I feng shui-ed my house the other day. Mind you, I don't exactly believe in feng shui. When I was going to design school in Manhattan I took a course with a noted practitioner of the art and concluded that it was a mixture of common sense, some elementary principles of design, and a whole lot of magical thinking.
Even though I accept the possibility that invisible forces shape events in ways not explicable by the laws of macrophysics, I just can't believe that leaving toilet lids up encourages the flushing away of one's financial assets. (Although I can visualize a couple of stocks I own symbolically residing in my septic tank.)
However, because a significant aspect of my life had stubbornly resisted all rational efforts to improve it, I decided to give feng shui a try.
Tracking my disaster
I assembled the appropriate tools— compass, ruler, tracing paper— and plotted the octagonal bagua, a diagram representing the fundamental energies of the universe and their correspondence to major areas of one's life. Then I superimposed it on a floor plan of my home. And lo, the source of my problem was revealed.
All was well in my career area; it contained an entry courtyard with wind chimes to repel invasive bad spirits. Things were equally salubrious in my reputation area, which featured an inspiring view of Taos Mountain, traditionally venerated as a sacred site.
My office was appropriately located in the money sector of the bagua, and my guestroom sat squarely in the family block— which should, in theory, guarantee many visits from distant cousins who need a place to stay on their ski vacations.
But the northeast corner of my home, representing marriage and relationships, was that worst of all feng shui disasters: negative space. It was indented, with only an open patio occupying the missing corner of the overall rectangular shape of the house. And, horror of horrors, the patio contained a hot tub.
Now, a fundamental commandment of feng shui lore is: Thou shalt not place a water element in thy northeast sector. No wonder I was divorced and dateless! The problem didn't lie with me, or even the inadequacies of match.com. The fault, dear Confucius, was in my patio.
A feng shui "remedy" was desperately needed.
Catching good vibes
A traditionalist would have hung an eight-sided mirror in front of the sliding glass door opening onto the offending patio, thus creating the illusion of a looking glass room beyond the door and somehow plugging the energy leaking out the missing corner. But that would have looked weird, not to mention causing massive head injuries to anyone scurrying back from the hot tub at night.
So I used an alternative suggested by a practitioner of a westernized version of feng shui: I hung a faceted Swarovski crystal ball in front of the door to catch and concentrate the escaping relationship vibes.
But I didn't stop there. My feng shui text advised using paired objects in the relationship corner of my bedroom (each room has a kind of fractal version of the whole-house bagua), so I flanked a negative-ion-emitting Himalayan salt lamp with the two halves of a split geode (how symbolic can one get?) and placed a photo of my blissfully happily married son and daughter-in-law in front of it.
All this was a bit silly, of course but it was fun and made me feel as if I were doing something positive, which somehow put my lack of a life partner in perspective. I realized that while it might be nice to have a significant other, my days were full, happy and deeply satisfying without one. A mate was a desirable but optional— extra, in the greater scheme of things.
It seems that taking some form of ritualized action to externalize one's intentions can clear the mind, whether or not the intentions materialize. It doesn't matter whether you install a feng shui-endorsed koi pond near your front door to attract good energy, clean out your file cabinet to signify a new direction in your life, or post a photo of a thinner, younger you on the refrigerator door to inspire healthier eating habits. It's the personal symbolism and the physicality of the act that count.
Here in Taos, a renowned epicenter of woo-woo, folks like to set up personal altars in their homes, special little spaces adorned with meaningful photos and objects honored with incense, flowers, and crystals. It's a way of declaring to the universe "This I value, this I wish to nurture. This I wish to have in my life."
So I've made my declaration re the desirable-but-optional life partner situation; the rest is up to the universe. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to close a few toilet lids, just for good measure.♦
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