Welcome to my blog!

Thank you for visiting my blog!

I give very thorough advice in my books, lectures and consultations, but I encounter new feng shui problems all the time. Here, I’ll be sharing new solutions I come across and answering questions you might have.

If you have a question that you can’t find the answer to (please use the search box at the bottom of this page to see if I’ve covered the subject before), leave a comment here and I’ll consider writing a future blog post about it.

What I Read Then

The idea for this article came from reading a charming little book, My Ideal Bookshelf, edited by Thessaly La Force and illustrated by Jane Mount. I first came across the book in the Huntsville, Alabama, main library when I was back there for a few months helping my dear old mother move out of independent living. For the book, about a hundred people were asked to “select a small shelf of books that represent you—the books that have changed your life, that have made you who you are today, your favorite favorites.” The very last page of the book (on what’s called the pastedown) is an invitation to readers to send in their own “ideal bookshelf.” At the time, I thought I might do that when I got back home—but, of course, I had lots of catch-up kind of things to do when I got home, so I never did it. Then I picked up a copy of the book at Big Island BookBuyers in Hilo the last time I was over there, and it got me to thinking about it again. And not long ago I wrote an article for this blog called “What I’m Reading Now,” and some of the feedback I got was from old friends who were grateful for certain books I’d recommended to them in the past. (As someone who has owned three bookstores, I’ve recommended a lot of books!)

So here are six books that meant the most to me as I was developing into an independent adult.

The bookend is my favorite, an old McCoy Lilybud in a soft matte white. The books with titles to be read upright are upright. The books with titles to be read horizontally are horizontal.

My girlfriend at Huntsville High School, Cathy Earnest, told me that her Uncle Danny, whom she rightly adored, had recommended The Crock of Gold by James Stephens. Stephens was part of the Irish Renaissance, a period of writing that produced James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and others. Luckily the Huntsville Library had a copy and even more luckily it was a hardback with all the original color illustrations. Don’t even think of reading a paperback copy of this marvelous book. The illustrations by Thomas Mackenzie are as important as the writing. I realize I’ve told you next to nothing about the book, except read it.

I’d started reading Alan Watts while I was in high school, and one of his books that influenced me the most was The Joyous Cosmology which describes his use of hallucinogenic drugs. It led to the fateful day when Cathy and I went off in the woods on Huntsville Mountain and spent the next several hours “watching the glories roll by” as Neil Young would say, or “changing our minds” as Michael Pollan says. On the way home, Cathy said that she wanted her mother to try it. I told her I didn’t think it was a good idea to even tell her mother, but I appreciated her sentiment.

That night I picked up the book Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon (which had been patiently waiting on my bookshelf, as books do) and read the Preface. I realized that the book was going to mean so much to me that I’d better read it with a dictionary. It had a lot of words I didn’t know, and I wanted to get everything out of the book that the author put in. (Ignore the fact that Dover Publications bound the book together with his earlier book, Last and First Men. Starmaker is the one to read!) It took my conception of how big the universe could be and reduced it to the size of a grain of sand—and gave me a much bigger conception of the universe.

The book that pointed me away from psychedelics and toward sitting in meditation was Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass. It was so important to me that it was in the very first section as soon as you walked in the door of my first bookstore (A Good Book Store, opened when I was 19). In the very next section was Selling Water by the River by Jiyu Kennett, the woman who would eventually ordain me a Zen monk. The beating heart of the entire book is a short section describing how to do pure meditation, and the jist of it all is in these words, “…neither trying to think nor trying not to think. Just sitting with no deliberate thought is the important aspect of Zazen.” (Oddly and frustratingly, the most recent edition of the book completely leaves out this section.)

When I first went to Shasta Abbey in 1976 (and became ordained as a lay Buddhist) the person who ordained me recommended And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran. Lusseyran went blind early in his life and never took it negatively. He tells his amazing story which includes working with the French Resistance in WW2, and being captured and put in a concentration camp. That was one of the biggest lessons in my life, that whatever happened to me, I should take it positively—and thereby get the gift of that moment.

Those are my “ideal bookshelf” titles. I would love to hear about yours.

Even More Feng Shui and Architectural Digest (The Silly and the Great)

This isn’t from Architectural Digest, but it illustrates the “opposing couches” problem I mention at the end of this post. Couches across from each other say “opposing viewpoints,” but you can fix that problem with a crystal between them. (Image by Pexels from Pixabay)

This is what happens when you’ve got as many back issues as I’ve still got—but the pile is rapidly dwindling. Let’s start with some silly things, such as this ad I’m looking at for a closet design. There’s what looks to be a big round skylight in the center of the giant closet, and hopefully everyone knows that direct sunlight is going to fade clothes badly, especially anything red (red being the weakest pigment). In the center of the closet is a giant square hassock with a couch scarf casually draped over it. Now a couch scarf on a couch makes sense—the house is a little chilly and instead of turning the heat up, you pull a couch scarf over or around you. But on a hassock in a closet—it looks super weird! Somebody’s just trying to sell couch scarves—as if they were appropriate anywhere—what’s next—couch scarves on breakfast bars?

Another silly thing—somebody’s Arizona house has got a Stark brand carpet on the floor of the billiard room. That sounds all nice and fine—until you look for more than one second, and you realize that the carpet was probably rolled out minutes before the photographer took the picture. All the lines of it being rolled up are still very plain on the carpet. I’m very surprised they printed that picture! You could practically trip on the roll wrinkles. The lesson here (as far as I’m concerned) is that every rug or carpet needs a pad under it. A pad (and five minutes of walking) would have taken all those roll wrinkles out. The most amazing thing about rug pads is that they add hundreds of years to the life of the rug!

The same issue (January 2015) has a great example of good design and good feng shui. There’s a long darkish hall in a “minimalist” NYC apartment. (I put minimalist in quotes because it’s the busiest minimalist space I’ve ever seen—stuff on top of stuff, stuff in front of stuff.) But in the hall, there’s one entire long wall that’s been lacquered to create a mirror effect. The long wall opposite the mirror has eighteen vintage Charlotte Perriand light sconces, and the effect couldn’t be better. That long hall seems spacious and magical!

Let’s go on to a couple more silly things before we end on a positive note. They’re both ads—the first one is for a lounge chair called Lockheed Lounge designed by Marc Newson for a company called Phillips. It’s made up of little pieces of riveted metal—that’s right—the whole chair, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that looked more uncomfortable. Remember my phrase? More dollars than sense! And that same phrase applies to an ad for an orange sofa by Michael Amini. It’s a lovely sofa, but one of the throw pillows (that’s designed to go with it) has a great big AM embroidered on it. I know where I’d throw that pillow!

That same issue (May 2015) has an article with another piece designed  by Charlotte Perriand—a lovely round, black coffee table—placed in the center between two huge half-circle white couches in a London penthouse. When I showed it to my husband, he asked if they had the problem of “a couch directly facing another couch” (which says “opposite points of view—arguments”). I replied, “Yes, it sure does, but wouldn’t a large crystal look great on that table?” And that would be the solution—the crystal symbolizes “dispersing the opposing energy”. (See page 94 & 95 of Feng Shui for Hawaii for more on this topic.)

Feng Shui and Architectural Digest (My Love-Hate Relationship)

clutter AD mag

The pile is slowly being whittled down…

The rich get richer and the rest of us (hopefully) get by. I’m still reeling from looking through so many Architectural Digests at one time, and then I came across this refreshing article in The New York Times which puts the current over-consumption of the super-rich in the perspective of the past. The article speaks for itself quite eloquently, but one sentence really shines “There was a sense that too much was distasteful.” Ain’t it the truth!

Back to Architectural Digest—the homes are always those of super rich people—unlike Dwell which often features homes of just plain folks (who like super modern design). Before Trump announced his candidacy, Architectural Digest had a half-page notice touting Trump’s new line of furniture. After that, I don’t recall ever seeing his name mentioned again in the magazine. He has quite a reputation for bad taste—one article I saw in The Times said it was a “thing” with autocrats—to have bad taste in their surroundings. “Bad taste” here is referring to a Vegas-like excess which is all show with no substance.

Architectural Digest—it’s a magazine I love to hate, and hate to love—but I do—I love it. But it’s never a lasting love—I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for printing a picture of someone’s dining room and the art on the wall was a super-giant photo of the head of a handsome man with his head tilted back and his throat slit. I wish to God I’d never seen that! Yuck! And in a dining room! It’s a perfect example of my phrase people with more dollars than sense. One of the future books that I’m planning is Feng Shui for Collectors, and in it I will suggest that there are certain things that it’s simply best not to collect—and gruesome things are at the top of the list. They are bad for your spirit.

racheldein

Lovely work by Rachel Dein. Her Instagram account has stunning photos of her artwork and process.

I have a pile of Architectural Digests next to me right now with pages to mention. It’s too much for this one article, so I’ll probably have yet another article (or two) on them. For the rest of this article, I’ll try to be positive. For instance, I’m looking at a fabulous solution for people who like the beauty of dried flowers but don’t want their home to say “dead—stuck in the past” which is what dried flowers say. (I mention this on page 125 of Feng Shui for Hawaii. The solution that I’m seeing is the work of the London-based artist Rachel Dein. Her work uses fresh flowers (usually wildflowers) to make plaster molds—and that’s the artwork—in white, or white and grey, and occasionally a bit of soft color. It’s lovely and peaceful, and because the plaster was never alive—it’s good feng shui. Cake & eat it too—my favorite!

And to end on another positive note—here is a quote from jewelry designer Solange Azagury-Partridge, “I find the color green to be visually restorative and spiritually calming…To me, green is beauty, and beauty is hope.” A feng shui master could not have worded it better.

 

Feng Shui Apprenticeship

Here I am giving my class via Skype. On the table are some of the show & tell items that I use during the class. For a different view of that lovely table, look on page 113 of Feng Shui for Hawaii.

I have my first apprentice! Someone in California asked me nicely and I said, “Yes.” She had felt immediate results from following my suggestions via a telephone consultation. So far, what I’ve done is to give her recommended reading suggestions, and she’s reading her way through certain books and we’ll discuss them.

She has (twice now) arranged a conference-call where I give my “Tips for Feng Shui Professionals” class to her and a select group of two other people who are long-time clients and are now practicing feng shui professionally. I’ve offered this three-hour class several times in Honolulu, and it’s always interesting to see who shows up. I have to say this—some people are much better suited for a career as a feng shui consultant than other people. Not only does it require an extensive knowledge of feng shui principles and intricacies, but you need to also have the ability to effectively convince people to make changes in their environment that (while being good for them) don’t necessarily appeal to them. I have to do that all the time. I know that that ablility in myself is one of the main reasons that I’m sucessful as a consultant. Add to that a good, yet flexible, sense of style and you’re starting to see the ingredients of a good consultant. To be a great consultant, you have to have age. A person needs to be 81 years old to have the title of Feng Shui Master—that’s how I learned it. And that’s about experience—experience is (usually) the most important factor is how good in determining how good a consultant is going to be.

Years ago I offered a feng shui talk at a library and a woman came up to me afterwards and told me that she’d like to be a feng shui consultant. She didn’t have a home but was living in her car. I flat-out told her that no one would take her seriously. If feng shui isn’t working in a consultant’s life, why hire them for their advice? I’m happily married—if I weren’t, why would I expect anyone to trust my advice on using feng shui for relationships?

I’m 67, so I’ve got a ways to go to get to 81, but I am in my third decade of practicing feng shui professionally, so this transition to teaching other feng shui professionals feels appropriate. I’ll still be a regular old feng shui consultant—I’m good at it, I must say. My clients say so too—my latest Oahu client included a note with her payment, “Brilliant consult!” (And it was—sometimes I surprise even myself!) I consulted for a couple in Kona recently who were planning to paint the outside of their house. The purpose of the consultation was to pick the new colors and where they would go. It took a while because it was an older home with many add-ons. (Add-ons can give older homes a lot of charm, or not!) There was some awkwardness about their add-ons, and the new colors will serve to erase the awkwardness and unify the home—plus add a heck of a lot of charm, as well as grounding. When I told the people how much the bill was, the husband said, “That’s too little!” I responded with, “You’re welcome to tip me.” And he gave me double what I’d asked for! He said it was such a relief to have a paint color plan that he could understand and trust.

My apprentice said she would be happy to coordinate more calls, so now I’m going to make a more general invitation. If you would like to be part of a future conference-call (one of the participants referred to it as a webinar), please contact me and we’ll go from there. The subjects of my future classes will be feng shui principles in general. There’ll be  classes on chi energy flow, poison arrows, empowered positions, the bagua, feng shui landscaping, etc. This is for people who are seriously considering becoming a feng shui consultant.

 

Feng Shui and Architectural Digest

I have design indigestion. I’ve been looking at too many copies of Architectural Digest in a short period of time. Some friends of ours subscribe to it and, every few years, they give us their copies. I actually quite enjoy the magazine, but often not for the reasons the publishers intend. I’ve probably seen just about every issue since the 1960’s—all my bookstores carried it.

I rarely read the articles all the way through—usually I just look at the pictures, and maybe read the captions. They have a new editor, and lately they’ve taken to doing something they didn’t used to do—for their photos of celebrities, they note who the designer is for the clothes that the people are wearing—as if it were a fashion magazine. That’s one of the things that I laugh at that the publishers don’t intend to be funny. The other things are some of the outrageously ridiculous objects and interiors that (some) wealthy people think are cool. My phrase for that is people with more dollars than sense.

curve_leaf_yucca_plants

Oh yuck, yucca. You couldn’t call this a friendly plant. It’s definitely not suited for indoors. Photo by: Susan Barnum [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

One of the dining tables had a huge yucca-type plant in the middle. You couldn’t see over it, and the people around the table would be within inches of very sharp, stiff pointed leaves—like swords. Wouldn’t want to eat there—don’t care how good the food might be!

The ads can also be a great source of laughs. One of Michael Amini’s ads is for a bulky, overdone bed (called Grand Masterpiece) with lights built into the top and every square inch of the bed surface is covered with decorative pillows (complete with karate chop). Karate-chop pillows, which are thankfully becoming out-of-date, are rarely (if ever) seen in the photos of the articles, but Jane Seymour (who designs for Amini) hasn’t been told that, so the nice lines of her couches are often obscured by a plethora of karate chop pillows.

So much for the laughter—I actually learn a lot from the magazine. I’m a much better consultant because of my decades of looking at Architectural Digest. I’ve gotten great ideas, and very often the designers say something that’s spot-on for good feng shui. “Consistency of materials results in a more peaceful experience.” So says Jill Dienst from Manhattan. “I really need order at home. It gives me such a sense of peace.” That from the late Franca Sozzani who used to be the editor of Italian Vogue. Here are a couple more nice quotes from her: “I’m sick of all these decorators! They’re too decorative. I love talking to architects.” And: “The only things I buy and really care about now are books and art.”

Which brings me to the libraries that are pictured in the magazine. It’s so obvious when the books were simply bought for their decorative covers (and never read) or when the resident has books that are thoughtfully chosen, cherished, and read. There does seem to be a current fad in some homes of stacking books on top of each other instead of putting them side by side, as is traditional. That’s fine for coffee tables and side tables, but on shelves, it’s better to put them side by side—that says the information is more accessible.

A few more quotes: “I like to keep things simple. Furniture decorates a room, so you don’t need a lot of colorful fabrics.” That’s from John Rosselli. And this from Bunny Williams, “I get so upset when people ask, ‘What’s new in decorating?’ Just take what you have and make it look new.” Which reminds me—I looked around our home for items that were bought new. Besides the three sinks, toilet, refrigerator, and stove, there are just the pads under the rugs (A pad under a rug adds hundreds of years to the life of the rug.) and the fabric that my husband used to make the curtains between the library and the living room. Maybe there are one or two other items (like a globe and a small rug) but we’re just not big consumers of newly made items.

Something else I like about Architectural Digest is that it was one of the first publications to picture the homes of gay couples and to identify the people (usually men) as couples. This was way before marriage equality came about.