The ancient Chinese art of feng shui has people all fired up trying to combat that nasty little 'sha' force.
Thursday, December 28, 2000
831--Tales from the Area Code
Within hours of my first feng shui workshop, I''d broken a sweat rearranging the bedroom furniture. It wasn''t that I actually held any hope for our overpriced little rental with its insouciant stairs facing the doorway or its ill-mannered toilet that squatted exactly one floor above the front door.
I couldn''t hope to deter unbridled ch''i from galloping through our rowhouse-style corridor, launching out the bathroom window like Pegasus and taking all our life force with it. Nothing in my power could change our location to the south side of a hill with a gently running stream at the base, the pinnacle of good placement for a Chinese house.
But it couldn''t hurt to move the furniture around a bit.
As I assessed the bedroom, I kept in mind what feng shui practitioner Nancy Bennett advised her eager audience at the West Coast Dowsers Convention in Santa Cruz a few years back: We needed to dowse for bad ch''i, called sha, or forever function below par.
So I did what any journalist would have done. I closed the blinds, got down on all fours so the neighbors couldn''t make out my silhouette, and dowsed using my shiny new L-rods.
It''s a wonder I''m alive to tell about the terrible shape of my boudoir, sha-wise. One malevolent arrow knifed across the nuptial bed, piercing my beloved''s bad knee and angling up to impale the noggin of Yours Truly before disappearing into the wall. Since Ms. Bennett warned us about the deleterious effects of sha on specific body parts, I knew that in order to save his knee and my sanity, I had to act now.
But where to move the bed?
Another vicious sha current stalked a line about a foot from one wall, so that was out. Barriers like that spell trouble in a small room. In the end, I wedged the bed between the two currents, rearranged the scant furniture and admired my work--until further research revealed that the foot of the bed should never face the door, since the Chinese lay out their dead that way to let the departed''s spirit escape.
Our ceiling sloped, too--a definite minus in terms of positive ch''i flow.
And the final insult? My prized white down comforter made us symbolically even deader than the door-facing bed did.
The President, the Mogul and the Black Hat Monk
It''s complicated business, feng shui (pronounced "fung shway"). The words literally mean "wind" and "water," which helps explain the prevailing idea that ch''i, or life force, and its evil stepsister sha flow in currents that can be induced, guided or blocked.
As the fine art of placement, it governs endeavors from arranging a vaseful of flowers to deciding the locale of a new city. Many practitioners use it in tandem with astrology to determine auspicious dates for weddings, business deals or other important events.
Until recently, American familiarity with this ancient art has suggested membership in a particular tax bracket. Enter one Donald J. Trump, whose latest multi-million dollar real estate venture incorporates elements of feng shui.
Are Mr. Trump''s refined sensibilities at work here?
Nah. "It''s just another element in which you can have the advantage over your competitors," the mogul says bluntly, referring to the habit Hong Kong and Taiwanese investors have of dropping bad feng shui risks like hot potstickers.
Or consider that the esteemed feng shui master Professor Lin Yun, a monk of the Black Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism and the moving force behind the art in the United States, beamed happily upon Ronald Reagan''s inauguration from his front row seat while Chinese dignitaries glared at the back of his head from less advantageous positions.
And don''t forget that the bedeviled Denver International Airport, whose errant baggage delivery system alone totaled over $228 million, was diagnosed as disastrous by three feng shui experts who proceeded to recommend cures--or compensatory measures--for the airport.
But the times they are a-changing, and since feng shui''s arrival on American shores nearly 25 years ago, ensuring healthy ch''i flow has become pretty darned economical. Used to be you had to live in Marin County to experience harmony with the earth.
Now you can schlep on down to Pilgram''s Way Bookstore or Thunderbird Bookshop''s Whole Life Center and get everything you need--books that explain feng shui and the importance of color, mirrors to deflect ch''i flow, crystals to disseminate energy, chimes and bells to energize areas, and the indispensable desk fountain, which burbles merrily atop your desk while improving ch''i and soothing you and your colleagues with the natural sound of running water.
The nice thing is that most of these gadgets are fairly inexpensive. True, you might be moved to call in an expert like Ms. Bennett, who--naturally--makes house calls. And you can always buy designer crystals like the ones Bennett delicately hawks throughout her workshop.
But a good book can send you well on your way to a home or work environment that is, at the very least, more esthetically pleasing.
And with the right direction, you won''t have to face a sha showdown.