Tuesday, November 30, 2010

MAY THE ROAD RISE UP TO MEET YOU...


We had to say good-bye last week to one of our favorite places, Carried Away Consignment Shop in Greenfield, MA. The store closed on November 27, after three years at 10 Miles Street, just up the hill from Greenfield’s Energy Park.


I have found so many nifty, fun, unusual items at Carried Away over the years – from a vintage egg beater in pristine condition, to glassware from the old Sweetheart Restaurant on the Mohawk Trail, to a solid rock maple sideboard just perfect for storing Feng Shui supplies.


One of the key concepts in Feng Shui is transformation – the idea that something dull, stagnant, unwanted can become lustrous, alive, and nourishing. The proprietor of Carried Away, Mona Minor, had a special gift both for attracting consignors with good “stuff”, and for knowing just how to place those items, so that they became interesting and attractive. I usually had to visit the store at least once a month just to see what was new on the shelves. For me, it was always a refreshing experience, with the promise of fun and surprises around the corner.


There was a sign next to the front door, a quote from Karen Kingston, the godmother of the Clutter Clearing revolution:


“Life is constant change. So when something comes into your life, use it, enjoy it well, and when it is time, let it go.”


We’ve enjoyed our visits to Carried Away; and, even though it’s sad to see the doors close, we want to say Thank You, Mona, for a wonderful and magical three years!





Thursday, October 21, 2010

NO TIME TO SAY GOODBYE...


I learned of Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak several years ago, and have referred to it often to add layers of depth and understanding to the moments when the representatives of the animal kingdom touch my own life in some way. I’ve recently thought that it would be great to take a workshop with Mr. Andrews; and when I went to his website to see what his upcoming schedule might be, I read that he had passed away last year on October 24, 2009.


Truly a man of many talents and interests, Ted Andrews was a bestselling author of over forty books which have been translated into more than two dozen languages. Some of his interests included hypnosis and acupressure; healing with sound, music, and voice; study and use of herbs; past life analysis; dreams interpretation; and auras. But he was best known for his work with animals. Mr. Andrews was a long time volunteer at the Brukner Nature Center in Troy, Ohio; and held state and federal permits to work with birds of prey, regularly performing wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. He was a champion of animal rights, conducting animal education and storytelling programs accompanied by his own animals in school classrooms.


One of my most memorable and moving experiences with the animal kingdom was in 2003 when I received word that my cherished position as librarian in a children’s hospital was to be cut in half due to the economic downturn. My assistant’s job was to be eliminated completely. Later that afternoon, upset and angry, I decided to take a walk to a nearby park to clear my head. As I walked along the sun-dappled path watching the leaves of autumn flutter through the air, I was startled by a huge movement just behind me. I turned to see a great swooping of wings not more that five feet away, and then she lifted off – a beautiful and powerful red-tailed hawk! I was shaken but inspired, and felt that there was a message for me in the encounter. Later, when I looked up red-tailed hawk in Animal Speak, I learned that this bird helps us discover our true purpose in life; and shows up to remind us that there is always a bigger picture to consider when things are not going well.


It was certainly no coincidence that only a week before the hospital layoffs, I had completed the final phases of my Feng Shui training, and received my certification. In the intervening years, I have continued to walk this path – learning, growing, and savoring as I visit the homes and businesses of fellow “journeyers”. I often think of that moment in the park as the closing of one door, and the opening of another – with red-tailed hawk showing the way.




Saturday, August 7, 2010

A MANY-SPLENDORED THING...


My current favorite writer, Jane Smiley, defines love as “ever-renewed desire to see someone and a constantly flowing pleasure in their presence…” This is as good a description as I’ve ever read of a quality of experience that most of us would wish to enjoy in our lives. If our relationships don’t quite measure up to this index, it might be worthwhile to take a look at an area of our living space that refers to our closest relationships, according to Feng Shui principles.


Feng Shui uses a tool called the Bagua map to divide a space into nine sectors that correspond to major life issues. This imaginary grid, which looks like a tic-tac-toe board, is oriented to the front door of any home, business, building, or room – and adjusts to the shape of the space. As you are standing in the doorway of the space and looking in towards the interior, the square that in the far right corner in the back is called Earth, and is all about the quality of our relationships.


I once did a consultation for a couple who told me that they had lost some of their old pzazz, and were having difficulty relating to each other in an intimate way. Their relationship seemed to revolve mostly around money, paying bills, and other business issues. I suggested that we take a look at their Relationship area, and what we found was an eye-opener for them. Here in their most precious corner was a four-drawer steel file cabinet loaded with receipts, work-related papers, and unpaid bills. They “got” it, and moved the file to another place, added something that expressed the two of them in a positive way – and their relationship improved almost immediately.


Feng Shui is effective because it grounds our intentions in the physical world. By making changes to our physical space, we also change the energy behind the scene, and create something that is more in line with what we want in our lives. In that way, as author Smiley describes, we find ourselves looking at the faces of our loved ones – even if they are crabby or unpleasant – and smiling in spite of ourselves at how charming they are.




Friday, June 4, 2010

SHE'LL BE COMING 'ROUND THE MOUNTAIN...


Most people I meet while doing this work tell me that they have a problem with their “stuff.” I’ll let you in on a secret – we all do! And I do believe that we will have to deal with “stuff” – the physical residue of the activities of our daily lives – as long as we are alive. Most people are overwhelmed by the task of keeping clutter under control, and Feng Shui can offer some helpful advice.


Feng Shui uses a tool called the Bagua map to divide a space into nine sectors that correspond to major life issues. This imaginary grid, which looks like a tic-tac-toe board, is oriented to the front door of any home, business, building, or room – and adjusts to the shape of the space. As you are standing in the doorway of the space and looking in towards the interior, the bottom left-hand corner of the Bagua is known as the Mountain area. Mountain is all about finding your center amidst the stresses of everyday living. It reminds us that there is always a bigger picture; it is here that we find knowledge and a new vision of our lives.


When you feel overwhelmed, look to the Mountain area of your home, office, desk, or within any room. If you don’t know where to start clutter-clearing – start here! You will soon feel a sense of relief – and gain a new perspective.

Friday, May 28, 2010

LOVELIER THOUGHTS, MICHAEL...


In the timeless children’s musical of the 1950’s Mary Martin as Peter Pan entreats the Darling children to “think lovely thoughts”. When the children are able to uplift their thinking sufficiently -- they can fly!


It is a Feng Shui maxim that energy follows thought. Our thoughts, the focus of our mental and emotional activity, are a creative force that is working for us – for good or not-so-good. These images and impulses are essentially forming containers into which the universe pours a response. We don’t have to struggle, scheme, or pray to make this happen: it just does. When we have conflicting thoughts or emotions, we are actually creating an energetic container of static and disharmony – and, unfortunately, that is what we receive.


The solution? A few minutes spent each day in a clear place of gratitude, happiness, joy, playfulness, beauty – either in meditation or in our daily life – can begin to tip the balance in a better direction for ourselves and those around us. With better thoughts we, too, can reach that wondrous state of “lift off” found by Michael and his siblings one London evening long ago.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

OPENING YOUR MOUTH OF CHI...


From a Feng Shui point of view, one of your greatest assets is your front door, also called your Mouth of Chi. It is through this opening that the world arrives, bringing with it good fortune, new opportunities, and fresh energy. Taking the time to create a welcoming uplifting tone at the architectural front door of your home or establishment is an investment well worth the effort.


For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of your guests or clients and ask yourself some questions about your front door. Is it easy to see? Is the approach user-friendly and clearly understood? If there is landscaping, is it well-trimmed and not obscuring the door? Are all the plantings healthy? Does your entry give your guests or clients the message that you value them and are glad to have them coming in? Is your front entry clean, safe, and free of debris?


Many homeowners, especially in New England, neglect their front door in favor of another entry, usually through a garage or mudroom. While this approach may be more “convenient”, it also creates an expectation of utility or workaday chores. It is difficult to relax and be refreshed when your first impression of home is a cluttered garage or laundry room. While switching your regular approach to the front door may not be realistic, it might be fun to see what changes will occur by varying your approach just once a week. Why not utilize your Mouth of Chi -- and take a bigger bite out of life?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

WALKING THE WALK...


A local community college radio host recently interviewed environmental practitioner John Francis, the author of Planetwalker: How to Change Your World One Step at a Time. The memoir describes Francis’ self-imposed break with fossil-fuel powered transportation after the damage he observed following a massive oil spill near the Golden Gate Bridge in 1971. In a walking journey that stretched to 22 years, 17 of which were spent in silence, Francis traversed the country many times; and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a Ph.D. from the prestigious Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies in Madison, Wisconsin.



The natural world offers us constant reminders to slow down – see, smell, taste, and listen in new ways. Feng Shui literally means Wind and Water, refreshing and redefining our spaces, as well as ourselves. Because we are a part of our environment, we have the ability to influence and change it for the better. For Francis, our environmental problems are not just about pollution, man-made ugliness, and loss of habitat, but are truly a manifestation of how we treat each other. In finding the ability to respect both ourselves and others we will truly be walking the walk – and making a difference.


Friday, April 16, 2010

POWERING DOWN...


The Associated Press recently reported a movement among institutions of higher learning to encourage students to turn off their electronic devices and find the “silence within”. Cited was the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life project which found that 82 percent of 16- and 17- year olds own cell phones. 94 percent of teens spend time online. College leaders are finding that, after some initial resistance, students are actually enjoying the opportunity to unplug and get centered.


In Feng Shui terms, electronic gadgets, computers, televisions, and so forth, are considered the Fire element. This is very strong agitated energy, and constant exposure requires balancing for the sake of good health. Unplugging is a good idea; as well as reducing the impact of all that Fire with the Earth element. Spending time in nature, the colors brown or yellow, furniture and accessories in a square shape – these are all examples of the Earth element, and can help to calm down an anxious mind. Students who can bring themselves to sit quietly for awhile are discovering that they have a best friend less than a click away – themselves.

Friday, April 9, 2010

when the world is mud-luscious...


Twentieth century avant-garde poet e.e. cummings delighted in reminding the reader that life is mysterious and wonderful. Cummings experienced his share of life’s difficulties, including serving in the Ambulance Corps in France during World War I, and the early death of his father in a car accident – yet he continued to find a way to praise the world in his art.


Feng Shui teaches us to take a good look at what is, not to cover it up or deny it – and to never lose sight of what can be. It is as though we are functioning on at least two levels, one that accepts and one that is creating a space for something new. When the seasons are in transition, we have a chance to see a world that is fading away as well as a completely different reality emerging. In the “Just-spring” of poet cummings, there is something ancient, as well as the delicious irresistible pull of something fresh and still unformed -- the mystery of life.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

FINDING THE BEGINNER'S MIND...


The greatest artist of the twentieth century, Pablo Picasso, remarked that he had spent his whole life trying to learn to paint like a child. Picasso was amazingly productive throughout his long life, working right up to his death in 1973 at the age of 91. His work continues to inspire the world.


Feng Shui encourages us to cultivate an awareness that is present within each moment – not defined by thoughts of the past or future. For most of us who lead busy lives, this task seems about as easy as standing on your head or flying through the air on a toy airplane. However, it is from this overactive and nonproductive mindset that we need to bring ourselves back – again and again – to a receptive open state. The more we are able to allow ourselves to tolerate or to be in a place of “not knowing”, also called “the beginner’s mind”, the more effective and useful we can be. As Picasso so clearly demonstrated, it is by being empty that we become full of possibility.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

PACK UP YOUR SORROWS...


Quechua, the ancient language of the Andes, contains a concept called hucha, the heavy dense shadow energy carried around by human beings. People are unique among the animal kingdom in their ability to carry this energy, the accumulation of worry, anger, fear, low self-esteem, guilt -- negative thinking in all its myriad forms.


One of the greatest skills we can develop as human beings is the ability to let go of this burden, to find ways to lighten our load. Some simple ways are to go outside into nature: sit or lie on the ground, or lean up against a tree. Take some deep breaths and imagine that you are breathing in refreshing sparkling energy; as you breathe out imagine that your cares and worries are leaving you. You may see this heaviness as a dark gray smoke or a muckiness. Interestingly, you may even “give” this energy to the tree. The Andean shamans tell us that, to the earth, our unwanted sticky energy is “food”. Lucky for us, the earth “knows how to use it…”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Saol fada chugat...



This charming Irish blessing translates:


May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And the rain fall soft upon your fields,

And until we meet again,

May God hold you

In the palm of His hand.


We are always looking for that “just right” feeling in Feng Shui. We can achieve it when we combine our intention for balance with a feeling of gratitude for all the many blessings in our lives. These wonderful words in the ancient and mysterious Gaelic language are a reminder that people have always desired the same things -- safety, and also the sweetness of life.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

ONLY CONNECT...


E.M. Forster penned this phrase in his novel, Howards End, exactly one hundred years ago. The thought continues, “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer…”

One of the promises of Feng Shui is a life that is more congruent, more satisfying on many levels; but to achieve this, we need to “walk the walk”. In doing this work, there is sometimes the expectation that there is a magic wand that will solve all of our problems and challenges in one stirring swoop. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way –- we have to get involved. We need to roll up our sleeves and stir up the batter of our lives, maybe add some new ingredients. Sometimes we have to let things go –- old habits, old ideas, relationships that don’t work, work that isn’t satisfying, possessions that don’t really make us happy. If we can surrender to the process, even a little, it will truly carry us through to another cleaner, richer -- more connected -- version of our lives.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

OUTSIDE THE K'AN LINE...



A client wrote from her new home in Arizona to let me know that she is settling in happily after a rocky 2009. Last year she not only coped with a serious health issue, but left the company for which she had worked for over two decades after her position was eliminated. She is wondering, as many of us are… What comes next??

Feng Shui uses a tool called the Bagua map to divide a space into sectors that correspond to major life issues. This imaginary grid can be applied to homes and businesses alike, and is oriented to the front door, along which runs the bottom perimeter of the grid, called the K’an line. Anything outside the K’an line is considered, well, outside.

After the financial upheavals of the past year, many of us are finding ourselves outside the K’an line of our former lives. What had been familiar, dependable, unshakable is now a thing of the past. We are in new waters, trying to chart a new course, stay afloat. Although we may not know what is next for us, and the temptation may be to look back with longing or bitterness toward an old familiar world –- it’s time to let go. If we can actually surrender to the process of change, there is a promise of finding a deeper sense of safety and home within ourselves -- one in which we are always inside the K’an line.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

MOLLUSKS DO IT...


According to researchers from Australia’s Museum Victoria, the veined octopus retrieves empty coconut shells off the coast of Northern Sulawesi and Bali in Indonesia, and fits them together to create shelters. This behavior has amazed the scientists, who up to now have attributed the intelligence to use tools only to the “higher” forms of life.

Apparently, the need to create a safe secure environment for ourselves is one that transcends species. It is a universal impulse. One of the basic tenets of Feng Shui is to put ourselves in the most protected and powerful position. We are much more likely to succeed and be effective in the world if we are coming from a place of safety, strength, and confidence. The sea critters have wowed the scientists in another way, as well -- before they stack their shells together, they blow jets of mud out of the bowl. Could it BE that there is a link between cleanliness and feeling safe?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

AFTER THE SNOW...


A local college radio station recently played a tune entitled, “Is it not True Simply Because You Cannot Believe It?” penned by jazz tenor saxophonist, Billy Harper. Much of what we deal with in Feng Shui concerns what is visible, fixable, moveable –- tangible. We want to make sure that things are safe and working well.

After that, however -- or underlying it -- is the intention to improve what is not seen: the energy of a place, the chi, the vibes, how it feels to us. Nature is constantly urging us on by demonstrating that there are a myriad of ways to view the so-called familiar. Just because we are used to experiencing our space in a certain way does not mean that it cannot change and become more alive. A new world is revealed after a snowfall – can you dig it?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

LOVE THE ONES YOU'RE WITH...


19-year old Emma Roberts, one of the stars of “Valentine’s Day”, told TV host Jay Leno that she was planning to spend her own Valentine’s Day with her friends. Leno pressed her to be more explicit about the boyfriend status, and she revealed that, although she had one “this year”, she was still going to spend the special evening with her girlfriends eating chocolate and having a party. It is something she loves to do every year.

This year, Valentine’s Day and the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Tiger fall on the same day, February 14 – an unusual occurrence. The traditions of Chinese New Year call for celebration, for being with family and friends, and for welcoming in the hope and energy of a New Year. It is a time to forgive and forget the past, and especially to let go of clutter, both physical and emotional, which holds us from our true joy. So, on Sunday clean your house – and connect with those people who make you smile!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

GET OUT YOUR HIKING BOOTS


GET OUT YOUR HIKING BOOTS, because it’s an 8 Mountain year, according to an ancient form of astrology based on the I Ching, or Book of Changes. The Chinese Solar New Year begins on February 4, and the I Ching – or 9 Star Ki – astrology uses the year of birth to determine your star sign. We have just emerged from a 9 Fire year, in which things hidden or concealed are brought to light – for good or bad. It is as though a giant lightbulb is turned on revealing what is truly going on beneath the charming fa├žade – a Bernie Madoff, John Edwards, Tiger Woods swan song.

We now start another cycle, and the energy is very different. In an 8 Mountain year, we have the opportunity to re-think and re-consider from the vantage point of all we have learned in the previous year. We need to retreat to the Mountain to regain our sense of equilibrium and find a new balance. 8 Mountain is also known as Wisdom -- and we are called upon to find a new vision. It is a good year for listening, thinking, and being still; and for resisting the urge to rebel, react, or dig in our heels. Time to get above the fray and find a bigger view.