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Going with the flow

How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Rested, positive and ready to face the day? Or tired, anxious, maybe even physically ill? Although the quality of your mattress is an important factor, there could also be other influences at play. Among them is the ancient Chinese system of feng shui. This month, we explore what it has to say about optimising your bedroom's potential.

Feng shui – which translates literally as wind/water – is a traditional system geared towards living in harmony with the environment. Closely linked to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, it employs such concepts as energy (Qi) and the intertwined polarities of yin and yang to determine the most favourable orientations and arrangements for living spaces. Although it was historically associated with such spiritually significant structures as temples and tombs, it is increasingly being applied to homes too. And as we shall see, it has some interesting implications for the way you furnish your bedroom.


Put simply, feng shui is the practice of arranging your environment so that energy flows through it as gently and smoothly as possible. When that happens, the space feels good and supports what you want out of life. Your bed and bedroom are crucial considerations in all this, because they are where you rest and recuperate for the next day. But they are also where you are the most vulnerable. When you sleep, you are defenceless: if there are negative influences around you, you will be more prone to them when you sleep. But if you are comfortable and supported, you will rest fully to be more effective and productive in your waking hours.


When positioning your bed, the most important thing to bear in mind is what feng shui refers to as the “command position”. Just like the saloon scene in a cowboy film, this means that you want your bed placed on a wall opposite the door, giving you the widest possible view of the room. But you don’t want it directly opposite the door: the Chinese refer to this arrangement as the “coffin position”, believing that the direct flow of energy through the doorway during the night can cause health and other problems. Ideally, the bed should be positioned diagonally opposite the door opening.


If that seems a bit far-fetched, remember that there are compelling biological reasons that some positions can make you feel better. From a scientific perspective, some areas of the brain are more primitive than others. These are the zones connected with the fight-or-flight reaction, also known as the acute stress response. On a subconscious level, not being able to see what may be coming your way triggers a physiological reaction that translates into a feeling of danger and anxiety. Conversely, placing your bed in the command position removes this subconscious stress, enabling you to relax more deeply and – metaphorically – see everything that life brings you.


Feng shui’s take on the bedroom doesn’t stop at where you put your bed. Over-large spaces, slanting ceilings and clutter are among the things which it recommends avoiding. But if you want to experiment with this age-old philosophical system, try changing your bed’s position and see how it makes you feel. You never know. It could be the first step on the road to enlightenment.