How to create your zen space

Your home is your sanctuary from the world — or it should be. With a busy, stressful life, you should be able to turn to your home for peace, comfort, love and support from your family. However, as homes are filled more and more with TVs, DVDs, iPads and computers, finding a Zen place in your home is more important than ever to ensure you have somewhere to rejuvenate your spirit.

Home is where your heart is

Establishing a Zen place in your home is a very personal thing. What is calming, meditative and restoring for one person could be very different for another. There is no formula. While there are clear techniques you can follow to ensure your home has the right kind of qi (energy or life force) and harnesses the correct energies through the principles of feng shui (outlined below), the most important element in creating a Zen place in your home is what it is that helps you feel relaxed and at peace.

Victoria Millar-Wise is an interior designer with more than 18 years’ experience and author of Create Your Dream Sanctuary. She works closely with her clients to discover their true sense of peace and where they feel the most connected, and then tries to incorporate that into the design of their homes — something, Victoria says, we can all do in our own homes.

“The way I work is by working with my clients and the natural elements of the earth, and discover what makes them feel calm. I take them out into the natural world, find their favourite places and then I recreate those inside their home.”

Similarly, the first step in creating your own Zen place or dream sanctuary is to go to a beautiful spot in nature that is special to you. It’s important to take your time and really think about the places that make you feel the most relaxed. When you get there, sit down, close your eyes and listen.

“Start by just listening,” Victoria says. “What can you hear? Make sure you take a notebook with you and write down the sounds you hear that make you feel peaceful. Then open your eyes. What colours do you see? What textures? Write them down, too. Now you’re beginning to really find out what it is that makes you feel relaxed and connected to nature.”

For some, it will be the ocean — the crashing waves, the blue of the water, the yellow of the sand. For others, it will be a lake, a park, the Botanic Gardens. Envelop all of your senses in your special place and write down everything you notice. Once you have done this, you are ready to return home and tackle the job of creating your own space.

Clear out the old

Creating your Zen place within your home — or a complete Zen home, for that matter — must begin with the removal of all the items and clutter that no longer fit within your new vision and awareness. First, make sure you are completely clear on what it is your are trying to create: look at your notes again or sit down in a quiet place and meditate on your Zen place. Spend a few moments familiarising yourself with what you want and begin to picture exactly what your space looks and feels like.

Once you have a clear intention in your mind, walk through your house, one room at a time. Keep an eye out for things that don’t seem right or that don’t match your serene picture in your mind’s eye.

“You need to start by taking away the elements that aren’t right; you need a clean slate,” advises Victoria. “Make sure you remove from sight any items that have an emotional value but that are just not right for you any more. If it’s a family heirloom, but it doesn’t feel right for you at this stage of your life, just put it safely away for now. Your space needs to be about your needs right now, not those of the past.

“It’s important to remember, also, that not all your memories may be right for your partner,” says Victoria. “Be mindful of male and female emotions and what is appropriate for a shared space.”

By removing all old furniture and memories and clearing out old papers, photos and unused items, you are clearing the way for new energy to enter and creating a space for your own little paradise.

The importance of the senses

When creating your Zen space, you need to engage as many of your senses as possible: sound, sight, smell and touch. Victoria suggests using a sound machine to recreate the sound of the ocean crashing against the shore, or placing a small water fountain in one corner to incorporate the sound of running water. Make sure you also have a music player in the room, too.

If you are having difficulty recreating some of the elements from your favourite place in nature, consider making your own furniture and custom designing items. “Local materials and local tradespeople can build you your own furniture and Zen items, and it’s a wonderful way of supporting your local industry,” says Victoria. “It also can be so much more environmentally friendly.”

It’s important to remember that this process cannot be rushed, nor can it be bought from a catalogue in one day. You can’t pop into a furniture store and have your retreat delivered the next day. This is a journey to discover what really soothes your soul, so it will take time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shop — you’ll probably have to. However, Victoria suggests starting a vision diary to keep with you at all times and, as you travel around or browse through shops, you can take note of the things that really speak to you. Once you start opening your eyes to the things that inspire you, you will begin to see ideas everywhere.

With your vision diary, your notes and the engagement of all your senses, you will be able to start making conscious decisions about what should be in your space. Instead of making impulsive (and possibly expensive) decisions, you will make purchases that are more in line with what you really want to create.

Basic feng shui

Based on an ancient Chinese system using Chinese astrology, feng shui works to improve life energy, or qi. The way your house is designed and the direction it faces, as well as the placement of furniture throughout the house, can either block the free flow of qi or encourage it.

Feng shui energies change from year to year, meaning that to truly practise feng shui in your home, you’ll need a proper assessment by a professionally trained feng shui consultant. Principal Consultant of Feng Huang Consulting, Jane Dempster-Smith, explains that a thorough feng shui consultation starts with your birth date and the Chinese year you were born. Once you know which number you are, the practitioner will consider the energies of that year and give you a guide to how best enhance the positive energies in your home.

Don’t be daunted, though. There are some basic feng shui practices we can all introduce into our lives to attract as much positive qi as possible. Feng shui principles are based on clearing clutter, working with positive energy and “curing” negative energy.

“If things are not going well in your home, or you feel like your ‘luck’ or the ‘energy’ in the home has shifted, it could be because positive energy is obstructed. Something has shifted,” says Jane. “It’s important to remember that energy changes, so if your home is not the place you want it to be at the moment, shift things around and make a clear path for the positive qi to flow again.”

Free-flowing energy

While feng shui is a very detailed and many-faceted ancient philosophy that is largely out of reach to many of us without a proper consultation by a trained professional, the idea of ensuring positive energy can flow freely through a clutter-free home is one we can all easily embrace.

Think of energy like a wind or breeze and start at your front door to see where that wind “blows”. Jane Dempster-Smith says 75 per cent of the energy within a home comes from outside, so ensuring the good energy can flow in smoothly, and settle inside, is paramount.

“While the position of the front door and the direction it faces is very important in feng shui, it is also important that the main door needs to attract positive qi. Make sure there is nothing obstructing it. Stand at your front door and hold your arms open. If your arms do not bang into anything, your door is OK. If there is a staircase, wall or obstruction blocking your arms, then the energy is also blocked.”

The other important aspect of feng shui is to make sure you keep the good energy from moving through the house — and out — too quickly. Positive energy should meander gently through a home, so placing furniture in strategic spots throughout the home to keep the energy in a particular place is also effective.

“If qi travels in a straight line — say from your front door straight out your back door — it moves too fast to capture the positive energy. A good way to counteract this is to place a round table in the middle of its path; the qi will then meander around the table, effectively keeping it in the room for longer.”

Feng shui also suggests using nature and, in particular water, in your meditation or Zen place in your house to encourage positive energy. You can place water in the right sector. There are many schools of feng shui. One school says that each home has eight mansions or sectors — four negative and four positive — and feng shui is about using the positive sectors to the best advantage. By ascertaining which sectors of your home are positive, depending on the astrology of the building and your own, you can make sure you have tapped into the calming and soothing qi for your Zen space. You will probably need the help of a feng shui practitioner for this.

A home to nurture your soul

In an ideal world, we would all have our little corner of Zen — a place where no one and nothing can interrupt our soul connection. Unfortunately, household demands, work and technology often intrude, making it harder to be connected with yourself and your family. Therefore, while we should all try to find a special space in our home that is just ours, it is essential to make sure the right energy and elements are balanced and harmonious throughout the home. By all means create your special space but also create a home that nurtures all the souls within.

Your kitchen, for example, should be a welcoming place where family gathers to share experiences, talk and eat nourishing food. It should be a fun, vibrant place where it is easy to initiate conversation. “I’ve seen a family healed by setting a fantastic table with candles, music and conversation,” says Victoria. “I’ve had couples say to me that they haven’t felt like this in years. And I’ve had parents tell me their teenagers are actually happy to sit down and share their lives. By creating the right space to nurture your soul and your relationships, amazing things can happen.”

While a Zen place is important, a Zen home is even more essential. A home that is welcoming, filled with positive energy, free of clutter and that truly reflects the people who live within it is one that will truly bring peace and wellbeing to your life.


Amy Taylor-Kabbaz is a freelance writer and radio producer at 702 ABC Sydney. She is the ABC’s regular parenting commentator and writes on social issues, parenting and wellbeing. You can find her blog The Mummy Monologues on the ABC’s parenting website

Amy Taylor-Kabbaz

Amy Taylor-Kabbaz

Amy Taylor-Kabbaz is a journalist with more than 15 years' experience, specialising in health, mindfulness and motherhood. She is also the best-selling author of Happy Mama: The Guide to Finding Yourself Again, and is the creator of the website Happy Mama.

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