Many a Feng Shui practitioner will assume that their client, or the audience they are speaking in front of, instinctually understands what qi (pronounced, and often spelled, as "Chi") flow means, as if it were a well-known phrase from the hippie era, as in “go with the flow.”
We can break this concept down into two major categories, such as “good qi flow” and “poor qi flow,” but first let’s try to define what qi is. Qi is this elusive concept that often gets reduced to being described merely as energy.
Qi is really beyond “energy,” and more like the supplier of energy. But we can settle with such definitions as energy, life force, or air currents. Qi can also be defined and described very differently depending on the context. For example, in Chinese medicine, qi flow might be referring to the vibrancy of the human body, the interconnection and functionality of certain organs or even the breath of life. Qi may even refer to consciousness.
In a more physical sense, qi is in the particles of all matter, all physical objects and vibrating at a certain frequency. Good qi could describe a space that is balanced and with life enhancing qualities. Poor qi or “sha qi” can define circumstances which undermine health and well-being.
In many Feng Shui instances, qi can refer to air currents which travel through a building and therefore, the qi flow of a building is about how those air currents move. Do they move quickly or slowly? Do they move in a straight line, directed by walls and other architectural constraints, or do they curve and meander? Does the qi have a chance to linger in the building and supply it with proper energy or is the qi able to escape the interior space too quickly?
We can also observe how qi flows with regards to outside spaces and the natural environment. Examples include the flow of man-made traffic or the way a row of trees can buffer strong winds. Within a branch of Feng Shui, called Form School, there are countless examples of how qi flow can affect us in many profound or subtle ways.
The same week that I am writing this article, I was asked to review a triangular shaped building, which is well known to be a shape that can create irritation and a chaotic flow of qi inside. The triangular shape can also cast about “misdirected anger” to nearby structures with more stable shapes. The sharp corner edges of any building can direct “sha” qi towards another building, with trickle down influences on the occupants.
The responsibilities of any serious practitioner are to note the circumstances which can disrupt good qi flow, starting from the outside environment, as we approach the locale to be studied or audited. The architecture and landscaping are taken into consideration in how they either contribute to or detract from good energy. Singular rooms can be micro-managed for their qi flow as well, with emphasis on the rooms people spend the most time in.
Qi flow can also be described as virtual water in the way that it moves and carries with it life enhancing energy. Of course, qi can also emanate from perfectly still areas, such as a mountain. The very words “Feng Shui” (wind, water) are an abbreviation taken from a whole sentence: Energy which dissipates by the wind, collects at the boundaries of water.” In our own little domain, we try to harness and manipulate qi. Using furnishings and plants and water features are just a few of the ways we can affect qi flow in our own personal spaces.
Qi flow can interact with an otherwise more stationary magnetic field. This is one reason why we can say that every once in a great while, the house at the end of a T-juncture might be the luckiest house on the street, when the qi flow towards the house just activates a good house by other criteria. Usually, people think of the house at the end of the street as a problem house because of being aligned directly with the street, but we always have to know more about the house before making that conclusion.