Three Steps to a Harmonious Classroom and…Life!

If you could have the perfect life, what would it look like? Imagine your life exactly as you wish it could be. Now, what if I told you that you were given these unique desires because you were meant to fulfill them?  You are meant to fulfill your dreams and accomplish your goals.  How, you ask? Feng shui can help!

What exactly is feng shui?

You have the power to change nine areas of your life with the help of feng shui. Using a tool called the bagua map, you will be able to see which area of your home, office, or classroom connects to specific areas of your life.  The nine areas are: wealth, reputation, relationships, children & creativity, health, family, knowledge, career, and helpful people & travel. Using the bagua map, you can address any area of life and see results almost immediately. 

Ideally, a feng shui home will have good flowing energy in all nine areas.  However, just as life is ever-changing, so must your feng shui practice continue to evolve.  Once you declutter a space and decorate, you will need to check in on that area of your home from time to time to keep it healthy.  The knowledge of feng shui is a very powerful tool that you can use as situations arise in your life. 

When you are ready to start applying feng shui to your classroom (or office), decluttering and organizing is a great place to start!  First and foremost, you want to tend to your personal desk.  Then, it is most important to organize the furniture, such as student desks and tables, in a way that allows optimal flow of chi. Finally, help your students organize their personal desks and the materials in the classroom so that you feel more energized and peaceful in your classroom. Let’s get started!

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Step One: Clear Desk, Clear Mind

Did you know that you could lay the bagua map on your desk?  That’s right, you can elevate the energy of all nine areas of your life simply by cleaning and organizing your desk with your intention.

If you are like most teachers, you probably do not spend that much time in your desk. However, when you are at your desk you are probably doing some important documentation or planning that needs your full attention. Make your desk inviting and clear so that your mind feels lighter and you can focus with greater ease.  

  1. Empty each drawer one at a time.  Drawers carry very stagnant energy because there is nowhere for the energy to escape. The best way to refresh the energy of the desk and release old chi is by removing objects and getting rid of what you no longer need.  There are probably many teachers or students who could benefit from some old supplies that you no longer use.

  2. Now that your desk has been organized,  you are ready to minimize the surface of the desk. Start by taking everything off and dusting the surface of the desk.  Next, place your items strategically based on the bagua map and the elements which represent each gua.  For example, I like to place a bamboo plant on the upper left corner of my desk.  The upper left gua is the wealth gua, activated by the wood element.  The bamboo symbolizes wood and represents upward growth.  The hollowness of the bamboo signifies the openness to receive abundance. The chart below shows the bagua map and suggestions for each gua. Remember that the element is most effectively represented by the shape.  

  3. Place the desk in a “power position.”  You want to able to see the door from where you are sitting.  If your back is against the door, you could get startled if someone walks up behind you.  You have more peace of mind knowing exactly who is entering your space.  Try to have a solid wall behind you if possible.  This school year, I moved my desk from the relationship corner to the wealth corner. Those are the preferred guas since they are considered the most powerful, anchoring positions.  Although there is a window at my back, I have a much better view of the door.  If your desk has been in the same position for a couple years, I would recommend simply turning the desk to face another direction.  Whenever you move furniture, it freshens the chi and gives you a new perspective on life and your classroom.

 screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-55-23-pmCaption: If you are conscious of the bagua map as you organize your desk and classroom, it will help you create greater harmony. The bagua map is the same as the one you place on your house, but there are some additional suggestions on  how each gua specifically affects your classroom or career path. 

 

Step 2: Furniture Arrangement: Creating Optimal Flow in Your Classroom or Office

You started organizing your desk, and placed it in a power position.  Now, you can arrange the rest of  furniture for the greatest flow of chi.  You and your students will be able to focus better when the energy circulates unobstructed through your classroom.  Before you start moving everything around in your classroom, there are some key points to remember when arranging your space:

Round is the Way: Chi flows best around rounded edges.  If you arrange desks in a formation that creates a lot of straight lines and sharp turns, the energy will not flow as well.  

Energy as a Stream: Energy is constantly moving in a forward motion.  The energy flows in each time you open your classroom door.  Imagine the energy as a stream of water.  As it flows in through the classroom, where does the water flow quickly?  Does it get stuck in a certain space?  Try to arrange the space as best as you can so that the “water” flows does not get blocked.  This is another reason why opening up a window at least once a week is important.  When you open the window, it allows stagnant energy to exit, and refreshing chi enters to revitalize your space.

Mountain Behind You: You want a mountain behind you.  As the instructor, you need the power position so that you feel confident when working with the students.  I have a couple of tables in my classroom where I meet with small groups of students for literature discussions and other activities.  I have placed my chair so that my back is to the wall, and I have a unobstructed view of the whole classroom.  In particular, you should be able to see the door from where you sit.

Use the Elements: As you decide where to place furniture, remember that each gua is best activated with a specific shape.  One of the tables I use for small group instruction is a kidney shape. The rounded shape could represent metal, so I placed this table in the Children & Creativity gua.  Another big table is a long horizontal rectangle.  This shape represents the Earth Element, and it is placed in the relationship corner with an even number of chairs.  The relationship corner is best activated with pairs of objects, or even numbers.  This promotes partnership and successful collaboration.

No Space is Ever “Fixed” for Good: Although your classroom can stay in the same formation all year, it is best for students to switch desks every four or five weeks. Even if the desks are in the same formation, the simple movement will boost the energy.  Additionally, your students will appreciate the change of perspective. They will be more alert and recharged. You could even shift your desk if you are starting to feel drained in your day-to-day activities. 

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-56-00-pmCaption: Every classroom is different, but here  is an example of how I strategically arranged my classroom this school year.  I used the elements, and the five suggestions above to help me make my design choices. 

Student Desks:

Group A:  The students are on an angle so that it creates a more “rounded” configuration.  This allows the chi to flow.  All students are facing the SMARTboard and can see the front door. The students are not in a group of four, but they all have a partner.  When I want students to work in groups, they can move to the large work tables or turn their chairs.  An additional note:  Try not to have students in line with the door.  As chi enters the door, the energy rushes in.  Group A is not recommended for your students who are hyperactive or have difficulty concentrating.  This space has active chi because of the door, so keep this is mind when sitting students here.


Group B: This group of four students are on an angle so that nobody has their back to the SMARTboard and everyone can see the door.  Again, the angle also helps the energy flow.

 

Group C:  The two groups in the center of the room have their backs to the East and West walls. Everyone can see the door.  Although no one is facing the door or SMARTboard, if they look to the side they can see them. The group is not angled, but the center of the room is a “grounding” point.  The center is the Health gua, and it is represented by the Earth.  The desks create the square/horizontal rectangle which represents the Earth element.  

 

Group D: All students in group D have their backs to the wall.  The solid wall creates a “mountain” behind them. It is very auspicious any time you can have a solid wall or chair behind you. The solid back creates support and boosts confidence and productivity.

 

Checklist for Student Desks

  • Is there a solid wall behind you and your students?

  • Can your students see the front door?

  • Do the desks allow optimal flow of chi, or are they creating sharp turns?

 

Step Three: Getting the Students Organized

You have worked hard to clear your classroom of unnecessary clutter and arrange the furniture for optimal energy flow.  Now, the key is to stay organized and keep your classroom functioning at peak efficiency.  Here are three quick tips that will help the students take ownership of the classroom and accept the responsibility of maintaining the positive vibes. If you are a teacher who is evaluated based on the Charlotte Danielson framework, this area could be used as evidence of managing your classroom environment!

Friday Desk Cleaning:  It sounds so easy, but how many times do you allow your students to clean out their desks?  We get so busy, that sometimes this only happens once a quarter!  Try to give your students 10 minutes every week to clean out their desks. The mess in their desks is causing unnecessary chaos in their minds.  When the students have time to organize their personal space, they will be more efficient, remember their homework, and feel calmer.  In addition, when all of the desks are organized, the overall chi of the classroom is improved.

Classroom Jobs: Many teachers assign classroom jobs.  Do you have have the students dust the book shelves, counters, and common-area tables? My students love doing these types of jobs.  Use whatever products your school approves, and notice how much fresher the room feels.  Your classroom’s chi will be heightened immediately. Again, I would recommend
doing this weekly.  If possible, open up the windows at the same time the students clean the surfaces.  This will really boost the effectiveness as you let fresh air elevate the chi.

 

Explicit Organization:  Do you spend time with your students finding a “home” for every school supply?  Students need direct instruction on exactly where everything goes.  At the beginning of the year students put all of their pens, pencils and erasers in their pencil pouch, and they learn that their scissors, glue and crayons belong in their art box.  During our Friday Desk Cleaning day, we review where everything goes. My famous line is, “There should be no loose papers in your desk.  Remember, everything has a home.  Put papers in your ‘Take Home’ folder that need to go home.  Place papers that you still need in your ‘Stay at School’ folder, and anything that you don’t need can be recycled.” Even high school students need reminders of how to organize their space.  They too need to understand the value of keeping their personal space clean and organized.

 

For optimal results, I really encourage teachers, or anyone looking to improve their career, to try feng shui in their homes too  No matter how neat and organized your classroom or office is, if you are coming home to disarray, you will not feel rejuvenated for the next day of teaching.  We need to feel like our house is giving us a big warm hug every time we walk into the door.  If you have a strong foundation at home, your professional life will start to fall into place.

For a daily feng shui tip, join me on  Facebook or follow me on Instagram or Twitter!
Until Next time,
Namaste!
Kristina Hollinger

 

The Work of Healing

Some of us are experiencing life-altering twists, and things are far from the hum-drum routine. My dear friend Leslie is one of those people. A Utah native, Leslie traveled to Chicago to become a teacher. I had the pleasure of working alongside her. It has been about five years since we last saw each other, but she has left a footprint in my heart. I especially feel very connected with her since she has shared her heartbreaking, truly inspiring story on A Sunday Kinda Love.  Without further ado, here is Leslie’s story…

The Work of Healing

I told one of my friends the other day that I feel like I’ve aged 100 years in the past few months. I’m only 29, so why do I feel like this wise old grandma these days? In one word: Loss. You see, my daughter passed away this summer. It’s a long story, one in which I document on my blog, but my daughter, Hadley Grace, was born 10 weeks premature with a very serious blood infection due to Group B Strep. To say it has been a shock is an understatement. This week was my due date, I had plans to take maternity leave at work, a room in our home is a beautiful coral and aqua nursery created just for our baby girl, she had a closet full of clothes, drawers full of diapers, and a prominent space smack in the middle of my heart. I’ve always been a woman of faith: a lapsed Episcopalian who attended Catholic school for 10 years, I now consider myself a non-dominational Christian. I believe in grace, love, and faith. I believe following Christ impacts one’s life on a daily basis in the form of thousands of little decisions that say “yes” to God. But on June 18, 2016, when my sweet baby girl died in my arms, suddenly that beautiful, peaceful, often convenient faith become raw, distorted, and precarious. My heart and mind repeated the questions “how?” and “why?” over and over again. We believed in the power of prayer. We believed in miracles. But our prayers weren’t answered. We didn’t get our miracle. How do you sit comfortably with that type of pain?
 In the days and weeks following Hadley’s death I began to furiously study loss, grief, faith, and prayer. I read countless books, spoke with wise people of faith, attended counseling, and most of all, I talked to God myself. Why didn’t you listen to me? The truth is, He did listen to me and He still does. But listening doesn’t always imply that God will be doing exactly what I ask. I’ve gone back and forth over whether God has a “plan,” if it all “fits together”. I’d be lying if I told you I had it all figured out. I cried out on the way home from her funeral, “I will never ever understand.” That still holds true and it always will be. What I have discovered, though, is great wisdom and the pockets of grace that emerge in the wake of great loss. Jerry Sittser writes in his book “A Grace Disguised,” that “The screaming pain I feel over loss reflects the pure pleasure I felt in knowing her presence.” Being a mom was my greatest joy and unlocked a well of happiness I didn’t know I had in me. But even in sorrow, I know I will feel that again one day. I received my gift: I just didn’t get to keep it. I have found that life is short and wildly precious. I hope I always have a strong sense of life’s fleeting nature and what that means for my daily life. 
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One of the most significant things I have learned is that you have to put in the hard work of grief by being proactive. The following are some steps I have taken (along with my husband) to keep Hadley’s memory alive and help heal our hearts. The wisdom that accompanies loss can be accessed fully if one is active in the process. You must take responsibility for grief and healing and channel it in your life. If you let the pain simply happen to you, it will knock you off your feet. You must, instead, relentlessly pursue healing and wholeness. That cannot occur, I have discovered, by running from the pain, but by diving in and working with it. 

1) In our home: We have a vase of flowers on our dresser and in the bunch of flowers, there is a single pink lily that represents our sweet girl. Another item is a beautiful blanket with her name crocheted on it. I slept with this blanket during my whole ten day hospital stay before Hadley was born. Once she arrived, she had the blanket with her. We keep this laid out on her nursery rocking chair which we have moved into our master bedroom. It’s one of my favorite reading and journaling spots. We also have a printed canvas of her hand stacked on ours and it hangs prominently in our bedroom. It’s the first thing I see when I get up in the morning.
2) Jewelry: I love wearing jewelry to remind me of my sweet girl. I have an “H” necklace from Kate Spade I wear everyday that my husband bought me after we returned home from the hospital. On the back it reads “One in a million.” She never got to wear her monogram so I wear it proudly for her. It makes me think if each word I speak, action I take would make Hadley proud. I also have some angel wing necklaces and a cherub Alex and Ani bracelet I wear sometimes.
3) Photo Album: Looking at pictures of my angel baby is such a comfort to me. I made a Shutterfly photo album for all members of our family. I truly think I healed in the creation of it. I poured over every picture and carefully selected the perfect images and words. I treasure this book and I am so looking forward to sharing it with our future children one day.
4) Good words as decor: Good, soulful words have really soothed my heart this summer. Just as everything I see reminds me of Hadley,  it seems everything I read can connect to our experience. I found two of my favorites this summer in small shops and both are featured in our home. One reads, “I believe hope rises up to meet our biggest struggles” The other is a quote from L.R. Knost that says, “Life is amazing and awful and then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living: heart-breaking, soul-healing, awful, ordinary life and it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” I connected with this quote instantly!
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5) Books: I have poured over many books about grief and loss. They have been tremendously helpful to me. They include, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold Kushner (this was a gift from my incredible doctor who delivered Hadley and it has flipped my faith life upside down in a good way. I cannot sing its praises enough), “Through the Eyes of a Lion” by Levi Lusko, “Ended Beginnings” by Claudia Panuthos, “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser, “Tear Soup” by Pat Schwiebert,  and “Fight Back with Joy” by Margaret Feinberg. This loss thing was so very new to me and I have loved relying on the wisdom of those who have forged this path before me.
6) Talking: Whether going on a long trail walk with my husband, crying my eyes out in counseling, or sharing our story with a college friend over the phone, talking has been greatly beneficial for me. My husband and I have reached out to two different families who have experienced the loss of a child. These meetings and conversations have been life changing and have helped to stitch up my broken heart. I have discovered new realizations and connections through conversation.

“I no longer pray like I used to…”

 

7) Praying: I no longer pray like I used to. I do not ask God for specific actions to be performed outside of myself. Rather, I pray for God to be with me and for my spirit and attitude to be positive and enriching for myself and others. For example, I would not pray “Please let me stay healthy this school year.” I would instead now pray, “Please be with me and give me grace to endure your will with courage.”
I am no expert on healing after loss. This is a whole new world for me but I have found the above items helpful to me as I navigate a world of questioning God’s plan, discovering a new sense of faith, and healing my spirit after profound loss. It is possible to have an aching, longing heart and a deep well of wisdom at the same time. Pain and wisdom go hand in hand. It takes work, though–tear-filled, gut-wrenching, mind-numbing work to make connections and achieve wisdom. But it is so very worth it, my work of grief will never end. My dream in life now is to rise from this experience and help others heal. 
There are no words that can express my gratitude to Leslie for gracing us with the greatest gift of all, Hadley’s story.  If you would like to know more about Leslie’s journey, you can connect with her on her blog A Sunday Kinda Love or follow Leslie Steele on Facebook.  My heart goes out to you Leslie and AJ. I will never understand why either…
Until Next time,
Namaste!

3 Feng Shui Tips for Busy Moms

mommy and abby bwIt is summer again!  For all parents, it means the kids are home from school.  For teachers like me, it means that you are back to being a full-time mom.  I talk about fulfilling your life purpose a lot.  Careers are a very important outlet to serve our communities and give back.  Yet, being a parent is a vocation, or a calling, too.  Some moms or dads are lucky enough to be home with their children full-time. And to you, I tip my hat.  Although parenting is quite possibly the most fulfilling and important job on the planet, it is also challenging and, at times, thankless.  As a teacher, I am preparing myself for the transition of being a working mom, to being a stay-at-home parent.  Here are three ways busy moms can use feng shui to help them embrace parenthood and joyfully live their life purpose as a parent.run to mommy color

Tip One: Mindfulness

It does not matter if you are a working mom or a full-time mom, we forget to live in the present moment all the time!  We need to remind ourselves daily, “She is only going to fit in that 2T top and wear pampers for a short time…” Even though it seems like it will be forever.  The dishes will always be in the sink, and there will always be a pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded. Make it a priority to turn off the TV and just allow your child to lead the way.  All they really want at any given moment is your full attention.

Tip Two: Feng Shui Food

I know you are busy, but here is a quick tip that can help you at the grocery store.  Choose a variety of colored foods when you are shopping for your little ones.  In feng shui there are five elements, which are represented by colors.  In order to be balanced and healthy, we need to have an even dose of all the elements. So a plate filled with multi-colored natural foods is very important. Now that I am back to being a full-time mom, I need to get myself mentally prepared to make a variety of lunches!  My daughter’s day care did such a great job of providing the kids with an array of healthy lunches.  She never got bored because her daily “report card” always said she ate “All” (as opposed to “Some” or “None”) of her food.  This summer I am challenging myself to get as many colors on her plate as I can!

Tip Three: Organization in Moderation

Getting the house organized on a daily basis can be really tough.  We could spend the entire day picking up toys and cereal, not to mention cleaning dishes!  So, here is my suggestion.  Clean up the clutter in moderation.  If you are going to be a “mindful parent” as suggested in tip one, you really can’t obsess over having everything neat and tidy 24/7. I know that as parents we are all struggling to find the balance between housework and play. If anyone has any suggestions,  I would actually appreciate some comments or help with this one!  All  I know is that clutter attracts more clutter and creates a “cluttered mind.”  In order to avoid this, my “plan” for the summer is to clean up after breakfast and then head out of the house!  Go to the park.  Visit the library.  Take a trip to the zoo or a friend’s house.  I feel like this will keep my daughter from tearing everything apart and help me think more clearly; in turn being a more present and mindful parent.

Whatever you do this summer, I wish you all much love and light.  I look forward to connecting with you on my Facebook page !

Until Next Time,

Namaste!

Kristina Hollinger

The Feng Shui Mom: 3 Tips that will benefit you & your kids

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I love being the mom of a little toddler girl! But as we all know, kids can be very energetic and, well, tire you out!  So, I believe that feng shui is very necessary when you have kids. Feng shui has helped me so much when it comes to arranging our home and making it more functional, enjoyable, and, most importantly, peaceful. If there were only three feng shui tips that I could give moms and dads that would help make their living environment feel more harmonious, these would be it:

Tip #1: Crib/Child’s Bed Placement

Just like your bed placement is important, so is your child’s.  Let’s face it, if your child is not sleeping well, then neither are you!  So, here is what you need to remember.  Just like you, it is best for the child’s feet to be facing the door (but NOT in line with the door). Also, it is preferable that the crib is NOT under a window.  Windows drain your energy when you sleep, and you need to “recharge” your energy when you sleep, not lose it.  If you cannot avoid putting the bed under a window, I would recommend getting thick curtains that you can draw at night. Finally, just like your bed, it is best that your child’s is not pushed up against a wall.  If the bed can be accessed on both sides it is ideal; this way, the energy can circulate around the bed throughout the night, providing a rejuvenating rest.

Tip #2: De-clutter

Your home is a reflection of your life.  Even your closets tell a story about what is going on inside of you.  So, even though it is tempting just to throw the toys under the bed, and toss the outgrown clothes into garbage bags that pile up in the closets and garage (guilty!), you and your family will feel so much better if you organize.  “Everything has a place.” (And please don’t let that place be under the bed! Remember the energy needs to circulate around the bed. See Tip #1). If you can’t find a place for something, then donate it to Good Will or have a little garage sale.  Don’t let “things” take over your home.  You might not realize it, but the energy of clutter drags you down.  Clutter attracts more clutter and it becomes overwhelming and stressful.  Start with one room at a time, or one closet at a time.  Take out 9 items everyday to organize, throw away, or donate.  If you do a little each day, you will feel better little by little.  I feel like I am ALWAYS de-cluttering.  In a way it is never-ending, but that is how feng shui works. Since life is always changing, we always need to take some time to improve our environment.

Tip #3: Display Artwork Thoughtfully

The third and final tip is one of my favorite!  In feng shui your home is divided into 9 guas, or areas, that represent your life.  One area is designated to “children and creativity.”  It is located all the way to the right and center when you enter your home.  This area is best activated when you decorate using the metal element, circular shapes, colors of grey, white, and pastels.  In addition, since it represents children & creativity, it is an ideal location for a play table and to display artwork and pictures of your children.  My daughter goes to daycare while I teach, and she does at least one art project daily.  There is no way I could display ALL of her artwork (and if I did, it would be covering at least five walls by now).  I recommend selecting a few pieces and rotating them throughout the school year.  Your children feel so much pride when their work is on display, and if placed with intention, you are sure to attract more creative ways of thinking and expression.  And if you want more kids— you can always decorate this area with that intention too!

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As always, I hope these quick tips help you to feel better in your space!

Until next time, namaste!

Kristina Hollinger