Publication=Prince_William_Journal; Date=03.08.2000; Section=LEISURE; Page=; Book=E;
Experts in Feng Shui Stress the Movement of Chi to Create Harmony
To Annie Pane, the energy in the McCoart Building would be naturally inclined to pulse toward the high ceilings if it weren't for the tall plants in terracotta pots lining the lobby dragging it down to earth. If the shrubbery wasn't there, according to Pane, an expert in feng shui, people would feel intimidated in the government building and not know why. She gestured at the metal railing circling the second floor, using her hands to pull at the invisible energy she sensed.
The line between heaven and earth might sound like the length of the average wait at the DMV, but it's an important element in feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of that mixes interior design and landscaping within a spiritual context.
Instead of simply arranging objects according to an individual's aesthetics, feng shui introduces a spiritual aspect to create a harmonious environment. Considerations such as the direction and age of a structure and the five elements become as important as having the furniture complement the curtains.
Feng shui translates as "wind and water," a reference to the delicate balance that is its ideal. That balance is achieved by arranging each room so that it is an extension of a person's goals and dreams, serving as a proper channel for the home's "chi," or energy.
There are several schools of feng shui, including the Black Hat Sect and 9 Star Ki or classical and essential feng shui. The schools differ in the instruments and calculations used to analyze a home or business; classical feng shui relies on Western and Chinese compasses while essential feng shui employs the bagua, an octagonal map. But all achieve the same end.
"It's using an external catalyst to cause internal change," said Pane, a Woodbridge resident who owns East Coast Feng Shui and practices essential feng shui.
A former client wanted to marry and have children, she said. The woman's bedroom had a broken rocking chair with a baby doll on it. To Pane, that represented very bad feng shui.
"In feng shui, everything is very literal," Pane said.
The woman removed the chair and doll, and within six months she was engaged. It's not magic, Pane said, but the removal of items that may unconsciously reinforce a negative mindset is an important part of feng shui.
"By getting rid of them she created the space that would lead to marriage and children," she said. "It changed the energy which in turn changes how others react."
Other forms of feng shui use more complex calculations to improve an environment. Sara Schroerlucke, a Manassas resident and practitioner of classical feng shui, uses a luopan compass to determine a home or office's energy characteristics. Based on that reading and the age of the building, she analyzes the energy's potential effects on its occupants. Small changes like furniture placement, placing a mirror opposite a bathroom door or shifting the direction in which a person sleeps can offset negative energy or channel a home's good chi.
"You can determine what are the best sections for making money or for sleeping," said Schroerlucke, who owns Wind8Water, a feng shui consulting business.
Whether it's a growing acceptance of non-Western beliefs, the common-sense principles of feng shui have filtered into America's cubicles and back yards. More than 270 books about feng shui are available at Amazon.com and at Potomac Hospital, a birthing suite is being planned that incorporates the practice.
Michelle Musella, director of women's and children's services for the hospital, said the room will have a red door, which attracts good luck.
"That's a good chi," she said of the red door. "And we're looking at where to place furniture to maximize the energy. The room will most likely include water, massage, music and aroma therapies."
Combined, Musella said they should improve the experience for expectant mothers and anxious fathers to be.
"I've always wanted to do something like this," Musella said. "I think it will enhance the birth for the family."
Trying to enhance one's own life through feng shui is simple, Shroerlucke recommended, in-depth reading, however, before trying it at home. Customers are sometimes surprised to learn that familiar touches they have in their homes are unsound feng shui, she said. A mirror in the bedroom, for instance, is bad energy.
"Keep the toilet seat down and the bathroom door closed - it can drain a lot of energy," she said. "I don't recommend dead flowers, it's dead chi."
According to area experts, almost anything can be "feng shuied," from bathrooms to government buildings.
Surveying the exterior of the McCoart Building, off Prince William Parkway, Pane pronounced its feng shui very good - except for the American flag planted squarely in front of the entrance.
"Everything is filtered right into the doorway. The hedges curve in, everything is flowing right into the building," she said. "[The flag] right in front of the doorway blocks energy."
Patriotism doesn't always make for good feng shui. Ditto the flower beds under the entrance that have withered and died without direct sunlight.
"It might be good architecture, but it's bad feng shui," she said. "This is not in harmony with the environment."
To determine a building's chi, Pane uses a not so common household tool called a bagua. The octagonal map is divided into the eight areas of life with the yin-yang, a powerful symbol of balance, as its core. Each area, such as career, health and family and creativity and children, has a corresponding element, color, emotion and part of the body. At the front of one's house, for instance, which represents career, Pane recommended a small fountain to anyone searching for a new job.
"It starts the energy flow," she said.
When Pane had surgery not long ago, she rid her house of any clutter in the health and family area beforehand. She credits feng shui with her speedy recovery.
"And I was up in two days and doing well," she said. "It's all energy flow."
Also crucial is balance between the five elements. The McCoart Building has excellent balance, Pane said, based on the placement of objects and their symbolic value. The plants and beige furniture represent wood, the tiled floor is water and the metal piping along the ceiling and the off-white walls is metal.The earth is represented by terracotta pots. Fire is the only underrepresented element, Pane said, although people are considered a fire element.
"This is a good example for people to see," she said. "When you're sitting here you don't feel bombarded by stuff sitting on top of you."
The McCoart Building may exhibit good energy flow but Pane has helped rearrange the chi of other Prince William businesses. When she tackled Community Woodbridge Centers, a Woodbridge mortgage company, Pane rearranged the entire office, starting with the picture hanging by the front door.
"Before it showed a doorway with flowers. It was very attractive but empty of people," she said. "That's what you don't want in a business. ... You should use a picture to emphasize things that you want to have happen."
She arranged the desk of general manager Stanley Golob so that he could see every person in the office.
"To put the desk here would give him the power position," she said. "It gives you the ability to see everything."
Golob said he decided to try feng shui after he noticed business had slowed to an uncomfortable level.
"Something was amiss," he said. "We were having trouble getting loans approved ... deals started falling apart. ... [After the feng shui] Things started improving dramatically."
Much of what Pane recommended was common sense, Golob said.
"Personal mementos, put them in public places. People relate to it more," he said. "A lot of common sense stuff we don't always do during the course of running a business. ... It kind of brought me back to focus on the customer, which I think was the goal."
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