For the average college student, the dorm room has to serve a number of functions. It is, of course, a bedroom. It is also a miniature office, a room for entertaining guests, a dining room and a storage facility. With the amount of time that the average UR student spends in the dorms, it might make sense to put a little thought and care into how the room is designed and how it functions.

This is where feng shui comes in. This practice is an ancient Chinese art of room and landscape design, meant to harness the natural energy that flows throughout our environment.

Believe it or not, feng shui is possible in the tiny box that most students live in. Senior Christine Stoelting saw an article on feng shui in her local newspaper this past summer, and she decided that she could use it to improve the condition of her Susan B. Anthony single.

“I thought, why not give it a try if it’s only going to increase my happiness and comfort – and relationships,” she said.

The Basics

All of the things that she mentioned are believed to be possible through the art. It has its roots in elements of all the major Chinese religions, but especially in Confucianism and Taoism. In this tradition, there is an energy that flows throughout the universe, called ch’i. This energy is what gives life to everything in the world – where it flows, everything is alive, but where it is stagnant, life dries and withers.

The overriding goal of feng shui is to allow for the ideal movement of ch’i. A well-designed room will allow the ch’i to flow gently through everything, keeping it from either stagnating or rushing, much like a river.

Even if you don’t believe in the idea of ch’i, the feng shui system is an overly practical art. With how long the system has been around – at least 2,500 years, and by some estimates over 6,000 years – masters of the art have developed something that definitely adds comfort and practicality to a room.

A Dorm at Peace

Stoelting’s room seems welcoming from the moment one enters it. There is a distinct lack of clutter, and colors are mixed and blended in a way that helps calm even the most stressed-out college student.

“It helps me to focus when my atmosphere is clean and uncluttered,” Stoelting said. “It makes me want to be here.”

The ideas Stoelting used came from a number of books, including “The K.I.S.S. Guide to Feng Shui,” by Stephen Skinner. A major point that she found in this book was the balancing of the five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water. To put these in harmony, she tried to find equal amounts of these elements or colors that represented them.

A few of the specific details that add to her room’s feng shui are a few indoor plants, posters with water scenes and wind chimes to help slow ch’i that would otherwise flow too quickly from her door to her window.

Feng Steve

To see if this could be repeated to improve the average dorm room, the Campus Times looked for a particularly cluttered room lacking on any elements of feng shui – a room that really needed help. This room was found on just the next hall, with one of Stoelting’s fellow Resident Advisors, senior Steve Lega.

Lega originally designed his room with a few important elements in mind – “for efficiency, for entertaining and for masculinity.” He also pointed out that the proximity of his desk to his refrigerator was important in his layout.

“[Stoelting’s] room seems like it’s streamlined, and it’s calming,” Lega said. “I’m open to some feng shui, if it doesn’t interfere with my Lindsay Lohan and Hillary Duff posters.”

One long side of Lega’s room had a lofted bed over his desk, with a TV in the back corner. On the opposite side were his closet, refrigerator and two stuffed armchairs. One of the major feng shui problems with his room was the speedway created for ch’i between his window and door. Another was his parallel chairs – not allowing for conversation and creating a smaller TV room at odds with his overall room layout.

To help Lega, we moved his television out of the corner and placed one chair in each corner, each seated at 45 degree angles to the wall and at a right angle to each other. To support them, it was planned to place a lamp behind one and a plant behind the other – bringing in more light, plant and metal elements that were lacking in Steve’s room.

A Mixed Success

Lega liked the original changes, which created a meandering ch’i flow and a larger conversation area.

However, by the next weekend, the television set and chairs had been replaced.

“It was too hard to watch TV in the altered state, and for me watching TV is more important than channeling ch’i,” Lega said.

Despite the return to his original setup, he has not written off the art’s potential.

“I like the ideas and potential of feng shui,” Lega said. “I am keeping the elements of the flowers and am looking into wind chimes and lights.”

With a more major overhaul, even this room would have held a considerable amount of promise.

“My advice to potential feng shui-ers would be to do it from the start when the room is empty,” Lega said.

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