Yanging My Chain

"For those of you who think feng shui's easy, it's not," said Jami Lin to a crowd of 40 or so professionally attired adults in Miami's Design District last month. Lin, an interior designer, author, and feng shui consultant who has studied with masters Yap Cheng Hai and Lin Yun, recently formed the Feng Shui South Florida Professionals group, with peer Kelly Jones, to help others understand this life and career path. Wonder what feng shui is? Based on a belief in patterns of yin and yang found in Chinese dualistic philosophy, it's the 4000-year-old practice of specifically positioning objects -- graves, buildings, furniture -- to positively affect the life flow of energy (chi or qi) in one's surroundings, thereby promoting health, wealth, and happiness.

Still not enlightened? The ever-growing industry of books, videos, courses, lectures, Websites, and, of course, products that the ancient Eastern system has spawned here in the West may or may not help. The seeming cynicism is not uncommon. California feng shui practitioner Cate Bramble's Feng Shui Ultimate Resource Website (www.qi-whiz.com) states: "Dedicated since 1995 to helping feng shui shed its snake-oil-and-incense image." Accordingly she decries what she calls the McFengshui approach (as in "Would you like fries with your chi-burger?") promoted by current texts like Feng Shui for Dummies and Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life. Her Books to Avoid list even includes Lin's Contemporary Earth Design, but among Bramble's recommended tomes is Suburban Nation, a cautionary tale about sprawl by local architects Andres Duany, Jeff Speck, and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. And author Eric Liu's 1997 article "American Feng Shui" on www.slate.msn.com opined: "The point isn't that feng shui is a sham, though it is more superstition than science. The point is that feng shui sells in America because it is more superstition than science. That is the essence of its “Asianness' and the seat of its authenticity."

Originally feng shui (Chinese for wind and water) was exclusively for emperors, who believed, among other things, that "as soon as the feng shui of the grave fell, the dynasty fell," explains Jones, a traditional feng shui and destiny consultant and student of Hong Kong master Raymond Lo. All feng shui devotees -- from traditional programs like the American Feng Shui Institute (www.amfengshui.com), to those, like Black Hat sect, that have added a spiritual element to the mix, to new-age meltdown incarnations -- can agree that "chi happens." But there seems to be a metaphysical energy crisis over methodology, essentially bitter turf wars over how to create harmonious homes.

Perhaps together Lin and Jones, who both maintain private practices as well as Websites (www.jamilin.com and www.heartofharmony.com, respectively), can restore some balance. Their group, which has met twice so far on the first Tuesday of the month, presents a guest speaker and a question-and-answer period. This month Jones addresses the concept of fact and fiction, hoping, she says, to "shed light on traditional feng shui, so the public's not so confused and unaware."