Sunday, December 30, 2018

28. Fire and Water. A Battle in Your Home

Home is the place where we spend the most time in our busy lives. It's the place where finally, at the end of a long day, we can relax and recharge after spending time outside. While resting or sleeping, it is also the time for our bodies to rebuild energy. That's why the Feng Shui of our homes is so important.

In my blog we've talked about the relationship spot, wealth spot and best health spot.  But, sometimes the interior floor plan of our homes can affect us a lot, even our health. Here is what I have heard and learned about making the layout of our homes the most supportive of our good health.

In Feng Shui theory there are two major spots in a home that can create good energies that are important for health. These depend on the existing interior layout and where the kitchen and bathroom(s) are in your home. The kitchen -- obviously this is where you cook and where the stovetop is located. The bathroom(s) -- this is where the majority of running water is used.

So, think about it.  In Feng Shui there are five elements and in the case of the kitchen and bathroom we are talking about FIRE and WATER -- two extreme opposite elements. Since the kitchen is used for cooking the food we eat, it is related to the digestive system and liver. The bathroom is about the bladder and kidneys.

A design trend these days is a layout where the kitchen opens to the dining area and sometimes a great room beyond. Or in a studio apartment the kitchen is often in the same room where we live and sleep. The aspect of this that we need to be careful about is where is the door to the powder room or bathroom. If a bathroom door is directly facing the kitchen and stove area, that will create what we call a "battle between fire and water." If you're sitting on toilet on the toilet and the kitchen stove is visible, how could this possibly affect ones health? 

This layout could lead to a digestion issue and you might end up with diarrhea, food poisoning or even liver and kidney problems. The suggestion is to always keep the bathroom door closed and maybe hang up a Japanese style half curtain if there is an archway or door to the kitchen. You can also place a glass of water next to the stovetop to help cut down damage from the battle between water and fire. These ideas will help to kick out bad energies.

The other situation to be concerned about with the layout in a home is how the kitchen and bathroom line up with your bedroom, which is where you rebuild energy when you sleep. When sleeping in bed you are opening up your mind and spirit in a kind of meditation-like activity. Energies inside or outside the bedroom can easily enter or leave through an open door. With no protection, a bedroom might not be a healthy room in your home.

No matter if you live in a house with many bedrooms, a one bedroom apartment or a studio, if you lie down and can see into a bathroom or the kitchen through the bedroom door, it is not good Feng Shui -- especially if you can directly see the toilet or stovetop. This might cause many health problems, including bladder, kidney, digestion, stomach or liver trouble. Yikes!

What to do? Move your bed, keep the bathroom door closed at all times, put up a screen or place a medium height plant to block the line of vision. That way bad energies from the toilet or stovetop will be avoided.

Want to hear more? I know you do.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

27. May You Have A Long and Healthy Life

Is it only a myth that the Japanese have long held the secret to longevity in thousands of years old tales? In the past three decades, the average age of Japanese seniors has been at the top of the list worldwide. Consistently, surprising numbers of Japanese live to be well over 100 years old.

From ancient times to today, people are looking for a way to live longer, if not eternally. They take rare herbs such as Ganoderma or aged Ginseng. The belief is that these healthful plants can create an energy store in the body that will help to keep us forever young. This theory is the same as Qi Gong meditation, a gentle movement practice that keeps vital energy circulating through the body and brings about healing and well-being.

One of the greatest comic books creators is Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), the man behind the very popular "Astro Boy" and "Kimba" comics.  Both iconic comics characters went on to inspire Hollywood and Broadway with Stephen Spielberg's film, "AI," and the long-running stage musical and animated motion picture, "The Lion King."

Tezuka took 22 years to fully tell his most famous story, "Phoenix," which ran from 1967 to 1989 and featured a total of 12 chapters. Each chapter is an individual story that runs through different eras from ancient history to present day and into the future. Each centers around one enduring topic -- how humans are forever seeking eternal life.

This quest seems never to have changed throughout the course of humanity. But the question remains, why do we want to live longer? I think it's because we don't want to give up everything we've built over a lifetime; and, the opportunity to take pleasure in what we've experienced.

Feng Shui cannot provide us with a longevity recipe, it can only suggest how to better follow a life plan which has already been set by nature. There are energies around that can help us better connect with the universe. And, certain energy spots promote good health -- assisting us to live better and stay in touch with the power of the positive.

Here are some healthful tips from renowned Hong Kong-based Feng Shui Master So:

Rat - a music box in Southwest corner

Ox - a red object in the South

Tiger - a glass of water in the North

Hare - a glass of water in the North

Dragon - a red object in the South

Snake - a plant in the East

Horse - a plant in the East

Ram - a red object on the South

Monkey - a few pebbles in Southwest corner

Rooster - a few pebbles in Northeast corner

Dog - a red object in the South

Boar - a music box in the West

These will not help you to necessarily live longer, but could lessen the intensity of illness if and when it strikes. Of course, your family doctor is always the best source of knowledge about your health. And it is important to always get a yearly check-up.

Eternal life may only be a fantasy, but living with positive energy and good health is a reality.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

26. To Live Another Day

Emperor Shihuang, who ruled during the Qin Dynasty (221BC-201BC), is thought to be the leader who unified China through common language, currency and measurements.  During his era of innovation, paper was invented along with the Chinese writing pen, which is actually a brush.

Also, terrible atrocities happened during his reign: a build up of the military, book burnings and live burials of scholars who refused to share their expertise.  Shihuang is also notable for forcing indentured laborers to build China's most famous landmark, The Great Wall.

Emperor Shihuang always surrounded himself with a lot of protection. Under his brutal rule, many people suffered greatly. As a result there were many assassination attempts on his life -- none successful.

He was proud of the improvements he accomplished for the country and felt he could do even more by extending his life. The Emperor asked his alchemist Xu Fu to find a way in which he could  increase his lifespan. Xu Fu spent months and months gathering secret  prescriptions from all over, but nothing really worked. The emperor used to results was highly impatient and started  threatening Xu Fu -- if he didn't come up with any solid answers he would most likely be executed.

One day Xu Fu came to see the emperor and show him a hand drawn map of an island located in the middle of the sea. He explained that in this faraway place people were rumored to live long lives. Maybe they would share the secret if the emperor financed a sea-going expedition to find this utopia. The emperor agreed immediately, had a big boat built just for the voyage and let Xu Fu hand pick 70 young man and woman to go with him.

A few years went by as Emperor Shihuang waited for his longevity recipe from across the sea. But Xu Fu had vanished, never to return. Soon after the emperor died of old age. In his tomb he placed hundreds of terracotta warriors to protect him in the other world.  You may recall when the buried warriors were discovered a few decades ago much to the delight of archaeologists, historians and adventurers around the world.

Did Xu Fu create the myth of an island utopia as an excuse to escape certain death at the hands of the emperor?

In modern day Wakayama, Japan, there's a park which houses Xu Fu Temple. It is a memorial to the Qin Dynasty alchemist's achievements from over 2,000 years ago. This confirms that Xu Fu is not a fictional character from mythology. After he arrived in Japan, the island utopia, it is thought that he and his fellows stayed and naturalized into the society.

The mystery that remains is whether Emperor Shihuang sent Xu Fu to explore the sea outside China for building friendship and trading opportunity. Or, was the voyage actually a secret mission to discover the secret recipe for long life?

May you live a long life.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

25. Fly Me to The Moon, Where I Might Live Forever

A long, long time ago, there was not only one sun and a moon in the sky. There was a total of nine suns at one time. People believed they were the children of God and were all living together in heaven. They were considered to be rather naughty because all they did was hang out in the sky together all day long. And the hot and steamy weather they created was just unbearable. The heat evaporated the rivers, dried up lands, scorched acres of planted fields; and fish and animals were dying.

Hou Yi, a skilled archer, wanted to save his people from suffering under this terrible condition. He called upon his special ability and shot his arrows into the suns. One after another he hit his targets until the last remaining sun ran off in fright and hid away at the edge of the sea.

People were thrilled when the whole world went back to where it was before. They all saw Hou as a hero and showered him with gifts, purses of money and then a big house. He found himself with a dedicated group of followers in the hundreds. Hou felt like a king and people asked his advice on many things.

As the days went by, Hou began to actually see himself as a king, but he did not spend his time ruling or taking care of his people. All he did was eat and drink, and take whatever he needed with no concern where it came from. He became extremely cold and arrogant, and made people afraid of him. He even experimented with a secret medicine that he hoped would give him eternal life.

Hou's wife Cháng é was feeling sad about the change in her husband's personality. She decided to check out what kind of medicine he was making because if Hou lived longer the people would suffer longer.

One evening, under a full moon, she quietly entered his secret room and there she found a cauldron with a fire burning underneath. She opened the lid and  through heavy steam found three little pills that were bright red. She thought this must be Hou's special medicine and she scooped them out. Just at that moment when she had the pills in her hand and was thinking about what she would do, there came the sound of footsteps.

Hou walked into the room. Startled, he demanded to know what she was doing. She panicked, popped the three pills into her mouth to hide them and slammed the lid of the cauldron shut. Hou quickly ran over to the cauldron and pulled back the lid -- no pills inside. He grabbed Cháng é's shoulders and accused her of stealing his secret medicine.  

She was terrified and when she tried to speak up in her defense the three pills slid down her throat. Hou realized what was happening and he tried to force her spit out the pills. But as he started to shake her, Cháng é's body began to float up until it reached the ceiling, then out through the open window and headed towards the top of a tree. There was no way that Hou could catch her.

Becoming lighter and lighter she rose higher into the sky. Left with no other choice, Hou grabbed his bow and arrow. His first shot missed Cháng é entirely. On the second try he came to his senses and recognized that he was shooting at the woman he loved. Heart broken, he just stood in the dark and watched her float away towards the moon and then disappear entirely.

Ever since then, people always claim to see the shadow of Cháng é on the surface of a bright and clear full moon. Now, after we've landed on this cold, hard rock, we all know these are just the shadows cast by the rugged landscape on the moon. But still to this day, bakery shops print the image of Cháng é flying towards the moon on moon cake boxes.

This fairy tale about the beautiful moon is special because it also includes a secret longevity medicine. From ancient times until now, eternal life has always captivated us.

Are there any other stories about the moon that exist in Chinese mythology? Why yes, of course. Other shadows on the moon represent a palace, a big rabbit, a toad, and even a man who keeps cutting down a tree with an axe, although he never succeeds.

But next, let's look at longevity and the Chinese wish for "long life."

Sunday, December 2, 2018

24. Moon Cakes, Holiday Lanterns and The Mid-Autumn Festival

One of the most popular celebrations in Chinese tradition is theThe Mid-Autumn Festival. It's held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Han calendar—essentially it is the night of a full moon. The night generally falls near the Autumnal Equinox (on a day between September 8 and October 7 in the western calendar).

This celebration is also known popularly as The Mooncake Festival. It is observed around the world and is one of the biggest gatherings of family and friends after the Chinese New Year.

This time of year the moon is round, big and bright. Many Chinese travel great distances to be at home with family. During the day they typically gather for a big dinner -- much like Thanksgiving in the United States. Then around midnight everyone sits outside, or next to a window, to observe the full moon and its silvery moon beams. Colorful lanterns in all kinds of animal and toy-like shapes are strung up; and special moon cakes are baked just for that night. 

Some say moon cakes and these festive lanterns were not invented until the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) when the Chinese were planning a revolution against the Mongolians -- invaders who ruled China at the time. The celebration of the moon was an excuse to send secret messages -- paper notes stuffed inside the moon cakes alerting their neighbors to the brewing revolution. Hanging a lantern in front of one's home was a sneaky tactic identifying that Chinese lived inside and not to attack.

The celebration of the moon became a tradition and one that honors ancestors who refused to be occupied by a foreign force. But that's just one Chinese story about the moon. There are many myths and stories about the moon other than just this one from the Yang Dynasty.

Chinese believe that the moon is ying to the sun's yang. Ideally, these two energies show up in a balanced way and can be applied to almost everything in the universe: people, relationships, jobs, nature, design and on and on. Ying represents the shadow -- or hidden -- side of things and is considered female and its energy comes with a negative charge. Yang represents the the face or presented side of things, is male and has a positive charge.

People think the moon has an unexplainable energy and power that controls nature and living things. Science tells us how the moon's gravity field affects  ocean tides especially when it is full. And, as we all know, there are many superstitions about the full moon -- especially its influence on people acting abnormally or having difficulty sleeping (that's me). 

Would you like to hear one of the most famous and enduring moon legends in Chinese mythology?