How I Learned About the Subtle Relationship Between Safety and Feng Shui
The concept of safety, although almost always focused on the singular outcome of preventing harm, is actually an incredibly versatile one, and one that takes many forms. It can be a caution sign at a busy intersection, a bright orange vest on a construction site, or a warning that the coffee you’re about to be served will be very hot.
Safety is a Primary Consideration in Feng Shui
In feng shui, a lot of the recommendations that are made revolve around safety and making someone feel more comfortable and secure in their home. Depending on the situation, this may mean hanging blinds on your windows so you feel less exposed to the outside world; adding a rug to a slippery wooden floor so you don’t trip and fall; making sure that there is a railing along a staircase so you have something secure to hold on to that will help stabilize you; or adding a window or peep hole to your front door so that you can see who's coming before you are face-to-face with them. The recommendation, of course, depends on what's most bothering the client and the situation in their home.
Some of the most important safety recommendations that practitioners make to ease clients’ minds, though, are tried-and-true and are encouraged and repeated again and again, regardless of the client’s individual situation (because humans are humans). Popular ones include placing the bed at the furthest wall from the entrance so that a person has the most time to react to anything coming through the door (called the “power position”), allowing them to rest more easily; and not placing a chair or couch so that the back of it faces a doorway or well-trodden pathway, as this can make the person sitting in that spot feel very unsettled and constantly on guard (they may often look behind them a lot to make sure they’re safe). These safety recommendations are fairly obvious and easy to spot (you might call them Feng Shui 101), but it's often very clear how much better a client feels after they make the change because they're calmer and more relaxed (and they want to actually use their furniture).
Safety's Subtlety Almost Fooled Me!
But safety can also be such a subtle concept in feng shui that you might not even realize how it comes into play. In my old apartment, I felt really jumpy every time I walked out into the hallway. When I would wait for the elevator, I was constantly bracing myself for a surprise. This was an odd reaction considering I lived in a secure building and had met many of the neighbors on my floor as well as their pets. I logically knew I was safe, but something was keeping me very on guard and almost fearful, so much so that I pretty much exclusively took the stairs to avoid the elevator. (Gettin' those steps in...unintentionally.)
One day (months after moving in), I realized what the issue was. The elevator and all the entrances into the apartments were set back from the hallway, meaning that when the elevator doors opened, you had to walk forward to meet the hallway instead of the elevator opening directly onto the hallway floor. This had the unfortunate effect of me feeling surprised and cornered by anyone standing and waiting for the elevator as I was getting off of it. It also meant that I couldn’t see to the right or left of the elevator door when it opened, so I felt trapped inside and was forced to creep out into the hallway until I was assured there was no one there. This was the case when I would open my apartment door, too: because it was set back from the hallway, I couldn’t see if anyone was walking down or was by my door until I walked out, and then it was almost “too late,” and I would be surprised by their presence. Again, it wasn’t that I was necessarily fearful for my physical safety, but psychologically, it’s scary to not feel in control of what’s going on in your environment, and it’s even scarier to feel as if you might be taken off guard when you enter and exit your home.
So What Did I Do?
Well, nothing. In an instance like this, there’s not much I can do in terms of feng shui remedies: I didn’t own the apartment I was renting, and the building had strict rules about what could be in the hallway because of fire safety. (Safety!) And sometimes this happens - we don't always have complete control over our environments. Although, realizing what was causing my unease helped a lot because I could explain and understand it.
In an ideal situation, though, I would put tall plants (about waist-high) next to each side of the elevator, which would serve to protect the area when you exit so you don’t feel as though you will be ambushed from the side. They would also help to create some distance between you and another person waiting to go down. I would do the same next to the door of my apartment (to protect me from potential ambushes) as well as add a rug to the outside of the unit. The rug would help me to feel like I had a little area (or island) to stand on in the hallway that was mine and that could "protect" me if I happen to walk outside at the same time that someone is walking past. It's almost like a safe space or buffer zone in a common area.
Your Surroundings Give You the Message
Here’s the point: if you’re feeling uncomfortable in a place and it’s not immediately obvious why, you’re not crazy and you should listen to your gut. It’s important to pay attention to your surroundings, especially if you feel uneasy or uncomfortable. There’s probably a very good reason why you’re feeling that way, it just may be more subtle than you think.