'Your home reflects your life': reporter seeks calm, creativity through feng shui

Last modified: 2/29/2016 5:29:32 PM
It was time to harmonize with my environment.

I’m by no means a messy person, but as I had moved from apartment to apartment over the past four years, I knew something wasn’t right. Something was missing.

I wanted to feel more at home, more at peace.

I turned to feng shui.

We’ve all heard the words. We all have our preconceived notions about what it is and whether it’s “for real.”

Some dismiss it as just another whacky fad, while others are curious, like me, but have never really taken the time to learn about it.

Feng shui is the ancient art of arrangement. It is a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with their surrounding environment. It literally means “wind-water” in English.

Feng shui is supposed to create a powerful connection between a person’s inner and outer worlds, and when practiced correctly, invites calm, clarity, connection, creativity, balance, abundance and all sorts of good into one’s life.

Enter Jen Heilman, a feng shui transformational coach from Shelburne Falls, who believes that when someone uses feng shui to balance their life, money will flow, love will grow and life will get easier.

Heilman, 44, teaches feng shui online from her home in Shelburne Falls. She majored in interior design in college and feng shui was taught as part of that study, so she soon became intrigued.

“I was so busy with school work at the time, though, I didn’t really have time to pursue it,” said Heilman.

“After I graduated, I moved back to Franklin County and began doing interior design, but something was lacking in my work,” she said. “I wanted to do something more meaningful.”

She read Jayme Barrett’s book, “Feng Shui Your Life,” and was hooked.

“Something about it completely resonated with me.”

Heilman knew she was on her way to something — to the spirituality that had been lacking in her life — and she wanted to help others find the same in their lives.

Born and raised in Shelburne Falls, she lived there until she was 18. She graduated from Mohawk Trail Regional High School and went to Vermont Technical College, where she got an associate’s degree in architecture and building.

Heilman moved to Montana to attend the state university there. She got her bachelor’s degree in interior design in Montana and a certificate in feng shui interior design from Sheffield School of Interior Design in New York. She has been teaching and coaching for the past eight years.

“When I moved back to Massachusetts and started thinking about feng shui again, I began implementing some of the techniques I’d read about in the book a few years earlier into my own life,” she said. “I really paid attention to how I’d had things set up and how, according to feng shui, they were supposed to be.”

She started to feel more grounded and more at peace with her space and her life.

Heilman believes feng shui helps anyone and everyone recognize the changes they need to make in their lives.

“Your home reflects your life and vice versa,” she said. “It’s all about family, health and wealth — and not just money.

In feng shui, relationships with people and the environment are very important.

“We hold ourselves back sometimes and don’t even realize it,” said Heilman. “How we set up our living space and our lives is a big factor in all of that.”

Heilman said people don’t realize that the simple act of keeping your living or working space clean and uncluttered can mean the difference between feeling happy and energized or sad and tired.

Simply sweeping through your home every morning becomes symbolic of removing what is not good in your life, she said. All negative energy falls to the ground, so sweeping gets rid of it.

Heilman said washing dishes every night, so they aren’t piled in the sink when you wake up in the morning, can make you feel calm and empowered, and so can making your bed every morning.

“Symbolism is strong in feng shui.”

She said doing even little things remind us of our goals, and when they are achieved, we’re happier and proud.

Even a slight shift in where furniture is placed or a change in color scheme in a particular area can make a difference, she said.

“You might not even recognize it, but it’s there, working on your subconscious,” said Heilman.

“Feng shui can actually change your circumstances,” she said. “The right configuration can inject energy into a space and by extension, you and your life.”

Heilman isn’t talking about wild miracles, but instead, subtle changes that will affect a person’s life. She said all small, subtle changes lead to bigger ones.

“Many of us have lost touch with that deeper meaning in our life,” she said. “We are all energetic beings, carriers of energy. We need to harness it and use it to our advantage.”

Heilman began teaching feng shui by introducing it to a few friends and family members.

“I started slow — didn’t want people to think it was something weird or dramatic. I wanted to see how people would react.”

She had her friends and family make one or two small changes at a time.

“When they started telling me things were changing for them, I knew I was on to something,” said Heilman. “It’s really about setting intentions and goals. It’s about getting back in touch with your intuition.”

A person needs to think of their living space as a large square divided into nine equal spaces called “energy centers.” This is known as a bagua map.

Heilman said the more someone energizes a particular space, the more quickly they will see changes and results in that area of their life, as well.

“It’s all about bettering our lives,” said Heilman, who is married with two children, ages 8 and 11.

When Heilman used feng shui in her home, her entire family said they started seeing changes, for the good. She said her home became a more open and inviting place.

“Your attitude changes when that happens,” she said.

Feng shui is about the elements — fire, earth, water, wind. Water represents the forces we can see and wind represents the ones we can’t.

“If your space is messy (forces we can see), energy can’t flow and you feel tense,” said Heilman. “When you reconfigure a space according to feng shui and energy begins to flow, it opens up the space and your mind (forces we can’t see).

A messy space, on the other hand, keeps you focused on the bad in your life. So, even a slight shift will turn that focus to good.

Clutter also blocks creative energy.

“You have to go through everything in the home, but not necessarily all at once,” said Heilman. “You don’t want to become overwhelmed, because that would be counterproductive.”

Heilman said people should return home each day to a place of solitude and safety.

“You should feel joy when you walk through your door.”

“Making changes doesn’t have to be costly,” she said. “It can be as simple as changing a color or moving something from one room to another. It’s all about where an object belongs or doesn’t belong.”

Heilman said it’s good to refresh living spaces every now and then, anyway.

My apartment

I met Heilman one day this past spring and she taught me the principles of feng shui, gave me the link to the workbook she uses in her classes, and I was on m y way. I went home and read through the workbook in about three days. Then, I began.

I started by drawing my bagua map, which identified each of the nine spaces in my home and helped guide me through the changes I needed to make in each of them.

The front door that leads into the hallway to my apartment is the “knowledge and self-cultivation” area, which is supposed to be a place of wisdom, stillness and contemplation. I placed a small table outside the door to my apartment, covered it in lace and have placed colorful flowers there on a regular basis.

During a recent visit to my apartment, Heilman said the space is very welcoming and peaceful. She was pleased.

The front bedroom, which has turned into my guest and grandsons’ room is half my “career” area and half my “helpful people and travel” area.

I’m still working on it. I’m headed in the right direction, she said. The room represents my journey through life on one side and my ability to make things happen, get and give help and create synchronicities on the other.

I’ve used rich colors and sinuous textiles on the career side and lighter, brighter colors on the helpful people side, just as feng shui suggests.

Moving through the apartment, the next room is the living area — one side of my living room and kitchen is the “center,” while the other is the “creativity and children” area.

This is where Heilman stopped and moved a few things from my center to the creativity area. She said I had too much metal in the center and not enough on the other.

Metal is a significant element for the creativity and children area. I just happened to have photos of my grandchildren in metal frames on the bookcase in my center, so she moved them, with my permission, a few feet to the other side of the room. I actually like the setup better now.

My bedroom, which is directly off the living room, is the “health and family” area. I’d done a good job with that area, using a lot of wood, and greens and blues as the colors. I hanged a lot of family photos there, as well. She was happy.

Into the kitchen we went. She said the part of my kitchen that fell into the center was perfect. A large print of Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers brighten the room and signifies life and growth — you should have lots of yellows and golds in your center. That, I have to admit, was done by chance.

But, moving through the kitchen into the “fame and reputation” area on one side and relationships and love area on the other, Heilman again stopped.

My relationships and love area was fine with the reds, whites and candles I’d used, but there was something wrong with the fame and reputation area.

On the floor in the far corner of my kitchen sat a vase filled with dead branches.

“You really shouldn’t have anything that’s dead in here,” Heilman told me. “You need a nice green plant or tree where life and positive energy flows.”

She said the branches were spilling into my wealth area, as well.

“You want things growing in these areas, especially in your wealth area, because you want that to grow as well,” she said.

I quickly removed the branches and placed them in my bedroom, the family area, where wood is acceptable. But, I’m reconsidering — should I even have them in my apartment?

The final space Heilman examined was my bathroom, which is off the kitchen and represents the “wealth and prosperity” area.

She liked the way I set it up. Blues and purples are the colors of that area, so my towels (blue and purple) are placed prominently. I have a picture of my favorite actress, the late Audrey Hepburn, hanging next to the rack. I wasn’t sure if it fit.

“Of course it does,” said Heilman. “You’ve made this space your own. That’s very important in feng shui. An object has to make you feel inspired and energized and I can tell this one does that for you.”

She’s correct! Hepburn was not only the style icon of her time, but had so much grace and was such a great humanitarian. I respect those qualities, immensely.

I’m still working on my apartment, but I love the way it has come along so far with Heilman’s help.

It’s too early to tell how much of a change feng shui will make in my life, but I’m happy with the few changes I’ve already made.

I don’t know if it’s psychological, or if feng shui really works, or both, but I do know that I love coming home to my apartment, and I truly feel a calm that I haven’t in other places.

Heilman’s courses

Heilman teaches an 8-week online course on feng shui. She uses a workbook and videos, and she holds video conferences with clients who want to feng shui their homes, offices or wherever they spend a lot of time.

Clients send photos of their spaces and sketches of their floor plans. The class works together, and Heilman works with each client individually, as well.

“The class is almost like a support group,” she said. “If people are working on something together, they’re more apt to follow through, because there’s accountability. I provide support and clarity, as well as all the tools they’ll need.”

She said each class goes through the workbook section by section and energy center by energy center, and she provides mantras and meditations throughout the course so clients can clear their minds and find their calm as they make changes.

The next 8-week course will begin in February 2016.

Heilman also offers an ongoing workshop “One Year to Change Your Life: One Tweak, One Week” at a time.

The ongoing process is practiced weekly online with Heilman and some of her other clients. Heilman offers a weekly tweak, either a specific physical change or shift to do in a specific area, concentrating on one energy center a month.

“As people make little changes, they start to see the magic unfold,” she said.

Heilman said the overall intention of feng shui is for people to turn their homes or offices into “goal-dream manifesting machines.”

For more information about feng shui, her courses and costs, call Heilman at 413-522-7725 or email her at: jen@jenheilman.com. Also visit her on Facebook or at: www.jenheilman.com.

Staff reporter Anita Fritz worked at The Recorder from 2002 to 2005 and then returned in 2006. She covers Greenfield and can be reached at afritz@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.

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In feng shui, spaces correlate to areas of life


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