The Year of Realization
As you are reading this, we have already entered the Year of the Dog. There are many kinds of dogs – watch dogs, fighting dogs, barking dogs, running dogs, and so on. Dogs are one of the best friends of human beings, and also tend to share in, and reflect, many of the human energies around them. Last year, we described as a Year of Awakening – and indeed, many events, from natural disasters to intensified human conflicts, have made us sit up and take notice. But have we really awakened?
In the coming year, for everyone who has not fully awakened, the stream of revelations will continue – and lead to realizations. In the United States, there are many pressing issues in addition to war and terrorism: health care, education, and civil liberties. But how these issues manifest and develop hinges on the conduct of our leaders, and one of the characteristic traits of our leaders at the moment is a kind of weakness that expresses itself in their decisions and policies. This weakness involves a very specific cluster of traits: a feeling of vulnerability that leads to isolation, and listening only to those who agree; a tendency toward rigidity; a harshness of expression, and a lack of courage to admit when a mistake has been made.
Although it can be tempting simply to criticize policies and attitudes with which we don’t agree, it is important to remember that, for those of us who live in the United States, these are our leaders. They are manifestations of our energy, of the energies in which we all participate because we live in the same region of the planet. The more we adopt an attitude of mere criticism and hostility, the more we participate in the same energy pattern, and the more we reinforce it. While this may give us some immediate satisfaction, it does not resolve the situation. In fact, it helps perpetuate it.
Instead of participating in the pattern of weakness, it is more productive to try to replace it with a pattern of strength, because from a position of strength many things – flexibility, creativity, gentleness, and moderation – are possible that are much less likely from a position of weakness. But how is it possible to replace weakness with strength? By providing support, rather than by engaging in attempts to undermine. This does not mean that we have to agree with policies, or with the way those policies are carried out. It does, however, mean that we should try to act from the point of view of supportive concern that encourages people to do better, rather than taking an approach that encourages them to be defensive and suspicious. The way to make this change is not on the external level, but on the level of information and energy. Once the energetic and information pattern changes, it becomes easier for the outward manifestations to change. In our hearts, we should wish them well. We should realize that within them, no matter how deeply it may seem to be buried, there is a seed of divine energy, and we should seek to nourish it so that it will grow into manifestation. As we do this, we are also nourishing within ourselves the seed that will grow to produce clarity, strength, and higher wisdom.
We are happy to report that we have produced a CD of Blue Mountain meditation music. Also, at the request of many of our graduates, we have introduced a new course, Signs and Symbols, that addresses the way in which signs and symbols reflect the energies of larger manifestations. The course studies the way in which, for example, corporate logos reflect the energies of the corporation, and how changes in logos can promote changes in the organization.
We would also like to report on the pending publication of Medicine Box: A Journey into Ancient Chinese Wisdom, a novel by Dr. Shan-Tung Hsu. We are expecting that it will be available in April – so keep your fingers crossed.
We are planning a feng-shui gathering (with book signing) in July. In addition, we are exploring the possibility of another feng-shui tour of China in September of 2006. Anyone interested in the tour, please contact Shan-Tung Hsu for more details. There will be an early cut-off date, so, if you are interested, get in touch as soon as you can.
Talent and Heart
Feng Shui is a form of ancient wisdom that provides guidance for all aspects of human activity. Its modern version, though, has been scaled down to a much narrower scope; as a guide to understanding and organizing the environment in which we live. Although this is a fairly broad field, in for the most part people tend to think of Feng Shui in terms of the houses or buildings in which we live and work.
For most of human history, if people didn’t make their own dwellings, they had them made by skilled local craftsmen. This meant that houses were built by people who had a more intimate sense of the feel and energy of the land where the house was to sit. This, in turn, established a more harmonious relationship between the house and its natural environment. In addition, the internal spaces were arranged in accord with common sense – a shared understanding about what the spaces were for, and how people would live in them.
In modern time, land has become more and more scarce and expensive. The desire to maximize profit leads builders and developers to squeeze as many unit as possible onto a given piece of land. Designs tend to be replicated mechanically, without much regard to the difference between one setting and another, with little sense of what whether a specific design is in harmony with that particular environment.
There has also been a loss of contact with common sense. A wide-spread example is the “island kitchen”, in which the stovetop is on an island in the middle of the kitchen space. This classic example of bad design was introduced in the United States about half a century ago, and has haunted home design ever since. This design, in which the stove is unsupported and is in an unavoidable confrontation with the water, correlates with a loss of control of the household budget, and a more challenged relationship between husband and wife. Although this design flaw can not be blamed on architects – most houses in the United States are not designed by architects, who work only for corporations and more affluent individuals. Even so, there is a similarity with some characteristic features of modern architecture.
Modern architects often seem to act more as tools reflecting the energies around them, rather than playing the role of making a connection with more transcendent forces. Many designs by well-known architects are certainly eye-catching, but merely reflect the fast pace, emotionally charged, and unthinking reactivity of modern life.
What is the source of success or failure in an architectural design? Is it the architect? Or the owner? Actually, it is both. Talented architects have the ability to channel and manifest the energy and information (heart, mind, and spirit) of what intends to be manifest. Thus, any particular design develops from the way the architect is able to bring to manifestation the particular energy form manifested by and through the owner (either as an individual or as a group of people).
Seattle, for example, is blessed by the presence of the beautiful and powerful Mt Rainier, and by beautiful and abundant bodies of water, in addition to its rather mild climate. Yet, in the city, there are few buildings to be proud of – and almost none of them were built after the 1960s. The ruinous Rainier Tower, the dark menace of the Columbia tower, and the warty growth of the Experience Music Project, and finally the leaning, bullying presence of the office building on fourth avenue, at the edge of the International District, unavoidably assault our gaze. The latest Seattle landmark, the new downtown library, which was hailed with enthusiasm last year, has the general presence of a looming robot head. Naturally we are delighted about the improved library. However, the architecture has no coherence with the buildings around it – which may have been the point: “Look at me! I am great because I am different.” The small. wedge-shaped entrance to its huge mass gives the feeling of being a the secret entrance to a tomb. The “landscaping” on the front corner is just a pile of dirt nd weeds. It adds nothing to the facade. Even a few benches placed near the front would make it feel more welcoming.
The peculiar problems with architectural design in Seattle have a lot to do with the “owners” – the Seattleites. When people ask me about the Feng Shui of Seattle, I say that it’s good – but too good. In Yin-Yang theory, when yang reaches a maximum it begins to turn into yin. In an most ideal living environment, there is little challenge. There are no hurricanes, tornadoes, or other serious problems. There is not enough adversity to forge strong characters. Because they lack a strong character, Seattle people tend of be passive, and indecisive. This is what allows architects from out of town to show up and ruin the beautiful landscape and skyline.
When the Experience Music Project was built, no news media dare to criticize the design. The most critical remark anyone dared to make was that its was “interesting”. For decades, Seattleites have been talking and arguing about mass transit system. And we are still talking, still arguing, still vacillating. The problem is not whether one system is better than another: the problem is whether Seattleites have the guts to make a decision and stick to it.
We have just said that design hinges on the talent of an architect, and that talent is the ability to channel the energy and information (the heart, mind and soul) of both the owner and the architect. However, this means that, while a talented architect could create a master piece – or could equally create a master disaster. (After all, an average talent could only create an average disaster). Everything has three aspects – matter (physical manifestation), energy (chi) and information (heart, mind or soul). Although this is as true of buildings as anything else, architects tend to focus on the physical, because they do not have a theory that would allow them to grasp the energy or information aspects. Even without a theory, however, talented architects connect with the energy and information levels, ands manifest them in their work.
The same architect can turn out work at either end of the scale. Steven Holl did beautiful work with Seattle University’s Chapel of St. lgnatius, but he also designed the chaotic and unworkable building of the Bellevue Modern Art Museum. Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in Northern Spain is a successful piece; people in Seattle hoped his design for a museum in Seattle will draw visitors from around the world. But the EMP is more than a mere disaster: is has gained a reputation as one of the ten ugliest buildings in the world.
What makes the difference, from project to project, is a matter of the balance of the heart. In general, there are not many ugly religious buildings. When architects feel respect for the project, when they feel it is beyond being a merely personal project, ego is more suppressed – one might say that a divine intervention safeguards the design. But when architects become very successful, and perhaps even complacent about their abilities, that arrogance and shifts the balance of the heart, and that imbalance expresses itself in the work.
This is not true just for architects: it is true for all of us. Matter, energy and information are the three aspects of existence, but our focus is largely on the material level, the level visible manifestation. Nevertheless, it is the higher-order aspects of energy and information that ultimately make the difference, and how they manifest depends on the balance of our own hearts.