Feng Shui: fact, fluff and friction

Posted: January 8th, 2012

How do you know if putting a fountain in your front garden will increase your prosperity? You don’t, unless you do it. But like, I suspect, a great many people, if requested to do such a thing, I require a degree of rational justification, rather than just blind faith to follow through. As such, I thought it timely to run a feature in our New Year issue (on sale 3-31 January) on the various alternative approaches available today for happy home-making, but rather than commission ‘experts’ to dictate do’s and don’ts, recommend websites or books, I thought what better test than to invite various respected practitioners to meet my house-proud and largely pragmatic editorial team, and have them each write up their experiences. After all, here at ELLE Decoration, we like to knowingly endorse what we feature, not just re-print press releases. I also wanted the team to convey in their own words what it felt like to have an intuitive investigator or house healer visit your home. I was randomly allocated a psychic house clearer and a Feng Shui master.

As I wrote in the subsequent article, with regard to psychics, I’m absolutely prepared to believe that some rare souls have access to realms beyond the tangible, but my position is one of open-minded skepticism. I suggest that any information provided is not there to tell you what you must do, but rather to help you decide if the path that’s indicated is the one you wish to follow. To manifest change is your call alone, and as such your capacity for success or your vision of abundance, depends entirely on your own actions. Nothing is pre-determined.

Regarding Feng Shui, I’d always been fascinated by its possibilities, and have read several mainstream tomes on its core tenets, trying to understand some of the philosophy behind it. Certainly, when whole continents take it so seriously, it deserves attention. But as with the psychic world, a lot lies in the interpretation. Particularly when the original language is Chinese! And therein lay my bemusement with the quite English Feng Shui master invited to survey my home. Read the feature to see what I thought, but imagine my surprise when I received the following email a few days after the issue hit the newsstands…

Dear Michelle: I’d like to thank you for illustrating precisely what is to be expected from a house with the Father area in the North West so traumatised, although I would have appreciated an admission that you solicited me and not the other way round as well as that you had a day of my time for free.
Clearly the four-page report you refer to as a scrap of paper was drawn upon deeply. If you pay close attention to it, you may in time start to confront and even heal these issues. I do hope so. Obviously it causes me distress to be the token middle-aged man who has to be punished in the process but that’s all in a day’s work and your case remains powerful teaching material that I will be passing on to my students in due course.

Rather charming isn’t it! And the reason I print it here is because he saw fit to copy this email not only to my Hearst Magazines UK chief operations officer but also to my chief executive, which one can’t help but feel rather undermines a genuine desire to assist in any ‘healing’ required. So I stand by my piece, which I had concluded with the sentence, ‘Feng Shui without adequate translation was for me utter bunkum. I need to know why I’m supposed to do something, not simply be told I must do it.’ Why did I write this? Because as a result of this particular Feng Shui maestro’s visit, I was left with a lot of jargon, an incomprehensible diagram covered in Chinese characters (the ‘scrap of paper’ I originally referred to, see below) and the intimation that if I paid for a ‘proper’ appointment, he could be more helpful.

I believe the most precious question we can ever teach our children to ask is ‘why’, thus I maintain Mr Feng Shui man, you may well be a master of this ancient Chinese art, but I humbly proffer that you are no scholar of communication. For whatever reason, with me, you declined to translate your pronouncements. It was only some time later, with an accompanying admission that you may have been overly esoteric, that you sent me something a little more penetrable. And I’m afraid my gut still says that you belatedly realised that I really was the editor of a well-known magazine and perhaps a little less arrogance might have been appropriate? I take people as I find them, and as such I’m not easily wowed by fancy words, celebrity clientele and published tomes, but I expect respect as a intelligent human being. And this is what I’d expect for my readers, too. After all, even psychics proffer personal ‘facts’ to ‘prove’ that they speak your truth.

Additionally, we didn’t feel it was necessary to write in any of our appraisals that all the people involved had given their time for free… should it have made a difference to the sincerity of their service? Or is the implication that you get a different level of ‘insight’ when palms are crossed with silver? Of course I could have spiked the piece about FSM, but the point was to showcase each of our personal experiences, and this was mine.

My stance remains, and it’s applicable to any trade, if someone refuses to explain themselves when you don’t understand what they’re saying, then you should get another opinion. It doesn’t mean dismiss the discipline, simply that that person is not the one for you. This applies equally to plumbers, builders and architects as it does to doctors, gynecologists and car mechanics. Nevertheless, I have always found that genuine enthusiasts are motivated primarily by the desire to help and serve, and true teachers live to impart their knowledge regardless of recompense.

And coming from the other perspective, I was also taught by my much-loved and distinctly un-traumatised father, that if someone doesn’t understand you, then you should change your mode of communication, rather than admonish the listener. In other words, each individual should take responsibility for the way they are perceived. But why not follow Feng Shui man on twitter (@FengShuiDiaries) and draw your own conclusions, and then let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll happily give Feng Shui another shot with someone else, and I’ll report back once I’ve done so.

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