Archive for October, 2006

Questions you should avoid

Last week, I wrote about some pertinent questions you should ask before you select your prospective Feng Shui consultant. This week, I’m going to talk about what you, as a user of such services, should do to maximise the time you have with your consultant. I am going to share with you some unique perspectives this week of what YOU should avoid doing during a Feng Shui or BaZi consultation in order for you to benefit most from a consultation.

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You might be wondering - why is Joey talking about what I should not do? The reason why some people sometimes don’t get the best out of a consultation, be it a Feng Shui or BaZi consultation, is because they don’t really know how to handle a consultation.

Now, this has nothing to do with a person’s IQ, education level or personality. Most people visiting a professional for the first time - be it a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist or a chiropractor - have no idea what to expect either. Accordingly, they also have no idea how to handle the experience or what to expect.

That’s why, viewing things from the perspective of a professional practitioner or consultant is important. By asking someone who actually practices the speciality how we should handle a consultation, we get an insight into how the practitioner’s mind works, what matters and doesn’t matter, and how to get the most out of the time we are in their office. By avoiding questions that don’t serve our interests and approaching the consultation the right way, we avoid wasting our time in the consultation on matters of little significance, get to the crux of the matter and ensure the consultation is a positive experience.

My colleagues and peers in the profession come from various parts of the world and they often share with me their experiences, good or bad, with their clients. Not surprisingly, their experiences with their clients, wherever they come from, are quite similar and consistent.

Attitude Matters

There seems to be a common trend for some people to come to a Feng Shui or BaZi consultation with a less than ideal attitude. What is this attitude? We call it the anti-change attitude. They resolutely refuse to make any kind of changes, be it to their personality or attitude in life (when it comes to BaZi) or any modifications to their home (when it comes to Feng Shui).

Many of these changes are not even drastic. If they refuse to change bedrooms, this perhaps is somewhat drastic to some people. But repositioning the bed? That is not a drastic change by any reasonable measure. Yet there are clients who refuse to even do that. Instead, they expect a consultant to ask them to install something in their house or bedroom (and preferably something that is not too ugly, will not inconvenience them, and doesn’t involve any digging, drilling or DIY work) that will ‘dissipate the Sha Qi’, throw some salt and make their problem go away. Having an anti-change attitude is like going to see a doctor to help cure a problem but then refusing to take the medicine.

It may not be advisable to seek a Feng Shui or BaZi consultation if we are not ready for one. If we go to a Feng Shui or BaZi consult but are not interested in improvement, then chances are we are wasting our own time and money. Before a consultant can help us, we must first want to help ourselves. Our Feng Shui or BaZi consultant is being paid to give us useful advice. Sometimes they may give us advice which is hard to accept or difficult to implement. But, to benefit fully from his advice, it is best to review with the consultant how we could overcome those difficulties or work around those recommendations.

In Feng Shui, of course a skilled practitioner will seek to minimise the changes that we need to make. But that does not mean we will not need to make any changes at all. No consultant wants to advocate drastic change or something that requires us to turn our life upside-down. Even in a BaZi consultation, the emphasis is on the client doing what they can, making the changes they can handle and sometimes, making changes progressively. But some change is still necessary.

Avoid the ‘since I’m here…’ question.

Some clients request marriage dates as part of the Feng Shui consultation, for their unborn children, children who are still young or children who are not even dating yet! Now, this is really not making productive use of our consultation time because we are asking the consultant to select a date for an event that is not even for certain likely to happen.

We cannot get a Feng Shui Assessment for our whole life or BaZi Assessment for our whole life through one consultation. Some clients may tend to look at this as a way of ‘maximising the consultation’ but in reality, it is not maximising the consultation, and in some cases, we may just end up vexing the consultant. It is a question that quite simply, is not possible to answer. At the point in which a child eventually does want to get hitched, other factors may come into play, which are not evident now, that influence the selection of the date - their prospective spouse’s BaZi for starters!

Another variation of the ‘since I’m here’ question is the ‘since we’re in the neighbourhood’ question. Sometimes, clients ask for an opinion on a house that is ‘just along the way’. The BaZi version of this question is the ‘could you just look at their chart?’

Now, this is not to say that consultants do not want to be helpful. But it is also important to respect the fact that a Feng Shui and BaZi consultant needs to prepare for our consultation, and accord our case due attention. The Feng Shui consultant needs time to appraise and audit the property and its surrounding landforms and of course, the BaZi consultant needs time to study the chart. Granted, a top professional can probably tell at a glance if a place is good or not good and the same with a BaZi. But then again, would we ask a dentist if we have good teeth just by opening up our jaws at a dinner table?

No consultant wants to do a 2 minute job or a ‘by the way’ consultation of a relative’s house down the road, or our best friend in the world’s BaZi chart that we whip out during our consultation. Most professional consultants would pride themselves on giving proper professional advice, not ‘by the way’ advice.

If the matter is important to us, in the first place, we would not relegate it to ‘by the way’ status. We would instead accord it due and proper significance. If we really want the Feng Shui of our sister’s house appraised, it would be best to make an appointment for a proper consultation. If your best friend’s personal happiness is of great significance to us, it would be safer to ask her to make a BaZi consultation so she can have all her questions answered, instead of taking the risk of getting incomplete answers.

A ‘by the way’ question is either important, or not important. If it’s not important, it is best to refrain from asking. If it is, then you should get a full and proper answer. Think of it as a ‘by the way’ question, gets a ‘by the way’ answer. And that one pointer could be the most expensive piece of free advice you get because the consultant answered the question within a very limited context, with limited information and there is always a risk of the answer being incomplete due to these factors.

Do not ask ‘will 1606 strike Da Ma Chai this week’?

A professional classical Feng Shui consultant will not fix our Feng Shui to give us a shot at winning the lottery or busting the house at the blackjack tables. Nor will a BaZi consultant give us lucky numbers or give us good days of the month to buy the lottery. Using our consultation time or consultation with a Feng Shui or BaZi consultant for the sole purpose of seeking advice on the stock market, the lottery or gambling is a waste of your time and money. And let’s be logical for one minute - if the Feng Shui Master or BaZi consultant knew all these, wouldn’t they be doing it for themselves first? If a BaZi or Feng Shui consultant proclaims to be able to give us a house or numbers that do this, we should be on the look out for being scammed.

It is understandable for most clients wanting to improve their wealth opportunities through Feng Shui, but striking the lottery or winning at the poker table, do not qualify as ‘wanting to improve wealth opportunities’.

The irrelevant question

Because of the influence of New Age practices, there are still many people who seek professional consultation and using up much of their time for self-affirmation of cultural beliefs, superstitions or old-wives tales. So here’s a brief list of questions to avoid asking, so as to avoid wasting your money and consultation time:

Goldfish or Guppies? - Avoid asking about the types of fish in the aquarium or how many we should have or if it is bad luck if one dies. If we are asked to install an aquarium, as long as we place it where the consultant has asked us to located it, the rest is really up to us. It’s the water in the aquarium that is important, not the fish, which are there more to keep the water from being stagnant. And the dying fish is really not significant. Think of it this way - fish are mortal too. They die. Perhaps we need to change the water!

I like Picasso’s art - is that bad Feng Shui? - Most Feng Shui consultants are not art connoisseurs. They cannot provide advice on choice of art, or paintings and they have no viewpoint on Monet vs. Picasso. Nor is their opinion, if one is expressed, of any significance. If we ask our Feng Shui consultant to ‘say okay’ on a painting, their ‘OK’ has no Feng Shui significance.

Can I wear Silver and Purple together? - Colour choices are personal and are not the purview of a classical Feng Shui consultant. Again, many people may feel these have significance but really they don’t and it is better to focus our consultation time on something substantive than on whether we should have purple in the bathroom. A classical Feng Shui consultant would normally tell us to decorate the house any way we like, and wear whatever colours we like.

How long will I live? - This is a popular BaZi question and frankly, a time-waster. Some clients insist they want to know their D-day so they can plan their lives. A true professional consultant will say, stop thinking about dying and start thinking about living. Focus on the now and if the time is right, do what you want to do. Knowing you have 20 years more to go is not going to give anyone a greater sense of urgency to achieve their dreams.

I hope this week’s article has helped to put our minds in the correct perspective and provide some insights as to how we could maximise our consultation time and receive better value from the services of a Feng Shui or BaZi consultant.


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What you should ask your consultant

For the last two weeks, I’ve been busy doing research on the Feng Shui of Tibet and while it has been fun, I am also glad to be back writing my column. I’ve had lots of new ideas for my column while I was on my research trip and I look forward to sharing those with you in the weeks to come.

This week, I want to focus on a very practical issue when it comes to engaging the services of a Feng Shui consultant, which is: What should you ask them? Asking questions is a very important part of the process when it comes to selecting a Feng Shui consultant. Due to the reputation the profession has, which traditionally has been a very informal sort of business, people can be a little hesitant to ask questions - not sure if their questions may be perceived as insulting.

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Feng Shui has grown more modern as a profession, and is becoming more like any other service industry, and so you should approach the business of getting a Feng Shui consultation (or a BaZi Destiny Analysis) in the same way you would approach any other professional services like finding a doctor, a dentist, an accountant, or someone to fix your pipes. So here are some of the questions you should ask your prospective Feng Shui consultant, before you make a decision to engage him!

Question #1: How much do you charge?

Gone are the days when you slipped your Feng Shui master a red packet with cash. Most Feng Shui consultants by the way, take cheques or even credit cards these days and I don’t think there is any significance in the amount they charge - a Feng Shui Master who charges 888.88 isn’t necessarily any better than the one who goes for round numbers. During your initial inquiry, do not be shy about asking how much a consultation costs. A professional Feng Shui consultant will be upfront about their fees.

You should also not be hesitant to ask why the fee is high (or low for that matter!). In general, you should expect fees to vary based on the size of the property in question (for example, a factory audit will cost more than a small office audit, a semi-detached house audit may be less expensive than an audit for a bungalow), and the complexity of the audit may also be a factor.

Question #2: What does your service include?

A good Feng Shui consultant will usually check the client’s BaZi before embarking on recommendations for the property. But that does not mean that a thorough BaZi consultation is part of the service. So you should ask if a BaZi consultation is included in the price, or if it is separately charged. Also, you should ask if the price of a property audit includes date selection specially tailored to your BaZi and your property, not just a selection of generic date from the Almanac. This is quite important, especially if renovations will be required to improve or correct the Feng Shui of the property. Selecting a good date to undertake renovations is essential to ensure that the Qi is properly activated. If the property in question is being built, you may want to ask if the consultant includes a selection of date for moving-in.

Question #3: Will there be follow-up sessions or a report?

You should also ask if the service and price includes follow-up sessions to discuss the audit and recommendations with the consultant or a member of their staff, and if you will be given a written report with recommendations. Now, if a consultant does not provide follow-up sessions or a written report, that does not mean you should not engage them or that they are any less professional. If you are comfortable with a less formal approach, that’s fine. But what you don’t want is to find out that you have to pay again just to get the report or to have a follow-up session to know how you should proceed after the property is audited.

Question #4: What kind of Feng Shui do you practice?

You should know what kind of methodology the consultant uses and be comfortable with this approach. Are they Classical Feng Shui consultants or more New Age in their approach? If they are Classical Feng Shui consultants, then they will probably be using a combination of the following techniques: San Yuan, San He, Xuan Kong or Ba Zhai.

Question #5: Will I be required to buy products?

You should be on the look out for conflicts of interest when the answer to this question is ‘yes’ and the practitioner is a Classical Feng Shui practitioner. When you are required to buy products or encouraged to buy products to place in various sectors of your home or office, in order to improve the Qi and these items are not included in the service (see Question #1), a conflict of interest is quite possible.

‘G’ for Geomancy or ‘F’ for Feng Shui?

There is a reason why you can’t just flip the Yellow Pages and find a Feng Shui consultant. It’s to do with the ‘R’ word. Relationship. When you engage the services of a Feng Shui consultant, even if it is for just the property you are living in at the moment, you are beginning a relationship. Your Feng Shui consultant is someone who you potentially will turn to in the future again and again, if the experience has been good, to check your future property, to select dates for your children to get married, to select dates for business openings if you are a business person, to do Destiny Analysis for you, and even vet your staff. That’s a lot of personal and professional ground.

So beyond the questions I have posed above, you should also be comfortable with the Consultant you chose, in every sense of the word. Be comfortable with their level of professionalism, their technical background, the way they practise Feng Shui and their personal style when they interact with you, their client. Some Feng Shui consultants provide a lot of hand-holding, and function partly like a personal therapist-cum-life coach. Others are more business-like and straight to the point, and less inclined towards hand-holding. Both can have your best interests at heart, but simply express it in different ways. Some people like a Feng Shui consultant who will answer their every question, no matter how minor, trite or pointless. Some people prefer a Feng Shui consultant who just gets on with it and to the point.

Just as some people pay for bedside manner in a doctor and others, just want someone who solves their problem, it’s the same with your Feng Shui consultant. Find one who you think you can work with, who you are comfortable with and who understands you as a client. You don’t have to like your Feng Shui consultant as long as you are comfortable with what they do for you and how they go about doing it. Pick a Feng Shui consultant with a personal style, approach and who have staff whom you feel comfortable talking about your concerns and issues with.

Take Your Pick

If you are comfortable with New Age Feng Shui, and that is what you want, then go with a person with repute in that field, and who you are comfortable with or who achieves results that you will be satisfied with. If you prefer Classical Feng Shui, then seek out a Feng Shui consultant who practices Classical Feng Shui who you can work with to achieve the results you want. If you believe that lineage is important when it comes to your Feng Shui consultant, then go with Lineage. If you feel age reflects experience, then by all means go with an older master.

But before you engage the Feng Shui consultant, irrespective of what the basis for selecting that consultant is - be it the type of Feng Shui they practice, their age or their lineage - do yourself a favour and make sure you get what you think you’re paying for. Read up on the consultant you intend to select – check out their books and understand their approach and methodology, if you intend to go with a Classical Feng Shui practitioner. If you’re going with a New Age Feng Shui practitioner, you should probably read their books too, and understand their approach. If you feel seniority counts for something in Feng Shui, do not just assume that the older the master is, the better. Make sure that they really have been practicing successfully that long, and really do have the necessary knowledge. Finally, if lineage carries a lot of weight for you, then you should do the extensive legwork and make sure that your Feng Shui master’s lineage is what they say it is, and not just a claim. Usually the lineage holders are the ones who have documented evidence of their complete history.

You may also want to find out who the Consultant in question has done work for or which clients they have done work for in the past. Don’t depend on hearsay or what other people tell you - do your own background check. You are about to pay for the services of a professional - you should make sure that the person lives up to that reputation.


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The Practice of Yin House Feng Shui

Last week, I introduced the concept of Yin House Feng Shui and explained how in the ancient days, Feng Shui actually meant Yin House Feng Shui. This week, I’m going to explain the process involved in Yin House Feng Shui so that everyone has a better understanding of its relevance in today’s environment.

As I mentioned last week, many of the principles in today’s Yang House Feng Shui are similar to those applicable to Yin House Feng Shui in the ancient days. This is because many aspects of Yang House Feng Shui today are derived from Yin House practices. Of course, there are some significant differences. The Feng Shui practitioner doesn’t have to consider internal Feng Shui when it comes to Yin House since there is only one individual involved. The ‘sleeping direction’ (or casket alignment as it is known in Yin House Feng Shui) is only for one individual and it is a permanent direction.

Classical Feng Shui practitioners generally are not concerned with the religious and cultural, or ceremonial aspects of death. Their role is strictly to handle the Feng Shui aspect of the site in relation to the burial. Whatever way the family prefers when it comes to religious, spiritual or other practices surrounding the death of a loved one strictly do not involve any input from the Feng Shui practitioner.

The 4 Stages of Yin House Feng Shui

Yin House Feng Shui involves a higher level of involvement by the Feng Shui practitioner, compared to a typical Yang House audit. It is not unusual for a Feng Shi practitioner to be involved in working with a client over a number of years. This is because Yin House Feng Shui, when done properly, involves up to four stages.

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The first stage of Yin House Feng Shui is land selection. This is usually done well in advance of old age or illness. Engaging a Feng Shui practitioner to conduct a land selection after death is usually not a good idea because it tends to be a rush job and of course, in the midst of all the emotional upheaval, it is not desirable to have family members not being able to agree on the location (perhaps because the land formations are not favourable to everyone in the family, or favour only one person) or simply because the cost is prohibitive.

The next stage of Yin House Feng Shui takes place after death and prior to burial. The Feng Shui practitioner is usually involved in the selection of a suitable date for the alignment of the casket and placement of the casket into the ground. Some people bypass the alignment of the casket and it is an optional aspect of Yin House Feng Shui, but the proper process typically will involve casket alignment, so as to tap into a good direction, much like beds are aligned in a home in Yang House Feng Shui.

Where the Yin House process is taken very seriously, we may even hear of cases where the casket is not put into the ground for several years, while the descendants wait for a date that matches the formations. For example, Mao Tse Tung’s grandfather’s casket was not buried in the ground until 7 years after his death, in order to accommodate an auspicious date that would activate the powerful Feng Shui formations that surrounded the burial spot he had selected. These days of course that’s not very practical. It is not uncommon therefore for the ashes to be cremated and then kept in a jar until a suitable date has been found.

Once the ground has settled, then a date is selected for the tombstone to be aligned. This is important because it is what will activate the tomb and enable the tomb to tap into the formations surrounding it. The tombstone for a burial spot is similar to the Main Door in a Yang House. It provides a direction for the Qi. Date selection plays the same importance in Yin House Feng Shui, as it does in Yang House Feng Shui. In fact, it is arguably of greater significance with regard to Yin House because a Feng Shui practitioner must align all the astronomical configurations (representing Heaven) in line with the land formations (representing Earth) and then by placing the tombstone, activates the tomb (representing the Man component). Many of the common Yang House afflictions that most people know about, such as the Three Killings of the year, and the Five Yellow star, are derived from Yin House practices.

Strictly speaking, according to proper Classical Feng Shui principles, there is no spiritual component involved in Yin House Feng Shui. Yin House Feng Shui involves the selection of the location and the alignment of the direction and really has nothing to do with the spiritual or religious aspects involved in the burial ceremony. And it does not matter whether it is Chinese tombstone or a Christian tombstone, or any other tombstone. In fact, it was only after the Tang Dynasty that tombstones were used to provide a facing direction for tombs. Prior to the Tang Dynasty, tombstones were not used because the focus was on the first and second stage of Yin House Feng Shui, which is the land selection and burial.

What are the important considerations ?

When selecting a location for a burial spot, the most important thing is to look at the land. Now for the average layperson, it would be difficult to discern incoming dragons or figure out the Water formulas and formations. A Feng Shui practitioner would generally look for an area with good land contours and preferably have gentle undulating hills in the surrounding areas. Flat land is generally not so favourable for Yin House, and is better for Yang House. There is of course an exception to using flat areas but it is an extremely difficult exception to effect in modern day, hence, the avoidance of flat areas for Yin House.

We also want to see supporting water formations, and the correct application of water formulas as per the structure of the plot. Mountain (yin) and Water (yang) must conform. This means, we have to consider the actual internal and external Water flow as well as Qi mouth in relation to that location. Now, when I talk about water formulas and formations, I am not necessarily referring to the drains that surround the tombs or any open-mouthed holes, which are often speciously considered secret water-mouths, and are typically seen in a selective group of Taiwanese graves. These are simply drainage systems and are designed to keep water away from the grave area.

Yin Apartments or Yin Houses?

After last week’s introductory article on Yin House Feng Shui, I received quite a few emails asking me about whether or not placing one’s ancestor’s ashes in a columbarium makes a difference. The difference between placing the ashes in a columbarium and being buried in a grave is, in layperson property context, the difference between staying in apartments and staying in landed property. It is not ineffective but is less effective compared to burial. It is fine to bury the ashes or place the jar in the ground. Of course, actual burial is preferable but is not necessary.

In Hong Kong, it is common for people to ‘move’ their ancestral graves every ten years, especially if the graves are located in public graveyards, where public policy only allows the use of each plot for up to 10 years. So re-doing the Yin House Feng Shui is not as uncommon as it sounds. In fact, I recently read an article in the International Herald Tribune about how in Korea, where Feng Shui is known as Poongsu, prominent Koreans, move their ancestral graves each year in the hope of gaining an extra edge or even to win a presidential election. Feuding over a tomb spot has been going on between two famous Korean families for centuries!

I hope that this week’s article has helped clear away some of the superstition and morbidity surrounding Yin House Feng Shui. Choosing a good location for a burial site does not carry any negative connotations or meaning. These days, most people are quite open-minded and have wills prepared well in advance of death. As I said in my article last week, more and more people are treating the selection of a burial spot as part and parcel of estate planning. Not many people these days think it is a bad omen, or that they would die sooner, just because they’ve drawn up a will. Similarly, selecting a burial spot brings no such connotation.

If we look at Yin House Feng Shui as part of a legacy to our descendants, a sort of Feng Shui inheritance if you like, it really isn’t all that morbid after all!


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Copyright © 2008 by Joey Yap. All rights reserved worldwide.