Question: My front walkway runs straight from my front door to the street. Without tearing out the entire walkway, is there something I can do to stop the energy from flowing out of my house?
Answer: Actually, a front walkway running straight up to your door is more likely to propel negative energy toward the house than drain the energy from it. The sha chi (negative energy) racing into the home can bring hostility and bad luck to the people living in it.
Feng shui principles rely heavily on shapes and forms found in nature. Straight--human-made--lines are much less auspicious than gently curving shapes suggesting nature.
But don't worry, the problem isn't difficult to solve. And it certainly doesn't call for ripping up your walkway.
I suggest you create a flower bed along either side of the walk. Give those beds a slightly curved shape on the outer perimeter and plant flowers in such a way that the straight line of the walk is de-emphasized.
If you're unable to take on as large a project as a flower bed, place round flower pots along both sides of the walkway from the sidewalk to the porch.
Use impatiens, alyssum, johnny jump-ups, pansies and other low-growing flowers so the pots will be gracefully rounded on top.
Overhanging Beams Make Dozing Difficult
Q: My home is a typical post-and-beam structure. The sloping ceilings have exposed beams throughout the rooms at regular intervals and it is impossible to position my bed without my sleeping somewhere under a beam.
I have seen red plastic firecrackers for sale in Chinatown. Would hanging a bunch of these on the beam over my bed counteract the negative effect of the beam?
If not, what would you recommend instead?
A: Those firecrackers you've seen in Chinatown are frequently used on overhanging beams. As most feng shui followers know, exposed beams can cause a variety of difficulties for those who sleep or sit under them regularly.
A vertical beam that symbolically bisects the bed of a couple can bring strife and discord between them. A beam over the bed can also bring about stomach, head or other body aches. And sitting under an exposed beam regularly can bring chronic body aches.
The firecrackers you saw have been used by the Chinese for centuries to symbolically "explode" oppressive overhanging beams. So have hollow bamboo flutes.
The flutes are suspended from the beam with red ribbon to allow blocked chi to flow up the hollow bamboo tube and counter the beam's heaviness and negative effects. The flutes are also available in Chinatown shops.
Clutter Keeps One From Moving Forward
Q: My best friend and I are 50. While my life moves smoothly, she is stuck. She rarely meets new people and hasn't had a date in years.
I contend that her clutter stifles her chi. She won't part with things from when her kids were at home (prom dresses, for example). She has clothes in her closet from the '80s, items from a disastrous marriage, root-bound houseplants, stacks of magazines. You get the idea.
Her home suffers from neglect with overgrown hedges, broken pool equipment, unplanted dirt in flower beds. She has the money, but no motivation to make changes.
Would feng shui say that the clutter could be keeping her life from moving forward?
A: Your question illustrates perfectly the way in which feng shui intersects with other less exotic-sounding aspects of life. In this case, psychology and common sense.
Like your "stuck" friend, few of us would be able to move forward in life if we were surrounded by reminders of a long gone past. That's the common-sense part.
It's also possible that your friend's habits reflect her state of mind, although this is something only a psychologist could determine.
My guess is that just clearing out the household clutter won't do the whole job and your friend might want to begin the process by speaking with someone other than a feng shui expert.
Remedy Alignment of Staircase and Door
Q: Is there a way to mask the problem of a stairway that empties out at one's front door? This is so very common in American homes. Is there a way to get around it without moving out?
CURSED IN CAPISTRANO
A: You aren't cursed, and you're not alone. I have another letter this week from Dr. I. Ly, who is concerned about an elegant front staircase that runs right into the front door.
Ly also says the backstairs in this million-dollar home line up with the back door, doubling the dilemma.
This door and stairway arrangement is classic bad feng shui because the staircase should elevate chi (and with it, prosperity) to the second level.
But when the door is at the mouth of the stairs, the chi escapes before it can circulate properly. Some builders in the Southern California area, such as Ryland Homes and Kaufman Broad Home Corp., have actually modified some of their floor plans to avoid this problem. But it's true that this configuration is still very typical.
The most common and popular remedy for this is to hang a mirror at the top of the stairs so that it faces the door. Mirrors act like chi magnets, drawing it in and bouncing it back out so that the energy is diffused throughout the area.
Another practical correction is to place a room divider near the front door at a slight angle, thus breaking the direct alignment of door and staircase.
If there's not enough space to add a room divider, a medium-size floor plant (such as a ficus) will capture the escaping energy and also encourage healthful and vigorous energy to circulate in the vicinity of the door and on up the stairs.
These last two methods are also used in cases where front and back doors of the home are in a straight line. Be careful not to block entry to your home with either of these techniques. It is important that chi (and people) come through the door without impediment.
Kirsten Lagatree is a Washington, D.C., writer whose books include "Feng Shui, Arranging Your Home to Change Your Life" (Villard 1996) and "Feng Shui at Work, Arranging Your Work Space for Peak Performance and Maximum Profit" (Villard 1998).
Mail your questions on feng shui to Kirsten Lagatree, Real Estate section, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, fax them to (213) 237-4712, or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or Real.Estate@LATimes.com. All questions will be considered for use but cannot be answered individually.