Archive for the ‘Andrew Harvey’ Category

The Bolting Horse

January 21, 2015

The Bolting Horse

Human beings are designed to feast in December and then lie around bloated till February. The Chinese Year kind of respects this. And here I am early Monday morning walking past the line of cars queuing to get into town. The newspapers judge success by “growth” alone; don’t they know that growth must be finite on a finite planet?

This is the noman’s time between the Solstice and the Spring Festival, astride between the new and old Chinese years. Anyone who wants a feng shui man, wants him now, so even I am walking relatively fast. A smart Volkswagen Beetle creeps by at three mph. The driver’s texting; a youngish guy in an inexpensive suit. I overtake again, he creeps past again, balancing his phone between his knees. He looks tired. Bless him.

As usual at this time of year, I’m re-visiting buildings that were fine-tuned for the Year of the Wood Horse, in order to set them up for 2015. Everything needs re-assessing; the West, for instance which has been the most helpful area for twelve months is becoming tricky. Nature doesn’t work in straight lines and this change of overall energy can creep up. Already I’ve had an s.o.s. from Heather whose pregnant daughter is in an otherwise perfectly serviceable West-facing house which has suddenly turned nasty. And another via my website from a lady I don’t know whose domestics are becoming physical. An ornery West can be like that.

Change is constant; how and when it’ll show up, on the other hand, can be very hard to predict. What I can tell you now without getting fiddly, is to stay out of the West and avoid facing South West for long. You can always hire me of course.

What I do feel confident to predict is that 2015, the Year of the Wood Sheep is likely to be very different from the brazen, publicity-seeking Wood Horse; unearthed scandals, misbehaviour, misappropriation wherever we focused, whether Rotherham, Westminster or Capitol Hill.  It will however reflect previous Sheep years to some extent (2003 was the last) and to a much greater extent, previous Wood Sheep years in the 60 year cycle (1955, 1895, 1835, 1775 and so on). I’m talking about this the Year of Gathering, at Rachel Elnaugh’s Source tv event on February 3rd in London. You can also get the gist in this article for Take A Breath magazine. I’m also Tweeting,* FaceBooking and Linking-In what each of us can expect this year, Animal by Animal; forecasts for Rat and Ox are already up

Brand New

And as it happens, on St Martins Lane I bump into Russell Brand; pretty much literally. He has a wild gleam in his eye but the sweet romantic 1975 Wood Rabbit that he is, is actually kind of blessed by the Sheep. We have a short argument.

“Revolution is all very well, I say, “but there’s a general election in a few months.”

“Revolution Now!” he says with that wild gleam.

“The important thing,” I tell him, “is that younger people vote.” Because otherwise the powers-that-be will simply continue to flatter and favour voters – mostly older, mostly settled, and mostly not likely to live to deal with the ecological, financial and military-industrial crunch that is coming.”

“Revolution Now!” he repeats.

Ram Dass once said words to the effect that some of us need to meditate while some of us need to learn our post codes and I’d like to say that I set Russell straight on the point that Revolution Now! is not just politically but also spiritually poor timing but the truth is that I don’t. Advanced thinkers like Andrew Harvey, Karen Armstrong, Caroline Myss and Marianne Williamson are becoming more engaged not less. Instead I apologise for forcing myself upon him, remind him what an admirer I am of his work, shake his hand and withdraw.

He makes good points of course. Just as he remarked on his Trews, on YouTube, David Cameron almost drools as each new threat offers him the chance to impersonate a statesman. Each of the leaders of the big parties subscribes to “austerity” and the fantasy of industrial nations driven by growth living within their means. The Earth is finite, for God’s sake. And they all chop the air meaninglessly with their hands as they talk, in exactly the same way.

And Brand is right as academics Jeffrey Sachs and Naomi Klein will endorse, that the mad “growth” motive of oil giants, banks, IT providers and others is suicidal. There are three Climate Change Summits this year. Some experts like Guy Mcpherson reckon that the stable door is locked and the horse long since bolted; the Sixth Great Extinction is under way. Some like Andrew Harvey , refuse to despair. These gatherings may be a late opportunity to charm the horse back into the stable.

Tuesday morning, the cars are in line once again. My friend Martha in Tennessee whom I teach ba zi and feng shui by Skype, is terrified she is losing her memory so I reassure her that we may lose faculties as we age, but we gain them too. And I talk Marilyn in Vancouver whose son is in rehab, through the process of seeing herself in him so as to pull them both back from the brink. Another day, another Tune-Up, another traffic build-up. Russell Brand says it’s time for Revolution Now! but I think most of these guys would settle for 20 minutes longer in bed.

Richard Ashworth © 2015

www.imperialfengshui.info

*as @FengShuiDiaries

 

It’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses

June 24, 2014

It’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Dedicated to Maurice Willmott.

“Late last night I heard the screen door slam and a big yellow taxi took away my old man.” Joni Mitchell. Big Yellow Taxi.

The Dark Newt of the Soul.
Menorca, Dragon Month, Horse Year.
While I’m here I swim daily; a few more lengths every morning. I like the sensation of my muscles stretching with the regular exercise. I feel my waist tightening and my shoulder joints.
In the Commentaries to the Book of Changes, Confucius counsels that destiny emerges from character. There are no free tickets or free lunches. We may spend a lifetime looking for short cuts but eventually our lives match us. Everything is chosen. Which is great or not depending on how we view ourselves and the justice of the cosmos.
Much of feng shui of course derives from the Book of Changes (or Yi) ; which consists of just sixty four diagrams made up of six lines each. Between them they say pretty much everything there is to be said; sixty four Hexagrams, sixty-four expressions of the human predicament with six ways out each. The Hexagrams themselves break down into two Trigrams, each of which represents a situation, a feeling, a thought, a member of the Confucian family and a thousand other things. And a great deal of authentic feng shui comes straight out of the Yi. There have been times in my life when it has been the only voice I trusted.
Last year on my final swim, I came across a frog in the pool; a Menorcan stripeless tree frog which is longer, thinner and a brighter green than ours and with its big eyes, more like a proper Disney frog. You might think that a swimming pool would be frog paradise. I guess he did too. Except for the chlorine and the fact that he couldn’t jump out because the ledge was too high and there’s no traction on water. He struggled a little – only a baby, I think – but eventually, cupped in my hand, I placed him gently on the perimeter and he bounced off. Today, a year later almost the same thing happens; apparently identical frog, same situation but on day one. I take that as progress.
It’s April, I’m here studying, researching and writing again. And thinking. What I’m studying is yang gong, the method used by inscrutable nonagenarian Grand Masters to turn external Water into vast assets for Asian billionaires. Which came first the Dragon or the billions? you might ask. Water is certainly the key to feng shui but what I can tell you is that it wasn’t until the 20th century that the feng shui man saw his job as placing Water relative to the building as opposed to the other way round. That makes a lot of what calls itself feng shui pretty silly.
I’m also studying the Yi but then I’m always studying the Yi.
What I’m thinking about is my peers who seem to be dropping like flies. The nearest I’ve had to a close male friend in my adult life, tai chi Master, skilled musician, thirty years a fireman, peerless husband, father and grandfather and all round good egg Alan Briggs, died suddenly in November. Without warning he suffered a massive heart attack in the arms of his beloved wife of forty years. He was a remarkable man.
Everybody dies and there are worse ways to go, but of my British feng shui peers, Master Jon Sandifer died a little earlier and Rob Grey just a little after. The world is the lesser for their loss and now my friend, shaman and miracle worker Maurice Willmott has made the dubious choice of contracting motor neurones disease. It’s a hard time for healers.
From where I’m sitting all death is suicide and I’m wondering why these men made these choices and I’m thinking it’s because each saw the way the world is right now and recoiled helpless. You don’t have to agree of course.

Meme Girls

It’s unseasonably warm but a villa-owner can’t rely on that; hence this sun-spattered place that sleeps eight is empty but for myself and my daughters, Jessica and Henrietta. It’s predictably cuboid – including garage – except for a two-storey turret to the East. Up there you can see across the heathland all the way out to sea. I’ve done that many times. But the wrought-iron steps have succumbed to time and weather and on this visit they are roped off.
This quiet dwelling, way out in the biosfera is owned by my friends Gemma and Anna who save souls as Taylor Light Creates (TLC – geddit?). Anna is a gifted psychic. I call her the Happy Medium. And Gemma who teaches Alexander Technique, is simply the single most gracious person I know.
The villa was built by their Father back in the 70’s; not it seems, a happy man. Not then, not now. He died young in the 1990’s. There is a paved area at the back that is almost always in shade. They tell me he used to lurk there.
Up in the sky a bird of prey hovers over something. It’s not that big – more likely a peregrine than an eagle or a buzzard, I guess; a rare or endangered species for sure. A few lizards are about and I doubt the bird would chance its wing with a tortoise. There are no fast roads here serving up splattered rabbit or badger. Es Grau has rats just like everywhere else in the world. Polecats too, but nothing bigger and I imagine even these small predators are a bit heavy for a falcon. Also a bit aggressive.
Jessica and Henrietta are twins of 26, identically tiny, brilliant and beautiful but very different people. It’s great to have them here with me; apart from it being high time we caught up, their relentless work ethic pulls me into its orbit. I cannot help but study. But the fact is that I love wrestling these obscure formulae into submission. And before you gasp at my erudition, let me clarify; I’m studying the text in a translation by Hung Hin Cheong, (kindly published by Joey Yap’s Mastery Academy) along with notes I’ve accumulated from various sources over the last two decades.
As well as a writer, Jessie is an actress and herein lies heartbreak. In 2006 she made a big movie with Anne Hathaway and since then she’s done respectable work – some of it high profile – but nothing that has matched up. Despite their writing success, she hasn’t been happy away from the camera. But Jessie’s a trooper and she also has an uncanny sense of the structure of a story.
They’ve tolerated my particular brand of mumbo jumbo all their lives and they play along as I make sure they’re seated South to suit their ba zis. They chunter and banter while they work at the kitchen table, almost like a single person talking to herself.
The bird lingers, tacking into the thermal, close to motionless in the new warmth. Perhaps it’s just playing; there are worse ways to spend a spring morning. There are worse ways to spend a life actually.
Morning turns to afternoon and eventually evening when Jess and Hen down tools and we prepare a meal. Henrietta wants to watch the sun set over the Balearics so we eat outside under the Western portico. As it happens, a quirk of our location is that the sun’s final descent actually happens out of sight. The bushes in the way are tall and these young women aren’t. The glow is pretty magnificent though.
“I wanted to see the sun set,” says Henrietta.
The Moon is new, so darkness falls rapidly. It remains warm despite a slight breeze as we share a beer by the pool. I sit between them, my feet dangling in the deep end; theirs don’t quite reach. It is the breeze that makes the Balearics comfortable even at the peak of summer.
“You might have seen it on tip-toes.”
She frowns.
“Before the month is over I’ll show you something magic in the moonrise.” I say and I explain to her how the phases of the Moon can be represented as Trigrams. “
“Three unbroken lines, maximum yang; full Moon,” I tell her but it doesn’t satisfy her.
Jessie has the recent UN press release about climate change on a Twitter link on her phone.
“By most accounts peak oil production was reached in 2006,” she reads.
Master Chan Kun Wah once told me I would be a Master when I could tell Water from Fire. Estimates of how far seas will rise this century vary from a few centimetres to metres. Great Ice meets Great Fire leads to Great Water. I have an idea that I may be close to understanding. And I think of the vast tonnes of ancient glacial ice floating like sugarcubes in the English Channel.
The report makes it clear that we are collectively walking over an ecological cliff edge. No surprise there. Shameless corporate greed, reckless burning of oil and gas, plus half-baked government have made this inevitable. Every generation believes the world will barely outlive them but even those of us who know this, are concerned about the world we are passing on to our children. If you believe Guy McPherson or James Lovelock we may not even manage that.
When I was last in Singapore, not two hundred miles away in Indonesia, a motorway was driven through the one of the last habitats of the orang utan, man’s closest relative on Earth. These are dark times. The three of us hold hands. The nature reserve suddenly seems small and ever so fragile. This blackness is what Alan saw, I think. He was too smart and had seen too much of the world not to see the same night-black that Maurice is recoiling from. It’s dark, as Elwood says in Blues Brothers, and we’re wearing sunglasses.
There’s plenty of room in the villa. The master bedroom with its en suite sits in the West. There are other bedrooms but in 2014 both North and North West are troublesome. So Jess and Hen go West and I go North East. They get the ensuite, I get shuttered windows that open onto the rear.
I shift my room around so that my head is South East and I can back onto a wall. As a bonus I’ll be able to see the sun as it rises because there are no bushes in the way on this side of the house. I sit lotus-fashion on the bed and watch the night gather. Then I pick up Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong which Henni has recommended. It’s beautifully written but I can’t be bothered with it. In the night I hear the shutters rattle. It’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Turning Turtle

I wake thinking of Gemma and Anna’s father and how these magnificent women have turned hurt into healing. They say it takes three generations to make a writer; this may be true of healers too. My own father claimed that he had always wanted to write but that a raft of practicalities got in the way: family, career, mortgage, you know the riff. Bless him; it wasn’t true. No one forces these things upon us; they’re not destiny, God’s will or a court order. We always retain choice even when we imprison ourselves in the realities we buy into. And for myself, I don’t live by writing as these two do. Jon Sandifer had seven children and a chronic weakness of the kidney, I remember. And I think of Alan tuning his guitar with one hand and a rollie in the other, considering the future he might share with his children and grandchildren.
Another morning, another swim. I’m up to twenty lengths now. After a few arguments with Spotify, I’ve rediscovered the music of Style Council, Paul Weller’s jazzy 80’s combo. As I dry myself and make tea, I’m playing Paris Match on my laptop. That smoky vocal is by Tracy Thorn out of Everything but the Girl. I know it’s contentious but I think this is Paul Weller’s best music. For me the Jam were fatuously rebellious and these days Weller seems to be duplicating the 70’s music he claimed to hold in contempt in ’78. Bless him, his perma-frown and his funny haircut.
There are no falcons today, but a single lizard scurries back and forth across the pebbled drive. The sun is already high.
Unimpressed by my choice of music, Hen and Jess rise early, put on a playlist and get writing. Screenwriting is an interminable business. First you write a pitch, then a treatment, then a spec. Then if that stimulates the right juices, a producer demands a rewrite. Then the sources of finance – the BFI for instance – demand further re-writes, then send “notes” with requests ranging from corrected punctuation to what can amount to yet more rewrites. All before the film goes into what the industry calls “pre-production”.
Meanwhile Jess and Hen have been writing on Fresh Meat – cool comedy if you’re young enough to recognise cool – as well as for Children’s BBC and fulfilling a series of other people’s commissions. It’s creative but not entirely theirs. What they’re here for is to put to bed the final “notes” to Olivia and Jim, one of their original screenplays. And get it made ie into production. They’re aiming to write a spec for a new movie too, something it’s been tough to fit in between the commissions. Sounds ambitious.
“We never get time,” says Henni, with deep frustration. Where have I heard that tone before?
They write through the day. I study. When they get excitable it’s hard to concentrate around them, so I repair outside. It’s 30 degrees. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?
There’s another bird up there, it could be a falcon or eagle or even a coot; it’s swooping and gliding not hovering.
Yang gong is not derived from the Book of Changes so much as from careful study of nature. Sometimes I’m asked for a scientific explanation of feng shui and I tend to say something like: “If you plant your tomatoes on a North-facing wall don’t expect great salads. Worse if it’s January.” We’re all subject to these forces – men, women, frogs, firemen. That’s feng shui. That’s yang gong.
I look out over the front garden, still spring-green. The qi – for which also read energy, water, traffic and gradient – slips away to the South. The villa was built in the early 70’s when what is called the Wealth or Water Star was where it should be, in the swimming pool. Now it’s at the back. And the house is in some need of repair. Armed with that information I can tell Gemma and Anna how to restore it to its former glory. And perhaps put the paved area at rest.
Later Jess, Hen and I watch Parks and Recreation and we laugh like goons. Rob Lowe does not seem to have aged since the West Wing. I love the sound of the girls’ laughter.

Fossil Fools

Marianne Williamson is planning to stand for Congress. This extraordinary woman’s Course in Miracles-based teaching has already changed the world. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure,” comes from her book A Return to Love, although it’s often attributed to Nelson Mandela. If she is dipping her fingers into the murk of politics, something’s moving. Bless him. Nonetheless I continue to lecture my daughters on peak oil production.
“Fossil fuels had become too hard to extract. So prices could only rise. It was time to stop.”
“Presumably that wasn’t news,” says Henni with customary irony.
Of course not. Instead however of taking this gentle hint from the powers-that-be at face value, oil producers got more and more ingenious.
“Fracking may pre-empt being held to ransom by Gazprom but random rape of the environment with poisons doesn’t seem a longterm alternative,” I say bleakly.
It’s a windless night but the shutters are rattling as I drop off to sleep. I wake to a blazing sunrise over the Eastern hills. The thin linen curtains are no match for the sunlight.

Economic Migrants.

Feng shui was developed by a series of Chinese geniuses over millennia. Che Ying who pioneered modern yang gong in the 17th Century was one; Grand Master Yang Yum Song – from whose nickname yang gong is derived -another. It’s his sketchy 11th century illustrations that Che Ying tidies up in his classic Direct Pointers to True Earthly Principles. These are what are called Sam He or Three Harmony methods as opposed to the Sam Yuen methods which use the Hexagrams and Trigrams of the Book of Changes.
Sam Yuen allocates each Hexagram of the Yi to a particular point both on the calendar and on the clock. Also on the map; this is called na jia – “positioning yang Wood” and it corresponds with the rising and setting position of the Moon.
This morning we get up, drive the hire car slowly to the other side of the reserve and recycle plastic, paper and glass. The glass is the plum job; you the bottles smash satisfyingly against each other as they drop into the container. We argue over which of us gets to do it. Somewhere there’s a landfill that is this much less full, somewhere an oil well that need not produce quite as much. You do what you can, don’t you?
Back at the villa, I tell them about na jia. Out here in the wilds there is so little light pollution that there’s a decent chance I can fix the positions of the changing moon relatively accurately.
“You mean the Book of Changes can tell you where the Moon is going to rise and set?”
“Pretty much.”
“Awesome.”
Studying yang gong involves reading translations of Che Ying and Zhao Yu Cai formulae spliced into five hundred pages of diagrams. Here’s the basic principle: feng shui is a real thing. Power, energy, qi is stored compressed and then released. Think of the energy that went into putting up mountains. That energy flows down on the wind from the heights. When it meets sufficient Water, it is held where we can use it. What Che Ying and Zhao Yu Cai concern themselves with is where the Water goes. This may be the big secret of authentic Chinese feng shui.
As the days go by, the Beach Boys and Neil Young are leavened with Taylor Swift and the eternal lentil and vegetable stew with fish. Each morning we swim. We shower, we dry, we chat, but we’re at work before nine.
Jess and Hen argue over the new script. It’s nuclear in the front room where we’re all working. That’s the thing about twins. Born together they’re as close as close can be. Which means they feel safe to tear strips out of each other. They know they’ll eventually complete the dispute and settle and everything will be fine again. Ten days in, they’ve handled the pre-production notes and written a draft script for a short film and started their spec but now they’re at another impasse.
I suggest we take a walk.
“We might see one or two tortoises,”
“As long as they’re not in too much of a hurry,” Henni says.
“I don’t know whether what we’re writing is any good,” says Jessie, as we walk the gravel path through the gorse. She is anguished. Every writer gets to this point. To make it any good, they must devote themselves 100% to what they are writing and meanwhile refuse all opportunities to live lives, make money, hedge their bets. And at the end they may decide it’s bollocks. We stitch these things together and we hope they make sense.
A screenplay is generally ninety pages long. They have got to around thirty and it sounds pretty lively but Jess isn’t sure it’s real. She’s still distressed.
“You write and gravity kind of takes you,” she says. “And it may go in a wrong direction that it’s really hard to pull it back from.”
Between the hills there’s a break opening onto a lake dotted with coots. The birds twitter in the afternoon stillness. It’s a little known fact that the Eurasian Coot winters at Es Grau before returning North. Although Menorca is a small island, the heath appears to stretch forever in three directions and I find myself wondering how many centuries coots have been coming here and what cataclysm it would take to stop them.
“I’m not sure it’s got any shape,” Jessie says. And then she adds bitterly: “And I want to be acting anyway.”
“And here we are,” says Henni. “Writing. In Menorca. Not acting.” She is gentle and reassuring but there is no deflecting Henrietta. She’s four-foot-eleven of sheer will.
They talk it through. They won’t write pantomime villains or violence and the story must grow from the characters.
“It has to be honest,” says Henni.
It becomes obvious to all of us that the script is real, also engaging and beautiful.

Short Films.

“What is it about tortoises and feng shui?” Henni asks as we walk on.
“Actually it’s turtles, specifically Asian River Turtles whose lower shell or plastron is roughly square and the upper shell roughly circular; that’s the traditional Chinese representation of Heaven and Earth. Tortoise shells are very similar.”
“Uh-huh.”
I explain that the early Chinese divined from lines breaking up the patterns on the backs of the turtles.
“The patterns evolved into a “language” of two types of line – broken that is yin, and unbroken or yang. Broken broadly means “no” and unbroken “yes”.
“Like a binary code?”
“Exactly.”
“How did they make the lines appear?”
“By baking the shells. They actually made the river turtle extinct.”
“Yuk.”
Day sixteen of the Moon that was new when we arrived; dusk is approaching. We talk by the pool. In addition to completing the “notes” and the short film, they have a brand-new 90-page spec. That’s some work for a couple of weeks and they’re here for two more yet.
This Moon is the Peony Moon; it’s close to full. Full yang, that is as bright as it can be, represents the Trigram Qian, the Father, three unbroken lines. So according to the na jia formula, the Moon should rise between 7 and 9pm at chia, that is between 67½ and 82½ degrees East. I know precisely where that is and I point – out beyond the paving to the rear, over the hills, almost opposite the setting sun. And sure enough there it is, just becoming visible; the Moon rising against the cloud in accord with the ancient measurement.
“Awesome,” they say in unison.
The spec concerns two mutually dependent sisters who fall out. Write what you know, Jessie says. They may make it the first film of their own as yet unchristened production company, they tell me. I suggest “Short Films” as a name. Neither is impressed.
The Moon is now gone. It’s dark, quiet but for crickets. We retire. I sit on my bed and listen to the shutters. I’m still not tempted by Birdsong. I listen into a webcast: Andrew Harvey’s extraordinary work in what he calls Sacred Activism which offers a middle-ground between anarchy and tree-hugging. It’s close to midnight but something’s happening.
My Father could navigate by dead reckoning. He’d have spotted the Moon rising though he’d have made nothing of it. To him there was a simple linear explanation to everything.
When I was perhaps eight, we slept under the stars. Pointing above, “There’s Polaris,” he said. “That means North Star. If you’re lost, find that one and you’re home. Part of the Great Bear or Ursa Major also known as The Dipper.”
“What about South?” I remember asking.
“There’s no star due South,” he said. “You find the Southern Cross and estimate.”
“How?”
I don’t remember understanding the answer.

False Smooth Snakes.

The next night as we sip beer again, there is not a frog or tortoise to be seen. This may be because two snakes are fighting by the pool. Combat appears to consist of one sinking its fangs into the other’s back, letting go and then offering itself for the favour to be returned. None of the hissing and posing you might expect.
“This isn’t the Jungle Book,” says Jessie, by way of explanation.
These snakes, according to Wikipedia, are examples of the Menorcan false smooth snake, whose bite is fatal to small rodents but no risk to us. They look pretty forbidding, just the same. We keep our distance; this is not a bar fight to break up. I have a suspicion they might actually be shagging. Probably a better idea.
Just as every pessimist thinks himself a realist, every generation believes the world will be hard pressed to survive them but even those of us who know that, are concerned by the horrors we see and those we see coming. And we suspect that we might be the first generation to be right. But you know what? I’m on the side of the angels. I fear what I see but I choose something better. I prefer to concentrate on the Tessla car, Marianne Williamson’s campaign, Anna Friel saving the gorillas. As Oscar Wilde wrote: we are all of us in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.
Having looked closely at a few tortoises now – like me and unlike their aquatic cousins, reluctant to swim in cold water – I conclude that given an infinite number of Chinese river turtles and a very long time, one shell might emerge dotted precisely like the lo shu or magic square of Chinese folklore. And it’s certainly true that the upper shell is domed like the sky and the lower squareish.
I rarely write these long pieces any more. Here are some reasons: the social media people tell me to write shorter, more frequent articles and link them to Twitter, FaceBook, Linked-In, Grinder (I made that up). Secondly I’m busy. Also the most engaging bits of my writing apparently are those about people. And some people don’t like being written about. Finally the power of these pieces comes of poignance. And poignance is next door to impotence and I refuse to believe nothing can be done.
Tonight the sky is totally clear sky over the heath and bumpy hills and Henrietta is satisfied with the sunset and the sudden blackness that follows. I point out the Big Dipper, the engine room of Chinese Astrology. We notice the pointer which indicates seasons and directions and I explain that it is this motion that is reflected on the shell of the tortoise. And hence much of traditional feng shui. We talk about Maurice and the fighting snakes.

Richard Ashworth ©2014.
Post script: the film Olivia and Jim is now in pre-production according to IMDB, the film-maker’s bible.

www.imperialfengshui.info

2014: The Year of the Horse in the Clouds.

January 31, 2014

“When you can tell Fire from Water, you are a Master.”

Grand Master Chan Kun Wah.

Merry Christmas Li Ka Shing.

For more than a thousand years, the town of Godalming, deep in the Surrey woods, has been saved from flood by its Lammas Land. Although it is at the base of the Wey valley, the town generally stays dry however much rain falls. From April to August, this meadow is pasture and it pretty much becomes a lake between November and March.

ImageIt’s been that way since the time of King Alfred. That’s around twelve hundred years. Sometimes on summer afternoons we leave the office, take our meal-deal from Boots down to a park bench and watch the cattle and horses fattening up on the rich grass between the Town Bridge and the Titanic Memorial. Don’t tell me I don’t have a life.

This is feng shui in action; the balance between Heaven, Earth and Human needs, what in Chinese is called tian-ti-ren, the Earth, the Wood and the Water in mutual dependence. Because the land is grazed, saplings never become bushes nor do bushes become trees. The meadow serves as a drain that keeps the buildings dry.

This year for the first time in my lifetime however, some houses were evacuated as the water rose. Half-a-dozen threatened homes is not Bangla Desh or even Tewksbury (which became a mini-Venice with buildings growing out of the flood and roads turning to water courses) but it’s a bench mark. Nor is it the Somerset levels which you’ll know maybe from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon are the lowlands surrounding Glastonbury. They used to be lake throughout the wet season. And are again this year. Something is happening.

We used to know about this stuff. Godalming’s parish church was built on higher ground around the year 811. No building of any age sits as low in the valley as the Lammas Lands. The homes in danger were not ancient but none had been vulnerable before.*

What’s this got to do with the fiery Year of the Wood Horse? Here’s one thing: a respectable method of assessing the coming year is to look at the last one that had the same pillar, the last Wood Horse. That was 1954 which set new records for flooding and coastal erosion. If you seek confirmation that this is sound methodology, 1954 also featured shenanigans in Korea as well as East-West arm-wrestling over nuclear proliferation.

Here’s another thing: when Great Heat encounters Great Cold, Great Water follows. When icebergs and glaciers melt in the heat, sea-level rises. In some ways this year of Fire promises to be a year of Water. Already there’s too much. This year that fact may become impossible to ignore. I surely hope so.

One person who has clearly been able to ignore it is the above Hong Kong mogul who now owns the local utilities. Due to the extraordinary weather, Godalming became a black spot on the National Grid over Christmas. In our house the power was cut four times. Here in the affluent South East of England – spit and you hit a banker – we’re extraordinarily fortunate. Our privileged lives are rarely interrupted by the elements. For the time being it’s the rest of the world I worry about.

It’s pretty easy to peel sprouts in shadow, and in the half-light we got to talk to each other and play board games. In the brief intervals of power supply, my daughters Jess and Hen cooked and then we overate at our leisure. Outside the winds keened and blew the garden chairs around while rain poured and poured and poured. More fell more rapidly than I can remember, sometimes sounding like power drills, sometimes like small animals rushing around on the roof.

Water will not be resisted. It cannot be compressed. This Water is coming from somewhere and it has to go somewhere. We have forgotten how to respect the Water and we have forgotten its power. My suspicion is that 1200 years of flood prevention is about to fail and power cuts will be among the least of our worries. Merry Christmas, Mr Li.

* perhaps read George Monbiot’s Guardian article on this.

The Horse’s Mouth.

“Mouth open, story jump out.” Guyanese proverb.

By the most popular calculation, February 4th 2014 opens the Year of the Wood Horse, known as the Horse in the Clouds. This suggests an image of charging into the air with vision impaired; full steam ahead with the windscreen fogged up. So a year of spontaneity and reaction rather than strategy. Horses can sometimes talk before (and often instead of) thinking. So this Horse Year may be a year of revelation when the deceitful are wrong-footed.

Image

Horses are said to be spontaneous, passionate and outgoing. These qualities can be expected both of people born in Horse years and of the Horse year itself. One theme of the Snake year of 2013 was deception; what you saw was not what you got. In contrast the Horse can be expected to shed light. Whether the issues are global surveillance, the Lockerbie bombing, drones over Pakistan, climate change or show biz scandals, the outcome may be illumination rather than whitewash. The enquiry into the cover-up-of-the-enquiry-into-the-cover-up-of-the-enquiry into the Hillsborough tragedy may name names. Similarly, where so far only one banker has been jailed for treating the interests of client and public as subsidiary to his own, 2014 promises to reveal this as the standard procedure it may be. And it may be that the impending ecological catastrophe is finally addressed.

We are currently walking over an ecological precipice wearing headphones and Google glasses. What happens to the Earth happens on some level to each of us individually. To the extent that I am disheartened, so is the world. It may take a shock to wake us up. The Fire of the Horse year may hold that shock. The Horse is the animal of the blurted-out truth. It just can’t help itself.

Hors d’oeuvres.

Also the Horse is competitive; it likes to dance on tables. And on the average table there’s only room for one dancer. For this and other reasons it is said to suffer the so-called self clash. This means Horses don’t play nicely together.

So even relatively contained Horses like David Cameron and Lloyd Blankfein (CEO of Goldman Sachs) may find their authority challenged before year’s end. Cameron however need not beware Sheep like Ed Balls or Nick Clegg, both of whom whatever they present, are meek team players. Angela Merkel of course is another Horse and several Masters have seen her recent accident as evidence of the self-clash in action. Also evidence that dancing on tables is safer than skiing.

Horse Trading.

Markets tend to sink in Water-heavy years (like pretty much all of those since 2007) and pick up with Fire. Fire returned in 2013 and peaks with the Horse. Some see this process as literally manic-depressive. Sunshine brings optimism and bull markets, rain the reverse. This enthusiasm may peak like the power of the Sun at mid-summer. Many recommend being out of markets by July. At the extreme of Fire is burn-out but if markets are the measure, this is a boom year.

The price of commodities however continues to be distorted by market manipulation. Such deceit is a Snake type phenomenon. Expect the Horse to bring into light abuses in coffee and cocoa markets and latterly metals. Technically this is to do with a Rooster-Horse clash. Rooster is yin Metal, glamour, the superficial; the Horse represents the light of noon. So expect revelations between June and September. Precisely how that will play out is hard to assess but if you thought bankers only distorted stock and money markets, you don’t know the half of it. And whether that’s good or bad news is simply a question of view point.

Horse Box.

Another method of prognosis consists of assessing the lo shu  or so-called magic square of the year. I won’t digress into why, but take it from me that this year’s key number is 4 which represents academe, discovery, invention and sex scandals. It’s also the number of the eldest daughter. Take these implications together with the nature of the Horse and you have an interesting soup. A year to practise discretion. And forgiveness.

I don’t speculate about celebrities any more because it so easily encourages mean-spiritedness and the press does that so expertly already. However….the Rabbit’s resources are fully drawn upon this year, so Fire Rabbit Andy Murray might just win that second title. It won’t be straightforward though. And English football is always flattered by the Horse, as it was in 2002 and doubly in 1966. Remember that? So we can anticipate a respectable World Cup performance.

The lo shu:

                                                                                                  2014:

S

3      8      1

2      4      6

7      9      5

Squire Horse.

Because of the 4 lo shu it’s likely to be a year of career progress for women. Men are typically suspicious of the woman in power because they expect female bosses to be like male bosses, only in skirts. We expect fruitless cleverness and no-winner competition because business seems always to have been like that. Actually there’s another way. Empowerment could replace rivalry for instance. This is a yin (that is female) quality.

Even now, although they account for fewer than 5% of CEO’s of FTSE 500 companies, women hold the reins both of the European Central Bank  and the IMF and now with the appointment of Fire Dog Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve Bank. Ms Yellen looks like a very different kind of banker but as you’ll read in my Animal Fortunes the Dog has a job holding onto money this year. Low interest rates are past their sell-by date (although no one has told Wood Snake Mark Carney) but they won’t be coming down significantly any time soon. Nonetheless in a Wood Snake/Fire Dog conflict, don’t put money on the Snake.

Other rising women include Gloria da Piero MP who is a year or so short of prominence. This is a year of learning and of building support for Pigs like her. Wood Horse Angela Merkel’s career is a little further down the road but some sort of challenge looks likely whether within or without Germany.

And finally the London Stock Exchange now boasts two female directors. That’s serious progress. A trend going back several thousand years is changing along with the climate. As the regularity of the cycle of days and seasons became clear, a woman who could feel when an eclipse was coming became less valuable than a man who could calculate and record the next thousand. It’s this type of control that has taken us to the precipice.

Number Five is alive.

The number to watch out for in the Lo shu is always the tricky 5. In 2014 this star falls in the North West, the place of authority. It landed in the centre last year, so many masters predicted upset in “central” places like the Central African Republic and capital cities generally. Riots in Istanbul and Rio among many others, may have proved them right. This year it’s authority that’s at risk. This is a year in which tradition is seriously questioned. If we look at what’s North West of the UK and North West of land masses in general, civil disobedience in North America and South Western Europe look on the cards. Also the Arabian Gulf. And let’s not neglect the North West of the US where a legion of multinationals such as Irish-registered tax dodger Apple and the not-for-profit Starbucks operation make their homes.

Bull in a China shop; a note about the Ox.

The Ox has a distinctive pattern of demanding power and not knowing how to use that power, when to let go of it or when it is starting to fail. Margaret Thatcher and Napoleon come to mind. And Metal Ox Barack Obama. In the Rat year of 2008, Obama could do no wrong. By 2010 he couldn’t get the simplest legislation through congress. This year the Ox is especially favoured by a shower of auxiliary stars. But only this year. If Obama is to leave any sort of legacy, now is the time. This applies to all Oxen. Carpe diem doesn’t mean fish of the day.

Four Horses.

Another traditional method of forecasting is to examine the Hexagrams of the Book of Changes indicated by the year. There are traditionally four. And by my (not 100% orthodox) reckoning this year’s are: Hexagram Numbers 1, 2, 45 and 36. These are Father (ie authority) Mother (the Receptive), Gathering and Brightness Obscured.   

Image1  Father  2 Mother   45 Gathering   36 Brightness Obscured

Each covers a quarter of the year. The way I read it, the year opens with strong leadership, followed by co-operation but in many spheres appears to stall in the 3rd quarter taking us into September. Gathering suggests many possibilities late in the year of which extraordinary convocations are one. Contracts will need renegotiating and predictions adjusted. This may concern Water supply and take place in the Arabian peninsula.

Gathering may well mean literal flooding too although no Chinese authority sees anything other than great heat before the end of er…..Great Heat (chu shu, the 2nd fortnight in August.) The extreme South where the Horse sits, may be hottest. Australia and Brazil and Northern Africa may illustrate the drying power of the year Horse in the South. And unless we wake up, this is only the beginning.

As I said, We are currently walking over an ecological precipice wearing headphones and Google glasses. How to wake up? During 2014 I studied with Andrew Harvey whom I have known since I was a small boy. His idea of Spiritual Activism starts with awareness of a world in which corporate greed, mass hunger and ecological apathy can not coexist. Having attended the various climate change summits, he observed that the powers-that-be are used to overpowering both activists and idealists, the one group susceptible to rough policing and the other ineffectual. Chant “Om” and hug trees with our blessing; it makes no difference anyway. The image of the year for me remains Green Euro MP Caroline Lucas reaching hopelessly for her son’s hand as he is wrenched away by police at the Balcombe fracking protest. Given this failure to change things we simply have to withdraw from blame and take responsibility. Most of the eco-destruction has taken place in my lifetime and the tipping point during the lives of my children – 2006 when oil production peaked. We did this.So if the flood defences of comfortable, affluent Surrey are tested, what about the Netherlands, the Maldives, Bangla Desh? Call me bonkers but I am used to buildings talking to me. Following Andrew’s procedures sometimes I hear the whole planet. And it’s depending on me. That’s you. There is no “we”. Only “I” and “all”.

This may be the last time

So now you know: Wood Horses occur every 60 years. So 1954 and before that 1894, foreshadow 2014. In 1894 interestingly the Harmsworth family which owns the Mail, bought their first newspaper and the city of Shanghai was substantially damaged by fire. It was also the year China and America signed a treaty limiting the numbers of foreign labourers. Notice the echoes.

The year that I see most clearly echoed in 2014 however is 1714. That year saw the accession of the Hanoverian George I – effectively withdrawing independence from Scotland forever. In the following year was the first of the great Highland Uprisings, the violent reaction of the Scots to the end of the Stuart dynasty. The hexagram Gathering may be precisely about this.

So what? We may well yet see a “yes” vote in the Scottish Referendum is what.

A little earlier in 1711, the South Sea Trading Company was incorporated, a further echo from the 18th century. Many believe the junk bonds now pinning interest rates to the floor after bankrolling two generations of investment bankers, were invented by Drexel Burnham in the 1970’s. Not so. It was the creation of the South Sea Company who spent the first decade of the 18th century, buying up the National Debt and selling it back to rich punters. Who could resist? It was guaranteed by government. It couldn’t fail. But it did. In 1720. The corresponding year is 2020. It’s gonna blow.

Richard Ashworth © 2014. Image

www.imperialfengshui.info

Rooster Diary

September 11, 2013

Rooster Diary

 

Metal Rooster month, Water Snake year.

Started on the 7th September 2013.

 

The Nature of this particular Rooster Month

Rooster month, September, autumn, mellow fruitfulness, all that stuff; historically the most likely time for wars to be declared. But also the time when we feel the freshness of the colder seasons blowing in. It’s a time of fresh starts, almost as much as the new year is: a new school year for our kids after a holiday may have punctuated the time between then and now. In summer we play more, we are outside more. Now we are drawn indoors, often to deeper thought, research and analysis.

Autumn is yin Metal. That is to say about precision. A Metal Rooster is especially Metal. Precision can be expressed yang (authority, rightness) or yin (proportion, elegance). The Monkey month (August) is yang and often turbulent. The  Rooster is yin and more underhand. Think chemical warfare. Think backstairs lobbying. Also think straight talking followed by gossip as well as field work followed by accounting.

Animals

In a Rooster month the Ox and Snake are favoured as is the Rooster itself – with certain restrictions – and the Dragon. Each of our ba zis (the four markers of our precise time and place of birth) consists of four (for some Masters five) such Animals. If you’ve thought of yourself as say, a Pig because you were born in 1959, 1971, 1983 and so on, you may have another think due. The Animal of the day you were born defines you much more intimately. Not of course that any such packaging can truly define the human spirit. We always have choice. Don’t we?

The Rooster’s judgement may be affected by rivalry this month and the Dragon’s by attempting to turn the unfamiliar into the familiar.  The Ox is very strong, the Monkey inquisitive and the Pig best advised to plan rather than act. The Horse changes gear (down) while the Snake may over reach. The Rabbit needs to be subtle but nonetheless brave, the Rat better-prepared and the Tiger cool-headed. Sheep might concentrate on building support and the Dog on bringing plans to fruition.

Locations

This month has a 4 in the middle of its lo shu (or magic square) which means it’s do with thoroughness, subtle adoration and – possible tautology here – the career paths of women. The 4 is sometimes called the Actress Star. At other times the Copy Cat. Similar ideas of course. Every month has a nature defined this way. Last month was a 5 – a return to origins – next month a 3 which I’ll explain then. Pay attention to the North East where things happen rapidly all year; activation there now (just ask) may make for justice and completion.

Credits

As I write this I’m listening to Amanda Palmer’s Grown Man Cry – about the frustration of a woman attempting to get a man in touch with his emotions. AP – often referred to as AFP – crowd-funded the album when her major label told her the sleeve could not feature her non-size-zero torso. Beautiful btw but not regulation thin. Good for her.

 

I commend to you the World-saving work of Andrew Harvey who appears to be the only teacher both seeing chaos and offering a solution. www.andrewharvey.net.

 

Rooster fun fact: Apparently the new Leadenhall building is slanted so as not to impede a view of St. Paul’s from Fleet Street.

These last two items may not be unconnected. Free I Ching reading to anyone who can tell me how.

 

I’m teaching starter professional feng shui from this weekend (14th/15th). Still time to join us. Just. www.imperialfengshui.info/courses.

 

More next month. Roll on Dog.

Richard Ashworth.

www.imperialfengshui.info