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The Feng Shui of Names

What makes one name better than another? What makes a name ‘just right’? The ancient art of Feng Shui—based on timeless principles for establishing harmony and balance—can help!

Find Your Balance: “The Feng Shui things you do, from arranging furniture to choosing names, should create a clean slate by establishing, above all, balance,” says Ariel Joseph Towne, a Feng Shui consultant and life coach in Los Angeles. Balancing the presence of what’s known as the “Five Elements”—Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water—within one’s home can, according to Feng Shui’s principles, produce certain desired effects. The color green, which corresponds with the wood element (think plant life), will, when placed in the Eastern area of your home, encourage your career’s growth. While Feng Shui’s methodology is fairly complex, thinking about the meaning behind your choices—whether you’re decorating your living room, or naming a baby—is fundamental to its practice.

“Incorporating Feng Shui’s main principles of balance, harmony and flow into a name can mean representing these characteristics in the name’s literal meaning— names like Harmony, Grace, or Joy are a few that are also actual English words with positive definitions—or creating a sense of these characteristics through sound and association. Perhaps you associate the name Michael with a family member you love and admire, and so you feel good when you hear or say that name. Always begin by asking yourself how a name makes you feel when you say it; this will help to define the name’s meaning for you. You can, of course, look into the traditional meanings behind that name, as well.”

Account for “Inheritor’s Chi”: Naming a baby after someone else is a wonderful way to honor that person, but take stock of all of Grandpa’s personality traits before passing his moniker on. “Considering the total energy of the person will help you strike a balance when it comes to a Feng Shui concept called ‘Inheritor’s Chi,’ ” says Towne. “If you’re planning to name a new baby after a family member who was warm and loving, but also, say, had a hot temper, you might choose a middle name representing — for you — tolerance or patience, something to balance the energy out.”

Tell a Story: “More importantly than whether a name is traditionally considered auspicious, or lucky, is the energy the name carries,” says Candace Vorhaus, a New York-based Feng Shui consultant and spiritual coach. “Be sure to share the stories behind your children’s names with them as they grow; they’ll derive a sense of belonging, and meaning, from hearing of the care you took in naming them. This will infuse their names with positive energy; they’ll carry that with them, too.”

Use Your Senses: “Feng Shui is simply the act of consciously, intentionally creating an environment that elevates ‘Chi’, which is the traditional Chinese principle of life force, or energy flow,” says Vorhaus. “Sound and sight are elements of one’s environment, so choosing a name that sounds pleasant when said aloud, and looks appealing when written, will enable you to instinctively choose a name that optimizes Chi. Use as many of your senses as you can when naming anything!” Vorhaus recommends writing a name you may be considering, and asking yourself, as well as friends and family members, to say the name aloud. Watch and listen for their reactions to the name, as well as your own response to its sound when it’s said aloud by others.

Do the Math: Feng Shui evolved through several cultures, and some people still practice its principles according to strict tradition. “One might, for instance, utilize numerology in choosing a name,” Towne says. “According to this method, each letter in the alphabet corresponds to a number between one and nine. One can derive the numerical representation of a name, and read meaning into that name based on the characteristics associated with the number. For example, in Chinese culture, the number eight is considered quite lucky, as it represents abundance.” Crunching the numbers in a name (even your own!) can be fun — books and websites on the subject can teach you how — but Towne reminds us not to sweat the math too much. “It all comes back to meaning, which everyone interprets differently,” he says. “If a name feels good to you, that’s what counts.”

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