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Feng Shui
Decorating for a Better Life

by Pamela Williams

Feng Shui is a word and concept that may seem quite foreign to many. In reality the term represents a 3,000-year-old idea.

While meditating on the markings of a turtle, Fu Hsi, Emperor of China, discovered a pattern that would serve as somewhat of a Rosetta stone for civilization. Combining solid and broken lines along with the elements, wind, water, fire, and earth, he created a series of 64 combinations, later named trigrams.

The broken lines of the trigrams represented Yin energy and the unbroken, Yang. From this concept, a nine-square energy map, the Bagua, was created to be used as an overlay upon a studied site. The overlay was originally used to provide ancient Taoist monks auspicious burial spots. As the concept became more understood and translated into day-to-day Chinese lineage, it became quite common for households to practice the art of placement inside and outside their homes.

Today, in America, the word Feng Shui is often associated with a faddish style of interior decorating that helps enhance prosperity and relationships. For traditionalists, Feng Shui is taken quite seriously as a principle based upon an ancient understanding that all life is made up of energy, is connected, alive and changing. This is true for Sedona consultant Valmai Howe-Elkins.

Howe-Elkins, author of Adventures of a Feng Shui Detective: How outer clues reveal your inner life, has been a consultant for more than seven years. She feels that the way we arrange our home is a physical manifestation of our current energy patterns. Her job is to spot these patterns and then use them as a tool to help clients make the requested changes they so desire.

"If everything is in relationship, then the houses we choose, the way we design our living spaces and furniture, and the objects we place in our dwellings, affect us," she said. "My particular discovery in this area, is that not only do these relationships affect us, but they also reflect us, which is what I show people, and which also is the theme of my book."

Howe-Elkins said that intuitively we organize things in a manner that ‘feels’ good to us. In the same manner, poor patterns in our lives that block us from achieving successful relationships, careers and lives can also manifest themselves.

"With proper use of Feng Shui techniques, harmony and flow will come into your life," Howe-Elkins said. "With an outside perspective from someone who clearly understands the Feng Shui principles and human conditions, changing these blocks can help release this flow, making one feel more energized, which results in better use of potential and success."

Such is the case with Janet and Ron Chase. Except the Chases went the whole way, by having Howe-Elkins help design their home from the bottom up.

"After we purchased our property, we had Valmai come out and look at it. She walked the property and told us where we should place the house. We gave her the dimensions and she told us where to place it and with what orientation. She gave us a couple of options. We went with the one where we didn’t have to cut down too many trees."

Janet said after two years of living in their home they definitely have noticed a difference. "The thing I can say for sure about this is that our spiritual life has deepened, and that has been our focus throughout our marriage, which is going on 23 years now. Our marriage is the most connected to God than it has ever been and I do believe that having the home built according to Feng Shui principles has provided that for us."

Feng Shui is not limited to private homes. Nor does one have to have their home built according to Feng Shui principles to achieve positive results. For business owner Leslee of Native Spirit Herbals in Sedona, she had moved into a building with its own energy pattern that she wanted to change.

"I didn’t have experience with Feng Shui before I met Valmai," Leslee said. "She came into the store one day and asked if I had heard of Feng Shui and then asked how business was doing. She was seeing some things that could be changed and I was captivated by what she said. She was right. She has been so helpful we have her back every year."

Howe-Elkins took the existing building and suggested changes such as cleaning up the clutter from the prosperity corner and turning it into a consultation office, adding a fountain near the cash-register and turning a Buddha statue also toward the cash register. Leslee said just these few things in and of themselves helped their business. "Feng Shui works with what is and improves on what is," Howe-Elkins said. "It is very rare that a building can’t be enhanced and modified some way. The most important thing is to balance energy to achieve potential. I look at balance and harmony."

But not all Feng Shui advice is helpful, Howe-Elkins warns. There is, what she calls, Party Feng-Shui, the quick-read of a book and the placement of a few crystals around the house.

"Changing furniture or placing crystals in the relationship corners will bring on changes . . . but they may not be changes that will stick," she said. "In order for us to change old patterns, we must take a look at the bigger picture of the whole house and the energy patterns in it. I call this a holistic reading. Secondly, if you hire a consultant, you need somebody who knows what they are doing and guarantees your shifts. Bringing aspects of a foreign culture into your home without proper understanding is a double-edged sword. Lastly, I tell people to be careful of any Feng Shui practitioner who has something to sell you beyond their advice. Afterall, Taoist monks didn’t pedal mirrors."

In Howe-Elkins’ book, you won’t find quick cures or mirrors for sale here. The book mostly demonstrates 36 of her most outstanding cases and their success. What is unique about it though is the way she goes about discovering how to solve her clients’ problems. With an extraordinary sixth sense, Howe-Elkins can walk into a client’s home with little to no knowledge of their lives and within one hour can give a complete assessment of the occupants’ life patterns, blocks, and even what age they were when the patterns began to take effect.

Her ‘creep and snoop’ process of uncovering these details that reveal such secrets have a 100% guarantee or she said she leaves the premises with no charge to the client as well as leaves the business of consultation.

"I have made a pact with the universe in that if I am not 100% correct on my assessments as a Feng Shui consultant, I will quit and go back to writing," she said. "So far I have been in the business seven years and have been right on."

Is Howe-Elkins’ Feng Shui advice just about rearranging furniture and carefully placing fountains? Hardly. Her "recipes" for clients are very detailed and inscrutable. She says each person’s patterns are very individual and read like a fingerprint, therefore their advice is very individual. Based upon goals and budgets of the client, she said she works with their desires and does not change that which does not need to be fixed nor that which the client isn’t ready for.

The steps she gives are also staggered throughout a period of time so that the changes are not done too quickly. She says quick changes will be overwhelming for the clients’ health and may not really root out old habits as they should. After the changes are made, clients are asked to mail back a response in a self-addressed envelope so that she may track her results. So far she has had many happy home owners who have made large improvements in their finances, relationships and work.

So is Feng Shui nothing more than mere superstition that plays itself out through self-fulfilling prophecy? Who knows? However it works. It works and has worked for thousands of years.

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