Adventures in Feng Shui

May the Force be with you

Energy. What do you think of when you hear that word? Electricity? Power? For me, it’s the memory of sitting in a dark movie theater with dozens of other kids, watching the movie Star Wars. The movie tells the story of a young farm boy named Luke Skywalker as he leaves the farm and begins training to become a Jedi Knight. The Jedi Knights are lightsaber-wielding defenders of the galaxy, but there is much more to being a Jedi than learning to fight. Luke discovers this from his teacher, a wizened old Jedi Master named Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke must learn the ways of “the Force”. According to Obi-Wan, “the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” Growing up, there was nothing that spoke to me like the Star Wars movies did. The reason is simple. Star Wars tells a universal truth: the Force is real. Energy is all around us, it influences us, and (if we are wise) we can use that energy to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.

The idea that there are energies that we cannot see moving through the world did not originate with Star Wars, of course. It is present in many world religions, ancient myths and philosophies. The concept of the Force is similar to the ancient Chinese belief in Ch’i (energy) and the practice of Feng Shui. Feng Shui is the practice of maximizing the positive (while minimizing the negative) energy in our lives in order to bring peace and prosperity. Both people and environments emanate energy – and one influences the other. Sometimes we are happy, calm and full of peace. Other times, we are angry, sad, envious. This we know – we feel it, we think about it. What we often don’t remember is that we broadcast those feelings and they affect other people. Some people are just full of positive energy – they’re happy, enjoy their work, and lift the spirits of everyone they meet. Other people just ooze with anger, defensiveness, hate – the dark side, if you will – and their negative energy affects everyone they come into contact with. Even sunny, happy folks will cross over to the dark side if they linger too long in the presence of negative people or in negative environments. It was after I witnessed one of these dark side crossovers at work – a sweet receptionist always turned sour after interactions with her boss – that I decided to learn more about Feng Shui.

Since I live in a small town in a rural state, where there aren’t any Feng Shui consultants, I decided to teach myself. I got some books from the library and studied up. In a nutshell, I learned that I could re-arrange my environment to enhance the flow of positive Ch’i. Better energy = a happier, more prosperous life for me, and a positive effect on those around me. It sounded easy enough to do, and I figured I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a go. I started by redecorating my cubicle. I consulted a Feng Shui bagua, which is a map of your environment (home, office, car) broken up into nine sections that correspond to categories of life situations. To enhance positive Ch’i, I placed live plants, colorful objects and crystals in strategic areas of my cubicle. To reduce negative Ch’i, I hung up shiny mirrors and draped a red scarf on the back of my chair. When I was done, my co-workers thought I’d lost my mind, but the little space felt better. Over the next several weeks, I noticed that my work buddies lingered longer at my cube to talk, my work received more praise than usual, and then – I got a promotion. Wow, I thought. There must be something to this Feng Shui! I decided to crank it up a notch when I got a new office with my promotion. But I didn’t realize that, if you’re not careful, you can accidentally increase the negative energy of your space. I found out soon enough.

My new job proved to be a dangerous dance with the dark side. My employees and colleagues in the new division were angry, defensive, and mean. Negative energy was everywhere. Determined, I set out to be a positive influence on everyone in the unit, convinced that I could make a difference. According to my Feng Shui books, my new office had dastardly Ch’i. My desk and chair were on the receiving end of a “poison arrow” (a wall corner pointing my way, wreaking havoc with good energy). Filthy old filing boxes sat in my prosperity corner. My career and life path space had a box-shaped, ugly blue chair from the 80’s and a homicidal-looking stain on the carpet. Well, no wonder the previous manager was unsuccessful, I thought smugly. I added live plants, cleaned the junk out, hung up my crystals, and did various other Feng Shui cures. I worked with intention, focusing on helping my employees and creating a positive environment. The mood improved. We even prospered, to a point. But the unit was charged with stressful, thankless work and given no resources to work with, so it was an uphill battle all the way. If that weren’t bad enough, my boss was unskilled and unkind. Nothing I did for her was right, and I grew gloomy and depressed.

During this dark time, I started to look for a way out. I thought a lot about what job I might like better, and I considered going into counseling. In keeping with Feng Shui teaching, I decided to hang an inspirational picture in my career and life path area. I chose a picture of a “wise and respected” counselor: Lucy, from the Peanuts comic strip, sitting in her “Psychiatric Help, 5¢” booth. I laughed every time I saw it, thinking about how I was already counseling my entire staff and I ought to charge them more than five cents. I intentionally changed my focus from my current job to the next job. But I did not give any thought to what impact that might have on my situation. You see, Feng Shui isn’t just about moving objects. It is about placing objects with the intention of bringing positive energy to those aspects of your life. Your intention is key, because what you put in is what you get out.

At work, I continued to argue daily with my boss. It wasn’t all her fault, I admit. I had given in to the dark side at this point and no longer even tried to get along with her. When I shifted my focus to my future work, I stopped putting positive energy into my present work. The situation was crazy, and I chose to disengage rather than invest any more of my energy. I focused on Lucy as my inspiration and investigated counseling job opportunities. Meanwhile, things at work got worse and worse. My boss started acting irrationally. One day she burst into my office ranting and raving like a lunatic, yelling about…nothing, really. Just yelling like a crazy person. Stunned, I listened as she furiously paced about, and then I looked up at the wall behind her. I saw Lucy at her psychiatric booth, patiently waiting for her next client. I had the sudden realization that my Feng Shui cure was having the opposite effect. Yes, dear reader, I believe this to be true: I had accidentally called in the crazy. Instead of bringing me good Ch’i and new counseling job opportunities, all Lucy brought me was a crazy-acting executive for a client. I took the picture down immediately. I would have burned it in the garbage can, but it would have set off the sprinklers.

Things improved with my boss immediately.  Maybe it was simply because she was embarrassed by her behavior. But I believe things improved because I realized my error and took steps to correct it. It wasn’t that Lucy was bad juju – I had lost my positive focus and good intentions and opened the door to the devil (so to speak). For if you aren’t filling your present moments with positive energy, you are leaving the door open for negative thoughts and behavior to creep in.

 

When we feel beaten down, tired, stressed and hopeless, we are full of negative energy and negative thoughts, and we broadcast that to the universe. I certainly was all those things, and I can attest to the consequences. My boss and I both left our jobs soon after.

In Feng Shui terms, my energy followed my thoughts – and my thoughts were negative. In Star Wars terms, I had felt the “power” of the dark side. Like Luke Skywalker on Dagobah, I found in the cave only what I took in with me. On the bright side, I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of keeping a positive focus on the here and now in order to direct positive energy to a present situation. As Yoda would tell us, you have to keep your mind on where you are and what you are doing. Only then will you reap the benefits of the positive energy you create.

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