I recently spent the weekend with friends in Wales. They live in a beautiful farmhouse in the Brecon Beacons, the house perched on the side of a hill is set in 2 acres of gardens with a further 6 acres of woodland beyond. The interior of the house is in the process of being completely renovated and whilst the renovations have been going on,the gardens have been left largely untouched save for the addition of a large pond which has been stocked with rainbow trout. When I asked what further plans they had for the garden they explained that the intention was to leave it as a wild garden keeping it as natural as possible to attract and be a haven for wildlife and this desire is certainly starting to be fulfilled as this overgrown, rambling garden looks and feels no different from the beautiful welsh countryside that surrounds it.
What struck me as I sat on a wooden bench on Sunday morning taking in the views both towards the house and beyond, was not only how the garden fitted in with the surrounding countryside but how in tune the house was with the environment. With flowers and weeds growing next to each other, plants tumbling over stone walls and climbing up the sides of the house, trees soaring towards the sky providing shade and birds flying around the chimneys and through the open windows the house, a mixture of natural stone and white walls felt as though it had been there forever.
When I teach people the practical application of Feng Shui I always stress the importance of creating a balanced environment where everything works together in perfect harmony. If you have created a balanced and harmonious environment you are half way to creating one that is filled with positive Feng Shui. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot more to creating positive Feng Shui than creating balance but this should always be your starting point. And creating a balanced environment is easy if you understand the principles of yin and yang.
Yin and yang are the opposite forces that make up the universe. My page on yin and yang which can be accessed from the menu bar on the left explains yin and yang in detail, but in a nutshell yin is dark, quiet, restful, still, curved and natural whilst yang is bright, light, loud, active, angular and manmade. When looking at the environment in the context of your home and garden, houses being manmade structures represent yang energy. It is therefore important that gardens are kept relatively yin to bring about that sense of harmony and oneness.
So what is a yin garden and how do you go about creating balance between home and garden? Well my friend’s garden in Wales is a perfect example of a garden that is yin. A yin garden is one that is kept as natural as possible, a garden which works with the environment as opposed to one which seeks to create an environment. Flowers, bushes and trees should always be kept as natural as possible and allowed to flourish without being aggressively pruned, colours should be kept predominantly muted with brightness kept to a minimum and any pathways or terraces should be kept curved and flowing. Any structures, such as raised beds, sheds or pagodas should ideally be made out of natural materials and covered with plants that are encouraged to grow over and around them. To help your home blend with the garden the sharp corners of the house should be disguised and covered with trailing plants or bushes so that the whole sense you get when you look at your home and garden is one where they look as though they belong together. The lines between where the house ends and the garden begins should be blurred and indistinct.
Sadly a lot of gardens that you see in the UK nowadays don’t seem to adhere to these principles, meaning that any Feng Shui cures or enhancements that people make have to work twice as hard to have the desired effects. In an attempt to create more time for ourselves we strive to create attractive gardens that are low maintenance but quite often these gardens look unnatural and out of place and take a huge amount of our personal energy to keep them looking good. The sad irony is that my friends two acres of natural wild garden is actually the lowest maintenance garden you can possibly have.
I couldn’t help but contemplate this fact as I stared out of the train window on Sunday afternoon. Many of the gardens I looked at through the window were landscaped and included ponds, patios and pathways, there was an abundance of pots and garden ornaments and the predominant fashion was for lots of shingle and concrete and large decked areas. In a lot of cases it was obvious that a lot of care, attention and money had been lavished on these outside spaces. But what they lacked was greenery and balance. The gardens looked like an extension of the house, attractive, modern, well cared for but ultimately artificial. With neat, sharp lines and heavy use of manmade materials such as concrete and brick the gardens like the house were full of yang energy.
An environment that is predominantly yang will cause energy to move too fast in a jerky, disjointed motion. If your environment is too yang you may find yourself living life from one crisis to another, constantly living on the back foot and trying to find an extra hour in each day. If this describes your life, rather than immediately reaching for a Feng Shui enhancement or cure first of all assess your environment to check that your home and outside space adequately reflect the principles of yin and yang. And if your garden is full of neat lines and an abundance of concrete let nature start to take over. Creating the perfect, or almost perfect balance between yin and yang is the first step in your journey to filling your environment with positive Feng Shui.