Keep the Change

Richard Ashworth

Feng Shui Diaries

Solar fortnight beginning:

Friday May 21st 2010 12.29























Month: tsun si the metal Snake
Solar Fortnight: Siu mun Grain filling

 Keep the Change.

As I walk in, on this Water Horse Friday, to the room I use for one-to-ones in Harley Street, I spot a poster for Four Lions: top movie, heartbreaking then funny, then both. Dealing with wealth, deprivation, multi-culturalism and suicide bombers, it’s a kind of snapshot of the UK as we enter the 2nd decade of the 21st century.

Today is the last of a series of sessions with my friend Casey. Her ba zi is full of opportunities and she doesn’t want to miss them.

Much of my one-to-one soul work lately consists of readings of the Hexagrams (that is 6-line diagrams) of The I Ching or Zhou Yi , the handbook of change. Change is the only constant. This idea underpins Chinese philosophy. In change is consistency. If we embrace it we can live relatively calm lives. If not, possibly not.

The Yi is of course better known as the Book of Changes, the owners’ manual of the soul. Every day, every hour, every place, every position (and indeed every house orientation) as well as every situation in life, is linked not only to a Hexagram but to an individual line of that Hexagram. Each relates to a station on the er…journey of life. People tend to think of these stations – Waiting, Traveling, Slow Progress – as quandaries and each Hexagram comes with six solutions to the quandary, one on each line. Every feng shui question can be directed to the Yi.

So, Four Lions: it’s hard not to warm to the clumsy jihadis. They’re so harmless and then suddenly, they’re not. In what warped reality does violence have anything to do with spirit? Once after a long discussion, my (then) six-year old son Joey and I agreed why more people had been killed over religion than any other single cause. It’s because it’s what we’re all least certain about.

Stop Press 1:

As Stanley McChrystal is replaced as C-inC Afghanistan you might (and might not) find these words drawn from the ba zi of the year, familiar:

 « … (by) the autumn Barack Obama may be branded permanently with the familiar reputation of visionary as well the unfamiliar one of hawk. The Chinook-like sound you will hear at Arlington Cemetery as each fresh body is consigned to its grave, is Lyndon Johnson spinning in his.

There are five Tigers, one per Element. Since there are twelve distinct Animals that’s one Tiger every twelve years. Lyndon Johnson of course was only Vice-President during the escalation in Vietnam in the Tiger year of 1962 and a junior Senator when the Korean War opened in the previous Metal Tiger of 1950 but he was President when it all went out of control in the late 60’s. Expect an American presence in Afghanistan for at least as long as in Vietnam, possibly as long as West Germany. »

 Richard Ashworth Predictions for the Year of the Metal Tiger

December 2009.

Yes, No, Maybe, I don’t know, Can you repeat the Question?

I invite Casey to draw a Hexagram. She throws three coins six times. We’ve looked at work, relationships, money, health and much more. She has cried. She has laughed. She may even have hurled. She has seen some of the tangled patterns of her life and unravelled a few. Her life is changing. Now we go stratospheric.

One of the great things about feng shui is that we don’t need to know the gory details of the problem to solve it. One-to-one sessions can go into minutiae but it’s not truly necessary. Neither ba zi nor feng shui (nor indeed consulting the I Ching) is a confessional method.

Casey makes a baffled sound as I tell her what she has drawn:

Wind over Thunder: Increase. Interesting.

«Wind? Thunder?»

«Man/woman stuff,» I say. «About stepping forward, I imagine.»

«Forward? I don’t even know which way is up.»

I give her a frank look.

«You’re talking to me.»

This is a gifted woman. Everywhere she goes people offer her tempting jobs. She has been stuck for some time. Right now she’s working from 8 till 7 every day. She gets home to her husband sometime after 8. Right now he’s slightly deflated because she has got on top of her current brief three months ahead of schedule.

 This in case you didn’t know, is what Increase looks like:



—  —

—  —

—  —


 As you can see, it is a combination of six broken and unbroken lines. That’s the Yi, just lines, no commentary, not even names, no nothing else. If that comes as a surprise it will probably be because you think of the Yi as the standard Richard Wilhelm edition (black cover, red design) which comprises 300+ pages of tight print  including comment, explanation and interpretation all of which has been added in the 5,000 or so years since the Yi was developed by the diviners of the Zhou Dynasty. The Yi has only been fully translated into English afresh three or four times and most of the derivations you have come across (The I Ching for Lovers, Business Secrets of the I Ching, The Book of Changes for Dog Lovers and so on*) are drawn from Wilhelm’s edition. In fact Wilhelm’s is Cary Baynes’ English translation of a German translation of a Confucian interpretation of a series of Taoist glosses on the lines. Casey and I are going to work just from the lines.

* I think I made these titles up but I’m not sure, apologies if not.

The received pronunciation I Ching btw suggests to the native speaker a book of pornography.

Stop Press 2 Saving the Gulf of Mexico:

The Water Element stands for communication of course. One reason for this is that all water in the world is in touch with all other water in the world. Unless interfered with, all water finds a single level. The term « above sea level » means exactly the same whether we are referring to the Dutch Zuyder Zee or the Indian Ocean that threatens much of Bangla Desh. So I felt particularly touched receiving this from Patricia Angove, the founder of the New Gaia Network via my friend Karen:

 The Japanese scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto has published extensive research into the characteristics of water. Among other things, his research revealed that water physically responds to emotions.  Many people have the predominantly angry emotion when we consider what is happening in the Gulf. And while justified in that emotion, we may be of greater assistance to our planet and its life forms if we sincerely, powerfully and humbly pray as Dr. Emoto, himself, has proposed.

I am passing this request to people I believe may be willing to participate in this prayer, to set an intention of love and healing that is so large, so overwhelming that we can perform a miracle in the Gulf of Mexico.  We are not powerless. We are powerful.  Our united energy, speaking this prayer daily…multiple times daily… can literally shift the balance of destruction that is happening. We don’t have to know how…we just have to recognize that the power of love is greater than any other power active in the Universe today.

 “I send the energy of love and gratitude to the waters and all living creatures

in the Gulf of Mexico and its surroundings.

To the whales, dolphins, pelicans, fish, shellfish, planktons,

corals, algae … to ALL  living creatures … I am sorry.

Please forgive me. Thank you.

I Love You.”

 Those lucky enough to live by the sea, go stand in it and connect to the waters in the Gulf and then say the prayer.  To those who live near a river, go do the same.  If you cannot stand in the sea or river, then put your hand in.  Those of you who live near neither river or sea, put your hands in a bowl of water, connect and say the prayer and then put your water down into a gutter or take it to a river or stream to flow with all the other water going down our pipeways and water courses.  If you can do a ceremony with others whilst you do this, it may be even more powerful.  I really do believe that our physical contact with water alongside our non judgement and love, besides the prayer, will help our planet and the marine life affected. We are not powerless, we are powerful, so let’s connect with water, with the Gulf, with our love.

I was able to this at dusk on Trebarwith Strand by Tintagel Head last week. Afterwards my friend Maurice and I climbed up to the castle in the dark after gates had closed. Naughty, naughty boys. R

Thanks, Karen

Each combination, each Hexagram has a unique meaning. Increase is Number 42 which, as the late Douglas Adams suggested, is the answer to the universe. Only no one knows what the question is.

Increase like almost every one of the 64 Hexagrams follows its converse, in this case of course, Number 41, Decrease: the progress from downsizing to resurgence. What goes down must come back up or as my Dad used to say «Growth follows the knife.»

«Following a period of quiet, you are about to shoot for the moon. And you may be reluctant because you are afraid of the consequences,» I say.

«All I did was throw some coins.»

«Spooky, huh? Traditionally you’d use 49 yarrow stalks which actually alters the probabilities a smidge.»

Casey’s future is full of possibilities. Perhaps that’s why she is working so hard.

«Have you ever considered being kind to yourself?» I ask.

«There’s so much to do. I haven’t drawn up my business plan. And my study programme has gone out of the window.»

«There’s a time to every purpose under Heaven,»  I add, quoting Ecclesiastes as I study the lines. «If you take the correct step, everyone else will also,» I know she knows.

« Everybody?»                                

«Rely on it.»

Increase always reminds me of the story of Orpheus. My son Thom* wrote a wonderful song about Orpheus and his wife Eurydice.

Orpheus is the master of the Lyre. His songs charm the birds from the trees. He falls in love with the beautiful Eurydice. She dies. Heartbroken he finds his way to the Underworld to get her back. Even Hades, the Lord of the Dead, is touched by Orpheus’ song.

«You may take her back to the land of the Living. You lead, she follows. One condition: You don’t look back.»

Orpheus leads her through the horrors of Hell all the while playing his lyre and singing. The dead themselves cease moaning to listen and then at the very lip of day, he can contain himself no longer and looks back. Pfft, no Eurydice. 

* His band Our Lost Infantry’s new single Scissor Fight/The Arsonist now out!

Diviners do it with sticks.

Increase is itself made up of two Trigrams. That is – you guessed it – two three-line diagrams. The top one I have coloured blue and it’s the one called soen or Wind. The central qualities of Wind are thoroughness and compassion. In the family this is the Eldest Daughter. Traditionally she is the first to marry, the first to grow up. Someone drawing this may be all work and no play.

The lower, called Thunder is coloured black. Thunder is rapid and dynamic. Thunder represents the Eldest Son who is traditionally the partner of the Eldest Daughter. Thunder is unpredictable, the nemesis of the control freak.

Both are of the Wood Element which we might call supplies, resources or even food. Two Wood Trigrams out of a possible two suggests plenty.

«The name Increase sounds like it’s limited.»

I sigh : «So often in the West we think in terms of outcome. Taoist thinking tends to be about Process.»

«How we get there?»


No Buts

Unlike Number 34 Da Zhuang, Great Power  or The Pinnacle, this Hexagram offers other directions to go than down. After a pinnacle what else is there? A thrusting, goal-oriented, over-achieving European receiving Number 34 might think his luck was in but a Chinese Diviner, would tend to ask:

«What next?»

«What do I do with this power?»

«How do I conserve it?»

«How do I pass it on?»

Number 42 is not a peak but the starting grid. To Increase there need be no end.

«Yes but is it a good one?»

«Patience,» I say «Thunder is yang wood, Wind yin Wood, so co-operation in all quarters is implied as well as a strengthening of man/woman relations. Wind is thorough and Thunder is sudden. You get both.»

The changing lines (for now don’t ask) direct us to Hexagram 24 Fu, The Return. Fu means something like «I’m back and I’m proud.». When I was on tv’s House Busters once, the camera lingered on me taking ages to get a Buddha placed right. While the lovely Janet Ellis read the voiceover script about yin and yang, I was actually trying to get Him oriented to Fu which as I said earlier, belongs like every Hexagram to a precise location on the compass. North/NorthEast since you asked.

I tell her this.

«Fu is about precise timing. It’ll happen when it happens. Your job is to be ready, not to jump the gun.»

«I can see that,» she says with her first big smile of the session.

«Which might allow you to fit in the odd barbie.»

We part.

«To be fulfilled is the biggest favour you can do for colleagues, husband, everybody,» I remind her.

«I know,» she says with a bigger smile.

I walk from my Harley Street room to Oxford Circus tube. Several of the staff are Moslem woman wearing the hijab which covers the hair but leaves the face open. I kind of approve. Why not express individuality this way? The idea, I understand is that only a woman’s husband should see the beauty of her hair. The baggy London Underground uniform is pretty drab for sure.

The word hijab carries meanings such as modesty and decorum. It also connotes “the veil which separates man or the world from God”

At Waterloo Underground I see a girl in a hijab and spray on jeans. My eye is directed from her hair modestly packed away to keep me from temptation straight to her rather fine bottom. Shurely shum mishtake ?

Home time.

Visit Taoist China in 2010

My friend Master Howard Choy is taking another group to China this year. Stops include the holy mountain of Wudanshang which I visited with him in 2005. At its summit, the jade-green Taoist temple receives the homage of the 72 lesser mountains in the range, stretching out to the horizon in three directions. Howard is a feng shui and tai chi Master as well as a Native Mandarin speaker who knows and loves the territory.

Details from:

New email address. Please Note :

Following February’s excitement when we apparently sent out several hundred links to a Viagra supplier, my default email address is now: Delete any hotmail addresses. The Google ones still work.

©Richard Ashworth 2010

Names have been changed to protect..uh…me.

My (still) super-duper (still) revamped website is at and my book The Feng Shui Diaries is available now from:

Amazon  (


or indeed Tescos. Do buy it from a bookshop if you can.


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