The Year of the Ox – Feng Shui tips to welcome in

Feng Shui practitioner Sylvia Bennett delivers some tips on how to bring good fortune to your home.

There is no better time to make a fresh start than at the beginning of a New Year. It brings an opportunity to clear away the cobwebs of the previous year and move forward with renewed enthusiasm. If you missed out in January you will have another chance, because the Chinese Year begins on 4 February.

Dip into its traditional oriental wisdom, find out which tendencies are indicated for the year ahead and follow some simple, time-tested tips to bring good fortune and well-being into your life.

Welcome to Ji Chou - the Year of the earth Ox. In Chinese astrology, the horoscope animal sign for 2009 is the Ox and its natural element is earth. The Ox is said to have a dutiful, loyal nature and a stabilising influence, reaching its goals through methodical commitment and hard work. Earth brings a mood of meditation, conservation and handling differences in a calm, thoughtful manner. Those tendencies might suggest a sign of purposeful evolution as the year progresses, with a disciplined approach to resolving existing situations, rather than impetuous innovation.

Make way for positive opportunities in 2009; first clear out everything you really don't need. It is fine to have older possessions that evoke warm feelings and happy memories; it is not fine to harbour broken objects, discarded magazines, papers or post, other people's possessions, old shoes or pictures that remind you of past relationships. The limiting influences they generate could hold you back, so let them go. There's no point in keeping anything that may undermine your well-being.

While you are de-cluttering, give yourself, your home and workplace a detox by getting rid of unnecessary chemically laden household and personal-care products and replace them with natural-based ones. This is a good time to plan a redecoration scheme, preferably using natural, organic paints.

Start with your front door: a fresh coat of paint and pristine door furniture will make a difference to how you feel and improves the quality of the chi, or life force, that enters your property. Place vibrant flowering plants around the entrance, in containers

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or in the ground. Put a flowering plant in the centre of your dining table, on the kitchen windowsill or in front of a mirror; replace any tired indoor plants with fresh, healthy ones. Plants have been proven to increase well-being, improve air quality and purify the atmosphere.

The elemental balance this year suggests that the climate could be drier and sunnier than last year and the strong earth influence is promising news for Devon food producers, growers, farmers and gardeners. It should be a good year for people to experiment with growing their own fruit and vegetables.

In Chinese medicine, the five natural elements relate to health in different parts of the body. It is wise to look after your digestion and cardiovascular health this year; eat sensibly, take daily, gentle exercise and follow a relaxation routine to release stress.

South-east is the best location for prosperity during this Ox year, traditionally activated there by a water feature or four bamboo stems in a clear vase of fresh water. It is advisable to take precautions in some other areas. Hang six, one pound coins in the west to protect against illness and put a touch of red colour in the north-east to avoid discord. Place a purifying salt-water cure in the weak, north area. Make it by half filling a small jar or glass with rock salt, top up with filtered water, add six pennies and one fivepenny piece, cover the top with clingfilm and make a few airholes. Replace it whenever it becomes discoloured.

The Chinese say you need a challenge to move you on. Look for the opportunities and the solutions will be there. 2009 invites you to clear your way, have a caring attitude towards others, turn to the natural environment for support and develop your personal stability. It is a year that welcomes prudence in decision-making as you progress.

Sylvia Bennett is an environmental designer and Feng Shui expert.

(01548 580989),

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