When I was coming of age in the early 1960′s the Beach Boys had a song, “In My Room” which I listened to over and over again (much to the chagrin of my parents, I am sure). It was the first time I can recall consciously thinking about my environment and what it meant to me. A teenager desperately needs a place to “be” – where they can figure out who they are and muse about any number of important things (such as pondering the merits of a lip gloss, world peace, or that night’s activities).
Later on, I found that when living with husbands and children, I lost my identity related specifically to my space. I made so many accommodations that my personal style went out the window. Home became mainly utilitarian.
In working with families, I often see this dynamic in action. Life is so busy, there is little time for reflection on the home as a personal haven – a place of refuge where you go to recharge your batteries, to relax, think and BE.
I believe that every family member should have some personal space that speaks to their soul . . . whether it is their room, an office, or an outdoor space that they can claim as their private refuge. This space should have tangible meaningful personal icons to ground, inspire, reassure, nurture. The icons are unlimited and individual to each person.
We all need a cozy spot . . .
When I was growing up in Los Gatos, California during the late 1950′s through the late 1960′s, the mostly upper middle class community (now probably trending towards upper class), also had very significant middle and lower classes.
I went to school with several kids who were downright poor. Housing was affordable at the lower levels, which is a phenomenon that has all but disappeared from the current housing market.
One of the advantages of having a cross section of housing available was the flexibility to move. In the current market, both buyers and renters have to make more thoughtful decisions about where to live. You can’t experiment and try “downtown” for six months, or “the mountains” for the following six months to see how that might suit your taste.
As a Realtor, this is frustrating because so many people are unable to enter the market.
And as a Feng Shui practitioner, I can’t simply suggest that someone move if their current housing obstacles are too daunting.
I personally miss the texture and variety of different classes in the same community.
At current prices, you have to be very confident about your move because, out of necessity, you are going to be there for awhile.
No longer can young people rent apartments with hardly any cash. In my twenties, I rented a huge two bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood for $125 per month. It had hardwood floors, and they even allowed me to have a dog!
“Don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone . . . ”
Feng Shui has become somewhat mainstream, but the common interpretation seems to be that it has to do mainly with housekeeping and design. While housekeeping is extremely important (I have been watching Hoarders, and am appalled that people can live amongst such clutter and filth), I think of Feng Shui as a sacred art and when it is approached with reverence, it can become a spiritual practice. It’s all in the intention and the way that the subject is approached.
The people who are inclined to even think of Feng Shui (those who are spiritually advanced), tend to approach the subject when there is a problem in their lives. If there are money problems, there is a plethora of information on the web about how to beef up your Wealth Qua, for instance. But in the larger scheme of things, if Feng Shui is thoroughly integrated into your life, you begin to become hyper-aware of your surroundings, and will be aware of the negative impact of clutter, for instance (going back to the hoarders, many of the people have asthma and other respiratory problems, but neither they, nor the show’s producers, seem to have any awareness that the dusty, dirty environments are probably to blame for the maladies. It seems obvious to me, but there is no mention of the health implications of living in dusty, dirty, cluttered environments. I doubt that their doctors ask about their living environments, yet that is a crucial question and could be THE reason for asthma and other respiratory ailments).
In this sense, Feng Shui is about housekeeping, but it is much more importantly about awareness . . .
Where are you living? How are you living? What are your day-to-day habits and priorities? What do you see in your environment? What do you choose to ignore? What is important to you and does your life reflect that? Does your environment reflect that? Etc., etc.
Piggy-backing on my last blog post, I want to tie my recent exhaustion in not only with the chaos of my office renovation, but with a problem I recently encountered related to “energy exchange.” In addition to being a Feng Shui Consultant, I also sell real estate. It has come to my attention that I need to implement the theory of “energy exchange” into my real estate business. When I explain the theory to my Feng Shui clients, they seem to understand instantaneously, no problem, but because real estate agents are commissioned sales people, with the corresponding image baggage, as well as Western market mentality (ideas such as “take what you can get,” “let the best man win,” “get it while you can,” “sales people are a dime a dozen, no-good swindlers,” or what have you), I am often left holding the bag. The empty bag where money should be, as in Scrooge McDuck and his money bags (1950′s reference for those of you who missed the amazing comic books of that time)!
I explain to my Feng Shui clients that it is very important to be aware of “energy exchange.” If someone does something nice for you, it is appropriate to compensate them – “tit for tat” in terms of intention, which is another important concept in Feng Shui. The belief about energy exchange is related to the idea of karma – which I perceive as simply an energetic balancing. The concept is perhaps most easily understood from the negative perspective . . . if a person takes and takes from someone, they might feel like they have gotten away with something in the short term, but there really is no “free lunch.” Sooner or later the person’s luck or fortune or life will somehow reflect the imbalance that has been created.
I had the following situations in the last twelve months or so:
A young couple who owned some investment properties was in search of an additional property. I wrote two low-ball offers for them (a real estate agent can suggest to their client that the amount they wish to offer will probably not result in an accepted offer, but we are ethically obligated to submit the client’s offer, no matter what our feelings (if we wish to continue to represent the client). The offers, predictably were not accepted. Both properties elicited multiple offers, and the prices were driven higher than asking price. The couple “took a break” from the market, and then the husband’s job became less secure. I put in many, many hours of work on the couple’s behalf, researching the market, touring properties on multiple occasions, writing offers, and my pay check was zero. What would have made this more equitable? If the couple had recognized my efforts in terms of simple appreciation, that would have been a start. If they had referred me to friends, that would have been great. But none of those things happened, and I honestly do not know why. But the energy exchange was imbalanced. That is not a good position to be in, for either one of us. For me, there is an energy deficit. For them, there is an energy surplus that they did not earn. It’s not ethically correct (what a concept in these uncivil times!) to allow this to happen.
I had another client living out of the area who had been looking for a second home for around five years, and was finally ready to make the purchase. I had been sending property information to this client for all of these years and following up with personal emails. Finally, we began a serious property search. I identified several properties and we set out to see them on several occasions. The client found the dream property and I wrote an offer, which was accepted (not a simple feat). Congratulations were in order. The next phase began: Coordination with the lender, scheduling inspections and appraisal, etc. At this point, the client’s partner, who had seen the property online and had signed the offer to purchase (several days of faxing multiple pages and coordinating signatures). When the partner came out to view the property, the escrow was promptly cancelled. The reason: It was too much of a place for the money and too much money for a place. Hours, and days and weeks of work down the drain. In this case, what could have happened differently is no offer would have been made without the partner’s physical presence, so “my bad” for interpreting that the client I was working with had the authority and perspective to choose a property of which the partner would approve. I think presented with a similar situation in the future, I might conduct an in-depth survey of the partner’s real estate wishes instead of relying on the person I was working with to have done that.
Then there was the couple who live out-of-the-area who had me running ragged for months on end. (Turns out they had major entitlement issues.) I wrote two offers for them – one on a short sale and then another one on a bank-owned property. The latter offer was accepted. As soon as it was accepted, they backed out – turns out they “hadn’t counted on it being accepted” (then why did they make an offer? . . . ) But that was not the worst of it. The straw that broke the camel’s back is when they called me from a property on a Saturday and wanted to get into the property right then. They had not had the courtesy to tell me they were coming into town (this was their M.O. – to come to town on a whim and expect me to drop everything, which I had done, like an idiot, up until that point). I texted them that I required more loyalty and communication from my clients and suggested they find another agent. This last experience cost me a ton of time, energy, and money, none of which they even attempted to reimburse. In this case, I believe the clients “should have” offered to pay me something for all of the time and effort, and actual expense I incurred on their behalf. But nothing was offered. I got the strong feeling that these people were users, out strictly for themselves, in life. Sad really.
The way real estate is structured, the only way to have prevented any of these outcomes would have been to have had a contract in place requiring me to be paid for services rendered. In real estate sales, it is very uncommon for people to collect fees for work associated with deals that do not close. The sellers of a property pay commissions, so real estate agents don’t get paid unless and until escrow closes.
It is easy to see that my good nature was taken advantage of by these people (and there were others too . . . it all happened within a particular time frame), but there are lessons for me. One of them is the reminder that while I sell real estate – a business which operates on a mundane, worldly plane, I also understand metaphysics and Feng Shui, and I know about energy exchange. I know that if I am not compensated for my energy outlay that I will become literally depleted. So it is up to me to see that this does not happen. It is difficult because you never know what is going to happen next and I have a habit of thinking that people’s good nature will prevail. But all people are not kind, all people are not fair, all people do not have the same beliefs I have (that is an understatement!).
It is difficult to live in both worlds: The world of commerce and Western market mentality, and the world of metaphysics . . . to be continued . . .
I have been living in chaos, amidst boxes and boxes of books for months now. I can attest to the fact living in a messy environment can wreak havoc with every single aspect of your life! My health has suffered drastically, and I have faced multiple obstacles during this time. There are other variables, of course . . . Mercury is Retrograde at the moment – there have been some significant transits and two major eclipses . . . it is a very trying time for many people on the planet, to say the very least.
My project is turning a bedroom into a fully functional office. I got tired of working in other people’s offices (I also do work as a Realtor and found I much prefer to work from home and go into the office only to meet with clients). A couple of friends are assisting me with the work . . . (My designer, Hedi Label is fantastic if you ever need a creative eye) and the guy who is doing the carpentry is giving me a deal, so the work is going very slowly. So far, I have these wonderful Ikea butcher block counters on three sides of the room (for office projects, artwork, etc.) and the carpenter is building custom bookcases, even as I type. Once the bookcases are done, then I can get the boxes of books off my floor and turn my dining room from a storage facility back into a dining room.
But in the meantime, my little cottage is a complete mess . . . I am not a particularly patient person (to say the least!), but I decided I had to let go of any stress around worrying about when the project might get done – I had to give into the momentum of the project or go insane (well, I have gone a little insane anyway, but probably didn’t need an excuse).
The Feng Shui implications to me have been enormous and I hope I can assist future clients from the perspective of direct experience now, living in absolute chaos and disorder from a more conscious realm where I can talk about it and process it (I have lived in disorder before but before I had formally studied Feng Shui I didn’t have any real perspective on how it was affecting me). Now I have direct, hands-on experience of what it is like to live in an unorganized environment. There is stress related to the fact it is difficult to find things, there is the unhappiness I feel when I look around me (aesthetics are extremely important to me – I am very sensitive to my environment and it displeases me that it is so trashed looking). The physical impact of the junk is exhausting. Stuff that is unorganized literally drains energy. I am living (barely living at the moment) proof. I have never been so tired in my life, and I am convinced that it is because of the way I have been living amidst this clutter for months on end.
Feng Shui is all about noticing the nuances of nature and honoring the environment. To that end, I have a major beef with mainstream thought that I think originates from a materialistic view of life - a way of thinking that teaches humans are superior species and all other species are inferior, “dead”, one-dimensional, void of spirit.
The subject is “weeds,” and more specifically, Scotch Broom, a species of plant that is considered “invasive.”
It was during a time when I was commuting to grad school along Old San Jose Rd. when the issue of Scotch Broom first came to my attention. The Santa Cruz Sentinel had featured a story about a woman who was singlehandedly trying to eradicate Scotch Broom wherever she could. I wish I had saved the article, but I did not. As I recall, this woman would coordinate Scotch Broom eradication efforts throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. As I was driving through the mountains, I was very aware of this plant blossoming prolifically on the side of the road.
At that time I was studying Process Work at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. Process Work is a discipline developed by Arnold Mindell that draws from Jungian psychology, Quantum Physics, and Taoism. One of the primary teachings is that the Earth is a living being that literally responds to whatever impacts it.
In the article about the woman attempting to eradicate Scotch Broom there was mention of the “fact” that the species was not “indigenous” to the area and thus was considered an invasive entity. In the little research I have subsequently done on the plant via google searches, I have read that the plant is credited with costing farmers and the timber industry incalculable amounts of money in attempted eradication efforts and lost crop damages. Since American culture is all about money and production, I can understand the concern about this “headstrong” plant.
What infuriated me were the following assumptions:
- That the concept of “indigenous” is commonly interpreted to mean that everything should be static and stay where it was assumed to have originally come from (and this can never really be known – not the way people think it can be known – a good example is ethnicity. Part of my heritage is Northern Italian, and I am blonde. I have been told that it is well known that Northern Italians are blonde. Now why would this be the case? Could it have to do with the fact that Northern Italy borders on Switzerland – a known blonde haven? If that is the case, then I guess the Italian heritage also must include Swiss heritage if you go back far enough). In the case of plants and the way I interpret Process Work, I would assume that the plants have a wisdom and that they are growing where the conditions are good for them to grow. Where is it written that plants have to stay where it is believed they orginated from? I seriously do not understand the logic of this and don’t think any arguments could stand up to scrutiny.
- The idea that there are such things as “weeds” is socially constructed thought, meaning it is a purely fabricated – “made up” idea. Weeds are plants that people have designated as being undesirable. The fact that most people do not even know this is a sorry commentary on our schools, but that is a subject for another rant.
- The idea that this woman thought that she knew better than nature what was appropriate for the Earth and that she thought she could actually make a significant impact by randomly jumping out of her car and wantonly ripping the plants out of the ground was more than absurd to me. I couldn’t believe the Sentinel gave her obsession such a spotlight without also noting how absurd the notion was that a few people (she and her obsessive-compulsive plant hating posse) could eradicate an entire species of plant from a huge area, where it was growing (and continues to grow) quite prolifically. The plant is absolutely thriving in the Santa Cruz Mountains!
- The fact that it was just assumed to be “true” that this is a “bad” plant that had to be eradicated for the good of mankind. As I recall, the Sentinel article said that the plant is “bad” because it chokes everything else out and makes it difficult for birds in some way. My response to that is that nature is King or Queen and no one can argue with nature!
This past Easter, one of my daughters hosted a family get-together at her house and I noticed a plant that looked suspiciously like Scotch Broom in her front yard. She PLANTED it on purpose. She purchased it from a nursery.
I find this so amusing.
When I was a working single parent and two of my children were teenagers, I was in therapy because I was having a hard time coping with some of the hairbrained decisions they were making.
I would show up in the therapist’s office, weekly, with the horrors of the previous week. It was an outlet, but did little actual good, as the problems were not of a psychological nature, but of a practical nature (money issues, cars breaking down, scary “associates,” etc.). I remember one grueling session where I regaled the poor therapist with my tales of woe. After I was done I asked for her suggestions. Her advice was “go home and clean your altar.”
I thought she was kidding at first. Then, when I realized she was serious, I thought the “advise” was a lame cop-out. Since I had no other ideas up my sleeve, I went home and started cleaning. Before long, I really got into it. I had absolutely no expectations, so I was pleasantly surprised to note my mood improving, greatly.
It seemed like magic at the time. I again had my hope restored and could cope for another week!
Looking back now, with my perspective as a Feng Shui practitioner, I note that I was moving energy in my environment, and as a result, the energy in my body changed. It is really very simple, but Westerners have a problem not believing what cannot be seen. Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself next time you are in a bad mood. I’d love to hear your experiences.
As a human being, mother, grandmother, Feng Shui practitioner, etc., I find myself often frustrated when I can see things in someone’s environment that may be contributing to various problems, but the person is unaware of the power of Feng Shui and is resistant to advice.
Feng Shui is a practice of awareness and people are attracted to it based on their own level of awareness. If I suggest a Feng Shui cure to someone who is unaware of the power of Feng Shui, they usually just slough the suggestion off and the problem continues until they eventually change something in their environment through trial and error.
Resistant people in my environment are very challenging for me, personally, because I can see how life would be improved with particular adjustments, but I am powerless to assist those who do not request or want assistance.
It is common knowledge at this point that some of the easiest and most powerful Feng Shui cures have to do with removing clutter on a regular basis and keeping things clean. Dust is a big chi stopper and can contribute to illness and the feeling of being stuck in particular situations.
In Black Hat Tibetan Feng Shui tradition, the front door signifies the mouth of chi, and if located in the center of the home, affects career . . . a door that sticks contributes to a career that is stuck . . . I frequently encounter people who are complaining about various career challenges, and if the front door has an obvious problem, I might mention it . . . it is amazing to me that such advice is often ignored and the problems continue . . . my personal work is to remind myself that everyone is on their own path, at their own pace, and that my advice is not wanted or needed unless specifically requested. This is a huge piece of work for me because I don’t like to see people suffer needlessly.
Another problem I frequently see is the misuse of paint in a home. Color has profound impact on mood and behavior and even the Western science of color is well documented, but I find that people are often resistant to advice on this matter, as well.
For instance, a red bedroom is asking for trouble . . . and too much red paint, in general, will contribute to an atmosphere of argument and general aggression. Color theory suggests that soothing colors result in harmonious living . . . and the people who need this advice most are the most resistant to receiving it. It is quite ironic.
When someone complains to me about persistent problems and simple solutions have been suggested and routinely ignored, it is maddening.
There are so many subjects that could be taught at home and in school that would actually help people lead harmonious lives. In ancient times, tribes taught basic skills and truths from day one – there was not the time or space for personal discovery. I wish, as a collective, we could revamp society to prioritize harmonious living practices.
I survived another holiday and lived to tell about it! I bet I am in very good company. I don’t know who invented holidays (formerly holy days), but I would like to revise the rules to change the focus from “How do I feel and what can I get?” to “What can I positively contribute?” and “How can I do no harm?”
I wish “loving kindness” was a value that was cherished and taught in homes and schools. Think what the world might be like if everyone practiced this value.
I have been fascinated with light for a very long time. As a small child, I recall the beauty of light falling on garden ponds in my neighborhood (strangely, I felt free to walk into whomever’s back yard I wanted to, whether I knew the people or not, but that is another blog). I was always aware of the pleasing aesthetic of the effect of light and was also interested in color, which I explored with my mother’s beautiful silk scarves (transformed into “rooms” for my dolls).
As an adult, I became fascinated with crystals and collected many, most of which were stolen in a home break-in (I figured the thief must have been kind of stupid about Karma, stealing crystals, a Reiki massage table, and a Buddha of good fortune . . . )
I celebrate Christmas with my family, mostly to honor familial tradition. I am attracted to the seasonal celebrations, particularly the Winter Solstice. During the winter season, I am in touch with the need to withdraw and hibernate to rejuvenate.
I enjoy the shorter, darker days, and especially love lighting up the darkness with little sparkly white lights.
That image reminds me of a favorite childhood memory. The church of my childhood was a small, old, beautiful medieval chapel. I can still recall the midnight mass and the absolute feeling of awe it inspired. I will be eternally grateful for the mysteries the Catholic Church imbued in my consciousness. I carry those images deep within my psyche and they are activated every winter. I can never reproduce the magic of the first imagery, but I do so appreciate the components (the darkness, the light, the mystery).
How does this relate to Feng Shui you might ask? Taoist I-Ching Cornerstone concepts of Yin (feminine, darkness) and Yang (masculine, light) are integral to Feng Shui, as are honoring the elements (water, wood, fire, earth, metal), and all of nature, of course, including the particular gifts of the seasons.