Archive for the ‘Joey Yap’ Category

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.”
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.”
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?”
“How did they make the lines appear?”
“By baking the shells. They actually made the river turtle extinct.”
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.”
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.

Fire Rabbit month, Wood Horse year

March 5, 2014

Bunny Hop.

Fire Rabbit month, Wood Horse year.

March 6th 00:09am.


Big Light, Big Heat.

The placid yin Wood of the Rabbit can be an anti-climax after the drama of the Tiger that opens the year. It’s a bit like the time after a tropical dawn. The Sun rises almost instantaneously, a flag hoist aloft, everything is suddenly light. Then it just stays light while we wake and wash and dress and prepare ourselves for the day. Not so exciting. Every single cranny bathes in the light as it spreads but there is little sign of the raw violence of the Tiger. On the other hand, soen, the Wind the embodiment of yin Wood, is all these delicate qualities and as the Book of Changes has it, ultimately adamant. Don’t underestimate the Rabbit. He may be modest but he has influence.

As for the Fire of this Rabbit; traditionally the red Rabbit was a manifestation of a just ruler.

So extravagant metaphor to one side, what does all this mean for those of us living through this year of illumination?

Here are some answers: the Year is ruled by Fire and this Rabbit especially is fuel to the Fire. Whether the focus of the year proves in retrospect to be Russian expansion, LGBT rights, peaking markets, climate change or something else again, it comes gently into light now. Come June the issues will be clear and the process well under way but now they’re subtle. The same kind of thing is true of our own lives. It’s a time to pay close attention.

The Rabbit in the Rabbit Month.

The Rabbit (1963, 1975, 1987, 1999) enjoys the company of other Rabbits. So the Rabbit is generally comfortable during its own month. Comfort however, may not be the most creative experience. The Rabbit is the networker of the Chinese Zodiac; it likes to know exactly where it stands with everyone else. But the safety of familiarity may take up time that might be spent pushing for new frontiers. Better? Worse? Who knows what these words mean?

Tiger Month Animal by Animal.

The Rabbit:

Poses no threat to the Tiger.

Colludes with the Sheep in avoiding risk.

Gives the Pig backbone,

Fires up the Dog.

Resists the Rooster, who may need to develop respect.

Can fleece the Dragon – if the Dragon allows it.

Fuels the Horse but may never receive appropriate credit.

Is often wary of the Rat, who can just be too much.

Puzzles some Monkeys, who expect to do all the puzzling themselves.

Appears (but generally is not) fair game to the Snake.

Draws upon the Oxheightened awareness.

The Rabbit Pillars. How Rabbit are you?

Birth in the Rabbit hour (5-7am): home-loving children, goals whose common feature is security.

Birth in the Rabbit month (March*): working from a place like home.

Birth on the Rabbit day: safety first.

Birth in the Rabbit year: passive, stable, home-loving, friends in high places.

* Caution, the Chinese month generally starts and finishes a few days after ours.

Where to do what, when and why.

This month’s lo shu is the 7, to do with interruption. It’s a month when many events can most usefully be seen as interludes in bigger ones: the Winter Olympics with its political side-shows is the first part of the Olympics proper; the Olympics themselves, an aspect of the ongoing chest beating of nations. If we get it right, this is the month of the timely intervention. If not we may appear unable to mind our own business or worse (and less truthfully) think that’s true of everybody else.

Hint: anything that appears to apply to everyone else is likely to have its source closer to home.

On the 17th: aim to be in the North East of whatever space you are in. Additionally (or instead) make the North East as noisy and bright as you can all day. This rouses assistance and supports good reputation.

Forthcoming Events:

Richards next Feng Shui course, The Wind that Stops at the Water, starts on the weekend of 13/14th September 2014. More details here.

Early Bird Discounts now available!

Richard Ashworth©, early in the month of the Fire Rabbit, March 2014.

The Joy of Setts

September 26, 2012

Imperial Feng Shui


The Joy of Setts.

September, the month of the Earth Rooster in the year of Sudden Change, the Water Dragon, 2012; feelgood Britain is flush with pride following the bread and circuses of the Olympics as libraries and public toilets close and badgers barricade themselves into their homes. I’ve just returned from a brief walkround survey of the most expensive property I have ever entered: perfectly positioned in SW1 but decorated in suede and metal better suited to a pub snug than a home.

I remember back in the 90’s, Lillian Too telling me that if your own feng shui is sound, then so will your advice be. She went on to give me advice that allowed me to make a killing on HSBC shares but that’s another story.

“If he’s been divorced and bankrupt half a dozen times, he’s probably not a great feng shui man,” I remember her saying.

Around her house outside Kuala Lumpur, there’s more “sentimental” (ie gently flowing) water packed into one place than I have ever seen this side of Niagara. Draw your own conclusions. She was then and remains a brilliant and benevolent woman too with a serious and not widely known altruistic agenda.

That advice – and the investment tip for that matter– made a great deal of difference to me and I have always aimed to honour it. Which finds me writing about two subjects today: my children and Jon Sandifer who died last week.

I’m writing in the restaurant where my eldest son Jaime, now holder of three degrees, waits tables while contemplating his options. The restaurant claims to offer free wi-fi but this has turned out to be the Cloud which hijacks my connection and then like a plumber on a Sunday, constantly claims to be on its way. So Jaime finagles me into the wi-fi proper and here I am.

The music system is playing quite-but-not-very-obscure hits of the 21st century ranging from a welcome selection of Sheryl Crow to one of the Iglesias’ doing sincere.  Would I lie to you? I rather think so.

I didn’t know Jon Sandifer that well. We studied with Master Chan Kun Wah together and we shared coffee breaks, taxi rides, and a study session or two. That was enough for me to know that he was a good and deeply spiritual man who valued family above all. If he was about anything he was about children of whom, like me he had more than his fair share. He talked of them with enormous fondness, respect and trust. It was clear he’d do anything for them and vice-versa. As Lawrence Fishburne remarks in Boyz n The Hood, any male can sire children but it takes a man to be a father.

Jon was one of the reasons the Feng Shui Society has survived and when I had differences with the Society myself, he was remarkably supportive. He was also of course the author of several very influential books about Nine Star Ki and a teacher who straddled the line between authentic and new age teachings with deftness and integrity. The world is poorer for his loss.

Jon’s approach to feng shui was from the direction of other Eastern studies. He was, as well as a Feng Shui Master, expert in macrobiotic theory and much else. An assiduous student of the Book of Changes which he referred to as “the book,” he had undergone arduous transformational work with a series of Masters in such disciplines as Sa Zen which is essentially sitting for hours at a time while a Master hits you with a bamboo stick if your attention wavers. Sometimes the line between enlightenment and S&M is a blurred one.

During one taxi ride I remember telling him about a volatile Master I worked with myself for several years in the 1980’s who could be so confrontational that one look from him was said to make people throw up with fear. Not such a negotiable skill.

One weekend this Master was holding an “aggression workshop”. These weekends consisted in the main of people who knew each other well, shouting at each other. Sometimes for hours on end. Often the matched pairs were close colleagues, even married couples. One protagonist abused another freeform while the other listened. Those were the rules. When the vocal one had emptied the bile ducts, they had the right to call up someone else they felt needed a going over. It could be anyone. No one knew for sure when they would be next. If things got out of control – threatening fisticuffs say – the Master would weigh in, spreading opprobrium left and right, a truly intimidating experience. In time this practice was, I think, largely responsible for his organisation being led to disaster by those who had the thickest skins and the loudest voices, but the opportunity to share in safety the inevitable aggression that builds up between people working closely together could be extraordinarily liberating. Aggression, from the Latin “aggredior,” after all simply means “stepping forward”. Fighting as Chuck Spezzano is fond of saying, is just foreplay.

Meanwhile however, in mid-session the atmosphere could be extremely taut. There were strict ground rules – not calling out from the audience was one – which were enforced mercilessly. If his look did not shake the unwary, the Master’s frank and undivided attention would. The things we put ourselves through. Still that was then and this is now.

During each session there was absolute silence other than the single raised voice of the current protagonist. Sometimes it was like being in the kitchen during a particularly vicious “domestic”. Afterwards there was calm(ish) discussion chaired by the Master but you (that is I) never knew when the spotlight would fall on you (that is me), triggering a welter of calumny.

As I write, Guns and Roses are playing. I’m reminded of their fatuously pugnacious “Get in the Ring” which could be the soundtrack to what I’m describing.

On the occasion I was telling Jon about (he had been part of groups doing similar stuff) there was a particularly inexperienced and naïve participant involved who had come up from Bristol for the weekend and either did not know the rules or had not experienced the full emetic power of the Master.

It was one pm: time for lunch. A particularly gruelling face-off had just completed. Exhausted and sweaty, the combatants took their seats once more: brothers who had been sharing an office, as I recall. The Master unsmiling, himself as far as anyone could tell about to launch into attack, took a deep breath.

“Well,” he said and looked impassively around him.

The room was silent.

At this point a chirpy West Country voice piped up from the back of the room.

“Oi warnt moi dinner,” it said.

If anything a deeper silence. Everyone inhaled. Some winced. Many lowered their heads defensively, holding their ears like Rugby forwards entering a scrum.

The Master exhaled deeply and looked around the room once more, his eyes dead calm.

“Me too,” he said. “I want my dinner.”

Having done similar work, Jon appeared to find this as funny a story as I did. Perhaps you had to be there.

Flying Stars.

My own daughters Jess and Hen are in Hollywood this week attending wall-to-wall meetings.  They write together and this year several of their screenplays have attracted interest. So now in addition to their high-powered British agent they have one in LA. They’re five foot-nothing identical twins who look far younger than their twenty four years: pocket sized and cute as a button.

They’ve grown up around feng shui and New Age thought. They tolerated being advised to love rather than retaliate when school got difficult. They’re used to having to manoeuvre around water fountains that have suddenly sprouted around the house or being told the day air tickets are cheapest is not the right time to travel. From the age of nine they’ve been home-educated campus style. So they’ve grown used to my political rants and my skewed take on world history. They’re both straight A-students by the way and Jessie is qualified in ba zi. And obviously they have been the subjects of my mumbo jumbo.

How’s this of use to you? One: both are Rabbit/Dragon cusp babies who have grown up knowing they have choice. If you follow my ramblings you’ll know that the Dragon suffers this year what is known as the Four Earths. In short this means they are presented with more plates to spin than they have limbs to spin them. The instructions on the packet btw are to keep saying “Yes.” This pattern applies in a Dragon year to (at least) Dogs, Oxen and Sheep too. Hence the Year of Sudden Change. “Yes” is the right answer to most questions actually.

Second: they know that there has never been anything more important in either Sheila’s or my own lives than our children. They know also that slavery is no example.

My other kids btw have all done me as proud: from the proper academic via the successful salesman who is my second son to the other boys, the musicians, who have just signed to a US label so cool there’s no point telling you about it.

Clearly, the universe being what it is, children choose parents just as profoundly as parents choose children. Which at the risk of myself being emetic, means that I’m a lucky man, Lillian Too was right and Jon Sandifer’s children must be very special. Call it good fortune, call it feng shui, call it karma, call it the Tao, call it blind luck but bless that Jon Sandifer wherever he may be.

© Richard Ashworth 2012.

Bo Xi Lai Nouveau

April 27, 2012

Imperial Feng Shui

Bo Xi Lai Nouveau

It’s raining as I walk into Godalming, the worst sort of English weather: no driving wind to give the rain character, no cold to make it sharp. It’s not even raining particularly hard, it’s just wet, the sort of wet that makes everything dark and floppy.

The walk takes me past the Church of Jesus Christ, Scientist which dwarfs the houses either side. In the front window are quotations from Mary Baker Eddy. “You are safe,” one reads. I must have been twenty before I was sure that Ms. Eddy neither sang duets with Jeanette McDonald nor played the twangy guitar on the “Peter Gunn Theme” but over the years her message has suffered worse misunderstandings than these. “You are safe,” the banner reads. Always good to know.

Certain buildings feng shui Masters call “Dragons’ Lairs” because they are equal parts bear trap and treasure house. Activating the correct spot in such a dwelling at the correct moment can be followed by unfeasible good fortune, the wrong one by a plague of boils. Only a feng shui Master would knowingly take one on. This building, part church, part reading room, part sales office, looks like just such a construction.

It’s the 23rd and after energising the downstairs loo of a period house in Berkshire between the hours of six and eight in the morning, I’m back in Godalming prior to another trip to South East Asia, the topic of study this time being ba zi in physical healing, the place where feng shui meets Traditional Chinese Medicine. This information is likely to percolate into my ba zi teaching later in the year just as Xuan Kong Da Gua has entered my feng shui teaching (commercial break: on which the Early Early Bird offer runs out next week)

As I pass the paper shop in the pouring rain, I notice that the hosepipe ban shares headlines with the skullduggery in China. The ten-yearly reshuffle of the hierarchy at the People’s Congress approaches. Sixth-in-line Bo Xi Lai is fingered as a conspirator to murder. This has nothing to do with justice; the allegation arises not as part of the slow grind of the wheels of the law but because Bo has crossed some line in the internal politics of the PRC. There is every indication that had Bo minded his ps and qs, the rapidly cremated body of apparently poisoned businessman Neil Heywood would remain under the carpet so to speak. Q is of course pronounced “ch” in Wade Giles Mandarin, btw (just as the x in “Xi” is “sh”).

However hard it rains, Godalming never floods even though much of the town is below the level of the River Wey that runs through it. This is because of the flood meadow.This Lammas Land is mostly river from November to April which is why the town isn’t. This flood plain as its Celtic name (derived from Lug, God of Light) suggests, is as old as the town itself, upwards of sixteen hundred years probably. Feng shui is wind and water, the ancient principle being to preserve the water and protect against the wind. It’s easy to forget just how powerful Water is.

One Saturday afternoon several years ago, Sheila and I were walking our dog Zusu down by the river. The level was dangerously low, the water having that dusty look a too-shallow river gets, the fish too visible. Once home we rang the Water Board and discovered that there was a stopcock located in a building on the riverbank. A wheel was turned, the level was restored.

 Mary Baker’s Eddy.

The events of this watery year 2012 can be expected to reflect previous Water Dragons: a Dragon’s Lair, poison and treasure. Such years include 1952, 1832 and 208BCE, all troublesome times for China. In 1952 Tibet was the treasure, annexed and never since relinquished, long-term not such a popular move with the natives. In 208BCE, Qin Xi Huang Di, having unified China with unbelievable brutality, lit out for the Eastern Ocean on a successful search for shamans to kill him with immortality potions. 1832? China is deep in the Opium Wars. Oh and Greece secedes from the Ottoman Empire. 1712: the South Sea Trading Company buys the national debt and sells it back to investors as junk bonds. Plenty of parallels to play with.

Toxic times indeed. As I walk into town, fleeing my office where there is more going on than I can concentrate over, I notice that there are now three nailcare shops. Although there are fewer pubs than there used to be, only one or two premises are boarded up. They will become restaurants in due course or Tesco Metros or be demolished and replaced with maisonettes at a quarter of a million per bedroom. This is banker country. Recession is something that happens to other people.

Despite the wealth of manicure options, there’s no Starbucks in Godalming as yet so I head for Costa which like approximately half the shops on this East-West High Street, faces due South and so enjoys a Flying Star pattern called “String of Pearls”. To cut a long story short, shops change hands but nobody goes bust. There’s always someone else ready to open a haute couture boutique as a tax loss. Or a coffee shop.

Unlike Starbucks, the coffee at Costa tastes like coffee, something I’d generally consider a disadvantage. That doesn’t matter however as I don’t drink it anymore. Coffee tends to desensitise when I need to be sensitive and we can’t have that, can we? These days I drink green tea for the most part. So what am I doing in a coffee shop? The truth is that I am drawn by the buzzing energy, the comings and goings, conversations that I half-hear, activity that demands nothing of me. I can be involved and not involved. It’s a place to hide if you like.

As the shop fronts due South, till, bar, coffee machines and staff are all in the South East. This means that in 2012 till, bar, steaming coffee machines and in the recent unseasonal heat wave, steaming baristas are all in the wu huang or Five Yellow as well as the tai sui, the direction of the year energy. These annual spots of sat chi or Poison Stars are not places to linger.

So I’m unsurprised that things appear to be going wrong around the engine room of the cafe. The flow from the boiler tap is down to a trickle. It takes the pretty young barista several minutes to pour enough boiling water onto a Twinings Green tea bag to fill a large cup. She’s studying law at Guildford Law College and reported for duty at 6:45 this morning, she tells me. And today, according to her young male colleague (Film Studies, Manchester) the till is not taking cards. He’s a bit hot under the collar. I’m not surprised. There’s no room behind the counter which itself is piled with enough confectionery to render the staff close to invisible. The counter is designed for all sorts of things but serving coffee is not one. It’s okay, I say, I’ve got cash and I can wait. Then all of a sudden he asks exasperated, of nobody in particular, “When is this going to be sorted out?” and I blurt out without thinking: “About six weeks,” and he looks at me as if I am criminally insane. Not the first to do that of course. Mouth open story jump out, as my first mother-in-law used to say.

I find a quiet table and make my tea bag last an hour. Every now and then someone I know walks in, greets me, we talk, I explain myself. Then I return to making sense of the Xuan Kong Da Gua material I’ve brought back from Thailand. This is powerful stuff.

Xuan Kong means “Mystery of the Void,” and the story goes that it was used in mediaeval times to hide armies in plain sight. The general who employed a XKDG Master could appear from nowhere right in the face of an unprepared enemy. I have been using this material for more than a decade now but the new slant I am working with gives the whole thing a fresh edge. While I work, the wife of my current problem client, an unemployed banker, emails to tell me he may have landed the job he wants. Thank God for that. XKDG properly measured, located and applied, should make a difference that quickly.

Having studied for ten hours-plus most days over there, I have mastered the bulk of the theory but there are three bits I don’t understand. They’re like an ache. I can not bypass them. Classical feng shui is like mathematics; there’s no point approaching stage two until you’ve mastered step one. By three pm, I’m deeply frustrated. I persevere. By five, two of the three problems are making sense. Thank God for that too.

It’s still raining on my way back and I want to ask the Water Companies some more questions. Just how wet does it have to get before I can water my sunflowers? What proportion of the lost water is due to leaky pipes and poorly secured reservoirs, what proportion overuse of river water by industry?

Finally, the last few windows before I’m out of town, I pass the hand-care shops. Expensively engraved upon the glass of one is:”Proffessional Nail Care.” I’m a Virgo. I was straightening up the pictures on other people’s walls long before I was paid for it. Two f’s where there should be one is almost as distressing as failing to understand Xuan Kong Da Gua. I have to look away.

You can get hybrid nail replacements now apparently. I’m frightened to speculate as to just what that might mean.

But of course we are safe. There is little to which the appropriate response is not a smile. Come hell, high water, death or the taxman, but especially high water, the Tao is both beyond control and worthy of trust. Not that the Tao gives a damn. It just goes on taoing its thing. So thank you Ms Eddy. We are indeed safe.

Richard Ashworth April 2012.

2012: The Water Dragon, the Year of Sudden Change.

January 13, 2012





2012: The Water Dragon, the Year of Sudden Change. 

This is a long piece; for short simple predictions scroll to the end.

For predictions for individual Animals click here

Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much…the wheel, New York, wars and so on…while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time…….the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man…for precisely the same reason.”

Douglas Adams.


5 1 3

4 6 8

9 2 7


 Legless in Basra.

My earliest upbringing was in the village of Mullion, Cornwall in the remote South West of England, as far away from London as you can travel without getting wet; next stop Newfoundland. By the time I was four my mother had five children under seven, my father was often away at sea, there were no trains and a bus once a week, she didn’t drive and we were wild. I was climbing cliffs before I went to school and indeed before I could swim. So it was that as soon as I was literate I was reading pretty much anything I felt like without censorship or supervision. I knew Howard Carter, Leonard Woolley, HP Lovecraft, Lobsang Rampa and the Book of Changes before my voice broke. And Edgar Cayce.

Cayce (1877-1945) was a visionary and light worker who made a welter of predictions, many of which turned out to be false. One, as I recall was that the UK would be submerged by now, so that’s probably just as well. Global warming will lead to many changes but not that one. I intend to be able to be more specific by this time next year. I am myself a Water Dragon and working out what the 21st century may hold is a great deal of what 2012 is about for me.

When a particularly cataclysmic prophecy proved wrong, Cayce would express relief that good will had pre-empted the visions becoming facts. Which is the quandary I find myself in every year at this time. I have to incorporate the clouds while holding out for the silver lining. We are each responsible for our reality and mine seems to include some nastiness. You know the type of thing: Darfur, Gaza, Tibet, The Human Centipede, News International, Tescos.

Every Dragon Year ushers in a phenomenon known as the Four Earths. This is perhaps the most powerful combination known to Chinese Metaphysics and it is the conjunction of Dragon, Dog, Ox and Sheep, the Earth Branches, sometimes called the Four Vaults or Tombs. Some very powerful (and conflicted) people find these in their ba zis. The Earth Animals are the connections to the Ancestors, to our heritage and they offer both opportunity and challenge. In a Dragon year of course such a conjunction is present in the Earth months of January (the Ox), July (the Sheep) and October (the Dog) especially on the days ruled by these Animals when the heavy duty opportunities emerge. Many Masters simply think of the Four Earths as misfortune but I have found them to signify moments that can make a life but which neglected, can lead to despair. They often coincide with a project that requires getting ducks into a row over a long period of time. Sometimes this takes a huge protracted effort and one duck can fall out of place. At that moment we may find illness or injury preferable.

Cayce’s view was that responsibility commits us to creating better if we know better. One of my most powerful influences, Dr. Chuck Spezzano whose model the Psychology of Vision pervades everything I do, appears to be wrestling with a vision of epidemics in just this way right now.

Among the better prospects for the future is the continued presence of the campsite in St Pauls Churchyard. I expect those kids are pretty cold at the moment, bless them. Those confronting the shameless tax dodgers of the dark canyons of the City and of Wall Street are as I have said before, predominantly drawn from the yang (that is the energetic) side of the compass: Rabbits, Dragons, Snakes, Horses, Sheep and Monkeys born between 1987 and 1992. Too young to vote on either side of the Atlantic in 2004 and 2005, they voted in 2008 and 2010 only to be deeply disappointed with the outcome. They’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it. No generation since the 60’s has been as prepared to take on injustice whether it’s the Inland Revenue for exempting bankers in return for a good lunch or shameless champion tax dodger Philip Green advising the Cameron government on waste. Whatever faecal heap my generation has bequeathed, there is hope while the next is holding Vodafone, Stagecoach and Arcadia to account.

Meanwhile across the North Atlantic in the direction of Newfoundland, my friend Rory Mackenzie is as I write, around a thousand miles short of the US coast. I met Rory in 2007 shortly after his leg had been blown off in Basra. Rory’s a medic. That’s a karma-free mission. He was not there to kill anybody. Now he and his multi-plegic comrades are rowing to the USA. Today they tell us their desalinator is malfunctioning which means they risk dying of thirst but it doesn’t seem to inhibit the banter. Rory reports that he has had to do imaginative things with (or without) underwear and lubricants. Ladies: look away now.

Imagine rowing four thousand miles. Now imagine doing it with one leg. Now imagine the pressure on the upper part of the missing limb. As his ba zi showed, Rory is impossibly brave. A sports-playing Action Man, when I met him he was so disconsolate he could hardly hold his head up. I told him however hard it gets, to trust. This too shall pass. It did and now with bottomless support from his family and especially his Mum Shealagh a heroine in her own right, he’s as fit as a man gets, limbed or limbless. There are few enough men who are prepared to feel and not to despair. Follow Rory on Twitter: @Row2Recovery .

I remain ambivalent about the whole Help for Heroes thing. I don’t want to encourage any more young men to be heroic for me. I don’t even buy a poppy for fear of being as Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance wrote, “another cog in the murder machine.” Somewhere in there I would end up endorsing the carve up in Iraq that Water Snake Tony Blair wished on Rory and his contemporaries. And more wars.

Rory was in Basra because the powers that be ignored a million-plus strong protest in 2003. We don’t er…need another hero. Someone described invading Iraq as like attacking Mexico in return for Pearl Harbour. What is to suggest they will take seriously a gaggle of kids shivering in the shadow of Goldman Sachs?

Nothing at all. But we must. I choose this despite what I know.

To pile on the agony the World Wide Fund for Nature says that as things are proceeding, there will be no trees or fish by 2050. They didn’t mention dolphins. What I know is that when investors can make more money solving global warming than by selling junk bonds short, the environmental crisis will be over. Since you asked, this will not be before 2016 but not later than 2043 which of course is a bit tight.

Climate is cyclical and the Earth has been this warm before. As a feng shui man, I work from the traditional Taoist axiom that history itself runs in cycles of sixty: there are twelve Chinese Year Animals (Rat, Dragon and so on) and five Elements (Wood, Water, Fire, Earth, Metal). Twelve Animals, five Elements, that makes sixty discreet years: Metal Tiger, Water Dragon, Wood Snake and fifty seven more. The central principle is that Dragons which appear every twelve years are alike, Water Dragons which come up once in sixty are very alike. They are, as you might expect wet; the Lynmouth flood for instance was sixty years ago in August 1952. Dragons are years of mud and landslides. That year also, the last Water Dragon, saw the opening of the Korean War and it would not take supernatural powers to foresee trouble in that pocket of the World in 2012. The fact that the prevailing energy of the year travels South East-North West making both of these sectors trouble spots, just underlines it. There’s a decent chance though that the outcome in the South East of South East Asia will be good news for the one of the most deprived populations in the world.

There are other informative ways of tagging the year: the magic square or lo shu (above) for 2012 holds the 6 at its centre, the Xuang Kong kua is 6/4 which suggests the annual concerns are Father-Daughter issues and the lap yum, Long Flowing Water usually describes protracted discussions.

These, Rory and his mates in their boat, the shivering kids in EC2 and snatches of dialogue from the Lord of the Rings are what inform these views of 2012. Hold on tight.

 “Five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told.”

Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

Frodo: “What are we holding on to, Sam?”

Sam: “That there’s still some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”


Better to be for things rather than against them. Exchanging Muslims for Russians or even Global Warming for Muslims doesn’t strike me as progress. The sooner none of us is against anyone else the better.

However, 2012 is a 6 year. Six is the number of Heaven and the Father, hence authority and getting things done and hence opposition. This is a year in which authority is challenged wherever it asserts itself. Also as the Rhyme of the Magpie goes, six is indeed the number of gold. A complex year but each of us – in so far as us means anything – is responsible for it. There may be a multiverse of possible realities but I’m right here.

I will be bringing the feng shui of each of my retainer clients into 2012 over the next few weeks but I can tell you now that when 6 is at the centre of the lo shu, there’s a buck to be made. And lost. My drill for 2012 outlines how to gain immediate benefit from the changed energy of the new year and will be available generally from early February but for now you might note that to profit from the Metal 6 you need to add Earth and Water. Ask me how.

Meanwhile it’s 2012 and we have a world to save. In a year when world leaders provided such an unhelpful example, what price the future? Cameron and Obama gain cheap approval points as 2011 ends with lazy postures of respectively knee-jerk opposition to the garlic eating, cheese making French peace monkeys and compliance with the insane family values of the Tea Party. But there is hope here. Obama’s one of the 1961 Metal Oxen who reassert their authority to a great extent in 2012. A re-elected Obama, free of the need to seduce voters may act as boldly as he talked in 2008. And pleasing the xenophobic wing of the Tory party is not going to gain Cameron’s uneasy coalition shelf life. I give it eighteen months, about as long as the Euro.

Because a Water Dragon is essentially Earth with added Water, wealth will be attaching to activities such as publishing, health and horticulture which can be labelled Wood and that thrive on Earth. Also favoured are Earth activities like building, property and spiritual endeavour that profit from Water, particularly towards the end of the year.

But don’t expect property values to recover. There is a whole new paradigm coming. I doubt that the notion of home as investment will survive the decade; 2012 is not the end of the world but it may be the year Marx gets proven right: when those who make the money do not pay the taxes, the majority tire of the rule of markets. If for “dolphins” we read Greece, Italy, Portugal and even France and for “humans” read Germany, it becomes clear why the Euro has such a short life expectancy. The b’ak’tun of the Mayan calendar is probably not about 2012 but 2013, focusing as it does on December 21st 2012, dung gee, the midwinter solstice which for many of us is the moment that indicates the character of the following year.

In any Dragon year change is rapid; not so great for Dragons like Philip Green who suffer the so-called self clash which means they tend not to play nicely among themselves. Nor on the face of it, is it promising for Dogs who often react poorly to the Dragon. In pole position are Pigs, Monkeys, Roosters and Rats who can expect to be at the top of their game.

But to use this information slavishly is to miss its point. Monkeys can easily fail to take advantage of the ball on the penalty spot in 2012 by simply not kicking it. Similarly the smarter Dragons will treat the probable turbulence and competition of the Year of the Water Dragon as a cue to learn, grow and change. A Water Dragon myself, I plan a very differently shaped year: I will be travelling and researching for two books and a tv series scheduled for 2013 and be very discriminating as to the surveys and new clients I take on.

Above all we need to remember that each of us is much more precious and more individual than any astrological definition. We were in any case, each born under Four Animals one for each of the month, day and hour as well as the year of our birth. As the introduction to the Animal Fortunes* page on my website clarifies each of these applies to a different sphere of our life. So if we find our year Animal (relating to heritage, family and our public persona) poorly augured we may instead like to focus on our month Animal (work, resources, immediate family, friends, peers, colleagues) or day (our truest self, relationship, spirit, psyche) or even hour (future, children, creativity, expression). Being born on an Ox day, I can anticipate an interesting and satisfying year relationship wise, something that is pretty essential if I am to push the boat out professionally. This is a rational way to employ essentially irrational material.

*If your immediate personal future is your main concern, click now and move on, I should.

Arab Sprung.

Chinese numerology is living algebra; like the other eight integers, there are literally millions of levels of meaning to the year number six. The 6 belongs in the North West and to the Dog and Pig. In classical feng shui nothing gets started if the North West is missing. Many times I have had to place something in that area of a house (generally outside of course) to compensate before I can make lasting changes. Every home needs a Father.

So by extension, we can expect a watershed year in which the trends of the 21st Century may start to become solid. If we take these trends to be towards the liberations of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt we may perhaps take comfort, if towards the score-settling in Libya or the human ducks-in-a-barrel of Syria, not so much. As more dolphin nations are bailed out and more bankers paid bigger bonuses while more libraries and public toilets close (all of which is likely) the pressure for positive change will build. In the UK, expect further riots, probably in August and probably met with disproportionate force. In 2012 peaceful demonstration will tend to be wilfully confused with insurrection. Smaller banks may fail around the same time. Like several others (April and December most probably) August will be a wet month also.

In the USA, as the Presidential Election progresses, the fault lines between the Northern and Western states and the Southern and Eastern will become more and more clear. Intellectually, morally, politically and spiritually the US is two if not three or four nations. In 2012, this becomes stark. By 2030 it will be physical.

Authority and efficiency are interesting themes for a year in which elections are to be held in so many major nations. It should for instance come as good news to Vladimir Putin in Russia where election means “election.” In the USA the way forward is simple for Barack Obama whose best approval ratings followed the assassination of a suspected but unconvicted terrorist and his family. Expect Obama to achieve re-election simply because his opponent will be selected from a short list of the deluded, intellectually challenged and criminal, a line-up so obviously lacking a statesman that even the American electorate might notice.

The Water Dragon is, as I said, the year of the landslide: literal landslides in the North West and South East as well as metaphorical ones at the ballot box. Expect trouble leading to eventual reunification in Korea in the South East of South East Asia. But it will be a rocky and potentially explosive road. Some nations like some people, are so damaged that they see a lifeline as an opportunity to pull their rescuer into the water. What can men do against such reckless hate? Iran is on that troubled NW-SE vector also and is going to be asked to blink this year. In Mexico, the 14th largest economy in the world and the largest Spanish speaking nation, one of the focus nations of the 21st century, elections will be at best troubled.

A light that never goes out.

The Chinese character for the Dragon depicts a rain cloud about to burst. Dragon energy is pent up, uncontainable, even violent. It is the moment that the nagging high pressure before the storm becomes the storm itself.  This pressure – financial, social, political – has been building in a hundred locations during the Metal Rabbit of 2011. In Lhasa as on Wall Street, it feels like something has to give. There is if you like, a war going on between love and control. You could see the positive side of this in the protest camps in Boston and Oregon as well as St Paul’s Churchyard and in the scenes of joy in Tahrir Square in Cairo. But it’s a knife edge. The South holds the tricky 2 Star and the three curses of Place, Calamity and Robbery under the Water Dragon. Arab Spring II, This time it’s Personal looks like a very inferior sequel. The prognosis in Libya is delicate: replacing one murdering tyrant with several isn’t going to change much of anything. In Tibet, to the North West of China, so many monks have set fire to themselves that the (Chinese) police now carry fire extinguishers. This Fire is spreading. It brings enlightenment along with heat but we don’t need any more human candles.

While the principle is that the events of previous Water Dragons will be reflected, those who know only Western history will be expecting parallels that can be found in the predominantly Eurocentric sources of reference. As Grand Master Raymond Lo (whose own subtly perceptive predictions can be found at bemoaned to me in Singapore earlier this year, Wikipedia is a relatively shallow source.

It does not for instance highlight the Water Dragon year 208 BCE when China was finally reunited by Qin Shi Huang Di after two decades of impossibly brutal civil war. Nor that Qin and his dynasty were gone within two years of this reunification. Nor does it point out that many Chinese did not consider the infant PRC complete until Tibet, lost since the mid-19th century, had been regained in the Water Dragon year of 1952. All of these facts suggest some sort of Chinese comeuppance over the next three to four years and this likelihood is echoed in a dozen other portents. Revolutions are started by the hungry and while the Chinese middleclass are driving Mercedes, they will continue to toe the line. Sometime between now and 2016 however, the legacy of poor domestic lending and the illiquidity of the rest of the world will burst the Chinese bubble. The following may suggest the shape of this.

Forever blowing bubbles.

“H needed to provide a mechanism for funding government debt (but) he could not (by law) establish a bank. He therefore established what, on its face, was a trading company, though its main activity was in fact the funding of government debt.

The government and the company convinced the holders of millions of pounds of short-term government debt to exchange it with a new issue of stock in the company. In exchange, the government granted the company a perpetual annuity or a perpetual loan paying 6 percent. This guaranteed the new equity owners a steady stream of earnings to this new venture. The government thought it was in a win-win situation because it would fund the interest payment by placing a tariff.

Next the company proposed a scheme by which it would buy more than half the national debt again with new shares, and a promise to the government that the debt would be converted to a lower interest rate, 5% for ten years and 4% per year thereafter. The purpose of this conversion was similar to the old one: it would allow a conversion of high-interest but difficult-to-trade debt into low-interest, readily marketable debt. The price peaked in early August and the level of selling was such that the price started to fall drastically, triggering widespread bankruptcies amongst those who had bought on credit, and increasing selling, even short selling—selling borrowed shares in the hope of buying them back at a profit if the price falls.”

This is not (though it might be) an account of how Goldman Sachs suckered the EU into admitting Greece into the Eurozone. Nor does it concern the fall of Lehman Brothers or even that of Enron in the last Dragon year of 2000 though it describes the mechanism of both. You’d think, these bucket shops of manufactured fraud being ten years apart, something might have been learned. But no and the whirlwind is still to be reaped.

The year in focus is the Metal Rabbit of 1711 when the South Sea Trading Company was founded and the events illustrates perfectly the cyclical nature of time. During the Water Dragon year of 1712 and the subsequent decade, the company issued and traded a series of financial instruments, each more preposterous than the last until in 1720 it went down along with huge numbers of investors. This may well give us a clearer view of the meaning of the b’ak’tun as it suggests the likely pattern of the years 2011 to 2020. As we move into the next Chinese Fate Period -9- which relates to Fire and is likely to be dominated by global warming, we can expect six to seven years of financial crisis, paralleling those of 300 years ago.

Ronery no more.

The East is the place of hope in 2012 but India, the world’s largest democracy is a more likely industrial giant in the 21st Century than China, the World’s biggest command economy. The South East holds the baleful 5 wu huang Star which implies avalanches and mudslides in the Spring and Autumn along the NW-SE path of the year energy: Oregon, China, Korea, Ulster. Good news for Norwich City and Moscow Dynamo but suggesting a meltdown at FIFA. Good for Poland, poor for Italy, good for Mexico not so great for Argentina. There may be East-West wrangles over intellectual property.

Richard Ashworth © 2012


Short & Simple:

Oscars: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Glenn Close, Viola Davis.

Euro 2012: England has a real chance.

Olympics: Disrupted and disappointing for England. Over policed.

Kate & William: happy announcement later in the year.

London Election: Livingstone despite surprise big guns behind Boris

Paul McCartney: dispute over intellectual property.

Iran: all down to Netanyahu.

Weather: prodigiously wet.

CERN: unexpected evidence of multiverse.

Cricket: England to beat South Africa despite intrusive political issues.

Facebook: extends reach, capital value increases massively.



Washington Emolument

October 27, 2011

Imperial Feng Shui

Washington Emolument


In 2005 in the company of Master Howard Choy, I visited the sacred Taoist complex at Wudan Shang set among the “Seventy Two Mountains” in Hubei, Central China. The breath taking photograph of the green roofs against the azure blue of the sky that adorns the cover of my book the Feng Shui Diaries was taken by feng shui architect Carlo Reyneri that day. Feng Shui carries no essential spiritual baggage but that was an extraordinary day, the sort that stays with us for life. That year we also visited Prince Zhao’s mausoleum where the river has been dried up by the Three Gorges Project as well as Mao Tse Tung’s birthplace in Xiaoshan just outside Changsha, the most tense place on Earth and high above the village at the head of the valley, the tomb of Mao’s grandfather.

Howard tells me he is planning to lead another trip to China in October 2012. I strongly recommend you go. Click here for more info.

Mountains come in a variety of patterns; nine basic and infinite variations and each means something. Morecambe Bay, home of my teacher Master (soon to be Grand Master) Derek Walters is lined with goy moons – the huge gate, Wudan Shang largely with mou kuk (guardian) and t’ang lung –  the hungry wolf. I could never make the count seventy- two by the way: sixty-eight, seventy four, sixty-seven? 2011 is the time of the hungry wolf, I think. The kids outside St Pauls Cathedral, in Boston, New York and Seattle recognise this. This is the generation born between 1987 and 1994, that on both sides of the Atlantic, was disenfranchised in 2005 and bitterly disappointed when they got finally to vote in 2008 and 2010 respectively. This generation, the yang (that is outgoing) Animals from Rabbit to Monkey will not take unfairness lying down. The t’ang lungs of Wall Street and the Square Mile draw them like iron filings to a magnet.

The t’ang lung is an upright, trunk-like shape, used in some schools of feng shui as an attractor of wealth and power. The ideal is to find it naturally in the form of hills but it is often synthesised. The bigger and older it is, the more energy a made up one will hold. Examples include Cleopatra’s Needle which was plundered from Egypt in the 19th century (but since the early 19th century has been on the London Embankment) and its twin at the foot of the Champs Elysées.

Interestingly this year the Washington Monument, the World’s best known t’ang lung, has been closed for structural reasons. Those of a conspiratorial turn of mind* consider that the Monument was part of an 18th century Masonic plan to carry the British Empire across the Atlantic. I don’t have time for conspiracy theory but if it was, it does seem to have worked. And I’ve listened to more than one Chinese Master explain exactly what part t’ang lungs might have played. Notice there are one or two in Beijing. It’s also interesting to record that the plot was chosen and the monument designed sixty or so years before it was erected. As if someone was awaiting the perfect moment after the Civil War had been won, the Suez Canal had been cut and the new Fate Cycle begun in 1863.

Similar questions could be asked about the tomb of Mao Tse Tung’s grandfather. How did a penniless peasant get to be buried in pole position? How did those who placed him there six years after his death get the formula so wrong so that instead of three generations of power, he managed just the one? What other puzzles are hidden in the Chinese landscape? If you join Howard Choy’s expedition, you might find out for yourself. He’s a native Mandarin speaker as well as a tai chi, chi gung and feng shui Master, raconteur and good sport. You could not be in safer or more skilled hands.

*See, for instance, David  Ovason, “The Washington Zodiac

Chop Suey and Joey Yap

October 6, 2011

Welcome to Imperial Feng Shui

Chop Suey
It’s often said that travel broadens the mind. If you haven’t been to Paris, for instance, you won’t know how fit you have to be to climb to Sacre Coeur. Venice may appear a quaint seaside resort until you realise that it’s not so much by the sea as in it. Similarly unless you have visited New York it may not have occurred to you that Wall Street is a canyon of drafts and shadows where it can be chilly even on the brightest day. Since 9/11  there have been two shadows fewer.
Well before that, more than one feng shui Master identified what is known as “Heaven Chop” between the Twin Towers. Heaven Chop is where two buildings are too close together relative to their height. Traditionally no good follows this. Which of course is not that handy to know ten years after the fact; it is however a matter of record, that in July of 2001, Thai Master Mas Kehardtam at least, advised a client to move out because he saw impending danger.
Every year, about this time, while I am compiling my own forecast for the coming year, I check in with a number of Chinese Masters. Some of them have been doing this for decades and routinely pick impending events accurately. GrandMasters Raymond Lo and Tan Khoon Yong fixed on August 7th 2008 for financial meltdown, for instance way ahead of the event. I haven’t done too bad myself but you’d have to look at my archives to confirm that and native Chinese Masters are of course, unlike me, born with this in their blood. Anyway the fact is that we’re all working from the same raw information and each drawing our own conclusions.

Joey Yap 2012

One such Master is the boy wonder Joey Yap who this year for the third time, comes to London to offer his own hostage to fortune. He is offering his prognosis for 2012 to the public on Saturday October 15th and I can’t recommend him enough. He will amuse and educate you as well as offering an edge for 2012. As well as this, he’s also teaching feng shui and ba zi over the two days following this. I don’t think anyone else apart from me (see below) is offering freestanding authentic ba zi instruction in the UK and our teachings though different, are complimentary.
All his material is worth a look. To book, download this registration form or follow the link on my website.
Stop Press: City safe
A note of reassurance: the City of London unlike Wall Street, runs North-South and so is not dark 20 hours out of 24. It is built on the Roman grid between London Wall and the Thames, both of which are East-West. The disasters that threaten in accordance with the principles of feng shui, are therefore different. Only those buildings that are North of the new skyscrapers are affected by serious  light loss. On the other hand it is clear that banking has become a shadowy business and each new one makes for just a little more shadow.
I will be at Joey Yap’s Predictions on the 15th. Hope to see you there.


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“Why do some people make good decisions and some not?”

I think of the ba zi or Four Pillars of Destiny as a map of our most likely mistakes. Since the Elements run in eternal recurring cycles, the moment of birth can be run backwards or forwards to reveal a person’s choices, potentials, opportunities and as far as such things are possible, their mistakes. Through the prism of the Tao, all of  these things are decisions and if a decision can be made it can be unmade


Richard Ashworth.

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