A Brief Summary and Introduction

Tom Bender
© September 2000

Like any art that has been around for several millennia, feng shui has hundreds, if not thousands of variations. Most simply put, they all deal with our interaction with the life-force (chi energy) dimension of our surroundings. Whether charms and cures (actions we take to focus and apply our intention to our surrounding), use of bagua or other devices to determine good placement and relationships (aligning ourselves and energetic patterns in our surroundings), choosing sites that have good topography or energy (site chi), or determining the fates and natures of past occupants, all are actions that work with the main elements ­ "The Three I's" ­ of feng shui to enhance the energy of a place and our relation to it.

The Three I's of feng shui are CHI, or life force energy; LI, or intention; and TUMMI, trusting our gut feelings that reflect the immense role that our hearts and minds have on our interaction with a place. Chi can be worked with directly, or activated and channeled through the intention we put behind our actions in our everyday world. And listening to our tummies helps us thread our way through the over-amped distractions of our culture to hear the quiet voices pointing us to paths of truth and rightness.


Chi is being acknowledged today in our culture. The National Institutes of Health has strongly endorsed acupuncture, based on chi. The existence and operation of chi energy in our bodies has been confirmed via MRI scans with radioactive isotopes. Subsequent studies using infrared emissions have confirmedthe accuracy of the "maps" shown in ancient acupuncture texts.

"Energy healing," qi gong, and related practices that affect bodily chi have been effective enough in promoting healing that they are now covered by many health insurance policies. "Quantum teleportation" ­ showing that information even on the subatomic level can be transmitted instantly over stellar distances (not limited by the speed of light) ­ was successfully demonstrated in 1997.

The CIA has been using remote viewing and remote "influencing" operationally for several decades. Kinesiology (muscle- or energy-testing) is now used widely to asses human allergies and "whole-body" knowledge of remote events. Many sports routinely use training concepts based on chi and intention. The U.S. Marines use Aikido training, based on chi. Firewalking has even become a cult of corporate bonding.

Recent work by anthropologists, linguists, and historians is transforming our awareness of the role that chi energy and the spirit world has played in various cultures, leading to radical reconstruction of history. Decoding the Maya glyphs has revealed astounding design of their ceremonial centers for accessing the spirit world. Egyptian archeology has uncovered "energized" statues using chi energy for healing diseases. The water/chi networks of temples and canals in Cambodia and Bali have been shown to have generated unparalleled agricultural productivity. And in culture after culture, temples and sacred places were located on energy "power spots" in the earth.


Chi is the "connectivity" and energizing medium through which all the above phenomena appear to work. It can easily be worked with directly. (See "Plugging into the Energetic Universe" in Building with the Breath of Life for exercises and detailed explaination.) Or we can just use clear intention in our everyday actions to activate and direct the energy. What is important, and underlies many of the feng shui "cures", is that action, not just "good thoughts", is necessary to achieve results!

Most feng shui texts focus on specific actions used by a particular form of feng shui. While these may accurately convey the material in ancient feng shui manuals, they need to be translated into forms appropriate for our culture. More importantly, for us, the use of those specific practices is far less effective than understanding the transformations which acknowledging chi has for our culture. The truly important elements of working with chi didn't need to be written in Chinese practitioners' manuals. They were assumed by their culture. They need, however, to be learned by ours:

* In a world where no one can lie ­ where our innermost thoughts and feelings are known to each other ­ it becomes imperative to base our lives, our building, and our culture on speaking and living truth.

* When we acknowledge that instant communication occurs, not only between people but among all forms of life ­ stars, rocks, the cells in our bodies ­ we need to consider the needs of other life, open to their wisdom, and honor their spirits in our surroundings.

* To acknowledge that we continue to exist on an energy level after "death" is to transform our sense of our purpose on earth, of death, and as well our connection with the spirit world.

* When we can call on the counsel of ancestors and other beings in the spiritual planes of life, our process of determining goals and actions, as well as the roles of our surroundings becomes very different.

* When we discover that astrology can show us what kinds of surroundings are good or bad for us at different times, it becomes important for us to pay attention to our connections with all of Creation, as well as the qualities of the places we make and use.

* When we discover that "magic" is practiced and can have a powerful effect for good or ill, attention to the energetics of place and community become vital.

* When we realize that the health of all Creation is essential to our well-being, the basic values underlying our culture and the making of our homes and communities must change.

* When we recognize that our minds and hearts are an integral and powerful part of our interaction with the world on both sides of our skin, and that those aspects of our existence are inseparable, we can begin to improve our surroundings by listening to the messages of our hearts.

* When we realize that sacredness is the heart of meaningful lives and an enduring society, we start to learn and practice honoring and love in our work, communities, and personal lives.



Design in a chi-based world is very different than in our present tradition. It represents probably the most important transformation in design in the last millennia:

* A chi-centered worldview requires, obviously, that we give consideration to the chi of a place. It also means, however, that the kinds of institutions and the kinds of personal needs we design for are likely to be very different.

* Energetic-based design focuses on place, not space; relationships rather than structure; meaning instead of style; connection rather than aesthetics; inner rather than surface characteristics; and love rather than dazzle. The "design principles" we've been trained to focus on in design are unique to a material-centered culture, and are subsumed by higher priority needs in an energetically-based society.

* It demands integrity of material choice, design, and use. It stresses the importance of paying attention to our tummies ­ how we feel about a place, the psychology of place, and the role of our minds, fears, and dreams. Our attitudes and values ­ what we want in a place ­ change dramatically.

* The nature and role of the work put into the shaping of our surroundings, as well as the work which will be accomodated and enhanced by them is totally transformed to ones which enhance self-esteem, employ and develop skills, and put our energy into doing things of value to our community.

* In being in connection with all life, it requires that we design in respect and for the needs and aspirations of all Creation, not just our people-centered whims. It opens the opportunity for co-creation with nature intelligences and other life of places and communities that enhance the potentials of ever-evolving Creation.

* We begin to look at the role of possessions and the influence of consumptive-based media such as TV upon our surroundings very carefully ­ to discriminate between what helps to attain our goals and what acts as distractions and inhibitions to our highest goals.

* Healing of the energy bodies of our homes and communities damaged by place-rape and abuse from greed-based activities such as overlogging, overfishing, extractive agriculture, and mining is both possible and essential if we are to have surroundings that contribute to our own health.

* The chi of place and people interact, and our love or anger remain in a place to affect the next users. Gifts of honor and pilgrimage bestowed on a place are passed on to its subsequent visitors. We can clear bad energy out of a place, and generate energy that sustains the joy and health of our human communities and the natural communities within which they exist.

* When we work with chi, our intention in approaching design is critical. An approach that just considers "job functions" delegates people to "back-room" jobs and "back-room" consideration by others, while an intention to provide rewarding work changes the building configuration and gives respect to each person in their work.

* An energy-centered design requires that we deal with the silences and absences in the places we create ­ the things our culture doesn't want to acknowledge or deal with. Death, illness, age, equity, fairness, the sacred, diseases of the spirit, sustainability . . . all contribute vital elements to the (w)holiness of the places we make and the framework they contribute to our activities.

* Similarly, our surroundings reflect whatever ego-centeredness, desire to be seen as a big-name designer, following design fads, insensitiveness to people, institutions, and other life that exists in us as a designer, giving reason to focus our lives differently so our work affects others positively.

* The role of the sacred, and sacred places, become central to our relationship with our surroundings. Buildings with souls, gardens for our spirits, and cities of passion become our goal rather than rentable square feet. Accommodating and enhancing ritual and its role in both the making and use of places becomes important, as does being a part of the local ecological community. Low-impact ecological design is taken for granted. Growth, greed, and consumption give way to the goals of sustainability and nurture.

Both Building with the Breath of Life and Silence, Song & Shadows contain a table showing the distinctions between different processes of affecting the chi of a place, their effectiveness, duration, and where many of the specific energetic practices of feng shui and other traditions fit.


In the end, the design of our surroundings only reflects what we are. True feng shui, or any other tradition of energetic design, is not involved with what can be "bought" to gussy up our homes or workplaces. That's only our material-centerd culture trying to fit an energetic tradition into its own square holes. True feng shui rejoins us with the energetic and spirital dimensions of Creation. As we change ourselves to align with those potentials, those changes become reflected and empowered in our surroundings and our relationships with them.


For more information on feng shui and design, and how to work with energetics of place, see Tom Bender's Building with the Breath of Life, Silence, Song & Shadows, and The Heart of Place ­ all available from Fire River Press, PO Box 397, Manzanita OR 97130 USA ­ fireriverpress@nehalemtel.net ­ 503-368-6294.

38755 Reed Rd.
Nehalem OR 97131 USA
© September 2000