Tom Bender
© 7 April 1998


It is a joy to see the richness and variety of experience being brought to feng shui in this country by those studying and practicing it. Already, while there may by careful attention to tradition and precedent in study of the discipline, there is the beginning of a rich testing and interfusion with other experience when put in practice. This is as it should be.

Feng shui does not stand alone in our society. Our culture and traditions differ from the Chinese. Our needs are both similar and different. We, and China as well, are today exposed to all the different traditions of millennia of different cultures' experience. This is a time of gathering in of the wisdom of all ages. All have things to offer, all have limitations and omissions. It is unwise to ignore what any and all can offer to each other and to the whole of how we relate to our surroundings.

As practitioners of feng shui in our society mature in their experience, and as our culture begins to respect and honor its potential, the hesitant and faithful holding to a single particular tradition or practice can become a liability. The wisdom of experience shows what is culture-bound, what works for us and what doesn't. To ignore practices of other traditions which work better, and which can fit together with feng shui practices to create a more wholistic and inclusive approach to bringing us into harmony with the spirit of life would be imprudent. A different perspective can often give new insights. The more tools we have, the better the chance of one that fits.

"Energy healing", "laying on of hands", and related practices of healing energy work with bodily chi, martial arts, tai-chi, meditation, hatha yoga, bodywork, acupuncture and dowsing all have things to contribute. The mapping of energy flows and concentrations in the earth has been well developed in the European geomantic tradition, which also has located buildings relative to that energy in the earth. The Australian Aboriginal tradition has developed use of such energy lines in the earth even further, using them for long distance communication.

Relative to the built environment, the Japanese have developed the role of li or intention to great refinement and power. Chi (ki in Japanese) is if anything more central to Japanese culture and design than to Chinese. The Japanese language, for example, has over 600 terms employing the ideogram for ki, compared to about 80 in Chinese.

Contemporary work in our own culture by architects and designers working with chi has not reached the refinement of the Japanese or Chinese, but is developing a tradition specific to our own conditions and time. The Khmer culture in Cambodia can show us immensely powerful roles that our built environment can play in connecting us with energy from the spirit world. The Yoruba in Africa can show the emotional power that can be developed afresh in our building drawing directly upon intimate connection with that world.

African cultures - from the !Kung to the Yoruba and the Dagara, along with the Wiccan tradition in Europe and many other cultures, have worked powerfully with community raising of energy, and the roles it holds in cultural survival and health. The recent work of dowsers and energy workers such as Joey Korn, Sig Lonegren and others has shown that earth energies are not immutable. They move and change. We can ask the balancing of negative energies, the focusing and relocation of positive ones. We can call upon them, and they respond - it would appear almost consciously - to our requests for aligning with our lives and activities.

Energetics of place also involves information and communication. African cultures have worked strongly with personal interaction with energy of place to access ancestors and other beings in the realms of energy. Native American, Aboriginal, Celtic, Greek, and many other traditions work with direct communication with, and through, the individual elements of nature. The Australian Aboriginal tradition has developed to a high level use of the unique and specific connections to the spiritual realm from different natural sites. The Khmers and Egyptians have demonstrated how buildings can enhance such connections.

For all our talk of need to reconnect with nature, it appears that chi or life force communication may be the missing link. Alienation arises from our blocking out the eternal sharing and being part which occurs on that level. As Malidoma Somé has said, literacy may fill a place in the psyche intended for other purposes. But literacy too can be bypassed, and direct linkage on the chi level reestablished.

These are only a few examples that stand out, for their special developments, from the almost universal use of chi in cultures worldwide. What is exciting is that these are living traditions which can be learned from, shared, melded, and forged into a living tradition for our own culture.


With the diversity of chi-related actions available from feng shui and related traditions, we need to be clear in explaining to clients what we perceive as the relative significance and effectiveness of the different elements. They need to know what can be done, and what we, as individuals can do, relative to what a situation needs. Most people don't know a Nine Star Ki from a Yellow River Chart. But they may very well care whether what we are offering them is the clearing of a space from old chi, a balancing or enhancing of existing earth energy, or offering to set up a gateway for them to connect with their ancestors in the spirit world.

This is my own list of elements and my sense of their relative significance, today. Every one of us will have our own, different, list. All will change as we understand more of these elements. And all these elements interact with and affect each other. Our energy is best put where we sense it will be most effective, and different situations benefit best from different actions.


Actions to eliminate the disturbance of chi and li from television, corporate work patterns, bureaucratic institutions, or tourism may offer the greatest energetic benefit of any actions we can take.

Beside this, all other actions pale. Comparatively, the negative impacts of this intention far outweigh any possible feng shui healing actions. Any practitioner who talks about furniture arrangement in a room while either ignoring the role of TV in most people's lives, or failing to alter that role, is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. TV insistently destroys our self-worth, damages our auras, and leaves us as mere sideline observers of fantasy worlds.

Similarly, any feng shui actions that we might take in a corporate business environment are inconsequential compared to the negative impacts on our essential self-esteem and mutual respect which emerge from such work patterns. These basic patterns must be acknowledged and addressed as part of our practice if we wish to achieve real success.

Actions related to this element might include acknowledging these sources of negative chi and replacing them with nurturing sources. Such sources might include participatory rather than passive recreation and entertainment, or work patterns that support our sense of doing valued work, contributing to our community, and acknowledging our worth. Any actions affirming a love- and life-centered world improve our nurture.

Direct raising and nurture of chi is vital for community health. This is true even more so than for our individual health, which can most often be maintained and nurtured by our intentions, openness, and spiritual practices.

Practices from other traditions related to this element might include group spiritual training and practice, community ritual and energy raising, cathartic community conflict resolution, and other energy practices from African, Wiccan, Sufi, and other cultures.

Feng shui practices related to this element might include internal or external chi adjustments, blessings, or use of mantras, mudras, yantras and visualization.

Simple actions by individuals and communities involving love and giving, and transference to a society based on care, honoring, and mutual respect can at times be as productive in this as community ritual or "shamanic" practices.

energy flows are, with few exceptions, the largest energy flows in our homes and communities.

These can be improved by individual spiritual training and practice, actions which enhance our self-esteem or sense of being of value to our community; by practices which open us to deeper energetic flows from our surroundings which support our lives; by surroundings which shelter, nurture, challenge, and harmonize our lives, or by anything that improves our emotional and spiritual health. The realm of feng shui symbolic actions, which work on our emotional and metal interfaces with our surroundings, has particular application in this area.

Natural flows and patterns of chi in place are wonderful sources of sustenance. Finding, harmonizing with, and enhancing - not for "an advantage" over others, but to communicate and interact together more clearly and powerfully, can strongly benefit our lives. Some chi of place comes from topography, some from geophysical anomalies, some from how we have attuned the places we build to channel and enhance those energies.

Feng shui practices related to this element include the whole realm of tangible factors - forms and compass school, adjustments relative to interior and exterior factors such as roads, trees, hillsides or waterways, location of doors, beds, bathrooms or workplaces.

Other practices related to this element often include dowsing, calling in energy balancing and enhancement, and design of homes, gardens, and communities.

Intention, purpose, and its expression in the soul of a place can be the most accessible way to change the energy of users.

Feng shui practices related to this element might include developing clear consensus on our goals, focused attention to the specifics of our actions with those goals as touchstone, alignment of our goals with those of the rest of Creation.

Other practices related to this element might particularly include those from the Japanese culture encompassing "hara"-based practices of group decision-making, building ritual, attitudes towards work, materials, and the spirit world as well as the focus on intention important to the Wiccan and Native American traditions.

This is very much the opposite of conventional design that focuses on outward appearances.

Few traditional feng shui practices are directly applicable to our different time, place, and culture. Aspects of design dealing with inner attributes include creating invisible servants; connection with the cycles of nature and season; the concept of "honoring" in design; celebrating death; creating gardens to nurture our spirits; connecting to the natural community around us; eliminating mirrors; celebrating night, winter, and rain; durability; letting what we build reflect rewarding work; and putting love, giving, and silence into the places we make.

It's time to reopen the doors to our ancestors, to the spirits, and to the non-material worlds - to honor, and work together to manifest the evolutionary unfolding of Creation.

Other than placement of tombs, this has curiously been given little public attention in modern feng shui practice. Establishing temples, shrines, and home alters; learning from the building traditions of Angkor, Egypt and other cultures; and the intense and immediate involvement between the material and spirit world in African, Celtic and Australian cultures can open new opportunities for our culture in this area.

This element involves simplification, focusing our intention and energy, and eliminating extraneous diversions. It is often a prefatory action of clearing intention prior to direct raising of chi, enhancing the energy of individual users, or specific practices and rules. But because of our material-centered lives, it is valuable in considering in itself. It can include balancing, freeing or relocating bad chi and li, freeing a place from the detritus of its past lives, even exorcism of ghosts and spirits.

Feng shui practices related to this element might include the "predecessor factor" - of dealing with the inheritance of good or bad chi from the prior history of a place such as death, bankruptcy, divorce, illness, or other kinds of failures. Internal practices related to this element might include fasting, meditation, or zen training; external ones include purification, dealing with accumulated "stuff", cleaning, and honoring.

Attending to real-world psychological, cultural, and ecological problems of people and place is as important and effective as a grand theoretical approach to a situation.

Feng shui practices related to this element are specifics, such as resolving classic "T" intersection, heavy beam, or bad bed location problems. Paying attention to our feelings - about place or other things - is sadly neglected in our culture. The general rule here is "follow your tummy". Pay attention to your intuition of what feels good or bad, and deal with it. Take care of sanitation, ventilation, lighting, structural adequacy, and setting needed for rituals such as arrival and departure.

This includes such things as astrology, numerology, five elements, and the bagua. I place these low on my list partly from my ignorance of some of the systems and partly from question of their efficacy, as currently understood. I sense major significance waiting to be uncovered here, very different from existing beliefs and practices. Beyond any direct connections, aligning with the cosmos also strengthens our will and sense of the rightness of our beliefs and actions.

Feng shui application of astrology takes two primary forms - a) birth-influenced inclinations and needs for qualities of surroundings (Nine Star Ki) and b) specific time-dependent compatibility with different surroundings depending upon our current individual position in various time cycles (Eight Words or Four Pillars). Five Elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Metal in the Chinese tradition) sensitizes us to the qualities of change cycles, particularly those that are chi-related.

Other cultures have had equally effective traditions of cosmic associations for different elements of their homes, villages, daily routines and rituals. The Khmer capital of Angkor in Cambodia stands out as a powerful integrative example.

Harmony, beauty, and refining the balance of yin and yang in how things look are all "fine-tuning". Real harmony comes from intention and from right relationship of attributes and inner patterns. Yet outer appearances do affect us, our comfort, and our perception of meaning. And through them we can also see what inner intentions are being manifested.

Fine-tuning the esthetics, the physical expression, and organization of the patterns of a place can enrich its harmony and ability to move our hearts and our lives. In this, it is essential to keep the inner intention as a touchstone and not fabricate appearances at odds with what is going on within. Follow your tummy and what feels right.

12. OTHER...?
The subtle flows that manifest every situation provide uniquely successful circumstantial avenues of action which resist general codification.


In addition to the initial effectiveness of an action, we need equally to consider the duration of its impact. Duration is an aspect of place energetics rarely given proper attention. Some actions are long-lasting, some need frequent repetition. Dealing with clutter may last years or only a few minutes. Sustaining direct raising of community chi is an on-going process. Design changes may last as long as the facility, or be negated by other changes or use patterns. Good natural chi in land and place may continue for millennia, or may change tomorrow due to altered underground water movement, road cuts, new power lines, dams, ground water withdrawal, etc.

Symbolic actions almost never survive the tenancy of a single user of a place, and rarely have the power of actions that actually correct negative situations or enhance good ones. Long-lasting chi-influencing actions need periodic monitoring, and short-lasting ones need repetition. So it is important to be clear - both in our own minds and with clients - about all that is required to sustain good chi in our relations with place over time, and to choose from the widening range of possible actions ones which best assist us in reaching that goal.

38755 Reed Rd.
Nehalem OR 97131 USA
© April 1998


Malidoma Some, OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT, Tarcher/Putnam, 1994.
A powerful autobiography of life in contemporary African tribal culture - the spirit world, community energy.

Robert Lawlor, VOICES OF THE FIRST DAY: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime, Inner Traditions International, 1991.

Starhawk, THE FIFTH SACRED THING, Bantam, 1993.
A beautiful image of the world we may be converging onto, and the power of the spirit in it, from the Wiccan tradition.

Tom Bender, "Places of Power" in BUILDING WITH THE BREATH OF LIFE, 1997. Discussion of the Khmer capital of Angkor in Cambodia. Text available on website <> Plus other resources on energy of place.

Joey Korn, DOWSING: A PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT, 1997. Sensing and altering energy of place. Available through <>

Barbara Brennan, HANDS OF LIGHT, Bantam Books, 1987. Bodily chi.