Equanimity, peace of mind, good health and longevity are the goals of the ancient Taoists. It is also known as "internal alchemy" and cultivating your centre has been a principal part of the Taoists canon for centuries.
Essentially, Tao is indefinable. It is far less a theoretical philosophy and much more an empirical one, as it has to be experienced. Tao is a combination of psychology, philosophy and a strategy for living and refers to a power or energy which surrounds and flows through everything, both living and non-living. The Tao regulates natural processes and promotes balance in the Universe by embodying the harmony of opposites - there would be no good without bad, no light without dark, no male without female. The Tao is based on a life lived in conformity with the natural way of things - in integrity with the natural path and flow of life.
The way of the Tao is to recognise that change is inevitable and to seek stillness and harmony on the natural pathways to change, maintaining balance as the chi or life force energy brings about whatever changes are necessary. Like Taoism, Feng Shui recognises how everything is inter-related and inter-connected.
Feng Shui could therefore, be accurately described as a philosophy or a metaphysical belief based, in the final analysis, upon people living in balance and harmony.
Although Feng Shui is founded upon Chinese wisdom and can be likened to geomancy, which, in English, literally means divining the future through an examination of the formations of the landscape, it is nevertheless closely allied to everyday practicality. It incorporates elements of (and novel concepts about) geography, aesthetics, ecology, psychology, astrology and topography.
So, embodying the Tao or embracing your stillness and constantly living within this space has increasing value in our full, sometimes manic, lives. In this swirl of activity and the often intense demands on our time, it is easy to lose our balance or centredness. When this happens, we then seek these elements outside of ourselves through various disciplines, whether they be Feng Shui, Qigong or some form of meditation.
The cultivation of stillness needs to be approached from a number of perspectives.
The starting point is to ensure that whatever strategy is employed, it is on a level that is suitable for each person. This is dependant on the maturity and wisdom faculty of the individual. At the most basic level, a suitable environment is very important. And this is where Feng Shui can be extraordinarily helpful.
Geomancers or Feng Shui practitioners often see the earth as a living entity. Chi or energy runs beneath the surface of the earth in lines of force that are similar to the Chinese system of meridians within the body. And just as the Chinese doctor reads the energy of the patient through his or her pulse, and examines the external body for further clues to their particular condition, so, too, the Feng Shui practitioner reads the chi or energy of a given environment and examines its surrounds to determine the Feng Shui and the site's suitability. The Chinese doctor has remedies that can restore the balance of a patient and likewise the professional Feng Shui practitioner can have options on how to balance a site so that its energy is of a higher quality and more beneficial.
Creating balance, harmony and stillness within a home is one of the most sought after aims in Feng Shui.
While Feng Shui is only one part of the solution for achieving stillness and harmony, when properly applied, it provides the framework, the foundation for change to be cultivated. All too often, with the chaos that exists in people's lives, it is far too challenging to even begin addressing the aspect of harmony and so Feng Shui is a very effective approach. Part of the change will include adaptations and remedies in the surrounding landscape and, in particular, within the confines of the physical home, the layout, interior decorations and the way in which the rooms within the home are used.
The second part, the external part, is addressing the self. This includes the way in which you conduct yourself and generally live your life. This is a vital consideration, but knowing what actions to take as we progress through life's ups and downs is the big question. But this next step in cultivating stillness cannot be achieved without being honest and open - with yourself. This practice of honesty and openness (which are often considered to be one and the same and it is worthwhile remembering that they are not) can be done on several levels. Yet when the Feng Shui changes are complete, it is surprising how much easier tackling this aspect of life seems to be. And so, Feng Shui can support the internal efforts required to bring about quality, profound and sustainable change.
Finally, a dedicated approach under an enlightened master would prepare the individual for the final realisation, resulting in the absolute stillness of the mind.
In day to day existence, it is the mind that makes the effort to be or do particular things in order to attain whatever is wanted. This desire and effort is generated by an accumulation of memories and experiences. Then, at some point in one's life, whatever the reason, the "mind" directs its energies towards seeking some form of stillness and harmony - a level of fulfilment that seems to be completely elusive, at least in a sustainable way.
Usually, at this stage of development people throw themselves into some kind of discipline, whether it be yoga, meditation, tai chi or other so called "spiritual practices". These practices are no doubt highly valuable, but, sadly, in seeking stillness and harmony from these disciplines, all too often they become the distraction and we forget that what is being sought is the freedom from the self, from the incessant noise and chatter of the mind - craving, needing, wanting.
Only when we recognise this on a profound level will our mind be persuaded, not enforced by any particular discipline, to be still. It is at this point that the seeking ceases, that there is no fear, anger, remorse, avarice, envy or heartbreak and - "stillness" prevails.
So reflect on stillness, not as something we might manage to fit into our schedule from time to time, but as a way of life, as the foundation from which our lives can flourish. After all, it is this stillness and harmony that gives us a quiet confidence, crystal-like clarity and a security that comes from a sense of constant connection to the beauty of life.
Juliana Abram's courses are endorsed by the International Feng Shui Association