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For many of us, our interior design skills are based on instinct: We arrange our furniture, art, even the books on our shelves based on what looks good—and, if we’re being honest, what will fit in any given space. Sometimes that works, sometimes it’s…a cluttered jumble that we hope we’ll fix someday. But for practitioners of Feng Shui, there’s an art to placing every item in your home—one that can affect the flow of energy, or Chi, throughout each room. “The intent is to create an environment that nourishes you holistically,” writes Anjie Cho in Holistic Spaces: 108 Ways to Create a Mindful and Peaceful Home.

One of the primary tools to achieve just that is through a Feng Shui Bagua Map, which essentially divides a space into eight areas that can boost different types of energy in your life, be it relationships, wealth or spiritual growth, just to name a few. The center of the map, which forms the ninth section, is considered a neutral zone. It represents a sense of balance and of being grounded.

Once you have a reading of where those areas are in your home, you can arrange the things you own—according to the principles of Feng Shui—to encourage abundance in those areas.

But! Before you click print on the map below and dash off to use it, there are a few things to know first.

feng shui bagua map reading
Here’s a simplified take on the Bagua map.
Sofia Kraushaar

Interpreting the Bagua Isn’t So Easy

To the untrained eye, the map’s grid-like design can be very confusing, especially since there are several layers to its application. Beyond knowing which sections of the house correspond to different types of energy, each section is also connected to one of five elements: earth, water, fire, metal and wood. To amplify the particular energy in a given area, you’ll want to incorporate that area’s element in your décor (say, a decorative fountain or ocean blue walls in the career area, which has water for its element), as well as the Feng Shui element that nourishes it. Think of it like using an accent color to make the primary color in a room pop—in the career example, metal nourishes water in Feng Shui, so consider adding a metal-trimmed mirror.

If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Many people study Feng Shui for a few years before doing their own Bagua map readings.

“Ancient Feng Shui warns that once you use Bagua improperly, there is no going back,” explains Clara Leung, a Feng Shui practitioner for more than 20 years and founder of Clara’s Green House, a Feng Shui-based plant company. “Having grown up as a young girl in Hong Kong…I remember very well that the shopkeepers would not sell Bagua map to just about anyone, as the shopkeepers preferred to avoid the negative ramifications of handing it over to someone that could misinterpret it.”

Practitioners believe that bad Feng Shui gives a home unstable or negative energy, which can harm your relationships and leave you feeling drained.

So while we’ll go over a breakdown of what the Bagua map is and how it works, Leung strongly encourages people to work with a professional to determine what should be done to improve the energy of their homes, rather than taking it on as a DIY project.

There Are Two Approaches to the Bagua (and Feng Shui)

1. Traditional Feng Shui Bagua

Because there are two main schools of Feng Shui, there are two types of Bagua that people use to improve the energy in their homes. One is through traditional Feng Shui and follows the classic Chinese practice. With this style, you use a compass to read which direction your front door faces, and that determines where different energy centers are within your home. (The front door is important, because that’s where energy, or Chi, enters your home, according to the practice.)

To read the door, you (or a pro would) hold a compass in front of you, keeping your back parallel with the door. Experts recommend removing any metal jewelry and doing a few readings from different distances, just to ensure any metal isn’t interfering with your results. Add up the coordinates from each of the readings, then divide by the total number of readings to get your average.

Once you’ve determined where the door is in relation to the magnetic north of the compass, you can then apply the Bagua map to reveal the different energy sectors of the home. With this approach, think of the “career” section of the map as north, with “fame and reputation” to the south, “family” to the east, and “children and creativity” to the west. (Learn-about-feng-shui.com offers even more details on applying the compass method, if you’re curious.)

2. Western Feng Shui Bagua

The other major approach is Western Feng Shui, or Black Sect Tantric Buddhist School of Feng Shui (BTB) Bagua, which was popularized in the U.S. in the 1980s. This one’s considered a little easier to use, because it doesn’t involve a compass—you simply align the bottom part of the Bagua with the wall of your front door. So, in this reading, your entryway would fall within the “knowledge and self-cultivation,” “career” or “travel and helpful people” sections.

You May Be Wondering: Which Method Should I Use?

Choosing which one is right for you often comes down to which style speaks to you more. Whether you decide to follow traditional or Western Feng Shui, stick with it. Trying to work in both styles tends to overcomplicate things and leads to confusion, writes Feng Shui expert Rodika Tchi.

Once you’ve uncovered how your home aligns with the Bagua map, you’ll probably realize not all areas are represented equally, since very few floor plans are square or rectangular. And, unless you’ve studied Feng Shui for years, you may be thinking, “uh, now what?”

That’s where an expert’s advice really comes in handy, so you know what to place where—and why. The International Feng Shui Consultant Guide offers a directory to find a consultant near you, and if you’re looking to learn more on your own, check out A Master Course in Feng Shui or Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui.

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