With the beginning of the new year, we feel the need to get rid of the old and make room for the new. As we take down our holiday decorations, we may crave order and simplicity.
Pearl Huang of Ru Yi Studio of Multicultural Arts says that in her family’s Chinese tradition, preparing for the new year consists of some important steps: cleaning your house, paying your bills, fulfilling responsibilities and, most importantly of all, decluttering the mind. She says that reflecting on the passing year is part of this tradition because it allows one to learn from and let go of the past in order to move into the present in a healthy way.
In the Gregorian calendar, 2017 began Jan. 1. The Chinese lunar calendar, the “year of the rooster,” begins Jan. 28. Huang says that the characteristics of the rooster include being vigilant, alert and ready. This is the theme she suggests for the new year: preparedness for the unknown that is to come.
In this approach, we can create our own sense of security and well-being through quiet reflection. We can relish our past memories, which helps calm us and create a more comfortable place from which to look forward to the new year. With a tranquil center and inner strength, we can avoid being buffeted about by external circumstances. Huang suggests that as we bring inner order and tranquility to ourselves, we can begin to reflect that peacefulness in our surroundings. Although we may feel it is our duty to make New Year’s resolutions or take on house cleaning, she says that it doesn’t have to be an obligation. In fact, we can decide how we do it and if we do it at all.
“In our Western world, we have too much sense of guilt. If the house isn’t clean, we think, ‘I can’t feel good about myself,’” she said.
From burden to inspiration
We can feel pressure to buy new furniture or curtains to brighten our space, but simply moving things around in our homes can free up energy and help us feel good about our space again, says Huang. There is no need to spend a lot of money, although if you can afford it and feel inspired, you may wish to introduce a bright pillow or new piece of art or pottery. She likes to periodically move wall hangings and art around in her studio and combine them in ways that please her and refresh the room. She points out that many things in her studio are secondhand, were received as gifts or were made by her.
Although interior designers, feng shui and many other traditions have good ideas to offer us, the ultimate decision maker for how we order our homes is our own inner authority. Huang believes in blending the wisdom of Eastern traditions with Western values to create a balanced approach that is appropriate for life in Taos.
In China, the art of feng shui is used to help locate a home or an important site such as an ancestral tomb. In the more Western version, it can be used to help arrange a room to bring more harmony to surroundings.
Localize to gratify
One important element for our comfort is a view to the outside world. If your home happens to have a beautiful perspective of Taos Mountain or El Salto, Huang suggests making the most of those views with unobstructed windows. However, if you look out at something less beautiful, you can screen it with a green plant inside your house or a colorful textile or piece of rice paper.
Huang says if your window looks onto something unsightly on your neighbor’s property, it is important that you not harbor a grudge against your neighbor. Should he move whatever you don’t like, you might still hold the bad feelings in your heart. “Be aware of your own internal space. For me, the feng shui of internal being, spiritual being and physical wellness is very important. Stay healthy, be clean and make your room nice for you. You don’t have to go to great expense. In the end, it is about what we can bring forth from within us,” Huang said.
Follow the land
In locating a home or establishing a garden, Huang advises following the land. If you have rocks, use rocks in your garden. If your house is surrounded by sage, let it grow. When possible, it is best to face a house toward the south with the back to the north. In feng shui, south is considered warm with a focus on open vistas. Balance is important. In our dry climate, it is nice to have water — a pond or water fountain inside or out. In our land of big sky, a feeling of shelter is crucial to create a sense of safety.
While these concepts are more commonly understood in the East, Huang says, “We all have an intrinsic human survival knowledge within us that helps us shape our space.”
When Huang first came to Northern New Mexico from California, she was surprised to see the adobe houses with their thick walls and small windows. She came to understand that the buildings evolved with small openings to help keep the warmness in during the cold winters and the heat out during the hottest part of summer. Working with the materials you have, like rocks and mud, helps to create a home that fits into its environment. If you are building a house, Huang suggests, “Take time to walk the land; to stay on the land. Watch the sunrise and sunset and feel the rain. Observe for a season or two. Don’t rush into building or decorating.”
Huang first came to Taos to attend a summer workshop given by her brother. Taiji, also spelled tai chi, and other movement practices were offered in a tent at Quail Ridge facing Taos Mountain; a spot not far from where her studio is today. Looking at the blue sky, the white clouds and Taos Mountain, Huang felt the magical draw that brought her back to live here. Her brother had first been attracted to the area by the name “Taos” because it was so similar to the Chinese word “dao” or “tao,” which means “the way” or “path.”
Huang says Taos as a place has a good feeling. It has open vistas and is anchored by the land that supports an almost unaltered ancient civilization. “The earth energy of Taos is a healing one for me. I feel very healthy here,” she says.
Huang suggests that as we build our own inner tranquility and arrange our space so that it feels safe, comfortable and convenient for us, we become more secure. Then we are more able to help those around us and contribute to a better world. “When you are happy, how nicely you can take the next step. There is more than just being happy in your own environment. Good results will follow. You will surprise yourself,” she says.
An always modest Huang adds, “It is not that I know more or can tell anyone how to treat the new year. My wish is to share good will and bright hope with my fellow citizens of Taos.”
At Ru Yi Studio, Huang offers private coaching and teaches individual students taiji/qi gong, Chinese language and brush calligraphy. More information is at ruyistudio.com.