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Turning homes into sanctuaries

Those who live by the principles of Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese practice, believe a home has the potential to be much more than a place where one eats and sleeps at night. Using these principles, Stephanie Gruss, a St.
Stephanie Gruss
Stephanie Gruss

Those who live by the principles of Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese practice, believe a home has the potential to be much more than a place where one eats and sleeps at night.

Using these principles, Stephanie Gruss, a St. Albert-based Feng Shui consultant, helps her clients turn their living space into their own personal oasis through her business, Balancing Spaces Inc.

Feng Shui (pronounced fung shway) stresses the relationship between people and their environment. Essentially, it is the practice of aligning the energy (what the Chinese call “chi”) of an environment to cause positive change.

“The whole principle of Feng Shui is bringing positive, nurturing and human life-enhancing energy into the home or keeping it in the home and avoiding anything where it leaks or leaves the home,” said Gruss.

Followers contend a home is full of subtle energies that, when properly harvested, can bring people peace, good luck and even fortune.

According to the principles of Feng Shui, certain configurations, such as the position of furniture and presence of certain objects in the home can help or hinder the flow of energy. If energy is blocked, it can cause corresponding problems in life.

Originally from Germany, Gruss says clients contact her when aspects of their living space — be it the arrangement of furniture or an abundance of clutter — aren’t working for them.

She said clients will also contact her to perform space clearings, a ceremony that purifies the “negative energies” caused by emotional, mental and physical stress left behind by past events or geobiological stress caused by nature.

Gruss, who is also an artist and professional organizer, said these can influence a person’s mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

“Another reason is that people call me basically because they’ve heard that Feng Shui creates good energy,” she said.

In her practice, Gruss works with clients to try and bring more beauty, grace, and flow into a home.

“It’s really about feeling at home. It doesn’t mean it needs to be perfect like in an Interior Style magazine. No, what is your being at home?”

She also works with clients at reducing the amount of clutter in their homes.

“When we have clutter around, we get distracted because it gets our attention constantly.”

She said clients are first asked to discuss where they feel most at home in order to give her a better sense of where they are most at ease.

“Why do we feel so good when we go into the woods? Because there is a resonance there that makes us feel good,” said Gruss, who said she feels most at home in a forest.

Feng Shui also focuses on bringing elements from the natural world such as plants, metals, wood and water indoors.

“There are certain elements in the environment, and we’re talking about the physical environment, that we want to balance with Feng Shui,” she said. Within a home, the entrance, kitchen and bedrooms are the most important areas to balance, Gruss said.

One of the biggest problems with most homes, she said, is that the element of water, which is believed to contain good energy, is constantly leaving the home. Her solution is to add water using a fountain or aquarium.

Gruss’ own home, a four-level split, contains a small aquarium with running water in the kitchen. The space is rich in colours and textures, as well as several areas of contemplation where she has arranged objects such as candles, crystals and other stones.

She said the living room should be a place that promotes conversation and she encourages clients to choose artwork that inspires them. She also suggests keeping no more than one or two televisions in the home.

“It’s a place for people to communicate, it’s a place for people to gather,” she said.

Gruss said the physical centre or the “heart” of the home is also very important and should be a place to gather.

“Homes are not built around the centre anymore and the centre should be a place of calm,” she said.

In her home, the centre of the house is where upper and lower staircases intersect. To remedy this Gruss plans to paint a large tree in a field that stretches across several levels of the home.

“Trees ground us,” she noted.

“In North American homes, they rip out everything they can, flatten the land and there is nothing left. There is no respect for nature. Nature is very important for us human beings, for us to be happy.”

With both energies and people changing constantly, Gruss said she recommends regular changes to interior spaces.

Asked how she responds to those who don’t buy into her practice or the principles of Feng Shui, Gruss said she’ll often ask them if they’ve ever walked into a place and immediately felt uncomfortable.

She said there is always a reason why some people feel that way and always a way to solve the problem.

“But then there are still those that don’t believe,” she said.

One client in particular, a woman from Ontario, contacted Gruss to perform a space clearing. The woman’s husband was skeptical until he noticed a difference in the way he felt in the couple’s home afterward.

“He saw that it was different and he felt that it was different and then he started to believe,” said Gruss.

Although she has had several male clients, Gruss said it’s mostly women who contact her, likely because they’re more connected to their homes.

“They get to know what’s going on and what’s working and what’s not working,” she said. “They get to know if it’s practical and functional.”

Gruss will be at the St. Albert Lifestyle Expo April 8 to 11.

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