Feng Shui, Native American Beliefs and Health
James Frank Loretta
Native American beliefs in what brings health and harmony and what brings dysfunction runs side by side with Chinese beliefs in feng shui. Both American Natives and the Chinese believe that illness can be caused by negative thinking, disturbances in the life flow caused by surroundings, unhealthy and immoral behavior, environmental poisons, and breeches of taboo that are essentially about things which cause imbalance leading to ill health and ill fortune.
Both American indigenous people and Chinese geomancers believed in and used universal vital energy (qi) to gain harmonious relationships with Nature and with other people; as well as to gain well-being in body, mind and spirit. Each in their own ways were using an ancient earth science known as feng shui.
Qi (often written as "chi") is the energy of the universe. In the physical universe, the planets, stars, mountains, growing forests, and all living creatures are manifestations of qi taking form in matter. In the human body, the form of qi is identified from the function it performs; these functions are many and are the foundation for Chinese medicine. Each human life is defined by qi, and it is especially tied into our mental and emotional states. When qi is balanced and strong, you have good health in your body. When qi is stagnant or blocked, you have the basis for ill health. It is about digesting, breathing, cognitive functioning, sensing, reproduction—all functions of the body, both mental and physical. It is difficult to translate literally because "Chinese thought does not distinguish between matter and energy…we can perhaps think of Qi as matter on the verge of becoming energy, or energy at the point of materializing." [Ted J. Kaptchuk. The Web That Has No Weaver, p.43. McGraw-Hill, 2000.] Qi moves through the body along energy pathways called meridians. Along these meridians are the points used in acupuncture.
Acupuncture is a Chinese system of medicine that originated with the ancient Daoists, who were said to meditate and observe the flows of energy within and without the body and map them. Shiatsu and acupressure use manual pressure, usually of the fingers, to release energy blockages and restore the balanced flow of qi in the meridians. In acupuncture, this is accomplished with very fine needles inserted at the acupuncture points.
Besides the use of pressure and needles, qi can be affected through the acupuncture points by light, heat, and electric current, which provides the basis for the impact that colors and seasons have on us, and also the negative impact of electromagnetic pollution in our environment. If one was aware of the possible negative influences around us, applying the cures in feng shui would become a necessary a part of our daily lives. Many people are commonly affected by unseen, negative energies in our surroundings that introduce themselves into the body via the acupoint/meridian system; however there are remedies for this.
In the ancient practice of Chinese geomancy, the flow of vital energy or qi in the physical landscape was analogous to the flow of qi in the human body. Just as the placement of acupuncture needles influenced the flow of qi in the physical body (and subsequently the subtle bodies as well), geomancers understood that landforms and their orientation could influence the flow of the "dragon currents" or earth qi to make physical surroundings healthier. Ancient geomancers were vibrationally gifted. They spent much time in meditation and developed their inner awareness and could tune in to Nature. Long practices in meditation eventually yielded the ability to actually "hear" the frequencies of Nature with a hearing that comes from the level of the subtle bodies. They could listen within to the frequencies given off by rocks, stones, plant scents, trees—the entire symphony of Nature produced by the balance of Yin and Yang in a geomantic garden or grove.
American Indians knew that the electromagnetic energy of aroma molecules is capable of fine-tuning the frequencies of the subtle energy bodies which translates into health in the physical body. This understanding provides the rationale for the Lakota Sioux practice of Rain Drop Therapy which involves the use of essential oils: This treatment is so named because the practitioner drops the oils through the energy field which surrounds the body from 6 to 8 inches above the spine, thereby affecting the emotional, mental, and etheric bodies (subtle energy fields surrounding the body) before the oils finally contact the physical body.
Aromatherapy works because our homes, workplaces and our bodies are not made of purely physical matter. They all vibrate at the sub-atomic level with the invisible energy known as qi. Applying aromatherapy as a feng shui cure can act as a type of spiritual cleansing or spring-cleaning. By raising frequency, aromatics such as essential oils and the Native use of sage and cedar can clear away emotional and psychic garbage not only from our bodies but from our environments as well. Essential oils, incense in a church or temple, or smudging with sage or cedar in Native American practices all have the same purpose—to clear and purify the space.
Qigong (Chi Kung) the Chinese art and science of practices that promote the smooth flow of qi or bio-energy in the meridians and have much to do with accessing the energy of the earth through rooting or grounding. Continual changes in the quality of the qi in our body due to diet, stress, and environmental influences can create blockages and imbalances in the energy channels of the body, which are related to organ function. Regularly practicing Qigong can treat chronic illness and keep the body in balance. It can be likened to a type of feng shui for the body since we are talking about balancing the Yin and the Yang of our energies just as geomancers do when adjusting the terrestrial landscape.
Native Americans understood that the quality of the soil is related to the flow of qi within it—the "dragon currents" as Chinese geomancers called it. Both understood that this applies to the human body as well. Biologist James Lovelock perhaps explained it best when he described the earth as a living being having a consciousness with which we are inseparably linked. In simple terms, the planet's surface is her skin, and the earth's energy currents function as her meridians and nervous system, the water systems are her life's blood, and the atmosphere serves as her lungs. He believed also that the earth has subtle energy bodies and also chakras as we do. Since chakras are whirling vortices of energy, belief in them coincides with Black Elk's description of the "hoop" or circle being a source of power and hence, sacredness for the Indian.
"In my vision, I reached the peak of the highest mountain in the Black Hills. Round about, beneath me, was the whole hoop of the world. From the rocks, colors flashed upward to become a rainbow in flame. From where I stood, I saw more than I can tell, and I understood more than I saw for I was seeing in a sacred manner. I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, and being endless, it was holy." [Neihardt, John G. Black Elk Speaks (play), p. 16. Dramatic Publishing, 1996.]
In healing rituals, the Native American Medicine man knew innately, that the human body functions as a frequency receiver. Research in the 1960s showed that ritual body postures functioned as antenna and produced subtle effects or altered states of consciousness. One of the forms studied was that of Tai Chi (Taiji) in which the body of the practitioner becomes a physical antenna for gathering qi. To this day, this is part of the reason Tai Chi is often done in a park, for the quality of the soil in which the body makes grounding contact with Mother Earth determines its taking best advantage of the unseen energies (qi) available.
Ironically, it is Western science's own modern exploration of quantum physics that provides the scientific basis for the "hidden" workings behind both feng shui and Native American belief systems. In quantum mechanics, it is hinted that the body can be boiled down to a mass of charged particles interacting with the particles of a universal energy field and that an act of observing or thinking forces these particles into a set state [Lynne McTaggart. The Field, p.122. Harper, 2008.] Could this not provide the basis for both the impact of the shaman as well as the effect feng shui has on one's environment when it is successfully applied through focused attention? Studies out of Princeton suggest that reality is created only by our intention acting upon the particles of the quantum field. [Ibid. p.122.] Our coherence of thought seems to create a coalescing of subatomic particles creating temporary order in the physical world, thus creating the phenomena we know as reality. This is where Chinese martial arts, qigong, feng shui, and both Native American and Eastern mysticism and modern physics merge. Mysticism says that there is no Void full of nothingness in the Universe; instead it is full of ch'i. For modern physics this would be the field theory where subatomic particles exist in a state of potentiality awaiting influence by our minds or some other organizing force.
Remember: everything in the universe consists of vibrating energy—you, the environment you live in, the objects in it, the people around you, words, colors, sounds—everything. Your own personal frequency range or "vibe" is unique, and the vibrations (qi) you give off interact with the vibrations (qi) of all other things in your surroundings—all the people, all the places, all the things that make up your world. Again, these energies are the foundation of both the ancient earth science of feng shui and Native American spiritual beliefs. Unfortunately, many of us have a world view that we are helpless creatures at the mercy of our surroundings with no power to compensate for the misfortune about which we often pity ourselves. But this is an illusion, for as the Chippewa saying goes: "Sometimes I go about pitying myself. And all the time I am being carried on great winds across the sky".
Editor's note: This entry was adapted for Qi Encyclopedia from James Frank Loretta's book, The Hidden Energies Behind Feng Shui.
James Frank Loretta. "The Hidden Energies Behind Feng Shui (part 9)" in Qi The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health & Fitness, vol. 22, n. 1 - Spring 2012.