Tag Archives: feng shui

Pillows for the persnickety

Pillow: n. a support for the head of a reclining person; esp. one consisting of a cloth bag filled with feathers, down, sponge rubber, or plastic fiber

Persnickety: adj. fussy about small details

People can be very persnickety about their pillows. As well they should be.  Pillows can make or break a good night’s sleep.  I’m often shocked, when I do a feng shui consultation, by how many people hate their mattresses or their pillows….

Hello???

Pillow choices are very personal. Some like them plump and turgid – and even prefer to prop themselves on more than one at a time. Most hotel rooms and relative’s guest rooms seem equipped with these:

down-pillows

You can try to pummel them into submission, but they bounce right back.

memory-foam-pillow

Then there’s the memory foam pillow that remembers how big your left ear is:

And the special cervical pillow to keep your neck properly angled:

cervical_traction_pillow

And pillows made of gel, filled with water, five feet long to snuggle with lengthwise…. you name it, there’s a pillow for you.

I prefer a pillow that is totally malleable: I punch it and scrunch it into a wadge to support my head when I lie on my side; press it down to a slender edge when I want to sleep on my stomach; or roll it into a sausage under my neck if I want to gaze up at the ceiling:

image177

But Friday when I was at the Asian Art museum in San Francisco I saw the be-all and end-all pillow. From the Song dynasty about a thousand years ago, it’s made of porcelain. The descriptive placard said that once you get used to it, it’s really very comfortable.  Sure.

chinese-ceramic-pillow

PowerPoint prowess pays off

PowerPoint: n. a presentation program that is part of Microsoft Office, which can be used to put an audience to sleep — or can inform and inspire.

Prowess: n. extraordinary ability

Pay off: v. to reward for hard work

I recently taught a two-hour feng shui class for a group of feng shui novices, and if I say so myself, it was RAD!

I had used slides in PowerPoint once before to illustrate a feng shui talk, so I knew how effective pictures could be. However I was still struggling with an A/V inferiority complex that developed in high school watching geeky male classmates run the Rube Goldberg contraption known as a movie projector.

Furthermore, I hadn’t yet read Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen, which is an absolute MUST resource for any would-be presenters.

First, out went any slides with bullet points. Then out went slides with more than a few words, unless it was a succinct quotation. That left me with….

Almost nothing.

I started over. This was my process (h/t to Garr Reynolds):

  • Get a stack of Post-It sticky notes and a big white board.
  • List all the points you want to get across – one per sticky note, and then  figure out what visual images would convey them even more effectively than words.
  • Gather lots and lots and lots of pictures – from your own camera, scanned from magazines, found on Google Images and Flickr. Note each one on a sticky.
  • Look also for images that are extreme examples (what not to do, before & after, stumbling blocks, etc.) to emphasize your point or defuse fears.
  • Shuffle the notes on the white board till they make some sense.
  • Import the pictures into PowerPoint using the totally blank slide as your template, so the pictures are full-screen (means your pix must be in landscape format).
  • Shuffle them around in the Slide Sorter View until they tell the story in a way that flows most naturally.
  • Now you can add some text floating in front of some of the pictures or on transition slides.

Here are a few examples of images I found:

To illustrate what a feng shui consultant does when she/he comes to your house – conveying both the fresh eyes which can see your home more clearly AND addressing the fear many potential clients have that she’ll be some sort of critical witch:

eyeballs1

Or these three slides, which illustrate the dilemma of clutter. First the extreme possibility that you could be buried alive by it:

cluttercartoon

Then, the inertia we feel when viewing the clutter-clearing task ahead:

boulder1

My audience laughed hysterically at this boulder – recognizing themselves.

And then I encouraged them with the concept of momentum… what happens once you get started tossing crap:

domino-effect

I’d say it took a solid 40 hours to put together 150 slides for a two-hour talk, and a lot of creative thought while I was half-asleep. But it was totally worth it.

Purposeful Path for 2009: forget New Year’s Resolutions; pick a “theme”

Purposeful: adj. intentional, meaningful, full of determination

Path: n. a way of life, conduct or thought

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago, because they were inevitably doomed to failure. (Research bears me out…). Instead I’ve picked a THEME for the year – a word or phrase that indicates a path, focus, attitude, or way of being to attend to.

The first time I tried to choose a theme I had about five disparate ideas.  I was chewing over these on a walk with my best friend that New Year’s morning. She listened to me prattle on for awhile and then she said, she had a better one: “FOCUS!”

Of course she was right – focus has been an issue for me since I was a kid. I’m not ADHD, but my interests and passions are all over the map. Jill of all trades, mistress of none… So Focus it was – for two years, because it took that long to simplify my life enough to do so.

Last year was  “Completion.”  I’m embarassed to say that I’d forgtten completely about that theme until I just read it in my journal entry for New Year’s Day 2008. Obviously I never figured out how to keep the idea in front of me!

Several of my friends also choose annual themes, so they have been kind enough to share their themes, in case I wanted to borrow one:

  • “Think Big” – VaNessa
  • “Engage!” – Heather
  • “Generous and open-hearted” – Peter
  • “Make it happen!” – VaNessa
  • “Patience and understanding” – Mary
  • “Now is the time!” – Jack

I love some of these, but “Now is the Time!” really resonated with me and I’m going to run with it – for several reasons:

  • The energy cost of dithering on decisions (as minor as to whether to keep or toss a piece of paper, or as major as just FILING the damned divorce papers and being done with it.)
  • The acknowledgment that the present moment is all there is and I want to be present for it
  • The recognition that time is precious

The question is: How will I keep this mantra up front in my brain several times a day for a year?  What will be an effective trigger to jog my mind?

Jonathan Mead, guest poster on Zen Habits offers these suggestions:

  • If you want to help yourself get in a creative state, you can setup an environmental trigger. Maybe that means sitting in a certain chair (putting on your thinking cap, as it were). Or it could be triggered by a change in your breathing (slower or more rapid breathing).
  • To get excited about exercise, you might setup a trigger by moving a certain way or doing a visualization. You could make your trigger swinging your arms back and forth and visualize yourself in front of mirror with your ideal body. Use something that gets you pumped up. MMA fighters and boxers do this all the time by slapping their chests or face. Not recommended, but you get the idea.
  • In order to put yourself in a state of confidence, you could create triggers in your posture. Sitting straight and stretching my arms above my head always makes me feel more confident.
  • To trigger yourself into a state of focus, you can touch your eyes or massage your temples.
  • Putting your hand on your heart is a great idea for cultivating an open mind and preparing yourself to really listen to someone.

These are just a few ideas; you can make up your own triggers. They can also be environmental, like engineering the attentional feng shui of your room. Take a look at your space and see what kind of triggers it sets off in you. Are they reinforcing your passions and your goals?

My current idea is to write NOW IS THE TIME right after the day’s date, when I sit down to journal. And whenever I write the date on a check or a time on my calendar, to use that as the trigger to say out loud, with conviction: NOW IS THE TIME!  Hopefully that will remind me to breathe deeply and ask myself, “what’s happening right now?” and “what should be happening right now?”

Yoga class is another place to use this trigger. It also wouldn’t hurt to review a chapter of one of Eckhart Tolle’s books – the Power of Now, or A New Earth.

I’m noting NOW IS THE TIME on my calendar for the 1st of the next 11 months right now.

Parigraha: holding on to stuff

Parigraha: n. ancient Sanskrit word meaning grasping, hoarding, holding onto one’s stuff.

Sooner or later – and the way the economy and my savings are going right now it’s looking like a lot sooner – I’m going to have to sell my house and move into much smaller quarters.

I am therefore faced with two inarguable reasons to let go of a lot of my stuff:

1) A home that is sparsely furnished shows better when it goes on the market because prospective buyers have enough open space that they can imagine themselves and their stuff in it.

2) My future home, which will be about half the size of this one, can comfortably fit only half as much stuff – if that much, maybe less.

In yoga, we study the yamas and niyamas, which are about how we want to be in the world as compassionate enlightened yogis. Patanjali wrote them down about 150 BCE (!) as part of the Yoga Sutras.  They’re kind of like rules of conduct – not rigid or dogmatic – but more like ideal states of being to continuously work towards.

The fifth yama is aparigraha (the opposite of parigraha) or non-grasping, non-hoarding.  Ideally we yogis are not attached to our stuff. It flows in and out of our lives – we use it and let it go, use it and let it go. Ideally.

But our stuff means so much to us! It is SPECIAL stuff. Even if it stands in the way of emotional and physical freedom, we clutch it close.

My current spiritual practice involves gathering the equivalent of a box of stuff every day – either for disposal (recycling LOTS of paper right now), re-use (Goodwill, here I come), or sale. I’m starting with easy stuff – a couple of days ago it was ancient computer manuals, old tax papers and receipts. I’ve got boxes and boxes and file drawers and file drawers more paper to go.

Not wanting to overwhelm my recycle pickup service I switched yesterday to culling socks, stockings and tights.

Today is table linens. I have an amazing number of napkins that I never use because they clash with my dinner dishes, or are stained, or are insufficient (why is it I buy a set of SIX napkins, when I rarely feed less than EIGHT for a company dinner??).

I know I’ll have to make much deeper cuts in every department, but I’ll use the easy stuff like mental weight-lifting, to strengthen my resolve.

The hardest will be stuff that I equate with memories – of a special person, place or time. Down the road.

Play: prescription for kids

Play: n. recreational activity ; esp. the spontaneous activity of children

Prescription: n. a written direction for a therapeutic or corrective agent ; specifically one for the preparation and use of a medicine

You’ve read about “nature deficit disorder” a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. It refers to the trend of children spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems and loss of appreciation for and understanding of the natural world.

Now we’re worried not just about kids playing outside, we’re worried that they don’t play much, period.  The experts say they need more time from freewheeling play at home and in school.  Not only is it bad for their little psyches, it’s downright unpatriotic as budding American citizens.  The kids will be at a disadvantage in the global economy where creativity, innovation and cooperation are needed.

The National PTA has launched a “Rescuing Recess” campaign. The American Academy of Pediatrics is chiming in with recommendations as well:

*Developing “safe spaces” where children can play freely outdoors in their neighbourhoods.

*Reduce use of “passive entertainment” including TV and computer games.

*Promote use of imagination-nurturing toys such as blocks and dolls.

* Encourage fantasy role-play for preschoolers.

*Let kids play at playgrounds, etc., without feeling their parent is watching every move.

*Don’t insist on playing with your child if he or she is happily playing alone.

All I can say is GOLLY. When I was a kid (and walked five miles barefoot uphill in the snow to school), we had very few toys. My favorite toy was dirt.

I’m not kidding…dirt. Plus a big spoon, a pot or piepan, some rocks, sticks, and a little water. I was as happy as a piglet playing with these magical ingredients.

Inside my sisters and I threw a blanket over the dining room table and played house. We played teacher and practiced writing like grownups – loopy scribbles that we pretended were real words telling real stories.

We each had a large collection of paper dolls. A favorite game was issuing invitations addressed to a particular paper doll: “Martha is invited to a gala weekend in the country. There will be a hunt on Saturday, a ball Saturday night, a swim party on Sunday, followed by a picnic. Please plan your wardrobe accordingly.”

Of course “Martha” may not have come with clothing appropriate for such a weekend, so we’d have to make our own outfits with crayons and scissors.

Fast forward to a feng shui consultation I did a few years ago. Although ten-year-old Janice, the couple’s only child, had recently been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, they wanted me to focus on boosting the flow of wealth into the home.

The house was modest in size and pretension, but there was no place to sit, except at the dining room table. Every chair in the living room had a large stuffed animal in it. The woman had so many potted plants that she spent most of her minimal free time caring for them. And then we went into Janice’s room.

Toys everywhere. EVERYWHERE.  On the chair, on the bed, on the bookcase, spilling out of the toy chest, and all over the floor. Some still in the original box or wrapping. Little Janice sat on the floor, paralyzed by the plethora of toys.

Once in awhile the critical mother-in-law in me overpowers my dispassionate consultant self, and I told the parents that their first priority was to get rid of 90% of the toys and stuffed animals and plants, creating a calm environment so that poor Janice could have space for her self.

They weren’t happy with my analysis. They couldn’t imagine being separated from all this stuff that had taken so long to acquire.  Five years later, I heard that Janice had a bout of depression so severe she was hospitalized.

If I’d known then what was going to happen, I’d have suggested that the family rent an unfurnished home in their neighborhood and move only the most crucial pieces of furniture in from the old house. See how that felt. See how Janice responded. Then maybe add a few favorite books, dolls, etc.  After they adjusted to the spare existence, have an estate sale company sell everything else from the original house.  When it was finally empty, they could move the critical stuff back home from the rental.

Ah, the benefit of hindsight.

Paperholics Anonymous

Hi, My name is Joy and I am a Paperholic.

I’m grateful to be here with you today at Paperholics Anonymous. I don’t know where else I can turn.

My addiction began innocently enough. I was in college, writing an essay on feminist thought in early Ibsen. I had notes on index cards, notes on scrap paper, notes on the backs of envelopes and in the margins of books.

It was 6 a.m. and I’d been working on this !@#$% since noon the previous day. It was due in two hours and I COULD NOT FIND the scrap on which the perfect ending quote was scrawled.

I pawed pathetically through the papers till my desk looked like the bottom of a hamster’s cage. Minutes before my deadline the note surfaced and I typed my brilliant conclusion.

But ever since that day I’ve had a Paper Problem.

I LOVE paper. Books, magazines and newspapers, of course. But even better I like articles clipped from magazines and ripped from newspapers. I read the newspaper like I’m on an easter egg hunt. I scan to rule out all the drivel I don’t want to read, but when I find an interesting article, I tear it out and set it aside to read later.

The pile on which I place it grows ever taller, because every day there’s more to read. The pile must compete with a steady influx of the New Yorker and Newsweek magazines (both relentless weeklies – I get only one monthly, National Geographic.)

The New Yorker is especially challenging because I like to rip out the good cartoons to distribute to various acquaintances. Like here’s one for my son, the industrial designer:

And here’s one for a friend considering surgery:

The only good news is that I’ve managed to cut my junk mail and catalog intake to almost zero. (This demands dogged dialing to each company’s 800 number.)

Two spots compete to attract the most paper: the end of my kitchen counter, and the top of my desk. It’s an all or nothing proposition. If the space is clear, I can stay on the wagon… for awhile.

But then I have a little slip; maybe I get too busy to put things away before I rush off to the next thing. “I’ll just put it here for now…” I tell myself, as I set a piece of paper on the counter top.

I should know by now I can’t just save one piece of paper. Before I know what hit me I’m buried again.

How buried? Imagine an exhibit at the Natural History Museum, where you’ve got a cross-section of the earth’s layers…

The top-most layer is light and fluffy – mostly current newsprint, Toyota tuneup coupons and an occasional offer for a 2-for-1 dinner.  That’s about six inches deep.

The next 6” layer is more compressed – printouts of articles I read online, reports, manuals, magazines yet to be ripped into. Printer paper doesn’t fluff as nicely as ripped newsprint.

From time to time, I moisten the pile with a cup of spilled coffee or tea. Using both hands like salad tongs, I turn the pile as I seek some piece of wisdom I know is about halfway down. This serves to aerate the pile nicely. Over time, the lowest layers begin to heat up and decompose.

The bottom six inches is where my addiction begins to pay off. That’s where I’ve got dark brown crumbly compost, complete with happy earthworms. It grows great tomatoes.

You may ask, what have I tried to cure my addiction?

I had great hopes when it was rumored that the advent of computers would bring us the paperless office. This didn’t work for me: my computer just brought me in contact with MORE articles I wanted to print.

I tried taping my eyes shut so I could no longer read. I tried going cold turkey – installing a paper detection/rejection system at the door.

But then I found myself rifling through my neighbor’s recycle bins in the middle of the night seeking day-old paper.

So, now I’ve hit bottom and I’m here at Paperholics Anonymous. Can you help me?

Powerpoint Potentate! Presentation Priestess!

Powerpoint: a Microsoft presentation program that allows public speakers to put their audience to sleep within five minutes

Potentate: one who wields great power or sway

All sorts of Powerpoint horror stories circulate in the public speaking realm. [Here’s a funny PPT presentation spoofing bad PPT presentations (is that laughter canned??? it’s not THAT funny).] I’ve seen many poor presentations myself.

But certain topics really can’t be done well without illustration – especially when the subject is something visual: art, architecture, design, travel, to name a few. You can use Powerpoint to organize your “slide show”, which is what I did last night to talk about feng shui.

Pictures are worth a thousand words when you’re describing befores and afters, the five elements, yin and yang, color, the bagua map.  The challenge is not bullet-pointitis, but locating the right pictures to project, building a narrative around them. And for me it was figuring out how to talk to the audience instead of the screen while managing the remote control and laser pointer.

Thank god my son was home for the week. I don’t watch TV and have never learned how to manage a remote control (though many women who DO watch TV can’t manage the remote either.

I feel like my skill as a public speaker has just taken a big leap with this new tool. I promise not to overuse it. Which shouldn’t be too hard because it’s still a pain in the butt to haul a laptop, projector and screen.

Procrastination #2: the Powerpoint Presentation

Procrastination: putting off intentionally something that should be done,
from the Latin, pro (forward) and crastinus (of tomorrow)

I am giving a talk tonight at Toastmasters, a dry run if you will, of a much longer presentation on feng shui I’m doing next week.  I can talk on this topic, no problem. I know my stuff.

So why oh why have I put off preparations until just last night (not that I’ve not been thinking about it, obsessing, even)?  It’s because I’ll be working with my new projector and Powerpoint for the first time.

I am actually an accomplished geek so I’ve been surprised at my reluctance to put this presentation together.  I figured out the PPt stuff easily – made a bunch of attractive simple slides last night.

What has held me back is fear of new territory – simultaneous talking and technology.  I’m one of those people who has to turn off the car radio when navigating unfamiliar roads – I may even be someone who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.  But since I don’t chew gum, I haven’t tested this possibility.

I am writing this post when I should be loading the presentation onto my laptop, hooking up the projector and seeing what happens….  structured procrastination, as Ken Perry would say.

Pimping my practice (of feng shui)

In late May I wrote an article about feng shui for the local newspaper which they liked so much they asked if I’d write one a month for their home & garden section.  This was great news because that first piece drove a really big turnout for my class at a home furnishings boutique in town.  I was hoping it would generate demand for folks to come to my class at Clark College later this year, lead readers to my website, which in turn would lead to more paying clients.

Easy come, easy go.

Just after I submitted my article for July, I get an email from the section editor telling me they’ve made another round of cuts at the paper – staff and content both – and the home & garden section has been greatly reduced and absorbed as a part of the features department under a different editor in the newsroom.

I have a call into her as I write, trying to convince her that feng shui is the perfect discipline for times of economic hardship, because most fixes cost little or nothing.  We’ll see.

Pellucid panes

Pellucid: admitting the maximum amount of light; transparent, translucent

It’s been HOT and sunny here for several days. The sun has been rare in the Pacific Northwest in recent months, so I hadn’t noticed how filthy my windows were.

I was blind, but now I see. Sort of. Pellucid they ain’t.

Feng shui doesn’t like dirty windows.

“Somebody has GOT to wash those windows,” I said to my staff, standing very close by.

“Yes, boss,” I replied, saluting smartly. “As soon as you pay me for fifty years of back wages.”