Are you feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Your surroundings, particularly your home, may have something to do with it.
Feng shui consultant Sheryl Bhame talks about how this traditional Chinese art of harmonious design can eliminate clutter and help you live in a more balanced, healthy space.
Bhame is a Taos-based photographer whose work was recently exhibited at Peoples Bank. Her book, "Magic in the Skies Over Northern New Mexico: A Photographic Journey," was published last April. She is also part of the theater collective Taos Onstage and has acted in several plays since 2014.
The first thing she mentions is that designing according to feng shui principles doesn't mean that one should necessarily use Asian-inspired decorative items.
"It just means creating an inviting space by using a few feng shui principles," she said. "The goal is to feel relaxed in your space, and obsessing about whether you are arranging everything just right defeats that goal."
There are some basics, though. Bhame mentions three areas that should always be free of clutter: the front door, the bathroom and the kitchen.
"Since a house absorbs the energy it needs through the entrance, do not hang a mirror facing the door," she said. "It will reflect out that energy."
Rearranging furniture is a good way to revitalize the home. It's also a way of reclaiming space for the better.
"In many cases, placing a sofa in the middle of a room helps to create an intimate area," Bhame said. "If the back of the sofa faces the front door, putting a sofa table behind it will make the space feel more secure."
In an office setting, the back of the desk chair shouldn't face the door.
"Instead, when you are sitting at the desk, you should be facing the door," Bhame said. "A good arrangement is placing one or more bookshelves against the wall, with the desk and chairs in front of them, either in the middle of the room or with the end of the desk anchored against a wall."
If, for whatever reason, you are facing a wall for extended periods of time - for example, when working in the kitchen - having a mirror or something reflective on the wall is also advisable.
"The principle here is that you are not surprised by someone coming up behind you," she said. "In my kitchen, I have a mirror backsplash that runs above the kitchen counters, which satisfies that principle besides being an attractive feature. My husband even added mirrored switch plates to match it!"
Still on the subject of mirrors, Bhame recommends not to use too many in one area because that may lead to unstable, chaotic energy.
From the kitchen, we move into the bedroom. Here, she had something to say about mirrors, too.
"Don't have one facing the bed," she said. "It bounces energy and may disrupt sleep. And don't store anything under your bed. That will bring a sense of congestion, not allowing energy to flow through, and this is not conducive to a restful night's sleep either."
Limiting the amount of plugged-in electronics in the bedroom is a good idea - not just because it may lower your electric bill, but because they interfere with a clean, energy-flowing space.
"By following these principles, you will remove unwanted energy," she said. "Most importantly, you open the way to new, positive things to come into your life. It's that simple."
Bhame also refers to the "five elements theory," which associates different aspects of nature with certain colors and shapes and studies the connections among them.
"The five elements are fire, water, wood, earth and metal," she said. "Square shapes represent the earth; rectangular shapes, wood; triangular shapes, fire; wavy shapes, water; and round or oval shapes, metal. Including all shapes in the living room will make it feel balanced. However, you should decorate it with meaningful, personal items that bring you joy."
But does using feng shui principles mean you must redecorate your entire house and start buying new stuff?
Not at all.
"Sheryl totally redecorated my living room and dining room areas with all my existing furniture and accessories, and she managed to create a more open and comfortable space," said Lynn Lobato, who used Bhame's advice to change her home's look. "She used the work of various Taos artists - like Ed Sandoval, Father Bill [Father William Hart McNichols] and Dan Vigil - that I had collected over the years on one wall, making it a focal point for those who come into the house."
Another key component of the five elements theory is the interaction among them. Since light activates good energy, Bhame recommends that all areas of the living room are well lit with ambient lighting, which is inclusive, as opposed to spot lights, which are exclusive.
"To keep the energy vibrant, use fresh flowers, a few candles and occasionally open the windows," she said. "In the old days, that was called 'airing out the room.' Play music, too, because it activates good energy."
Most people want advice in the money area of the home, or part of the home associated with financial prosperity, located in the southeast part.
"It's advised that you use the wood element there," she said. "Since wood is strengthened by water, which nourishes it, and by the earth, that gives it a good foundation, use lush green plants, an indoor fountain and items in the corresponding shapes and colors of these elements: green, brown, blue and black. Avoid the aspects of fire and metal, which destroy wood, and the colors associated with them, which are red and white."
Bhame has one final word of advice.
"Keep the toilet lid closed," she said, "so that your money doesn't go down the drain!"