Feng Shui: Creating a Mindful Environment For Healing & Living

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Images of a white sand beach or a secluded forest stream, the sound of waves and water help some people feel relaxed and calm.

There are also things you can do to help make your home a calm, comfortable & conducive healing environment.

Today we’re talking to Choy Leow, director of design & construction for Allina Health.

Choy has worked to create healing environments for people during some of the most exciting and some of the most difficult times in their lives.
Feng Shui: Creating a Mindful Environment For Healing & Living
Featured Speaker:
Choy Leow, AIA
Choy Leow is the director for design & construction at Allina Health. He and his team plan, develop & build healing environments for Allina Health patients, visitors, guests and staff.
Choy is a member of the MN chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He integrates his feng shui awareness into design consideration & planning where appropriate.
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Melanie Cole (Host):  Images of a white sand beach or secluded forest stream, the sound of waves and water can really help some people feel more relaxed and calm. There are also things that you can do to help make your home a calm, comfortable, healing environment. My guest today is Choy Leow. He is a director for design and construction at Allina Health. He and his team plan, develop, and build healing environments for Allina Health patients, visitors, guests, and staff. Welcome to the show, Choy. Tell us a little bit about feng shui. What is it, how long has it been around?

Choy Leow (Guest):  Very good. It is my pleasure to be on your show, Melanie, and I thank you for having me, first and foremost, on behalf of Allina Health. Feng shui, for all intent and purposes, is a kind of a way of life that the Chinese have been practicing for many, many thousands of years now. It’s essentially a mindfulness to kind of acknowledge the environment of which we play, work, and live in, and to make sure that whatever we do, we do what we can to make sure that our awareness of the environment that we are in, acknowledge and put to the best use the way we can to provide the kind of a conduciveness that we need to function in. It is not a religion per se. It’s essentially a way of life. So, the way the Chinese go about managing it, so to speak, is to first and foremost frame it up in terms of giving nature its place, rightfully so, in our life. Nature is addressed in two components in terms of “feng,” which is wind, and “shui,” which is water. And these two forces in nature are as powerful tool as they can be. And the way the Chinese look at it is so long as we find ways to reconcile with what impacts the power of wind and water have on our life, then the rest essentially is relatively easy to work with as long as our respect, acknowledgment, and mindfulness with working with these two powerful forces in nature are at peace with each other.

Melanie:  Choy, how can feng shui be used to create that calm, restful environment? Tell us a little bit about architecture and design elements that you’ve used to create a healing healthcare environment.

Choy:  To incorporate feng shui into this architectural practice or create a living environment that is conducive for us to function in is essentially a sense of good site planning. In architecture, first and foremost, placing the building on the site is one of the first key elements to ensure a successful performance of whatever the building is. For example, in our hospital in Wyoming, to make sure that we optimize on locating the building, the way that we receive our patients and families is first and foremost done correctly. Then, in essence, the first task of making sure that the building relates to the placement on whatever the property that we are working with is taken care of. So the rest would be paying attention to details that we can continue to work with.

Melanie:  So, does that include, as you walk through the building, that flow of natural light? Choy, does it -- the feeling that you get as you walk through a very sterile building, where there is no natural light or no nature feeling coming in, as you walk through, what is that feeling you want people to get as they walk around the halls?

Choy:  One key successful effort that we constantly work with is to make sure that we contextualize the environment that we create in our healthcare environment. And the nature of healthcare environment is such that it is always immense, big, and large in scale, so to speak. So, incorporating elements of nature, of which natural light is one component of it, is certainly a helpful key to make sure that we anchor our healthcare environment with elements that our patients and families are familiar with, lighting being certainly being one component.  But the fact of the matter is, in our immense and large environment and multi-storey structure, gaining natural light is not always feasible beyond the exterior wall condition. So, a lot of our interior space to incorporate natural light sometimes is not viable, and in place of lighting then would be artwork and materials and colors that can emulate the attributes from nature in terms of colors of greens and earth tone, and textures in terms of things that we see in leaf forms, for instance, or part of a pattern of such that are being carved into our design considerations.

Melanie:  What are some things people can do, some great tips you could give right now to make their homes more restful and calm?

Choy:  One doable effort that we can constantly practiced is to simplify.In architecture, we have a saying that says less is more, meaning that we have to be very mindful about the effect of accumulating too much. And as such, a mindful effort to make sure that we declutter the area once in a while to make sure that we walk the talk about less is more is helpful, because the saying that I like to use often is that too much of a good thing is not a good thing. So, that kind of draws back to the essence of balance in the feng shui practice in achieving a sense of essential needs versus the wants that we tend to accumulate. So, decluttering and simplifying in terms of working with the bare essentials of what is most important to our lives is essentially a good way to go about achieving a good feng shui practice.

Melanie:  What about in our office spaces? Those bright lights, how can we use some quick fixes to be more productive but also have that sense of calm while we’re working with the fluorescent lights? Our work furniture, how about that, and the plants and artwork? How can people make their office space that more calm environment?

Choy:  Well, one way to do it is to make sure that within the consistency of the environment that we bring in in terms of making sure that corporate-wise that we have a set of standards that they work with. In our individual space, a good way to customize our space is to bring in items that we can relate to that we can have a good sense of contextualizing the space that make it meaningful for us in terms of florals, plants, and pictures that simulate an environment that we desire to be in would be one way to kind of help our work environment be a little bit more conducive. And from an office standpoint, there are lighting options now that we deliberate in in terms of making sure that the lights are soft, the lights are warm to provide a consistency so that all our staff are is not being subjected to a harshness of a light glare throughout the day.

Melanie:  And then just in the last minute, please give your best advice on feng shui and how we can incorporate it into our lives for a more healing sense of calm.

Choy:  Sure. The one suggestion that I would like folks to be aware of is that feng shui practice essentially centers around adjusting our physical environment to appease our mental state of mind. By that I mean to go back to the resonance of feng shui as our two primal forces, that we work with them and know that we can significantly influence our life choices and wellbeing by making sure that we simplify as often as we can, we declutter as often as we can, and make sure that the environment that we work, play, and live in is in alignment with what our desire is to make sure that we create a space or an environment that works for us and not be too overly burdened by things that we can’t control, and do little things that make a big difference in terms of our state of mind. So that essentially, I think, would be a good way to work with it, meaning adjusting the physical environment to work with our mental state of wellbeing that we so desire.

Melanie:  Thank you so much. You’re listening to the WELLcast with Allina Health. For more information you can go to allinahealth.org. That’s allinahealth.org. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.