Feng Shui & Birds — Part 1: Wild Birds

This leiothrix (Peking or Chinese nightingale) is rather plain-looking but will light up your day when it starts singing.

In feng shui, birds have a heavenly connection. They are links between Heaven and Earth. Good feng shui consultants learn to become acutely aware of wild birds. My colleague, Susan Levitt, taught me that they can be used as an impromptu oracle. When discussing something, if you see a bird flying to your right it’s an affirmation, and if it’s flying to the left, it’s a negation.

Susan is also the person who informed me about the great feng shui master Baolin Wu. In his brilliant book, Lighting the Eye of the Dragon, he repeatedly refers to wild birds, considering them to be a barometer of the chi energy of the property: “Check for birds at dawn. If a lot of birds are out singing vigorously at dawn, it’s a good sign.” I consider Lighting the Eye of the Dragon to be the greatest feng shui book available in English. I had goose bumps by the end of the first paragraph!

In Feng Shui for Love & Money I tell this story:

I consulted for Hawai‘i Island artist Ira Ono, whose Fame Area was in his laundry room. I said, “Nobody will notice if this room is red.” He agreed, and made it red. A few weeks later he called early in the morning, “Have you seen today’s paper?” I said, “No, not yet.” He said, “I’m on the cover in color!” One of his ornaments was going to appear on the White House Christmas tree.

Artist Ira Ono’s stunning i‘iwi bird ornament.

The ornament featured the beautiful i‘iwi bird, one of Hawaii’s most beloved native birds. I don’t think it was a coincidence. The combination of red (fire) in Ira’s Fame Area and the good omen of the bird made for a very positive combination.

My strong suggestion to those who have a yard: Plant plenty of trees & shrubs—the birds need them! The lives of apartment dwellers, too, can often be enriched with wild birds by adding a bird feeder out a window. In the last apartment that we lived in in San Francisco, we had a finch feeder and a hummingbird feeder, and they were visited frequently, much to our delight.

My next post will be about pet birds—a topic suggested to me by Karen Anderson when she was visiting our kitchen—see my previous post.


Feng Shui & Kitchen Windows

As important as the view—or perhaps even more so—is keeping your windows CLEAN. Dirty windows impede your vision physically and symbolically. It’s worth investing in the proper tools to keep your view clear.

Blessed is the home that has windows in the kitchen. The author of this article about kitchen windows didn’t have a window in her kitchen for many years. Then she moved and now has a window over the sink. The article is her way of wallowing in delight about this. But she gets carried away and makes a whopping overstatement. “Kitchen windows are the most important windows of any house.” That’s just not true.

I’ve seen thousands of homes, and very often the kitchen windows just look out into a small side yard with the side of the next house being relatively close in view. That’s not your most important view or window. Generally, the most important windows of a home (providing the most important views) are those in the living room, den or dining room.

I adore our dishes. They’re the celadon green Lotus from Franciscan Pottery’s Floral Sculptures—produced in the 1970s. They make dishwashing a pleasure. When Karen Anderson was here, I surprised her again by taking one of the plates and throwing it on the floor. The back of the plate has the word “Durable” on it and it’s true—ain’t broke one yet! Did I say I adore these dishes?

Yes, it’s important to have windows in the front part of the home (so you can see what’s approaching) but the views that influence people the most are the views which are looked at the most.

A lot of people (not us) have electric dishwashers these days, and those folks may not spend a significant amount of time at their kitchen sinks. My husband and I share the task of being dishwashers. And when we’re doing that job, we’re not gazing out the window—we’re gazing at the dishes. The window provides plenty of direct light, which is very helpful—and our dishes look great in direct light—and they make the job delightful, but the view has no bearing.

While we are talking about kitchens, I will note: Windows above sinks are fine in feng shui, but windows above stoves are not.

Our kitchen, as it appears in the April 2017 issue of “At Home” magazine in Karen Anderson’s article.

Karen Anderson, a local author and newspaper writer, was recently in our kitchen. She wrote an article about it for the April issue of “At Home” magazine. At one point, she commented on how open to the outside our kitchen was. I went over to the one glazed window in the room (above the sink) and tapped on the glass. She was embarrassed because she thought there was no glass. I told her I considered it a compliment because I’d just cleaned that window. Window cleaning is fast and easy for me. Years ago, I read Spring Cleaning by Jeff Campbell, then bought professional window cleaning tools—an investment I’ve never regretted. I rave about Spring Cleaning in the Recommended Reading sections of Feng Shui Demystified and Feng Shui for Hawaii. Whether you consider them important, all of your windows should be cleaned once or twice a year.


Feng Shui and Wall Affirmations

How can anyone hear themselves think with all these words shouting at them? One ought to be able to find some peace in the bathroom, at least. Photo by Dehn Bloom Design via Houzz

A single affirmation on a wall can be a powerful thing if it’s well chosen. A few days ago I consulted for a client and every wall of her home was littered with affirmations and positive words—and to no effect that I could tell. There was no place that felt visually quiet and calm. Every wall was screaming, “Love,” “Trust,” “Be Positive,” but it all felt like confusion and disorder. It seemed that she had bought every wall affirmation that Ross Dress for Less ever sold. It was one of the most depressing and negative consultations that I’ve ever had. The client’s mantra throughout the consultation was, “No can do…no can do…” Well, of course she could have made some changes in her living space, but she just wasn’t going to. Every time I’d make a recommendation, her face would harden and she’d look angry. So much for those positive thoughts on the walls. By the time the consultation was over, my bright spirit had sunk down to my toenails.

Years ago, my dear friend Noreen Riley told me that she did calligraphy. I asked her if she would copy an old saying onto some beautiful gold-flecked paper that I had. I put it in a gold frame and kept it up for years. It’s now in a file, but I take it out occasionally and my spirit soars.

“The removal of a portion of old habits is the gain of a portion of brightness.”

It’s from one of the very few books that I’ve ever read twice—the amazing autobiography Empty Cloud by the Chinese zen master Xu Yun.

My mother, whom I adore, is age 94, living in a veterans’ home—she was a five-stripe Marine sergeant in WWII—and she loves it there. I recently sent her a beautiful cloth wall hanging with this quote on it:

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power—the world will know peace.”

It’s by Jimi Hendrix, who she had never heard of. Her eyesight’s not great so she can’t even read it, but it’s a splash of color on an otherwise bare wall. I sent it to her so that the people who come into her room would know the kind of spirit that resides in her frail old body. (I got this from INE Imports, a company run by a very nice couple, the Samuelsens, who have graciously agreed to sell this one item direct to customers referred to them by this blog post. Be sure to mention my name and my blog, as they are otherwise a strictly wholesale business.)

Hanging scrolls with Japanese calligraphy are splendid examples of powerful wall affirmations—simple, elegant, and not always there. They are often rolled up and put away. Then when they are on display—they feel fresh and powerful. The example here speaks of sitting in meditation on a mossy rock on a mountain.

Words have power—I wrote an earlier post all about that. If you have wall affirmations, choose them carefully. The best ones are usually not the ones that you buy in a store, but ones that you make yourself by finding a quote that resonates with you and then spend effort applying in a visually beautiful manner on your wall. (That earlier blog post relates the case of one I found especially wonderful.)

Tips for Professional Feng Shui Consultants

Being the author of six feng shui books in multiple languages has helped my reputation. I often gain new business from readers who want more personal advice, and satisfied clients often recommend my books to friends they feel would benefit from adding feng shui to their lives. One thing leads to another.

On April 21 I’ll be teaching a class called “Tips for Professional Feng Shui Consultants.” The topics for this class are: Training, Publicity, Preparation, Consultations, Clients, Ethics, Taxes & Records.

The topic of this article is reputation. That’s of key interest for someone hiring a consultant, and that’s the main thing that tells a potential consultant that they’re ready to charge money. I had a good reputation for feng shui among my friends before I ever charged money. One of my husband’s best friends said it was “like a dam burst” in her life when she followed my free advice about her Wealth Corner. And that’s exactly what you want to hear from people. For me that was worth more than piles of expensive certificates.

Just a few days ago, I received this email from a client in Hilo:

“Before I go on, I just have to say how grateful we are to have been blessed by your presence and your wisdom in our home:) We have made huge changes so far, completely rearranging the living room, we are actually living in it now!! Moving flowing water into our money corner and moving my office space into the purple room! Oh and I have to tell you that cutting apart my chakra prayer flags was such a scary idea when you offered it, but today I did that and hung the red and yellow one and I LOVE THEM! I appreciate them so much more individually hung with focused intention than I did when they hung together! Deep gratitude for your offerings and the light you shone in our home the other day!”

That’s what keeps me doing feng shui. If I didn’t hear those kinds of things back from my clients, I’d have to wonder, “Am I just taking money from people for no reason?” I made bold suggestions to those clients in Hilo—and I was confident in my recommendations, and they were ready for them. Perfect combination! (Not long ago I consulted for a couple and I started to get the idea that they didn’t really want to change things in their home. I have to wonder sometimes—why did they call me?)

It’s almost never that someone asks me, “Do you have a certificate?” If they do, I refer them to the Appreciation page on my website. It’s quite long, and I didn’t solicit a single endorsement! I consider these happy clients to be my embodied certificate.

Independent forums such as Yelp or LinkedIn are sometimes of help in deciding whether or not to hire a particular consultant. I have to say that neither of them is much used in my area of Hawaii. I have nice reviews on both sites, and I’m especially proud of what one client said on LinkedIn. Here’s part of that review:

“We have a VERY complicated property, so merely reading his books was not enough to get the proper orientation for our place. But with Clear’s help, we have fallen in love with our home all over again! And the new energy circulating through our home has had wondrous effects on our lives. Clear is very professional, an expert in his consultation, yet is so authentic and calm in his delivery of ideas, that it makes you start to feel peaceful even before you make the changes he suggests.”

It takes a talent beyond knowledge of feng shui to be able to say things to people in such a way that they will not only understand what the suggestion is about, but will also be motivated to make the change. Part of my talent came at birth—I’m a Libra Rabbit. If you know astrology, you’ll realize that’s a perfect combination for this kind of work. Also, I worked in retail since I was 15, and nothing prepares you for handling different kinds of people like retail does! The reason I scoff at certificates is that they tell you nothing about the person’s talent. A certificate is an expensive piece of paper—a good reputation is golden. That’s why reputation will be the first topic of discussion at my seminar.

Seminar Alert! I will be offering a special class on Friday, April 21, 6:30pm – 9:00pm, for those interested in a career as a feng shui consultant. I’ll cover suggestions for developing and enhancing an active feng shui practice including training, advertising, and professional ethics. We’ll also discuss how to talk clients into—or out of—ideas that have large impact on feng shui, just as I did with my client in the story in this blog post. Prior knowledge of feng shui is a prerequisite and the material covered is not instruction in feng shui. Enrollment is limited and pre-registration is required. Free parking. Class fee: $40. Class location: Highline Kitchen Systems, Honolulu, Oahu.

Feng Shui & Kitchen Counter Bars

Anyone who eats here has their feet dangling incredibly far off the ground, and all diners, but especially the person seated at the far right, will have a very hard time seeing who’s approaching through the doorway. Photo by Design First Interiors via Houzz

Eating at a kitchen counter is not good feng shui and will never be good feng shui. It’s got three strikes against it:

Almost always, the person sitting at the counter has their back to the room, and therefore the door. It’s a disempowered position, and any fix will only be partial and is likely to look clumsy. (Have I talked you out of it yet?) The fix is a rounded shiny object (like a silver gazing ball, convex mirror or—here’s a kitchen-appropriate one—a shiny, domed silver teakettle like the one in this video) placed so that the person at the counter sees it most of the time that they’re eating or otherwise spending time there. I challenge you to come up with something that doesn’t seem clumsy in that situation!

Problem No. 2: The stools that people usually sit on at bars prevent their feet from being well-grounded on the floor. That (like the previous problem) is not minor! Please reflect for a moment on the meanings of disempowered and ungrounded.

Those stools—they almost never have good solid backs on them. So let’s add no backing as No. 3 to the litany of problems brought on by eating at a counter. All three of these problems are happening at most household bars and eating counters. Get thee to a dining table! Or (if you must) eat on a TV tray—but make sure that you’re able to see toward the doorway into the room. And if there’s more than one doorway (and they’re both frequently used) sit so you can see toward both doorways.

This example actually has a few features that mitigate some of the problems presented by a counter bar: They’ve chosen stools with at least slight backs, and if the living room portion has no entryway from behind the photographer, diners at the bar are faced generally toward the only door. But I still wouldn’t recommend it. Photo by Design Line Construction, Inc. via Houzz

So, what to do with an existing bar? Get rid of those disempowering stools and put out some fresh fruit and/or vegetables on the counter top (hopefully in a nice bowl or basket) and a long horizontal work of art below (sort of where your knees would be if you were sitting there)—perhaps a panoramic landscape… The produce fills the place where a person’s plate would be, and the artwork replaces the stools. With these elements in place, the area won’t look vacant.

The writing of this article was triggered by a recent phone consultation I had with one of my long-time clients. They’re planning a new home that she and her husband will move into in about a year. She’s moving from a very tiny galley kitchen to one that will have gracious counters, and she still wants to luxuriate in having a food prep island—and I can’t blame her.

I successfully talked her out of designing a kitchen island that would feature a breakfast bar as one side. I pointed out that the dining table was one step away from the breakfast bar. Now, the kitchen island will be built with no extended counter top for people to sit and eat. It will just be a food prep table all the way around. She’s planning to have a big vegetable garden, so I have a feeling she’ll make good use of the space as soon as she brings in her first harvest basket. It is luxurious to be able to put a harvest basket on a nice, big table—it’s inviting putting that harvest into the next meal!

Seminar Alert! I will be offering a special class on Friday, April 21, 6:30pm – 9:00pm, for those interested in a career as a feng shui consultant. I’ll cover suggestions for developing and enhancing an active feng shui practice including training, advertising, and professional ethics. We’ll also discuss how to talk clients into—or out of—ideas that have large impact on feng shui, just as I did with my client in the story in this blog post. Prior knowledge of feng shui is a prerequisite and the material covered is not instruction in feng shui. Enrollment is limited and pre-registration is required. Free parking. Class fee: $40. Class location: Highline Kitchen Systems, Honolulu, Oahu.