin-yang theory. In a study in the Journal of Consumer Research
, people served themselves more when their dishes matched the foods they were eating than when they were given contrasting plates. That means since your mashed potatoes are less noticeable on a white plate, you'll pay less attention to how much you're dishing out and eating.
Stop Eating in Front of the TV.
According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
, people who ate in front of the TV consumed more and were more likely to describe their meals as unsatisfying. And a study in Appetite
showed that women who had lunch while watching television ate more cookies than did those who ate at a table.
If you want your table to be a place where the family gathers for healthy meals, then it needs to be neat and inviting, not buried in homework and bills. Feng Shui practitioners can't stop saying enough about this one.
Keep the Setting Mellow.
Studies have found that fast, loud music makes people eat more. A review in Physiology & Behavior
explains that noise makes it difficult to focus on the sensory experience of eating, which is essential to feeling satiated. Wansink has also found that brightly lit places inspire faster eating. Yup, Feng Shui says the same thing.
Clear Off Your Workout Equipment.
Don't use your treadmill as an extra closet, because it you have to spend even a few seconds removing a pile of clothes, you're less likely to work out. If you exercise at the gym, create storage in your entry for your gym bag so you have a visual cue that your stuff is ready when you are.
Donate Your "Fat" Clothes.
Bigger clothes send signals that you don't expect to keep off any weight that you've lost. And if you're wearing bigger clothes, you can't keep tabs on your weight by keeping tabs on your waistband. My additional Feng Shui advice - you want to make room in your closet for new clothes, in smaller sizes, to find you.
Wed Jun 26 2013 |
The best part of being a Feng Shui consultant over the past 15 years has been the Feng Shui success stories
that I get to share with my clients, students, and readers. This has been an especially good week because I received three success stories, and I'd like to share this one. Barbara is a longtime friend and colleague who has put a lot of Feng Shui advice into action, including arranging her hospital room and home environment to help healing after surgery. (You can read these Feng Shui tips for healing in the September 2011 Feng Shui For Real Life E-zine
.) I was delighted to get her recent email with some especially good news related to wealth and abundance.
Here's what Barbara wrote:
After reading your last wonderful newsletter, I was motivated to "step up" my cleaning up and rearranging my office. It's a small space, but workable. I noticed by looking at the bagua that my Wealth area was obstructed by a pile of tote bags, recyclable grocery bags, computer bags, etc. I removed the pile from the upper left part of my office by dispersing and putting the various bags in true storage locations like the coat closet, on a high bookcase shelf, and such. Within the week, I had a trifecta of wealth related wonders:
1. A contract that had been put on hold for lack of funding got almost fully restored
2. I was accepted to a prestigious leadership program, a top goal of mine for the year.
3. I won First Place in the local Sister Cities International Poetry Competition for Disabled Writers
Lots of hard work went into these three things, but opening up my wealth area definitely allowed them to flow into my life. Thanks for your ongoing excellent, practical, and educational advice.
And here's her beautiful poem:
I am here, it whispered.
I know, I murmured in reply.
You weren't always here.
I was happy. Life is different now.
At first I was scared because I wasn't the same and people thought I was.
They said, "you look great, you're fine, nothing is wrong."
So, I decided to believe them and act like nothing was different.
I am here, it whispered.
And I know you were.
You were invisible, but you changed me profoundly.
I was different and couldn't always know how.
Yet, I still fought you because I couldn't see the invisible.
And those around me didn't want to see the invisible.
So, who was the joke on?
I am here, it whispered.
I became hopeful. I'm different now, I said.
Different means different -- not better, not worse, but different.
My hope asked me to become friends with my difference.
I am here, it whispered.
So, we got to know each other -- my difference and me.
Hope sat with us and listened.
With each new understanding, hope grew.
I am here, it whispered.
Yes, I know, and you are a special part of me now.
With my difference and hope and me all as one,
I am amazing.
I am here, it whispered.
Yes, I know. You and I are one.
When I cannot do as I did before,
You challenge me to embrace my difference and be me.
I am here, it whispered.
Yes, and together we can achieve the impossible.
Mon Jun 24 2013 |
Feng Shui has Chinese roots, but I love when I find Feng Shui-like advice in fables, folktales, and proverbs from other cultures. These tales always seem to have the same theme: advice from a wise man or woman and a very cluttered house.
Have you heard the fable of the Magic Red Geranium
? A woman living in a shabby, cluttered house was given an enchanted red geranium by a wise person who told her to take it home, where it would transform her life. She took the geranium home and set it on her wobbly kitchen table covered by a stained tablecloth. Immediately, she saw how the beautiful form and color of the geranium made the wobbly table seem in disrepair and the table linen look shabby. So, she fixed the table leg and washed the tablecloth.
Then she noticed how her newly washed tablecloth made her floor seem dull, so she scrubbed it. This made her kitchen walls look drab, so she repainted the room in a fresh color and replaced missing cabinets knobs.
Eventually her entire home was sparkling, and she had indeed transformed her life.
Did you ever hear the Yiddish folktale about a man with the Small and Noisy House
? Seeking a solution to his cramped living conditions, the man consults the wise woman of the village. She advises him to bring a chicken into his house. He doesn't understand how a chicken is going to help, but he brings one home. It makes his house seem even smaller and noisier.
So the man visits the wise woman again, and she tells him to add a goat. He gets a goat and brings it into his crowded house. Not surprisingly, the goat makes the situation worse instead of better.
So the man visits the wise woman yet again to complain and she tells him to bring another animal into the house. Needless to say, his house just gets more crowded and noisy.
Finally, in total frustration, the man returns to the wise woman and tells her that he can't stand another minute of living in his cluttered and noisy house. She smiles and tells him to go home and let all the animals out.
The man goes home and lets all of the animals out of the house. Then he looks around and can finally appreciate his calm, quiet, and spacious surroundings.
Is there a room in your home that would benefit from a symbolic "red geranium" or "chicken" clutter clearing?
Clearing out a drawer, a closet, or the garage can be like bringing a beautiful red geranium into your home to raise your awareness of other areas that need to be cleared of clutter. And like getting rid of unnecessary animals, the more clutter you clear, the more you make room for new energy and possibilities to find you and to transform your environment and your life.
Photo Credit: "The Rooster and the Pearl," print available from Morgan C. Leshinsky
Sun Jun 02 2013 |
Well, there really isn't a carp in my tub, it's the smaller variety - goldfish - and there are nine of them to be exact. And they aren't actually in the tub, they're in the new painting I just hung over the tub in my master bathroom. But every time I look at it I can't help singing the cute song
of the same name that my grand kids love to hear.
I usually recommend against hanging images that show water in a bathroom, but this was a special circumstance. Bathrooms came be a complicated issue in modern Feng Shui because they are full of water, an Element that's associated with the flow of wealth. But in a bathroom, that water is "contaminated" because it goes down the toilet as waste and down the drains combine with dirt. So the challenge is to symbolically dry up the some of the water. This wasn't an issue in ancient China where Feng Shui was first developed, because bathrooms weren't inside the house. Well, I'm not about to give up my indoor bathrooms, and I've yet to meet clients who are volunteering to give up theirs, so bathrooms take some Feng Shui "curing" no matter where they're located in a home.
The easy way to balance bathroom chi is to add either the Fire, Earth, or Wood Element. Fire will dry up the water, Earth will sop it up, and Wood will absorb it. My bathroom has a healthy amount of tile in shades of brown, so I've got the Earth Element covered, I've added candlesticks and some towels in a color called "salsa" to handle the Fire Element, and I have teal towels near the tub to represent the Wood Element. But the complication is that my master bathroom is located in the Wealth Area, and that's a place where too much Water can drown Wealth.
If I were designing a home I would never locate a bathroom in a Wealth Area, but like so many of my clients, what you see is what you get when it comes to buying a home. So my bathroom needed a bit more "curing."
I decided to display the traditional Feng Shui wealth enhancement, which is an image of nine goldfish, eight gold and one black, that helps attract wealth by activating growth and movement. The single black fish represents protection for your health and career, as well as increased earnings.
I searched online, but all of the paintings I found were just too Asian looking for the décor in my home (sort of Santa Fe meets Tuscany) and since I wanted something a bit playful, I commissioned my own painting from artist Morgan Leshinsky, who has a certain way with animal images. I hung "Nine Goldfish"
this weekend, and the next time I checked my e-mail I saw that a new client had registered for a Room Rescue Consultation
. So the magic of the nine goldfish has begun. I'll have more success stories to share about in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, every time I walk into the bathroom and see my "Nine Goldfish" hanging over the tub, I can't help but smile at the lyrics that play in my head:
There's a carp in the tub,
There's a carp in the tub...
So nobody's taking a bath.