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Who Moved My Chi?

From The Albuquerque Tribune, September 22, 2003
by Leanne Holt

The ancient art of feng shui attempts to place objects so they increase energy and harmony. And, perhaps, business success.

Move the phone to the right front corner of your desk and generate new sales. Put the computer in the right middle section of your work area and see how creative you become. And the co-worker you're having a hard time with? No problem. Put a vase with two yellow flowers in the right back corner of your office and wait for her to ask you to lunch.

Welcome to feng shui (fung shway) - the ancient Chinese art of ordering your surroundings for optimal energy flow.

It could be coming to an office near you. Once considered the key to a serene home, feng shui is being used by businesses - including those in Albuquerque - to help promote harmony and vitality in the workplace, and increase sales and revenues.

Consider real estate mogul Donald Trump. On the TV show "Dateline," he revealed recently that his latest multimillion-dollar real estate venture uses elements of feng shui. Trump said he wanted an edge over Hong Kong and Taiwanese investors who regularly use feng shui in business.

Then there's Denver International Airport, once designated the most inefficient in the country. Newsweek magazine reported three feng shui experts performed "cures" for the airport, which, as it turned out, had been built over an ancient American Indian burial ground. The aviation industry analysis group Elite now ranks Denver's airport first in the nation in service and efficiency.

And at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in Wales, an Irish news agency reported this summer that consultant Paul Darby used feng shui to try to take the hex off an unlucky dressing room. It was so unlucky that for 17 seasons, any team that used the south locker room lost its football game. Darby said a few days after his visit, the team players who suited up in the south locker room finally won.

Feng shui means wind and water. It grew out of the desire of ancient Chinese farmers to understand the effect of wind, water and other natural forces on their crops. It's the art of working and living in harmony with the ebb and flow of energy that adherents say come from natural elements in the environment.

In feng shui, the energy or life force is called "chi" (chee) - the driving force of the universe. Adherents believe the principles of feng shui allow people to tap into this force and use it to become happy and successful.

A focus of contemporary Western feng shui is the selection and placement of objects in a way that allows positive energy to flow freely throughout a structure, adherents say. Another emphasis is "dowsing" - the process of removing negative energy from an area.

At Oxbow Village on Albuquerque's West Side, real estate agents were having trouble selling the last few lots. Feng shui consultant Melissa Nelson came in to help.

"Finishing out (a development) is always slower because there's less to sell," said Joyce Lang, a sales agent for Scott Patrick Homes.

"When Melissa offered to feng shui our model home, I was very skeptical - I'm not a New Age kind of person. But she believed in it so much, I decided to let her do it."

Designers didn't want Nelson to rearrange the home's furnishings, and so she rearranged the atmosphere by dowsing. She used a small metal rod and a pendulum. Lang said she was practically speechless when the rod began to spin on its own in certain areas of the house - an indicator of bad chi. And she couldn't find words to explain the process Nelson used to dispel the bad energy. But the outcome spoke volumes.

The day after Nelson's visit, Lang took a lot reservation. Two days later, she took another. And she has a strong lead for a third.

Lang was amazed by the results.

"It was remarkable what happened after Melissa came out," Lang said. "There is no way to prove it was the feng shui, but I feel it really worked. It has started to make a believer out of me."

Nelson tells people not to look for a rational explanation. "You reach a point where your logical mind is left by the wayside and your intuitive mind takes over," she said.

The bagua (ba' gwa) is an important tool in feng shui. It's a diagram that divides a room or building into nine categories, or "guas," of life. By superimposing the bagua over a space, it can be determined where each area of life lies within that space, adherents say. A particular area can then be enhanced or improved by rearranging objects or adding symbolic items, they say.

The nine zones - power and wealth, fame and reputation, relationships and love, family, health and well-being, creativity and children, knowledge and spirituality, career and happiness, and mentors and compassion - can be mapped out over an exterior space, the floor plan of a building, a room or even a desk.

Also, five elements - water, wood, fire, earth and metal - influence some of the guas, adherents say. There are also colors and shapes that are associated with each area. When used correctly, all the factors work together to create a productive space that instinctively feels good, adherents say.

Sound confusing? It can be at first. That's why Kathy Jackson, an award-winning kitchen and bath designer for Branch Cabinetry in Albuquerque, called Nelson for help. Jackson earlier had Nelson apply feng shui to her home.

"I have lived in the same house for 27 years," Jackson said. "I had arranged the furniture every way I could think of but never like Melissa did. After we made the changes, I immediately felt better. I have gotten so many great comments about how comfortable and inviting my home is now."

Because of the success at home, Jackson brought Nelson to work. She suggested changes as soon as she walked into the office of owner Joel Wheeler.

She said the fish tank should be moved from the fame and reputation zone, or gua, of the room because water in the tank competes with the element of fire that resides in that area, and the desk should be moved back from the center of the room because it interferes with the room's balance point. She suggested a tree be placed in the back left corner - the wealth area - with rolls of quarters in it.

In Jackson's office, Nelson moved a family photo from the wealth corner to the area that represents family. A crystal paperweight needed to be on the corner of the desk, Nelson said, to minimize negative energy created by the sharp corner. And in the vacant wealth zone, Nelson advised Jackson to place something that represents wealth and power. Jackson chose a picture of an eagle.

Nelson said she believes Branch Cabinetry will sell more and its employees will have a more enjoyable workplace as a result of good feng shui. But she said the improvements won't come from rolls of quarters or a picture of an eagle.

"When you believe in yourself, you attract the things you want," Nelson said. "There is no actual power in the symbol, but it is a tangible expression of what you plan to achieve. Feng shui is about your intent.

"We are visual people. That's why the elements and furniture placement are so important. But you could live in a tent and, if you know yourself and create good feng shui, you can still radiate success and cause it to come to you."

Nelson, owner of Interior Creations by Melissa, practices what she preaches. In five years she has built a thriving window treatment business. She attributes much of the success to feng shui.

Nelson, who charges between $75 and $150 for a personal feng shui consultation, said she's driven to show people that it works. "I want to help people understand how they can improve their lives," she said.

Carol Olmstead has her own perspective on how New Mexicans use feng shui to feel better. A feng shui consultant who has worked with businesses in the Washington, D.C. area for five years, Olmstead is relocating to Santa Fe.

"There are two different sets of needs in Washington and in New Mexico," Olmstead said. "People in Washington have more stress and tension. They look to feng shui for harmony, peace and security. New Mexicans are concerned with money problems and relationships. They have plenty of space and land, but they seem to have trouble fitting in with their surroundings."

Olmstead said she likes to work with what people already have in their homes or offices. She identifies what her clients want around them and devises a plan that combines those things with good feng shui.

"It's not about foo dogs and lucky bamboo," Olmstead said. "It's practical and real-world - a good design system for a balanced and harmonious work environment."

Albuquerque architect Bob Heiser of Design Collaborative Southwest agrees. "Many aspects of feng shui design are sound, universal design principles and can be wisely implemented into many types of architecture," he said.

The shapes and forms used in feng shui can adapt to fit a variety of applications, Heiser said.

Ultimately, feng shui might be more about the person using it than the method involved.

"Good feng shui gets you ready for good opportunities to come your way," Nelson said. "You still have to go out and earn it. But it's all in what you look for."

©2003 Albequerque Tribune

© Copyright 2024, Carol Olmstead