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Sunday Republican

Feng Shui: Asian Philosophy Blends Harmony into Office, Home
by Brenda Marks
Sunday Republican, July 9, 2000

Susan Pildis and Amy Mims want to have a heart-to-heart talk with your inner child. Rounding out a few sharp corners in your life, clearing clutter, encouraging energy flow-that's all part of the package, too.

If talk like that sounds mystical, even spiritual, well, it is. It's the Feng Shui way.

Pronounced fung schway, it's a 5,000-year-old Asian philosophy and art that aims to blend harmony with balance. It incorporates placement of furniture, windows and doors, colors, and removing disorder, to achieve a more successful life, advocates say.

Pildis, a Cheshire resident, is a certified Feng Shui teacher. So is Mims who lives in Monroe. They are also co-founders of The New England School of Feng Shui, a new school that will offer its first class this fall, some at the Sheraton Waterbury, others on the Teikyo Post University campus.

From the boardroom to the bedroom, Feng Shui is becoming a presence in the office and the home. It's also a growing business from the West Coast to the East. Call up the Internet and a myriad of Web pages spring up with people heralding Feng Shui services. The Fortune 500's speaker catalog, "Speakers for a New Corporate Vision," even lists Feng Shui corporate consultants.

Literally, Feng Shui means "wind and water," which the Chinese consider vital elements to enhancing physical and mental energy. They believe that when practiced correctly, it can lead to peace of mind, success, better relationships and even fame and fortune.

If it all sounds a little far out, consider this: In Japan and China, corporations consult with a Feng Shui practitioner long before the first shovel-full of dirt is turned on new office buildings. And the practice has become so popular in areas with large Asian populations, particularly Southern California, that the Los Angeles Times runs a weekly column on the topic in its real estate section.

If you're skeptical, you're not alone.

Lydia Straus-Edwards, owner of Straus-Edwards Associates, an architectural firm based in Woodbury, said she has never designed a building with it in mind.

"Some of Feng Shui sounds mythology, some of it cultural, some just good sense," she said. "There are people who take it seriously; especially in places like Singapore even large businesses trust this thing. It begins to look like astrology, the same kind of feeling. I'm not totally negative to it but I certainly wouldn't live by it."

Straus-Edward, who also owns Design-In-Tandem, a package service for home owners offering design for existing homes, said architects try to design buildings that accommodate people by making them comfortable and, as a result are more productive.

Straus-Edwards said fees for Feng Shui consultations, which can run $150 an hour and up, are a "peculiar kind of thing." Enrollment for monthly, weekend sessions at The New England School of Feng Shui ranges from $150 for a daylong seminar to $350 for a weekend.

"If someone feels they get a value out of that, more power to them," she said.

Why delve into the Asian artistic philosophy?

"Your environment affects your life on a subconscious level," Pildis said. "So you can make a conscious effort to have it enhance your life."

As she strode across her house she pointed out that her own home, a place she's live for 17 years, not everything is perfectly Feng Shui. The doors, for example, are lined up wrong. They allow energy to leave too quickly, she said.

But Feng Shui can compensate for existing disharmony. Furniture can be placed in a room to account for an architectural design in a home. Sharp corners can be stenciled and painted with scrolling vines to round them out.

Pildis says she's a newcomer to Feng Shui. She first got a master's degree in language arts, but it bored her. She turned to yoga for a while, even living in a yoga institute in New York City 19 years ago. It was after she read a book by author and Litchfield resident William Spear, who wrote "Feng Shui Made Easy," that she became obsessed, she said.

She is so excited about how it has transformed her life that talk of Feng Shui bubbles out of her.

"I never wanted to do anything more. It was a perfect fit," Pildis said. So she became a Feng Shui teacher.

Pildis and Mims met several years ago while studying Feng Shui at The Metropolitan Institute of Interior Design. During that time Pildis battled breast cancer and beat it.

Now she and her partner are bringing Feng Shui to the land of steady habits. Like other Feng Shui consultants, they're earning a living doing something they emphatically believe in.

They decided to create the school last fall and have since hired several other teachers to round out the curriculum. Classes at The New England School of Feng Shui will cover Feng Shui in the garden, at work and in many aspects of everyday life.

Pildis' Cheshire home is a window into the practice of Feng Shi. Even with two dogs and four teenagers, her home is void of clutter. The desk in her home office is impeccably neat, and smiling family pictures sit on the shelves in her living room.

Still, she admits it's tough for anyone to be faultlessly Feng Shui. On a recent day, for instance, her garbage cans were left at the end of the driveway like every other home on the block.

Pildis and Mims' enthusiasm is catching. Already they have people signed up to explore Feng Shui more deeply through the new school.

Bekurije "Bea" Krivca, a Waterbury resident signed up for the entire course offered by The New England School of Feng Shui. More than a year ago she started incorporating the philosophy into her home. Now she wants to be a consultant.

"It's something that works," she said with the conviction of a faithful believer. "It brings prosperity and harmony into a house. I put it to the test."

Since Krivca, a manager in Filene's fine jewelry department started using Feng Shui she says her income has increased and her children are more motivated to go to college.

Jane Hines of Essex, who has enrolled in the entire Feng Shui course starting this fall in Waterbury, learned about Feng Shui three years ago. The idea of energy flow appealed to her, she said.

"If you tap into the energy it can improve your life so it flows more smoothly," Hines said. "You can block energy in. You want it to flow."

She credits Feng Shui with her husband's success at his job, with being able to find money when they needed it, and having a happy family life.

"It seems like when things get bad you just have to take a look and declutter, get rid of junk, turn bad energy into good," Hines said.

At the American Feng Shui Institute in Monterey Park, Calif., Briana Cowan said class enrollment has skyrocketed in recent years. That school was founded in 1991. An estimated 1,000 people have been educated there, she said.

But here, the practice is new enough that no one has yet tacked the numbers of practitioners or the dollars raised by the burgeoning industry. She pointed out customers need to be cautious when hiring a Feng Shui consultant and check credentials.

"Interest in Feng Shui is climbing," Cowan said. "There are Feng Shui real estate agents, interior designers, architects. I've even heard of some people saying they can advise Feng Shui for the car. But that's not tradition based."

How To

Tips for putting the ancient Asian philosophy Feng Shui into practice into your office or home:

  • Simplify. Get rid of clutter such as those towering stacks of mail.
  • Display happy family pictures in the home.
  • On shelves, display objects such as a vase, that have special meaning for you.
  • In your office, place your desk so you can see the door, but so it isn't in line with the door. It encourages power.
  • In the garden, have a water element. Water should run towards the home.

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