Feng Shui written in Chinese

A few months ago I read an article called Norwegian Feng Shui in which the author tied together her Norwegian roots and her interest in feng shui. I thought it was a pretty cool article. I’m not totally up on feng shui with its bagua and five elements (earth, fire, water, wood, metal) instead of Celtic four (earth, fire, wind, water), but I do know that a lot of it is about removing clutter.

Now, I’m not ascetic, and I’m never going to be one of those people whose home looks zen in its simplicity or austere in its denial of comforts. One of the things that attracted me to Paganism in the first place is its messy, zany, deeply unabashed joy in being alive and attaching ourselves to earthly things. We are encouraged to live it up while we’re here, to revel in being human. We believe in being responsible, but we see no sin in occasionally getting schnockered at a party, luxuriating in a decadent meal, falling in love with beautiful things, or having crazy, no-holds-barred sex. Like many other religions, we view our bodies are temples, but in Pagan temples it’s often okay pass peace pipes and host naked fire dancing. I think this is one of the things people see about us and misunderstand, assuming by our actions that we are hedonistic instead of earnestly spiritual and religious – but that’s not the case. We believe life is a present, and like children, we should enjoy all the gods have seen fit to create in this beautiful world. The gods want us to enjoy life without reservations, and you can’t do that without collecting a little junk and getting a little dirty.*

But the zen gurus of clutter clearing do have a good point when they say holding onto things that have lost their usefulness can keep us magically or psychologically stuck. There is a peace in letting go of the past by clearing our homes of physical clutter, and I recently found it very liberating.

A few years ago I was getting sick all the time, like vomiting after meals or cramping so badly and so suddenly in the middle of class that I bent in half and had to call a substitute teacher to take over for me (sorry if that’s TMI). Doctors told me that stress raises my cortisol levels and interferes with my digestive track, and they handed me a prescription for days on which stress is unavoidable. *squinchy face* Their advice of “Don’t get stressed out” is, IMO, one step away from useless, and I try to limit my drug use to caffeine and alcohol, so as far as I was concerned, the modern Western medical approach was a big fail. I started trying other things (a LOT of other things), and amidst much playing with my diet (and a trip to the acupuncturist), my husband and I realized giving up wheat went a long way towards fixing the problem.**

As any of you who’ve tried giving up wheat knows, it isn’t easy. In addition to the proliferation of wheat around us, I love baking. I baked different types and shapes of breads for most holidays (I had a sun-shaped caraway loaf that was my favorite for Yule) and was learning how to make different cakes, from genoise to panettone to sticky toffee pudding. I loved the feel of kneading dough, and I loved to watch as the chemistry of baking turns white powder and gel-like eggs into a moist and sponge-y treat. Saying good-bye to that pleasure of creating was harder than saying good-bye to eating it. I know there are recipes for gluten-free baking that some people have a lot of success with, and I’ve tried some of it… but to me it’s just not been the same. And if it’s not the same, I want a clean break. TheScott and I have taken to eating a modified Paleo style diet (modifications being we eat cheese because life without cheese is lacking, and we drink alcohol because… really? No alcohol? It’s all back to that “enjoy life” thing I was talking about earlier) and even in the modified state, we both feel we’ve seen a lot of benefits.

And yet up until a month ago, I still had all my baking supplies in my kitchen. They’d sat there for over a year, mocking me with their dust-covered pretty shapes. Just before Yule, I was reading a Feng Shui treatise about getting rid of physical items from our past as a way of moving forward into who we want to become. It talked about letting go as a way of making room for growth. I don’t fully understand the “flow of chi” the woman was talking about, but something in it still connected with me.

I can’t be a baker anymore. Even if I could magically go back to eating wheat, I don’t have the time. I have children to adopt and a book to write and a blog of The Realm to keep – and those things are all so much more important to who I am now than my old hobby of baking. So a few weeks ago I finally went through my cabinets and weeded out the bakeware until it looked like Williams and Sonoma had exploded on my kitchen floor. I let my friends pick through it. Then I, er, let it sit on the kitchen floor making a public nuisance until it was more annoying to leave it there than painful to let it go. This morning (the morning I wrote this, anyway), I finally took it all to Goodwill.

I feel really good. Better chi flow, I guess. And as a bonus, I now have cabinet room for the more recent purchases of a salad spinner and meat slicer, things we use regularly which have been cluttering up the counters.

What about you, Realm? Anybody have any feng shui stories or tips for me?

* This doesn’t mean everything is okay, more that we consider withholding joyful things for the sake of withholding them to be as much a waste of a life as someone who drinks him or herself into an early grave. There’s a balance between over-protectiveness and self-destructiveness that everyone needs to find.

** Contrary to the “gluten-free” idea sweeping the nation (and a good thing it is; celiac disease is a terrible problem!), my understanding is that people with my condition are usually affected by the fructans (a carbohydrate) in wheat not the gluten (a protein). Luckily, a gluten-free product is usually also a fructan-free product, so I can use that labeling anyway.

+ Featured Image: Luo Pan Compass by Traumrune