Fansipan Mountain, Sapa, Vietnam ©2019, Cyndie Burkhardt.

Have More Chocolate, Improve Your Feng Shui

Have More Chocolate, Improve Your Feng Shui 1024 768 Cyndie Burkhardt

When I heard, “You should have more chocolate, hot pot, and red wine,” I laughed out loud. Trang, my feng shui reader continued, “You should have more red meat, chili, ginger, hot tea, and spicy food, they would do you good.” I burst out, “I love all that!,” in disbelief that I just got a pass to indulge in some of my favorite foods. “Add more fire and you’ll be more completed. It will improve your whole feng shui,” she said. Am I wired to eat this way?

It was my first feng shui reading and here in Hanoi, Vietnam people take this ancient tradition quite seriously. I was learning that the practice involves much more than arranging furniture in your home and office to bring good luck. Still, the food seemed a bit of a stretch. What does my diet have to do with good feng shui and positive energy flow?

Pork meatballs; making bone broth; Pho–Vietnam’s national dish.

All images ©2019, Cyndie Burkhardt.

Feng means wind and shui means water 

Let’s back up for a minute. Feng shui, which originates from Chinese culture, is the art and (pseudo)science of designing a harmonious environment based on balance and the understanding of how people are affected by their surroundings. “It’s a big thing in our lives here… Vietnamese people believe harmony in the environment will bring you peace and improve health, money, and luck,” says Trang. At its most simplistic, that’s the crux of it.

For Vietnamese people it’s very important when buying a new home to know if the direction of the house is good for the family. A feng shui master is invited to the house to feel its energy and calculate the position of main features and objects. Similarly, when someone moves into a new office they want to know where to place the desk to benefit their career.

Door, Hanoi, Vietnam ©2019, Cyndie Burkhardt.
The main entrance to a house should face in the direction that matches a family’s energy for their best feng shui.

A master does the heavy lifting to calculate the many variables that go into mapping someone’s energy flow. But an average person can gain knowledge of the basic feng shui principles and be more mindful of what’s around them. People know a little bit about what makes them feel good but to have an understanding of that on a deeper level is a big advantage. It can help you choose ‘this over that’ based on what’s good for your feng shui, and therefore your luck and success in life. So, what do you need to know?

A good feng shui home combines modern concepts with classic ones. The lucky cat is a symbol of good luck, prosperity, and wealth. Traditional urns used on prayer alters have a dragon and the yin/yang symbol.

Two Basic Principles

First, it’s believed that Five Elements—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water are the fundamental components that create everything in the universe, including humans. Everyone has an elemental shortage, based on their birthday, and once you know what yours is you need to make up for that lack.  The elements need to be balanced for ideal feng shui.

Yin/Yang—the concept that polar opposites are dependent on one another also comes into play. A balance of the feminine (yin) and the masculine (yang) is necessary to maintain a good flow of qi. In fact, the yin/yang icon represents the very meaning of feng shui—a smooth flow and balance in everything.

Fansipan Mountain, Sapa, Vietnam ©2019, Cyndie Burkhardt.
Vietnamese believe everything has the flow of wind and water, especially your surroundings.

According to Chinese philosophy, qi energy is ruled by the five elements. When you find out your elemental shortage and the direction of your element’s energy, you can take steps to align your life with qi to achieve good feng shui.

A getaway in Ba Vi Mountain 

Ten years ago, Ta Ha bought real estate near Ba Vi Mountain because she loved the landscape. The neighborhood was underdeveloped, the road wasn’t finished, and it was an hour outside of Hanoi, where she lived. Even so, she wanted a large, beautiful house in that setting. She found a feng shui master who looked at the bare land, read her elemental sign and her age, and mapped out the best placement for key components of the house—the entrance, the family prayer room, the water system, and the fire (the hob and the fireplace).

From top left: Looking at the feng shui master’s map; the natural landscape out back; watering the plants; Ta’s favorite place in the house; Ta and daughter Thao are happy at home.

She’s a firm believer that, “The qi you’re putting in the house is very important… How you become more in flow with the energy around you and how you align your own energy with that. Feng shui is aligning energy between internal and external.”

I asked how feng shui has influenced or helped her and she said it’s brought good fortune in business. The house is a cross between a resort, a homestay, and a getaway for friends and acquaintances. Customers find her organically, she doesn’t advertise. Moreover, the place just feels good and she’s happy there. “When I come here I feel it’s very nice. Many people come here and have the same feeling as me. I feel good and feng shui supports all this,” she said.

Ta is happy and content being surrounded by nature and the mountain view.

A belief system

I questioned Trang about people not just believing in feng shui but relying on it. She was adamant that’s not the case. “We don’t rely on it, we have more reference, more ways to fix our lives.” I pushed on, regarding the issue of health, “If someone’s going to a doctor and not feeling better and they think maybe feng shui is the answer, they’re relying on something else to fix their problems and it’s not medicine.” She replied, “Maybe the medicine isn’t enough or maybe the reason is different and we need to seek different solutions. We have one more reference when it comes to fixing things.”

Wire clusters or “black noodles,” clutter, and bars on windows and doors are common but they block the flow of air and light, which creates bad feng shui.

Fortune teller vs. feng shui master

Given the depth of this belief system and its historical context, I was curious about the qualifications of a feng shui master. The answer is, there are none. Trang says, “There are no qualifications for a fortune teller either, it’s about the belief.” The difference is, it requires extensive research, study, and knowledge to achieve master status, to be able to accurately calculate the many nuances of feng shui for a whole family, or anybody really, with their unique energy and life circumstances. A master relies on his reputation, which is why Vietnamese consider feng shui a science while also acknowledging the aspect of belief. 

Pagodas in general are thought to generate good vibes; the five elements are always represented on the alter; Feng shui principles dictate spacial design–each thing sits in relationship to another.

Add fire, improve your feng shui

According to my birth date, December 30, my elemental shortage is fire and I need to get more of it. There are recommendations for that.

“What you should do more to improve your feng shui is travel to Southeast Asia and Australia. Those places are considered hot continents, there is lots of sunshine and hot weather. Summer is better for you than winter. Sunshine will add more fire element to your life. It will be good for you.”

The intangible in all of this is more than wishful thinking or good luck. Haven’t we all had the experience of manifesting or creating something we wanted by standing convicted in our beliefs and acting accordingly? Now I have another reference point. I’m going to go eat something hot and plan my next beach vacation.

Fansipan Mountain, Sapa, Vietnam ©2019, Cyndie Burkhardt.
Traveling in Southeast Asia, feng shui is flowing around me and I feel balanced.

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