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Wind & Water School of Feng Shui Articles

About the Red Envelope Tradition

by Carole Hyder

There’s a tradition in China that involves the exchange of red envelopes when someone wants to express gratitude toward another person or wish them well. They would put money in the red envelope and give it to them.

No one really knows how the red envelope tradition started. One theory revolves around a David-and-Goliath storyline: A young boy defeated a demon that no one else in his village could seem to destroy. He used a magic saber for which he was rewarded with a red envelope filled with money. Another theory is that it stems from the red paper couplets that the Chinese would paste on both sides of their front door to scare away a demon who eats people.

Regardless, somewhere in history red envelopes came to represent a grateful exchange between two parties as well as a protective measure against anything evil.

Today red envelopes filled with money are typically given to young unmarried relatives during the Chinese New Year. Also, at weddings the bride and groom give envelopes to young unmarried relatives. Inside would be money or other items of value (jewelry) or items that represented well wishes, such as candy, an image of the Buddha, etc.

Here are some traditional tips about giving red envelopes:

  1. Use only crisp bills, not old wrinkled ones.
  2. Do not put coins in a red envelope
  3. Do not put in amounts that add up to “4” as the homonym for death is the same as the sound for 4. Having money add up to 8 or 9 is best.
  4. Prepare red envelopes in advance. Do not be putting money in the envelope in front of the person to whom it will be given.

Here are some tips for receiving red envelopes:

  1. Receive the envelope with both hands and express your gratitude.
  2. Do not open the envelope in front of the person from whom you received it.
  3. Do not reuse the envelopes. Instead burn them ceremoniously.

If this is a bit too traditional or bothersome, the latest way to exchange red envelopes is through WeChat red envelope, an online money transfer. No actual envelopes are exchanged but the well-wishes are the same.

The story about books in Feng Shui

by Lisa Janusz

Books tell their own story, and they contribute to yours. The books you have reveal a little about you, like your interests. I read an article about a woman who took that to heart and she bought books specifically to influence what people thought of her. Many years later she realized that she hadn’t even read most of them!

For years I had shelves full of books. But as I started getting more into Feng Shui, I knew that was one area I could pare down. When I was clearing out my books, I had read some advice from another Feng Shui practitioner – Karen Kingston, who recommended evaluating based on the library. If the library had a book, then I could have access to it anytime so I didn’t need to own it. That helped me. I still kept books I loved, but it helped me reduce the number to a single bookshelf. I still re-evaluate annually since I’m always adding.

The thing about books is that they can impact you, and they can become clutter, so you do need to keep a handle on them. Here are some tips as you think about managing your own collection.


  • Curate your books to prevent them from being clutter. Be realistic about books that you haven’t read for years, and that you likely won’t, and release them.
  • Keep books manageable and accessible, like in a bookshelf. Add decorative items, too, to help balance the energy and keep it from feeling heavy.
  • Keep books near your front door to reveal a little about you to your visitors.
  • Have books in children’s rooms. It encourages them to read and since they typically have a softer energy around them, they can be stored there (still evaluate that they are age appropriate and don’t become clutter!)


  • Store your books in your room – either in a bookshelf or under your bed. They bring other people’s stories and dreams into your sacred place. You can have a book or two on your nightstand, but put the majority elsewhere.
  • Keep outdated books (old textbooks anyone?). These keep you in the past and take up space, plus energy.
  • Keep piles of books all over your house. This creates a disjoined energy. Put them all together.
  • Use books for non-book purposes. Using stacks of books as end tables or piled in a fireplace doesn’t respect them or give you accessibility.

Books can be magical; teaching you something new, taking you to a time and place, providing inspiration or strength. Utilize their energy to benefit in the best possible Feng Shui way.

Feng Shui of the Forbidden City

By Carole Hyder

The Forbidden City, today called the Palace Museum, is located in the northern city of Beijing (bei means north; jing means capitol). The capitol was moved there from Nanjing (nan = south) in 1403 to provide better protection against northern invaders. In 1421, the Forbidden City was completed.

It was so named because access to the area was barred to the average resident. Government officials and even some of the imperial family were not allowed to wander freely. This was a privilege only the emperor enjoyed.

Emperors were considered endowed with a “mandate from heaven” which meant that he was the direct link between heaven and earth. In fact, the throne where he would rule was considered the exact point where this occurred. When he ruled from here, his mandates were considered inspired and insightful and would not be questioned.

Therefore, he needed to rule from a place that supported and sustained such power. Here are just some of the Feng Shui aspects that were included in the Forbidden City plans:

  • The number 9 (or its multiple) is considered an auspicious number and is used frequently in Feng Shui applications even today. There are 9,999 rooms in the Forbidden City. It sits on 72 acres. The most important buildings have 9 protective animals sitting on each corner eave. There are 9 brass water caldrons. To name a few.
  • The Forbidden City is situated on a central axis of north-south with the front door facing south. On that same axis, Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven was eventually constructed to the south and looking north, the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower. Interestingly, in 2008, the Olympic Park was built further north to extend this axis relevance.
  • There is a man-made river in front (Jingshui) which meanders in 180 and 90 degree turns. Water in front of a residence remains to be an auspicious feature.
  • There is a hill in the back called Coal Hill (Jingshan). It, too, is manmade (with coal) to create protection for the emperor and the palace.
  • The rigid Confucian symmetry in the front part of the Forbidden City where symmetry is the theme is juxtaposed by the organic Taoist garden in the back. Yin and yang, heaven and earth.

Integrating and planning for all these features explains why 18 years passed before it was completed. Building heaven on earth is clearly not an easy task.

Open the Front Door to Feng Shui

by Lisa Janusz

I recently came across an article in one of my magazines that featured a house that had not one, not even two, but three front doors! And they were all painted the exact same way – red to stand out. The home owner’s quote was about it being welcoming, but from a Feng Shui perspective, it’s not that way; it’s confusing. From a visitor standpoint, which one do you go to? And if you’re familiar with the bagua, where would you place it? I don’t know that homeowner, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she felt scattered or unsettled.

In Feng Shui, front doors are vital to the energy that comes into our home. They are the “mouths of chi” and call in energy, welcome energy and keep it moving. We dedicate a lot of time to discussing front doors in our professional program for just that reason – they are critical pieces of the puzzle to the house’s story. This goes even when the front door isn’t used that often, in the case of the attached garage. But they’re still important!

No doubt I’ve got you thinking about your own front door. With the change of seasons, now is the perfect time to take a look and see what’s happening there and make a shift. Here are a few starting ideas:

  • Add a windchime, bell, or other sound element to “call in” what you’d like (opportunity, job, relationship, wealth, helpful people)
  • Add something with movement like a flag or whirligig to “move” in a new direction
  • Add flowers, new door mat, or lantern to renew the energy that could be stagnant from the dormancy of winter
  • Paint the door a color you love that is different from anything else on the house so it stands out. This is your calling card to the world, and let them know you are ready for what’s ahead. (Extra note: although red is a traditional color, painting the door a color you LOVE is always our recommendation. If that’s red, go for it!)
  • Add seating (as long as it doesn’t block the door) inside to invite opportunities to stay awhile
  • Use it so it gains momentum – get the mail, leave through that door to go for a walk

Our front door gets used pretty regularly (hey, it’s me after all!), and I’m pretty conscientious throughout the year changing our front door wreath and add other touches depending on the season. It brings a fresh energy to a key piece of our home.

If you are seeking some change in your life, start with your front door. See what happening there and have it work for you. You never know who – or what – will come physically – or metaphorically – knocking.

Intrigued? You can read more about front doors in this article from a few years ago.

Chinese Gardens

by Carole Hyder

Chinese gardens were always arranged in accordance with a set of Feng Shui or geomantic principles. A geomancy master would be engaged to find a location and to determine directional placement of the garden or the buildings within the garden that would take advantage of the beneficial flow of qi, the enlivening energy of the cosmos.

Unlike Western gardens which are typically formed around a house or structure, Chinese gardens are planned first determining where structures would eventually be placed.

Although there was no standard process for creating a garden, the evolution of a traditional Chinese garden is often based on the southern courtyard of Zhan Yuan, an early Ming dynasty garden in Nanjing:

  1. After a site was selected, the first decision was to establish the location and direction of the main hall. Ideally, the hall was to be in the northern section of the garden.
  2. High walls were positioned along the perimeter of the garden in order to enclose it.
  3. Spaces within the garden were subdivided to multiply the variety of scenery within it, creating a sense of boundlessness within a limited site.
  4. A body of water, usually a pond, was excavated and linked to channels of water. A pond was an indispensable element since it contrasted with the rockery and provided a mirrored image of scenic objects.
  5. Latticed windows were used to lure the visitor into the garden. A moon gate and other geometric openings were often used to frame scenes within the garden and to create the illusion of depth. No cul-de-sac or dead ends were permitted in any garden space, so pathways always seemed to continue in forward motion. The visitor was never allowed to see the panoramic whole of the Chinese garden at the outset since it was carefully designed in a sequence of the hidden and revealed scenes that would emerge along paths and at observation points.

In the West gardens are grown, but in China a garden is built. The many buildings in Chinese gardens are a reminder that gardens were meant to be lived in as well as viewed. The Chinese garden is a good example of the Taoist principle of harmony with nature and creative imagination.


*This article contains excerpts from Carole’s Masters of Asian Studies thesis

Dos and Don’ts of T.V.s in Feng Shui

by Lisa Janusz

I was explaining to my eldest son recently how much televisions have changed since I was a child. He sat mystified that even I remember having to physically get up to change the channel. And that if I wanted to watch a show, I had to be home at the right time. With all the advancements – remote control, big screens, on demand – it’s no wonder that they have become for many a “need” over want.

I’ve seen interior decorating take some interesting stances on televisions. Some are going “old school” and going back to living rooms without T.V.s and saving them only for family rooms. Some are just trying to incorporate T.V.s in a better way through “hiding” them or making them part of a feature or gallery wall.

In Feng Shui, televisions are like black holes. They suck energy, both when they are on and when they are off. Yet, for many of us (including me!), we like them and aren’t going to part with them anytime soon.

If you want to minimize the impact of your television, here are some quick tips:

  • DO have a television the right size, that doesn’t dominate the room
  • DO have a way to de-emphasize it if it’s in a main entertaining/social area. You can do that by keeping it in an armoire, hiding it behind a picture or incorporating it in the ambiance (think fake fire or pretty scenery photos)
  • DO have a television in the appropriate room – living room, family room, den, or home theater. Don’t put a television in a room that conflicts with the purpose of the room. Rooms that are not appropriate for a T.V.:
    • Bedrooms: Yours or your child’s. Yes, we hear people tell us they need them to fall asleep. And most of the time – those same people don’t sleep well. They bring in too much energy. Your room should be a sanctuary. Kids should also have a calm room because they typically don’t need to be bombarded with more energy.
    • Kitchens: This is a room for nurturing your family and connecting. A television interferes with that.
    • Bathrooms: This is a room that already has a lot of draining energy in it, why add another drain? Where did this trend come from anyway? How much time are they spending in there?
    • Office: Unless your work aligns with a T.V., it’s a message about being distracted from your goals.

Keep in mind that your space communicates to others about you – your life, your interests, your goals. That’s a key principle of Feng Shui. As you look at your television(s), how many and where they are located, think about what message you’re sending.

If you’d like more tips, here’s a previous post I wrote about televisions and Feng Shui. I also address how to deal with a T.V. that won’t be moving.

What’s Up with the Year of the Pig?

by Carole Hyder

In the last few years, I’ve noticed the proliferation of stories about people having pigs as pets. We’re finding out that pigs are kind, gentle, and very, very smart. Last summer I saw two pigs on leashes tethered to a car while the owner was evidently grocery shopping. Basking in the sun, they were clearly relishing the outdoor moment.

Now, as of February 4th, we have moved into the Year of the Pig. Due to the make-up of Pig nature, we might be able to expect a year that is a bit more mellow, more laid back and relaxed. The Pig has a go-with-the-flow energy. There’s less focus on getting things done (a very “dog”-ged attitude from the 2018 Year of the Dog) and more on savoring the moment and enjoying the experience. Life is a banquet for the Pig.

The Chinese astrology system is comprised of 12-year cycles, each year bearing the name of an animal. The Pig is the final animal in this list of 12. This may account for its tendency to savor every moment because endings and farewells can elicit bittersweet yet anticipatory feelings.

A revealing exercise is to think about to 12 years ago (2007) and remember what was happening in your life. Any endings? Any moments to savor? Any lessons you learned that you could bring forward to this Pig year?

How can you maximize the Pig Year: Here are a few ideas:

  1. Secure an image of a Pig, or a figurine, or a screen savor that will be a constant reminder to you about the gentle nature of the Pig.
  2. Plan one playful activity each day, big or small. Coloring, singing, dancing, gardening—anything that will bring you joy. Full disclosure: Back in the 80s, the late Laura Branigan had a hit song “Gloria.” It is impossible for me to stay in my chair when that is playing. Try it. Do not be bothered by the choreography—or lack of—and be sure to turn the volume up, or better yet ear plugs. And never mind that it’s about a woman who is making a mess of her life. Or is she? All this aside, you will not be able to sit still. Let me know if it did nothing for you and we’ll try to figure out what’s wrong with you.
  3. Breathe—-deeply and intentionally. It clarifies the brain and relaxes your body, just like a Pig.
  4. Do something spontaneous. The Pig’s motto is “being, not doing.

Now when you say to yourself “I’m being a Pig,” this statement will have a whole new meaning for you. Wallow in it.

Toys: A Feng Shui Approach

by Lisa Janusz

There’s no escaping the seemingly endless mountain of toys that builds (and builds) when you have children. Sometimes I feel like it multiplies when I’m not looking! I have my methods for trying to keep toys manageable. But even my methods are being tested these days. With birthdays and Christmas all within a 3-month period, the rapid increase is quickly heading towards overwhelm.

Before that happens, I will do a toy intervention of sorts. If you are experiencing a similar situation, here are some Feng Shui-aligned ideas on how to handle.

Have limitations on toy storage.

This means that when an area is full – it’s not time to find a new area, it’s time to rethink what’s going there. We have enough space dedicated to toys (both boys are still on the younger side): toybox and ottoman in the living room and two closets (not entirely filled with toys). That is plenty of room. When there are too many toys (like now) to fit, we get to work on making room for our current favorites.

Purge. Downsize. Release.

Whatever you want to call it, it’s necessary decluttering to downsize the toy collection. We do this a couple of times a year, keeping in mind we want to be gentle and manageable. First, we dedicate space on our main floor to our favorites (as mentioned above). Then we move toys we’re not yet ready to part with to the basement. These are toys that have been outgrown or just don’t fit with the current play style. They are accessible to make the transition easier (but not readily available). Toys that are played with anyway are kept a little longer, but those that are mostly forgotten are donated.

Make it timely, easy and meaningful.

We sort toys at least twice a year (timely) and as Carole mentioned above, we have a dedicated, ongoing spot for donations (easy). This is key. It’s become such a part of our routine that my eldest has placed items to donate in the spot and let me know he added something. To make it meaningful, as we go through the process we talk about how lucky we are to have so much and that someone with less will enjoy it. My hope is that they view donating as not taking toys away from them, but giving to someone else.

It’s not always easy; sometimes we have to make some “tough decisions” about what needs to go. But for me, it’s a life lesson in that it’s a constant process (even for me). As you know, with Feng Shui, everything is energy so we need to be diligent about what we keep in our space. If it doesn’t support us, it should be given the chance to support someone else.

Chinese Birthday Customs

by Carole Hyder

While we are diligent about sending well-wishes on a friend’s birthday, the Chinese typically reserve birthday celebrations for children and the elderly. Although Western influence has changed some of that cultural perspective, Chinese birthday parties still have special traditions.

Here in the States, a child turns 1 on the first anniversary of their birth. In Chinese culture, babies are 1 year old when they are born. Some celebrate the child’s first birthday party when the baby actually turns two. Others consider the first day of the Chinese New Year (lunar calendar) as the starting point of a new age. This means that if a child is 1 year old when he is born and then one more year is added as soon as he enters the New Year, it’s possible that a child could be two years old when, according to Western tradition, he might be two or three weeks old. This happens when a baby is born on the last week or day of the past year.

If you don’t want to ask an elderly person their age, you can ask for their Chinese zodiac sign. Knowing a person’s sign could make it possible to figure out their age. When someone turns 60 or 80, this warrants a full-scale celebration with a gathering of family and friends. Chinese birthdays must be celebrated before or on the actual birth date. Belatedly celebrating a Chinese birthday is considered impolite and disrespectful.

Birthday cakes are becoming a common part of a birthday celebration. Traditionally the birthday person is required to slurp a longevity noodle in one continuous strand. This long noodle symbolizes a long life. Although many Chinese now opt to give a gift, red envelopes filled with money are typically the preferred birthday present.

Finally, a song is always sung to the one celebrating their birthday. Here are the Chinese characters to the Happy Birthday song (yes, it’s the same melody as the Western version): 祝你生日快樂. Here is the pronunciation guide: zhù nǐ shēng rì kuài lè. And, if that isn’t enough, here it is being sung for you:

Greetings to all, birthday or not.

Coaching & Feng Shui, a Perfect Match

By Michele Heisler

The practice of Feng Shui starts with intentions, which become your road map to adjustments in your environment. Coaching practices can help you reflect on your life and discover your true intentions. You may have heard the phrase “what you think about, you bring about.” The truth is, we all have the power to manifest, which is even more reason to be careful when creating your intentions.

Here are 3 tips to coach yourself through creating thoughtful intentions.

  1. Be careful what you wish for. Once you have determined what you are manifesting, ask yourself: why? This allows you to go deeper into the essence of what you want. Don’t just manifest a house. Manifest a house that is cozy, safe, and in a friendly neighborhood. Anyone can manifest a relationship, but why do you want a relationship? By going deeper, you can manifest a relationship that is stable, exciting and passionate.
  2. Don’t over-do Feng Shui adjustments. One well-thought-out adjustment to support an intention is better than many less-thought-out adjustments. There are often various adjustments to support one intention. Take your time in selecting and applying the one that resonates with you the most.
  1. Share your intentions. Find someone you trust to confide. Speaking your desires and wishes assists in manifestation. Imagine others are holding your vision for you as well.

Your intentions deserve as much attention as the adjustment that supports them. Take your time and have fun with it. There is a world of opportunities waiting for you.


Michele Heisler is a graduate of the Wind & Water School of Feng Shui. She is a Master Feng Shui Consultant & Professional Coach with her own company, Riverway Consulting.


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