For some people, spring cleaning doesn’t stop once the clutter is gone and the dust bunnies have been sucked up into the vacuum cleaner.
Scrubbing and decluttering are just the start for those who practice feng shui, the Asian art of creating a healthy flow of energy, or “chi,” in the spaces in which one lives and works. They might take spring cleaning a bit further by having a “space clearing” or “dousing” to rid their homes or offices of stagnant energy.
To skeptics, it’s New Age malarkey, but those who practice it wouldn’t think of skipping it. Clients of Queensbury feng shui consultant Brenda Jenks call her for various reasons.
There might be a house that has been on the market for a long time and a real estate broker calls for her services. Or a family moves into a new home but they just can’t get comfortable there.
“The kids start to have nightmares or animals start to feel wacky,” Jenks said. “Objects are moved around, or they hear noises they can’t explain.”
Feng shui maven Karen Kingston of England coined the term “space clearing” in 1989 to describe a ceremony she developed for “energy clearing” a room or home.
Kingston explains that every person creates a certain amount of “energetic gunge” every day, and the residue of these energies builds up in a space.
“If something bad happened in a house, there is definitely an energy signature left behind,” said Jenks, the Queensbury consultant.
If a homeowner is experiencing chronic depression, Jenks said, she feels sadness when she walks into a house.
“The feelings and thoughts of people are very, very strong, and they do leave an energy field behind,” she said.
Anyone can feel the energy in a space, Jenks said. For the lay person, she points out examples of feeling sadness at places where there has been a lot of death, such as a battlefield.
The most common symptom that a space needs clearing, Kingston tells readers of her blog, is a feeling of being “stuck” in one’s life in any area — relationship, prosperity, career, health, etc.
You might ask what your love life has to do with your house or place of business. While space clearing is done in a physical space, its impact goes far beyond that space, say those who practice it.
Lynn Villa, an Asheville, N.C.-based feng shui practitioner, explains that what a person does in one space, say an office or studio, has impact on the other spaces he occupies.
“Everything’s connected — one is impacting another,” she said. “It can be done for anything — selling a house, finding a mate, helping a lady get pregnant. The whole idea is to remove any stagnant energy — if there was anything there that was negative or unwanted energies.”
Space clearing is a highly specialized form of feng shui and works in tandem with other, more well-known feng shui practices, like the positioning of furniture and arrangement of accessories.
When Jenks, the local feng shui consultant, does a space clearing, she goes into the home or office and tries to assess the space from an energetic standpoint.
“I notice spaces in the house which do not feel right,” she said. “It’s a sensation like you’re moving through cobwebs.”
Some of the symptoms Jenks receives inquiries about include joint and muscle aches, sleeplessness, nightmare, fatigue, nausea, headaches, irritability, rashes, allergies and depression, Jenks said.
For example, a few months ago, she went into the home of a client who had been experiencing chronic fatigue and depression. What she discovered is there is an underground stream flowing right underneath the structure. “Geopathically, that will drain your energy,” Jenks said.
Jenks says she called upon her “guides and helpers” — angels and sometimes other beings, she says — in order to place an energetic grid between the house and the river to pool the house’s energy into the house.
“My guides will bring in the appropriate energy, and they set it up energetically, and they let me know when it’s set up,” she said.
When called for a job, Jenks brings the tricks of her trade, which include decorative cloths to set up an altar, incense, leaves, salt, homegrown sweet grass, Balinese bells, and saucers that hold the four elements — earth, water, air and fire. The space-clearing ceremony includes sensing the energy of the home, meditation, walking around the house clockwise ringing the bell, putting salt over the major thresholds, and clapping around the perimeter of both the exterior and the interior of the home to “knock out” any energy that is stuck there.
Help moving on
Troy resident Susan Gordon hired Jenks to perform a clearing a few years ago when she decided to sell her home in Greenwich, Washington County.
Gordon’s house had been her parents’ before she took ownership. Unfortunately, it was “filled with a lot of bad energy,” she said. Her mother became ill while living there, and her father had been lonely after she left for an assisted-living facility.
Jenks did a clearing and made a big difference, Gordon said.
“I decided to keep the house,” she said. “I fell in love with that house again after I did what she told me to do and she cleared it.”
Last year, Gordon decided again to try to sell the home — simply because she was ready to move on, not because there was any “bad energy.”
The house didn’t sell right away, however, due to various factors, Gordon said. This past winter, she decided to make a concerted effort to sell the place once and for all. In her eyes, the only thing standing in the way was the relatively soft housing market.
Again, she called Jenks. She figured it couldn’t hurt. After another clearing, Jenks told Gordon not to worry.
“She said your house will sell by spring, don’t even think about what the market is,” Gordon said.
Sure enough, shortly after the arrival of spring, the house sold. Gordon credits Jenks’ clearing with expediting the process.
“It put it into a space where it was ready to move,” she said.
Gordon called on Jenks yet again when she was considering whether to move into her current home, an apartment in Troy. Jenks visited the place and did her thing.
“She said it was definitely a good space to live in and to go for it,” Gordon said.
Keep it clear
Clutter in any space is bad for the energy flow, which is one of the reasons why Kingston devoted an entire book to the topic.
Jenks, who has been a feng shui consultant for 10 years, said that clutter definitely clogs the flow of energy, as do blocked doorways, low ceilings, dark spaces, and plain, white walls.
Villa, who has trained with feng shui teachers in Monterey, Australia and Bali, uses a 21-step process in her space-clearing work. She first educates her clients about what she is going to do an involves them in the process by asking them to write their “great story.”
For example, in the case of a couple trying to sell their home, she had them write a letter to their house about releasing their home to a new owner, describing what the family would be like, and including the price they wanted to get for their home and the length of time before the closing.
Jenks does five to six space clearings a month. Her fees are $50 an hour, plus transportation. How much time she spends depends on the house itself and a client’s budget.
“I like to have an hour for every 1,000 square feet to do a really good job so I can do everything I need to do so that the person is going to feel safe,” she said.