Sacred Lives, Sacred Places

This is not about what we usually think of as sacred sites or power places, those singular spots on the planet where pyramids, You-Are-here-300x199pilgrimage routes and healing waters are found. This is an invitation to look at “sacred” from a very different angle of vision: the sacred life of every person, every day and in every place, thru the reflective lens of feng shui.

For many years now the places I have lived in have seemed like stage settings – as in a stage in a theater – for the different chapters of my life.  Every place has been perfect for what I’ve been doing and how I’ve developed internally in every phase.

Every place I’ve lived in (25 for nine months or more plus a handful of 1-3 month sojourns) has been purposeful in ways I could only see in retrospect after a particular chapter or act in the play was through.

Into the Mystery

I arrived at this viewpoint almost 20 years ago as I was beginning the study of feng shui.  It came from the experience of a house I lived in starting in early 1998 for just a year, beginning approximately a year after I first trained in Compass School Feng Shui.

I moved into this house, after a long and tedious process of searching amongst different rentals for some place that would feel like a balanced home.  This is an unpredictable thing to try to do whether one is renting or buying, because only certain properties are available at any point in time and there’s no control over what the selection is.  Finally, a beautiful home became available with a large yard, filled with delightful landscaping.  All seemed well.  Of course I viewed this home and every home I looked at through the analysis of a Compass School assessment to make sure that the place was advantageous and this one looked quite good on paper as well as to the eye.
That year was not an ordinary nor an easy year in my life.  I had just changed much of my work life, moved from So. California to No. California, finished a five-year relationship and began another two months later, and experienced significant changes in my family life – and those are just some of the outer changes.  Inwardly, I felt like I was experiencing a sea change in the sense of who I was as a being.  Changes were broad, uprooting, deep and constant.  If you’re a Calvin & Hobbes fan, I felt like I’d been thrown into a transmogrifier and couldn’t sort out how to get out again or what I would be exactly when I did.
In the summer of that year, my beloved grandmother whose house was a couple of miles away, finally exited the stage of life at the grand old age of 93.  Though I had seen it coming, and had been steeling myself for a life without her for almost 20 years, I couldn’t find a way to feel normal for a very long time after she left.  She had been my rock, the safe haven with the welcoming open door and full refrigerator, the non-judging friend I could always count on.  There’s nothing tragic about a life well-lived coming to an end and I was happy for her, but deeply disoriented in my own world.  
That was in July.  Somewhere in August I had a startling dream about my house, a house that looked so nice and felt so tranquil, but had been very challenging to live in for the first half year.  I dreamed that I had done the assessment incorrectly, and that there was a fundamental energy in the house that I had missed when I had done the original overview before moving in.  At first when I tried to extract a meaning from the dream, I thought it was metaphorical, or, only metaphorical and not literal in any way.  But then I began to wonder if it might be literally true as well.  I reviewed what I had done based on the information I had but it seemed correct.  I was in the middle of a mystery.

Compass School considers time, the year a building is built, to be one of the factors governing the energies that are anchored into a house.  Every 20 year period changes the arrangement of the energies.  Two phenomena can “redate” a house: putting on a whole new roof where the house interior is exposed to the sun after the old roof is removed, or picking the building up and relocating it.  A few weeks before the dream I had been in a nearby park and chanced to meet a neighbor who, it turned out, had been part of remodeling the house a few years before I had moved in.  A day or so after I had this dream, I was sitting on the front steps pondering what it was all about, and lo and behold, I see this same neighbor walking by (and these are the only two times I ever encountered him)!  I stopped him and asked him if during the house remodel the roof had been removed.  He said it had.  This meant that the house should have been considered as being built in the 1990’s rather than the late 1940’s which is what I had been told before moving in.  I felt as though I were living in the dream at this point.  I took this new information and refigured the assessment, and when I was done, what I saw before me exactly matched what I had seen in the dream.  Exactly.  The perfection of the late appearance of this new information was that, had I seen this in the first place I would never have moved into the house – which doesn’t sound like perfection, right – but the experiences I had were essential to the whole transformation occurring at that time in my life.

There are certain energetics that Compass School Feng Shui considers to be the most serious, and certainly not what one wants at the center of a home, which is where they were in this house.  They can portend serious illness, accidents or even death.  Sorry to sound dark because this is not a dark story; it’s more a story about being dislodged from the familiar in such a deep way that deeper transformation can occur.  It seemed dark at the time because I was so disoriented and challenged in a core way, but that wasn’t the nature of it.  For the caterpillar who is at the neither-worm-nor-butterfly stage of its transformation, the view from inside the chrysalis would be a dark one.
I was experiencing the ending or the death of a lot of my old identities, expectations and associations I’d been living with for a very long time – who I thought I was.  If I’d lived in an easier place, a place revolving energetically around a different theme, it’s possible I wouldn’t have been so thoroughly dislodged from these old views of myself, and the greater view wouldn’t have been available.  The poor health, or other possible physical manifestations did not come to pass; it was really all about an internal shift in the center of my being.  It’s important to say that this house did not “cause” this experience, rather it was resonant with it.  This resonance helped to bring to the forefront what was already going on in me.
As you can imagine, I reflected on this remarkable experience for a long time.  It certainly gave me a deep appreciation for some of the uncanny accuracy of feng shui.  What it mainly accomplished, and this is the real point of my writing this piece, is that it gave me a very different perspective on how to regard feng shui and to apply it.
Everyday Sacred
Every life is sacred.  Everything about it is sacred, no matter how mundane or chaotic it may seem at times.  The places we inhabit support these sacred lives we are given, and support them in ways one would never guess as it is so far beyond the usual context of our daily life and how we attribute meaning to things.  They form the stage for our particular play of expanding consciousness.  We’re drawn to different specific locations when they support what is unfolding within us at that time, whether we know that’s what we’re doing or not.  This is true whether one rents, owns, or camps in a teepee; whether you’re a student, new parent, business tycoon, or traveling on through with only a backpack.
Feng Shui is usually applied outwardly.  By that I mean that it is primarily used to help secure and hold onto the “big three” of feng shui: wealth, health, and to have and maintain happy relationships.  It helps work to be more focused and productive, study to be more successful, neighborhoods to be more harmonious, conflicts to ease, sleep to be more restoring, and more.  Balancing the outer life is of great importance and feng shui is a profound tool for every aspect of outer life.
Moving inwardly, those with spiritual practices balance their environments to help to provide the background peace and tranquility to facilitate a deeper inner connection.  If outer sensory stimulation is reduced and one feels more peace in the resonance of the outer environment, then it is much easier to let go of outer concerns and then to focus on the inner centering and life of spirit.  Again, applying feng shui principles with the understanding of what creates balanced harmony is an asset.

There is another aspect of “inward” or “inner life” that is seldom focused on in feng shui, and that is our subconscious life.  Conversely, therapeutic disciplines rarely consider working with environment physically as well as symbolically as a means to support creating healing, balance, or increased awareness for people regarding this subconscious life and their individual psychology or even for physical conditions with a psychological or emotional component.  

The subconscious holds aspects of our past and various other dynamics that can govern our beliefs and actions, and yet we have little access to this reservoir of associations and tendencies most of the time. If you think of it, every life experience occurs somewhere and this means that all the detailed features of all those places have associations that are both conscious and subconscious.
As an example, I recently decided to put a painting of a mountainous desert scene near the middle of my home, where I will see it often.  I love the painting itself, the colors, and the composition are both inspiring and soothing to me.  I seem to never tire of gazing at the brush strokes that depict desert plants and a single curving road disappearing into the foothills of lofty mountains.  This painting travels far back into my childhood memory.  I remember looking at it on the wall of my grandparents’ home when I was six years old, where it overlooked a piano and a Persian rug with the same color tones.  I can’t look at this painting without remembering that it was painted by one of my grandmother’s friends (yes, the same grandmother), or how much my quiet, unassuming grandfather loved to play the piano, or the towering Christmas tree that presided over the room every December.  The house had been built by a lumberman for his new bride, and it had beautifully crafted inlaid wood designs in the floor, and ample bookcases filled with some of the first story books I ever read.  This room, with its glistening chandelier, and sunlight filtered through an immense oak tree outside the side window, peopled by family I loved and admired, is all in this painting which reminds me of a good and loving life.  The scene in the painting reminds me also of the desert in Joshua Tree, CA, which was a very healing place for me years ago when I lived not too far from there.  I moved the painting to this spot on my wall out of storage, to replace something else that I no longer felt was quite right there.  There wasn’t a lot of analytical thought behind any significance of the switch, mostly a remembering that I liked the painting and hadn’t seen it in a while; yet, since I have been looking at this painting once again, I notice I’m reclaiming a sense of myself that I didn’t realize I had also packed away into storage, much like this painting had been.  
My choice to once again view this painting was certainly a conscious one, but the longer I live with it as company to my every day, the more I see that more was involved in the change, sourcing from a whole set of unconscious associations.  In addition to the inspiring and comforting associations from the past, the painting also reminds me of ways in which my heavily academic and intellect-oriented family valued scholarly professional attainment more than any other type of life goal, and also valued the achievements of men more than those of women.  I watch myself renegotiating the “gods” of my family of origin to see what is really true for me right now as these unconscious values become more visible in the foreground of my awareness.  The effect is healing and unifying in ways I could not have deliberately anticipated, letting go of values that no longer serve, and weaving in beneficial qualities I first experienced long ago, into the needs of the present time.
It would be tempting to think that our story is already written, so what difference would it make to take such care with all these details of where we live.  And yet, it seems each moment is some kind of doorway into higher recognitions, full of alchemical possibilities.  There is something about getting physically involved, with awareness, that causes an internal shift in our inner structure of reality and how it is held in our bodies, via all the assumptions about who we are and what life is all about based on all of our past that are stored in our brains and all the rest of our physiology.  There is something about putting our hands on the context of our lives – the furniture, art, organization, etc., – that allows this inner shift to take place in a way that doesn’t happen if we merely think about these things.
The design of a building’s architecture, the furniture and everything else that makes a place uniquely one’s own, can’t be separated from our inner lives, the themes and chapters.  Every time we move a desk or paint a new color, we’re placing our hands on something inside of us as well as something on the outside.  I’ve watched in fascination at the uncanny relationship between clients’ choices in their homes and workplaces and what is transpiring in all the dimensions of their lives as human beings growing in experience and awareness.  While it is true that I am not my home and not my possessions as I am ultimately not my physical body, meaning flows through where I live and what I own, and each facet of environment mirrors something to me about the dimensions of my being and who I am conceiving myself to be right now.

Whether one uses the formal practices of feng shui or redecorates or reorganizes in a more conventional way, the effect spans across many aspects of ourselves.  

It isn’t necessary, or even always wise, to go looking for the exact subconscious associations behind a change, but we can know that they are there, and that new choices or actions concerning our living environments if  accompanied with kindness and care are a gift to our inner being.  If we knew what some of our choices were all about entirely in advance we would miss the immediacy of the living experience, kind of like skipping to the end of a book or the end of the play to find out how it all turns out, and we need to be present on every page one at a time to receive the gifts of the story.  A change to one’s environment can be purely practical as well, but attention with awareness to the setting for our lives can also reach back through time to bring healing and growth to deep parts of ourselves, and set a stage for a whole new experience of who we are and what we are doing here.
“This place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you.
Wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
Against the earth and sky,
The beloved has bowed there  –
Our beloved has bowed there knowing
You were coming.”
~ Hafiz