28.5.11

Feng Shui Can Benefit Anyone

Article

One of the main principles of Feng Shui is emphasised by the importance of the way you ‘feel’ in your home. Your home is the ‘mirror’ of your life, and by asking yourself some key questions you can determine if there is a need to improve Feng Shui in your home. Do you feel relaxed or uneasy in your surroundings? Do you feel your health, happiness and finances could be improved?

Not everyone has the opportunity to build a Feng Shui friendly home, or even own their own home and make building alterations, which is sometimes suggested by Feng Shui consultants. This is why Feng Shui is so popular with so many people; the principles can be used to benefit anyone, in any type of environment, and Feng Shui ‘cures’ do not need to be costly.

Whether you rent a studio, home or live in a flat above a shop, you can utilise Feng Shui to influence your living area to its full potential. You can create a more positive environment by looking at your aspirations and goals and using the Bagua (refer to: How to Balance your Environment using the 9 Sectors of the Bagua), to ascertain areas within your home that could use improvement.

Through the simple acts of moving furniture and adding items in the appropriate areas, according to the Bagua, Feng Shui principles can be applied to any space, and anyone can use them:-

Furniture Positioning

It is worth remembering that ‘less is better’ when positioning furniture in your home. It is essential that Chi energy (refer to: How to Optimize Chi Energy and Balance The Five Elements), flows positively around to create harmony and balance. Focus on creating spaciousness, to avoid overwhelming a room.

Large rooms require large furniture, but try to avoid anything in the very centre of a room, as this is the Tai Chi area, which communicates with all the other sectors according to the Bagua. Overcrowding this area can block Chi energy. Ensure all doorways are kept free from obstructions.

Colours and Materials

When used in connection with the Bagua, colour is very powerful in completely changing the atmosphere of your home. Repainting the walls is always an option, either completely, or by adding a feature wall, or a few bands of colour. However, repainting is not necessary.

With the clever use of accessories, such as rugs, cushions and throws of different textures and colours, according to the Bagua, the Feng Shui of a room can be changed instantly. Indoor plants are also very popular to use in creating a
Yin environment (refer to: How to Create a Yin or Yang Environment).

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© Copyright J M Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

26.5.11

Shinto Weddings

Article

The first formal Shinto wedding took place in Japan in 1908. The ceremony itself comes from ancient Samuri traditions and still accounts for over 60 per cent of Japanese wedding ceremonies today.

‘Shinto’ means ‘the way of the gods’, and along with Buddhism, is one of Japan’s major religions. It has no one supreme God, and no sacred scriptures. Their belief is in Kami (Shinto gods), which are sacred spirits inherent in everything. Shinto religion holds that humans are fundamentally good, and after death, people become Kami. Many Shinto rituals are performed to dispel evil spirits.

Weddings were traditionally held in a Shinto shrine, where all important ceremonies are conducted. Today, they are often held in Shinto sanctuaries near a reception venue. The ceremony is presided over by a priest, who purifies all who are present (usually family members). The couple’s matchmaker may attend, but today this is often for ceremonial purposes only.

Shinto weddings embrace Japanese heritage and exchanging vows is the most important part of the ceremony:-

  • For the wedding ceremony the bride will wear a ‘shiromuku’ (white kimono). This dates back to the days of the Samurai, and white symbolises not only the beginning of her new life, but the death of her old one.
  • The pure white of the shiromuku worn by the bride, represents her willingness to be dyed any colour, to conform to her new family’s ways.
  • These bridal gowns were considered so precious that they were often handed down through the generations and made into bedding.
  • The brides head is likely to be covered in an hood that is said to hide her ‘horns of jealousy’ and envy that her mother-in-law is head of the family.
  • In contrast to the brides attire, the groom will wear a simple black kimono
  • The Shinto ceremony begins with the priest purifying all those present to ensure that evil spirits are kept at bay.
  • The bride and groom (or sometimes the matchmaker) offer vows to one another, of faithfulness and obedience, in front of their relatives.
  • The San-San-Kudo ceremony, which involves the couple passing a cup containing saki between them, helps to seal their bond. This ritual varies according to family traditions, but the cup is often passed as many as nine times between the bride and the groom.
  • The cup is then offered to the family (and friends, if present), to help celebrate the union and unite the families.
  • At this stage many couples exchange rings, although this was not a part of traditional wedding ceremonies.
  • The ceremony concludes in the sanctuary where the couple offer twigs to the Sakaki (sacred tree), in worship to the Kami.
  • An important part of the betrothal is the giving of gifts as a part of the process of Yui-no. As many as nine items will be passed between the bride and groom, each symbolising a different aspect of happiness and good fortune.
  • Guests at a Shinto wedding will likely take ‘goshugia’ (a gift of money) to the reception. This money will be wrapped in a special envelope and tied with a red and white cord, which are considered colours of good luck to the Japanese.
  • The scale of the Shinto wedding reception can vary, but certain formalities will be observed; one in particular is the bride changing her outfit many times, although she will usually begin the celebrations wearing a red kimono.


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

Hindu Weddings

Article

The ‘Grihistha Ashrama’, or Hindu marriage, is an important sacrament that a devout Hindu seeks to complete in his or her lifetime. A traditional Hindu wedding is based on one of the 16 sacraments, or Sanskars, of Hinduism.

In Hinduism, marriage and the establishment of a family is seen as the second crucial stage of life. The wedding ceremony is held in a single day, but preparation ceremonies can take place many days beforehand.

The wedding ceremony is full of symbolic ritual that is designed to bind the relationship shared between the dulham (bride), and the dulha (groom):-

  • A Hindu bride will most likely wear a red and white sari, decorated with intricately woven gold thread) on her wedding day. The white on the sari is said to represent purity and the red, the bride’s fertility.
  • The bride will also be adorned with a variety of jewellery all around her body and in her hair. The groom will be dressed more simply in a suit of traditional Indian dress and may choose to wear a turban.
  • Wedding shoes will be able to be removed easily as footwear is considered forbidden near the ‘mandap’ (a canopy under which the wedding ceremony is performed).
  • A Hindu wedding consists of a series of important and heavily symbolic rituals led by the ‘purohit’ (priest).
  • After guests have been welcomed, the bride and groom will offer each other ‘jayamaala’ (garlands of flowers), and declare: ‘our hearts are concordant like united waters’
  • A fire is then lit in the mandap and the couple offer the fire a variety of rice, oats and leaves to signify riches, happiness and prosperity
  • The bride and groom walk around the fire four times, stopping to touch a stone on each revolution. The stone symbolises the problems they will face in life and must overcome together.
  • Finally, the ‘saptapadi’ ritual will take place, which is where the bride and groom each take seven steps together. Each step represents an important quality for marriage:- the first - food; the second - strength; the third -prosperity; the fourth - wisdom; the fifth - progeny; the sixth - health, and the seventh - friendship.
  • One of the final acts of the wedding ceremony is where the groom marks his bride on the forehead with ‘kumkum’ (vermillion), which offers not only luck but signifies their togetherness.
  • Lastly, the new couple are showered in rice and petals by their guests as a final act to bring good fortune.
  • A Hindu wedding ends in a lavish banquet for family and friends. At some celebrations, the bride and groom play games that offer clues as to how the marriage will progress. One such game sees the couple having to untie a series of knots together which is intended to teach them patience with each other.
  • Wedding gifts consist of money, given in round numbers (considered lucky), to help the couple start their new life together. In tradition, the mother of the bride will offer the bride a ‘mangala soota’ (necklace), which is considered an important symbol of marital status by a Hindu woman.
  • When the couple leave the reception, one ritual involves a coconut being place under the front wheel of the car. This is said to date back to the days of the horse-drawn carriage, to test the vehicle in readiness for the journey.


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

Feng Shui Number Symbolism

Article

The numbers 1 to 9 play a significant role in authentic Chinese Feng Shui. Although number symbolism is popular world wide, it is common to see combinations of numbers on car licence plates, in phone numbers and street addresses, chosen by Feng Shui consultants or Chinese astrologers for their clients.

In the west it is often thought that the number 4 is regarded by the Chinese as unlucky. However, this is only due to fact that it is pronounced ‘shi’ in Chinese, which is close to the Chinese word for ‘death’. This is merely a superstition of the Chinese, and not in any way connected to authentic Chinese numerology.

Chinese Number Meanings

Number: 1
Represents: travel, travel agencies, chemicals, alcohol, bars, money, vitality
Element: water
Symbol: water
Season: winter
Colours: navy, blue / black

Number: 2
Represents: relationships, mother, reliability, nurturing, helpfulness, competition
Element: earth
Symbol: earth
Season: late winter
Colours: cream, yellow, brown

Number: 3
Represents: youth, spring, initiation, action, activity, speed, creativity, growth
Element: wood
Symbol: thunder
Season: early spring
Colour: green

Number: 4
Represents: rapid growth, growth peak, fulfilment, flexibility, stamina, achievement, impulsiveness
Element: wood
Symbol: wind
Season: late spring
Colour: green

Number: 5
Represents: the centre, control, rebirth, regeneration, strength, resilience, power, harmony
Element: earth
Symbol: the Tai Chi
Season: late summer
Colours: yellow, brown, cream

Number: 6
Represents: father, dignity, authority, clarity, dominion, focus, detail, morality, completion
Element: metal
Symbol: heaven
Season: early autumn
Colours: white, silver

Number: 7
Represents: money, reflection, relaxation, recreation, success, children, abundance, prosperity, entertainment
Element: metal
Symbol: lake
Season: late autumn
Colours: white, silver, grey, gold

Number: 8
Represents: study, stability, knowledge, spirituality, insight, stillness, dependability, steadfastness, resilience
Element: earth
Symbol: mountain
Season: late autumn / early winter
Colours: yellow, cream, brown

Number: 9
Represents: fame, recognition, insight, passion, exposure, brilliance, sunshine, heat, enlightenment
Element: fire
Symbol: fire
Season: summer
Colours: red, purple, pink and light blue


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© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

23.5.11

What Is Feng Shui?

Article
Feng Shui (pronounced - Fung Shway), is an ancient art and science which evolved more than 2,500 years ago in China. It is a system of knowledge that originates from the Taoist vision and understanding of nature, and in particular, the idea that the earth is alive and filled with ‘qi’ (life force) or Chi energy. In its most basic form Feng Shui reveals how to balance subtle energies (invisible to the eye) in any given space, to promote harmony, health and good fortune for the people inhibiting it.

The ancient philosophy of Feng Shui utilises the natural elements and the art of placement to bring a sense of equilibrium to the environment. The basic principles of Feng Shui work on maintaining a balance between two fundamental states - Yin (night) and Yang (day) and the five essential elements - fire, earth, metal, wood and water, to encourage positive Chi energy. Imbalances from any of these states and elements are believed to cause disharmony. Feng Shui practices are used to recognise the imbalances and create counter-balances where they may be needed.

The word Feng means wind, and the word Shui means water. In Chinese culture wind and water are associated with good health; therefore, to have good Feng Shui is to have overall good health. In its original form, Feng Shui was traditionally used in the design of palaces and dwellings of the wealthy merchant classes. In modern times, the modified versions of Feng Shui allow the benefits of Feng Shui to be available for people from all walks of life.

Some people today still obtain the services of qualified Feng Shui professionals to maximise the benefits of Feng Shui. Real estate mogul Donald Trump is one of the best known users of Feng Shui. Trump hired a Feng Shui master to analyse his properties which required some major costly alterations. However, the basic principles of Feng Shui can be utilised with little or no cost, and even small changes can make a positive difference in any home or office environment.

There are dozens of different approaches to Feng Shui, all drawn from different Feng Shui masters, formulas and various schools of thought, but all agree that recommendations should be based on how Chi energy supports, circulates and enters an area or property.

Form School or Landscape Feng Shui
The earliest known Feng Shui originates from the south-west region of China during the Han Dynasty (200BC to 200AD). It is known as Form School or Landscape Feng Shui. This type of Feng Shui used the principle of four Form animals (phoenix, tortoise, tiger and dragon), to represent different areas and structures of a property, and focused on protection and security.

Compass School & Black Hat Sect Feng Shui
One modern popular Feng Shui approach is Compass School Feng Shui, which divides up any space into Eight Mansions, all representing directions (and includes a central ninth section). Another is the modern interpretation called the Black Hat Sect, which divides a dwelling into eight sectors, irrelevant of the compass directions (again with a central ninth section). Here, each sector is given a particular aspiration such as ‘career’ or ‘family’.

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© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

17.5.11

Buddhist Weddings

Article

Marriage doesn’t hold a key place in Buddhism, as Buddha did not consider marriage to be a sacred ceremony. Buddhist weddings therefore are influenced more by custom than by doctrine.

Although in the Buddhist faith, marriage is not considered sacred, the teachings of Buddha include that any marriage should be based upon a foundation of mutual respect and couples should be equal partners.

The format of the wedding ceremony is largely chosen by the bride and groom, although there are certain aspects that are commonly observed:-

  • Some Buddhist temples are licensed as official marriage venues, although many couples opt for a civil ceremony followed by a blessing at a temple.
  • According to Buddhist teachings there are no rules regarding attire for the ceremony, however, a bride will usually choose an outfit which is suited to this more formal occasion.
  • Although in the Buddhist culture in the west, the bride will generally wear a dress and the groom a suit, sometimes the official dress of their region or country is chosen.
  • Bride, groom and guests will always follow the tradition of removing their shoes before entering a temple, as a sign of respect, if this is the chosen venue for the ceremony.
  • One element of the wedding which is common to most Buddhist cultures, is the tradition of the couple entering the temple carrying 21 beads; representing Buddha, the couple and their families.
  • The structure of the vows is decided upon by the bride and groom, but guidance is provided in the ‘Duties of Husband and Wife’, described in the ‘Sigalovsa Sutta’.
  • The bride and groom may exchange rings if they desire, but this isn’t a necessary part of the ceremony. After the vows, the newly-weds will give thanks by lighting candles and incense around Buddha’s image.
  • A key Buddhist goal is to alleviate want and suffering in the world, and some Buddhist communities encourage the bride and groom to visit a monk who has taken a vow of poverty. The couple offer the monk food, and in return he blesses their wedding by chanting at the ceremony from famous mantras found in Buddhist religious texts.
  • Buddhist wedding celebrations vary according to the culture and traditions of the country where the marriage is held. This has a great deal to do with the Buddhist beliefs in tolerance and understanding. In Japan for example, Buddhist wedding ceremonies are commonly held near hot springs so that after the wedding is concluded the wedding party can continue to celebrate for several days afterwards.
  • The most important aspect of a Buddhist wedding celebration however, is the desire to celebrate the commitment the couple has made. Many eastern countries will have spent many days preparing a huge feast for all the guests, and in the west it will be celebrated in a similar fashion at a wedding reception.
  • The marital bed has symbolic significance. In some Buddhist communities an older couple may prepare the marital bed of a bride and groom, decorating it with lucky charms, coins and seed. These are all thought to promote fertility and bring happiness to the new couple.


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

Islamic Weddings

Article

In the traditional Islamic faith, weddings differ greatly from other parts of the world where they are viewed as the joining of two soul mates. In Islamic faith, marriage is viewed as an important social contract and duty.

Under Islam faith, a man may take up to four wives as long as he can prove that he is capable of caring for them all. There may be some differences in various Islamic countries, but certain basics of Islamic principle are always adhered to during the wedding rites.

The marriage ceremony, called the ‘nikah’, is a simple affair that is usually conducted in a mosque on a Sunday:-

  • The nuptials are often officiated over by the Inman, a Muslim religious figure who leads the prayers in the mosque, although any respected Muslim man is permitted to perform the ceremony.
  • The wedding dress of the bride (if she attends) is largely dictated by the customs of the Islamic country where the bride and groom are being married. There is no requirement for the bride to be present at the ceremony, as long as she has two witnesses present, on her behalf.
  • Many brides who attend their wedding choose to wear a white gown, while those brides from the Asian sub-continent often wear a shalwar-qameez outfit in scarlet or gold thread with their hands and feet patterned with henna.
  • During the ceremony the Inman will read a number of verses from the Islamic holy text called the Koran, which specifically remind the couple and the congregation of their duties to each other, to Allah, and the Muslim way of life.
  • A wedding contract is drawn up that shows the husband’s and wife’s commitments to each other. One of the couple must express ‘ijab’ (willingness to consent to marriage), and the other ‘qubul’ (acceptance of the responsibility). Once the couple and two male witnesses have signed the contract, it is proclaimed they are married.
  • Following the nikah some Muslims opt for a few simple rituals at home and a celebratory meal at the bride’s family house. For most however, an important part of the wedding process is the wedding banquet called the walima.
  • The walima is paid for by the husband and is a joyous celebration. It is also a very public announcement of the marriage, required to be celebrated in full public view.
  • According to the teachings of the Koran, an invitation to celebrate a marriage at a walima should never be refused, and it should include all members of the community regardless of their social standing, to uphold the Islamic law of charity.
  • The married couple receive gifts from their guests and in some cultures the bride and groom will sit on a throne to receive them.
  • The most important gift however, is the gift given by the groom to his new bride. This gift is called the ‘mahr’, and it is the symbol of his commitment and responsibility towards her.
  • The amount of mahr is usually according to economic conditions and can be given at the time of the wedding or deferred until later. The gift is for the bride alone and it is up to her to choose how she uses it.
  • The gift can be in the form of money, property or a commitment, such as a promise from the groom to teach her verses from the Holy Koran.



© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

16.5.11

Six Precious Stones Facts

Article

What are precious stones? How are they classified, and what is their connection with hidden messages, the seasons, and a tree?

Precious stones have been admired and desired since ancient times. Their beauty and scarcity, as well as the feelings they inspire, make them very valuable and labelled - precious. Below are some additional facts about why they are considered precious, and some unusual ways they have been used historically.

Classifying Precious Stones
The Mohs scale of mineral hardness is one method by which precious stones are classified. It was created in 1812 by the German geologist and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs.  It is based on the ability of one mineral to scratch another; identifying and grading those minerals which are the hardest as being of more value. The Mohs scale of hardness is just one aspect of classifying gems. In ancient times it was the visual appeal and scarcity which ascertained a stones value, which still attributes in modern times also.

Precious Stones Ratings
Gems that are classified as precious are usually the hardest in texture. On the Mohs scale of hardness with 10 being the hardest, the precious stones rate as; diamond – 10, ruby – 9, sapphire – 9, and emerald – 8.

Traditional Precious Stones
In ancient times the diamond, ruby, sapphire, emerald, pearl, opal and amethyst were all considered precious stones. However, in modern times the list has been limited to the traditional diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire; with pearl a relative newcomer. Although pearl is not strictly a gemstone, it has been included in the precious stones list entirely due to its beauty and desirability.

Acrostic Jewellery – Regard Ring
Acrostics, is a word which is used for spelling a message, using the first letter of a series of words. Acrostics were once commonly used in poems and letters to convey secret messages in Victorian times. Acrostic jewellery first appeared in 17th century England and France.  Combinations of gems were set into rings, brooches and bracelets, so that when arranged, the first letters of the name of each gem spelled a message or sentiment. The most popular acrostic piece in Victorian times was the ‘Regard’ ring, created using the precious stones of; Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby and Diamond.

Precious Stones and the Seasons
Since ancient times, the traditional four precious stones have also been associated with the seasons. The cold ice beauty of a diamond represents winter, and the reason why it is sometimes called ‘ice’. The green of emerald represents spring, and it is often named after the French word ‘jardin’ meaning ‘garden’, symbolising the seeds of the earth. The ruby symbolises the heat of the summer Sun, and the blue of sapphire, symbolises the rains of autumn.

The Kalpa Tree
In Indian mythology, precious stones were used for meditation in the Kalpa Tree. The tree was made entirely of gems; the roots – sapphire, the bottom section of the trunk – diamond, the remainder of the trunk – topaz, the shoots – emerald, the young leaves – coral, the older foliage – green zircon, and the fruits – rubies.


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

Gems in Religion

Article

There are many gems of significance in the history of religion. The Christian bible makes reference to these in the books of Exodus, Ezekiel and Revelations. The texts of Islam, Judaism and Buddhism also prominently feature gems.
                 
In ancient times gems were often included in religious texts, symbolically or to reveal hidden meanings.  Many modern attributions and customs associated with gems come from old religious associations. For example, the diamond engagement ring is believed to symbolise enduring love in more modern times, but it was also considered to protect the bride-to-be from evil in times past.

Christian (Catholic) Gems

Rings worn by church leaders include; emerald in the Pope’s ring, sapphire in cardinals rings, and amethyst in bishops rings. Gems used in religious undertakings include; chrysoprase to bless the work of martyrs, emerald to bring strength of faith in adversity, peridot to bring miracles, and garnet to represent the blood of Christ. The great significance of gems in early religious texts may stem from the importance placed on them by the 12 Hebrew tribes; each assigned a symbolic gem.

The High Priest’s Breastplate

The High Priest’s breastplate, described in Exodus 28:15-20, is highly significant in a number of ways. It may also be the source for the significance given to the gems in the Zodiac. Aaron, the first High Priest of Jerusalem, was the original bearer of the High Priest’s breastplate, which bore 12 gems, each with the name of one of the 12 Hebrew tribes inscribed on it. These 12 gems were sardonyx, topaz, emerald, garnet, sapphire, diamond, zircon, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx and jasper. The Jewish historian Josephus (37-95 AD) claimed the High Priest’s breastplate could predict victory in battle.

The New Jerusalem – Crystal City

The New Jerusalem was a vision of perfection where men and women had returned to God’s grace. The holy city is described in Revelations 21:18-21, with 12 gates guarded by 12 angels and 12 foundations corresponding to the 12 tribes of Israel. The walls are made of jasper, and the 12 gates are each made of a giant pearl. The gold-paved streets are described as translucent as glass. There are 12 foundations to the walls with the names of the 12 apostles engraved on them. The foundations are made of jasper, lapis lazuli, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, peridot, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, zircon and amethyst.

Seven Heavens

The Seven Heavens of Islamic belief are said to be made of different precious crystals and metals, although these crystals and metals vary, according to the interpreter of the sacred texts. One interpretation is; the first heaven is made of pure silver, the second of pure gold or polished steel, and the third of pearl and precious stones. The fourth heaven is of white gold or the finest silver, the fifth of gold or silver, and the sixth is of garnet and ruby. The seventh heaven is not made of crystal but of divine light.

Buddhist Stones

Diamond is a popular stone in the different forms of Buddhism. It is said that Buddha was sitting on a diamond throne beneath a Bodhi tree when he attained enlightenment. Carnelian is believed to bring joy and peace, and jade is sacred to Buddha and Kwan Yin. An old Buddhist belief was that if you look inside a piece of quartz you can see Buddha riding an elephant inside a crystal. Other myths surrounding sacred gems include the tale of Buddha’s tears turning into rubies and that sapphire was the ‘stone of stones’ as it promotes devotion, happiness and spiritual enlightenment.



© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.