Rooster Month; bak lo, the Season of White Dew.
“Divinity is knowing where to start.” Our Lost Infantry – Scissor Fight.
It’s the Rooster month, the month of Zhong Qiu, that is the Harvest Moon, said to be the brightest and fullest. It’s the counting-up time of the year. A good time to re-think, reinvent and restructure. Also to move house. Last night’s moon was a perfect half-circle I noticed, as it rose in the halflight that is neither Summer nor quite Autumn. It’s a writer’s cliché that as the leaves fall, the mind turns to sunsets but there it is.
The first weeks of September are the traditional time for starting wars and blowing things up and as I park in the lane, having failed twice to spot Luke and Lisa’s new home, an excitable American with a serious lack of imagination hijacks Facebook on my ipad to welcome Armageddon and the “end times”. Do me a favour.
And talking of popular times and place for dispute, this summer I’ve been working on a watermill on the Serbian-Romanian border (which after a huge amount of earth-moving will become a Water Dragon) as well as a villa in Cyprus with close-to-perfect feng shui and a tower near Kingston where the front door is having an argument with the Water that flows through the garden. But the most arresting project has been this semi-detached cottage out in the woods of the Surrey Hills. Let me tell you why.
Luke’s a musician, Lisa works for a children’s charity. They’re both Pigs, that is multi-talented with a wide sphere of interests and skills as well as a need for space. The Chinese character for a home is a pig under a roof; note, just the one. They’re wide-open, sweet young people who look as if mutual tolerance is as easy to them as falling off the logs that surround their home. But when you consider it, their needs are very different; he for instance needs space and the safety to make noise, she some quiet to think. Forest all around suits them both.
I’ve also been working with the publishers of a Southern European tabloid. They have been suffering malicious gossip. Gossip? A tabloid? Who’d have thought it? As it turns out, the South of their basement houses a natural spring which has overflowed in the unprecedented floods of the Horse year. The South is the closest to the Sun, hence the place of visibility and publicity, Water is communication – a thimbleful spilled in the English Channel at Zeebrugge also raises sea level off Zanzibar. Put the two together, karmic issues aside, you get uncontrolled rumour.
The complete cure is a sam he (that is Three Harmony or yang gong) formula involving housing and redirecting the spring. Meanwhile I’ve given them as a band-aid, a procedure involving the addition of Earth in the form of several huge crystals. It’s a funny old building still featuring a huge ancient printing press to which Hitler apparently took a particular aversion. The Gestapo are said to have imprisoned it in its own custom-built cage. Now that’s what I call a proportionate response.
I first learned complex sam he formulae with Master Chan Kun Wah in the late 90’s. At that time I had just sold the insurance business I had been running in parallel with my woo-woo studies for twenty years and was in the lucky position of being able to study pretty much full time. What this meant was that I’d sit in a room with Master Chan once a month or so along with Gill Hale and Jon Sandifer and Sylvia Bennett and others frantically writing down every word. Then I’d go home and spend the next month working out what the hell he’d said.
Sam he formulae, arguably the most powerful, longest-lasting and most effective of all, pivot on the concept of the qi (pronounced chi) form. These are the methods the Grand Masters save for billionaires.
Identifying the qi form, which dictates the quality of energy entering a building is a judgement call; what you’re effectively doing is reading the trail of qi. This depends on a subtle blend of feeling, measurement and guesswork. It’s one of the key skills of feng shui. And I’ve lost track of the number of times Master Chan taught a complex formula which I was just about able to grasp and concluded by saying that the calculation all depends on the qi form. That’s traditional Chinese teaching methods for you.
What I’ve learned in the years since is that the key to qi form is finding the qi mouth. This is usually, but not always, the low point of the compound, that is to say where Water gathers. It can be miles away and in an urban environment almost impossible to locate.
When you find the qi mouth, what’s required is to “plug” it. This means placing a bridge, stones or some other obstruction to tame the outgoing flow. If you get it precisely right, the house receives the full benefit of the energy that is otherwise running loose in the landscape. So for instance, if I get the mill right, another billionaire is created. Often I use boulders. Sometimes I have to re-angle doors to accommodate the qi mouth. Which can be fiddly. The rules for this were formulated around eleven hundred years ago in the T’ang Dynasty.
This idea of qi is elusive. The ancient tradition is that it “comes down the mountain on the wind and stops at the Water”. That’s the Book of Odes (c300BCE.) These days quantum theorists are happy saying that mass is simply very condensed energy. Consider how much goes into putting the mass into a mountain, even a small hill like the one behind Luke and Lisa’s new home. I seem to recall from elementary Physics that height is sometimes called potential energy.” Maybe that’s the simplest way to look at it; once we’ve found the Mountain (that is height) we’ve found the source of the qi and the Water will be at its foot.
Luke’s day job is as a gardener. He understands seasons and cyclical change. He has the leathery glow of a man who loves the outdoors. He tells me how drastically bird life has reduced since he’s been working; no orioles, sparrow and finch numbers hugely down. He readily gets the idea of qi form.
“Sometimes,” I say, “People are startled when I find the height and then point to Water.”
“Gravity,” he laughs.
The cottage backs onto an incline running left to right as you look out.
I follow with my eye the slope down the meadow behind the house. There is woodland in every direction but this one. At the summit there is a much bigger house. It’s a dull day so although I’m looking South, I’m not dazzled. Tracking the qi down the hill, the gradient flattens almost due West and I’m about to note down exactly where when I realise there’s no need. Precisely on the qi mouth there’s an ancient willow. It’s been pollarded and pruned once or twice as there are several generations of branches sprouting like hedgehog’s quills around it but the trunk is fully a yard in diameter. There’s your qi mouth.
“Perhaps two hundred years old,” Luke guesses.
And there’s your plug. Perfect sam he; no need to reangle doors, nothing fiddly required. The woodland cares for this house just as indeed it should.
The Birds and the Bees.
Inside the house there are boxes everywhere. I suggest – counter-intuitively – that they sleep in the slightly smaller back bedroom. Then I identify work spaces for them. On different floors.
In the dining room there is retained energy. Calling it woo-woo™ is as specific as I’m going to get. I tend to think in terms of Chinese metaphors. That’s what they’re for. The more personal I make it, the fewer methods there are to approach it. I used to spend a lot of time “moving on” such spots of energy. I’m not sure whether it was principally for me, them or the client. It certainly made me feel clever and sensitive.
In this case I suggest we let it be. It’s not doing any harm and it seems to be linked to a picture of Lisa’s brother on the mantelpiece. I feel into it; there’s a whole story here. Another time. All I do for now is suggest they arrange the dining room table at an angle to the walls so as to pick up their best directions.
We sit, we look at ba zis. The ba zis raise some issues that may have been floating over them, as yet undiscussed. Lisa’s a bright sensitive woman, Luke equally so but the fact is as a general rule, that when it comes to relationships women are usually smarter. At some point a woman will ask where the relationship is going and a man may reply: “Going? I didn’t know it had to go anywhere.” Luke knows that everything that is not growing is shrinking. Cycles are no mystery. As Bob Dylan wrote ”Everything not busy being born is busy dying.”
Click here to hear me speaking about ba zi, the most powerful model for transformation I know.
Richard Ashworth © 2014.
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