Feng shui – the Chinese art of placement
An interview with Jan Cisek, London-based expert in feng shui by Susan Norman
When I first met Jan Cisek, feng shui expert, he cast his professional eye around my home and home office and made three recommendations: put a money plant in a particular position in the office for prosperity, put a headboard behind my bed for protection and security, and replace the bathroom mirror tiles (which were breaking up my energy) with a big mirror. He also told me to tidy up when I had time. I did all three major things the next day – and on the day after that was given a business opportunity which brought in £8000 over the next two months. I was impressed!
The tidying is a long-term project, but I have noticed that each time I clear, clean, decorate or reorganise an area of my home, positive changes seem to follow.
I decided it was time to know more, so I asked Jan for an interview.
Question: Feng shui is ‘the Chinese art of placement’. Jan, you’re from Poland, what makes you an expert in feng shui?
Jan Cisek: My clients, I suppose. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to become a world-leading expert – and I’ve done more than my 10,000 – over the last 30 years or so. I’ve had the opportunity to fine-tune the advice I give people and see what gives the most positive results.
Q: And do people all want the same thing?
Jan: In general, they all want reassurance and peace of mind that their environment is working for them – a kind of MOT for homes and workspaces. But specifically people want all sorts of things: a profitable business, good relationships, a baby, happiness, find a partner, financial security, design a logo or website with feng shui, improve health, check for geopathic stress, to buy or sell a house… Having a baby. with feng shui.
Q: And can feng shui deliver all of that?
Jan: Absolutely. From the point of view of becoming an expert, though, the good thing is that clients tend to come in groups – I once had four people in one week who were having fertility problems. One was a famous radio presenter and she was so thrilled when she got pregnant that she recommended me to all her friends. There is a lot of research on how feng shui works, mainly from environmental psychology, priming, ergonomics, etc.
Q: So is it just a case of telling everyone the same thing?
Jan: No. The causes were different so they called for different solutions.
Q: Which were …?
Jan: Well one simply hung a crystal in the fertility corner, but one couple’s problem was that they had an immovable staircase in the fertility corner – so I sent them on holiday, which is where they conceived. With an Indian couple, it seemed that the husband was worried about having children – unconsciously – so we put pictures of happy children playing around the place.
Q: And they all got pregnant immediately?
Jan: Yes. Well, within a month or so. Because they all conceived around the same time, I got a rush of thank you cards all in the same week about nine months later, which all said things like ‘I’d been trying for years to get pregnant, but after one consultation with you, I got pregnant immediately’! I had a bit of explaining to do to my girlfriend!
Q: I bet. You mentioned buying and selling houses. Are some houses intrinsically better than others, or just better for some people?
Jan: Both. In some cases it’s a case of getting a good ‘fit’ between property and owner – feng shui is first and foremost about helping you live the life you want. But there are some properties that it’s very hard to do anything about.
Jan: Sometimes it’s to do with geopathic stress – a kind of fault line in the earth’s magnetic field which carries negative energy. The opposite of that is ley lines which carry positive energy – and you’ll find that all early churches were built on ley lines to harness the energy of the environment.
Q: And can you do anything to help someone whose house has geopathic stress?
Jan: Often you only need to worry about not siting your bed on a fault line, but I might also do ‘space clearing’, and I often install a Helios3 – a small device which plugs into a normal electrical socket and neutralises negative energy of geopathic stress. Ideally, you do a sort of earth acupuncture – sticking needles in the ground around the house, but often (in flats or terraces) that’s not possible. Some houses have so many problems that it’s almost impossible to do anything. Kensington Palace is one.
Q: Kensington Palace? You did a consultation for Princess Diana?
Jan: Yes. Unfortunately, the palace was riddled with geopathic stress. The chair Prince Charles liked to sit on was at the crossing point of three different negative lines. And there was a very strong line across the bottom of their bed – and I’ve noticed a pattern that when couples have this line, one or both become unfaithful. Anyway, the best thing I could recommend was that she should move – which of course, she couldn’t. Failing that I recommended she move some of the furniture and that she stay elsewhere as much as possible and travel more.
Q: I suppose she couldn’t really sell it.
Jan: No. I’m not sure who owns it. The Queen?
Q: Can you sell properties with such problems?
Jan: It can be really hard. Potential buyers don’t necessarily know what’s wrong, but they just don’t feel good when they walk in.
Q: So what can you do?
Jan: All the things I mentioned before. There can be other problems too. Often the seller has unconscious blockages about selling – and if these are very strong they may need to do fairly complicated rituals to release them. But the longer the house is on the market, the more they have an unconscious image that the house is ‘unsold’ and it’s important to change that – sometimes by doing something simple, but counterintuitive, like putting the price UP. It’s reverse psychology. And then if you make the selling price number divisible by 9 (which has the energy of completion), you make selling even more likely.
Q: And do houses always sell?
Jan: Usually, yes. We often get very quick results even when a property has been on the market for ages. But I did have one apparent ‘failure’ about 18 months ago, where the couple were leaving the country to live abroad and they couldn’t sell their house. Eventually, they decided to rent it out instead. And it turned out to be the right thing because after a year abroad they realised it had been a mistake and they came back.
Q: So what was happening there?
Jan: It may be that subconsciously they weren’t convinced that they would stay and that they should sell. And I can only go by what clients tell me. But I always build in a sort of ‘clause’, if you like, that whatever changes we make should be for the clients’ highest good, even if they don’t know what that is.
The early years
Q: So how did you get started?
Jan: I think I was interested in this sort of thing from childhood. When I was about 9 or 10 I watched a TV program about dowsing. It’s an accepted discipline in Poland where I come from – it’s called radiesthesia. Everyone knows about negative fault lines (geopathic stress). Anyway, I went outside and cut myself a forked twig from a willow tree – and discovered that I could do it and was good at it naturally. So I made it a hobby and used it to check if friends were sleeping on geopathic stress. The rest is history. That was the pivotal moment for me to become a feng shui expert.
Q: So you had a natural talent?
Jan: I suppose so. And then my father had a decorating business and he used to take me along on jobs and he had a strong belief that colour and how you decorate your house can affect how you live. He used to recommend things to people – he would redecorate and things changed. Single people suddenly got married, or a couple would have a baby. I began to take notice. Actually, you couldn’t miss it, because he tried out his theories on the family too. One time we came home from school and found that he’d painted the whole flat blue, and we all became passive and sleepy, until six months later he painted a lot of walls red or warm colours. Everyone was as high as a kite and bouncing off the walls. After that, he strived for balance – which is one of the principles I work with now. Although I have inherited his love of extremes. Whenever I learn something new, I like to push it to its limits. For example, I’m a voracious reader (I even trained as a speed reading trainer to read more). I have read (and still read) everything I could lay my hands on, including everything on feng shui and any related subjects. Professionally, I commit to at least one thousand hours of research and creative work a year.
Q: Subjects such as …?
Jan: Well dowsing, décor and design, and geomancy, which is more about earth energy and the terrain than interiors. Also any latest research in Environmental Psychology, Cognitive Ergonomics, Ecological Design, electromagnetic radiation and so on. Everything interrelates.
Q: So what happened in the intervening years to bring you here?
Jan: Well when I was 15 I became the chair of the local Polish-India Society. There weren’t many of us, but my motivation was to house all their books at home – and I read the lot. And I organised lots of people to give talks on yoga, health, and energy healing, etc – and on Vastu Shastra, which is a sort of Indian feng shui. Then I went to college to study art and design, and I was doing a lot of paintings in and for churches, and I became aware of sacred architecture and sacred spaces as well as power places.
Q: This is still in Poland?
Jan: Yes, although shortly after that I came to England, and I started giving talks about feng shui to the Polish society (in Polish because my English wasn’t very good at that point). People didn’t know much about it at the time, and they were mainly interested in the health aspects – how geopathic stress can be a significant factor in causing cancer, for example. And I started getting clients – and getting results. And then more and more clients. At one point I was doing three or four consultations a day. Some of them I did at a distance from plans, photos and videos – and then I started teaching feng shui and the videos came in handy for teaching purposes.
Q: And I’ve seen your name on the Feng Shui Journal too, haven’t I?
Jan: Yes. I was a founder-member of the Feng Shui Society in 1993, and for a number of years I edited and produced the Feng Shui Journal. Then when I was doing feng shui consultations for people’s businesses, I got involved in improving their logos – and that side grew too until now a significant part of my work is to do with branding companies, and boosting their logos, brands and websites.
Q: Using feng shui?
Jan: Absolutely. I use feng shui principles to ensure that brands have powerful energy. And my background in art and design comes in very handy too.
How do you work? What’s important to you as a feng shui consultant?
Q: What are the top characteristics of a top, world-leading feng shui expert – that you think you have?
Jan: One, you truly have to be passionate about feng shui. No doubt about it. My passion for feng shui gives me the energy, endurance, determination, perseverance, patience and resilience to pursue feng shui for as long as I have been doing. I pray every day to live a long life, so I can do feng shui for as long as possible because I love doing it.
Two, I’ve asked myself, “Can I be the best in the world in feng shui?” If I wasn’t sure about it, I would have left it to others. I’m lucky to have a talent, skills sets and mind for feng shui. I am good at synthesising information from different disciplines and sources. I am a master pattern recogniser. I believe that I’m very good at feng shui and I’m encoded for it – I think I’ve got the right DNA for this vocation or calling if you like. And I do work smart at it. I’ve done over 10 000 feng shui consultations onsite and remotely – there goes more than the famous 10 000 hours. I do at least one thousand hours of research every year. I am obsessively curious about how things and people work and that includes feng shui.
Three, I’ve figured out how to make it work financially and finance my research work.
Q: So it looks like curiosity is critical in your work?
Jan: Yes, in my work, the curiosity that feeds big questions – that is the key driver. And when I am curious about something, I just can’t help but want to learn about it all and do deep research about it. I get obsessive when it comes to learning and researching things. And all the long hours of research usually leads to new ideas, concepts and understandings. Then, I can’t just help but verbalise them, write them, teach them and share them. Verbalising my understandings and concepts is the hardest thing because it has to be done really well to have any meaningful impact on the world. Usually, the new insights lead to some projects that finance my next big questions and I start again the circle of curiosity – research – teaching and writing – impact on the world – monetising.
Q: And creativity is very important in your work as well?
Jan: Absolutely, it’s essential. Feng shui is holistic interior design and very often I need to think on my feet how to remedy different interior design features without making homes into a Chinese restaurant. It helps, that I’ve studied art, design and interior design so it’s very easy for me to come up with interventions that would fit any deco. Also, having seen thousands of homes and workplaces, I’ve learnt a lot. And I continue with my professional development by going to design exhibition, talking to my friends who are architects and interior designers to be up to date with the latest trends, materials and technological advancements.
Q: What does your typical workday look like?
Jan: I don’t get up at any particular hour – usually between 6 am and 10 am, depending on how much work I’ve been doing the day before. I wake up naturally, without the alarm, following 90-minutes cycles. Sleep is very important to me.
I meditate in the morning to get clarity, stay grounded and healthy as well as part of my spiritual practice to connect, have peace of mind and develop care and compassion.
Then, I plan my day, answer emails and so on. I like to do my research and creative work in the morning and see clients in the afternoon. If I do a lot of research, reading, writing, thinking I like to have a short power nap in the afternoon or I meditate again for 30 minutes or I have a bath as part of my grounding/earthing health routine so I can work further in the late afternoon. I actually mediate a lot, I think – about two hours a day or more, depending on what type of meditation I do. For example, when I walk I do vipassana meditation which is walking meditation. I consider mediation as part of my personal/spiritual and professional development. My general rule of thumb is to spend 50% of my time on creative, research work; 30% on writing and teaching and 20% on the work with clients. And I count my blessings that I’m so lucky to have found a vocation that I love so I don’t have to do a day’s ‘work’, as somebody said.
Q: What about teaching? Do you like teaching feng shui?
Jan: I love it. It helps me to develop ideas and deepen my understanding of feng shui. Feng shui is a living discipline and is evolving as we speak. You probably wouldn’t know that from classical feng shui which has been quite static for 3000 years now. Modern feng shui is much more open and malleable and collaborative with other disciplines if you like. I won’t forget the first time I was asked to teach feng shui in English in 1990. I was already sporadically teaching feng shui in my native Polish in London but my English wasn’t good enough to do it yet and then a friend organised a one-day workshop for a handful of her friends. It took place in a house in Vale of Heath, Hampstead, London where Rabindranath Tagore once lived. Because it was in English, I was a bit nervous and also stressed out because I didn’t sleep at all at night but when I started to teach something took over, like I shifted into archetypical energy of teaching and I knew that I can teach and I knew it was for me. I am very grateful to thousands of clients, people all over the world and my students who attended my workshops and talks for the questions the posed and for the insights and learnings I’ve gained as a result.
When feng shui doesn’t work
Q: So are there any occasions when feng shui doesn’t work?
Jan: Not really. Although sometimes people don’t do what you tell them and then they’re surprised when they don’t get results. And there have been occasions when things have changed but the people didn’t notice or didn’t attribute it to the feng shui. Or sometimes they had totally unrealistic or non-specific expectations. You can’t expect feng shui to build you a billion-dollar empire if you sit around on the couch watching TV.
Q: Do people have to believe in it for it to work?
Jan: No. Even Niels Bohr, Danish Nobel-prize winner, had a horseshoe above his door which is a classic feng shui protection and prosperity ritual. And when people used to ask him why he, a scientist, would take any notice of an old wives’ tale, he would say: ‘I understand that it works whether you believe in it or not.’ Everyone who has a home has used feng shui in one form or another, consciously or unconsciously.
Q: So a degree of scepticism is OK?
Jan: Yes – as long as you follow the suggestions of your consultant. And things like geopathic stress and electromagnetic radiation will affect you whether you believe in them or not. But if people are totally negative, they can sabotage the positive effects of feng shui – which is as it should be. You are the person most in control of your life and your beliefs will have the strongest effect. The people around you will be second in the hierarchy – and then your environment.
Q: So is feng shui at work if I change the colour of my bathroom, or move my bedroom around?
Jan: Absolutely. We are all shaping our environment to reflect aspects of ourselves. But most people are doing it unconsciously and some are having more positive effects than others. I once went to work with a guy who was depressed because he was lonely – he didn’t have a partner, he didn’t have many friends. When I got to his flat, I had to squeeze past a huge cactus next to the door – at great risk of being scratched. And he had lots of pictures around of himself doing things alone and of deserts and deserted beaches. His home is a classic woman-repellant home. He didn’t realise that he himself was creating the separation from other people.
I like to quote one of Winston Churchill’s favourite sayings: “We shape our buildings, thereafter, they shape us.” It makes sense to be aware of the effects we are creating and to get the maximum benefit from our surroundings.
Q: And can you help everyone?
Jan: Um … yes. If people know and can tell me what they want, we can work with that. If they don’t know I can generally optimise the environment to make life easier for them. So yes. Feng shui works for everyone who wants it and is open enough to have a go and make some basic changes in their homes or workplaces.
Q: There’s one thing I’ve always wanted to ask: is it true that I shouldn’t leave the toilet seat open?
Jan: If your toilet is situated in your wealth corner, then the belief is that leaving the lid open allows your wealth or your energy to flush away. But then you’re disempowering yourself by thinking that your finances are totally dependent on and controlled by your toilet. This is, of course, nonsense.
Q: So is there any advice you can give that I could put into practice? A sort of ABC for beginners?
Jan: Well, you want to get a good flow of energy in your home and workplace – hence doing a bit of tidying up. But I as a starting point I have three rules regarding the energies and energy flow in your home or office:
1) if something is blocked, unblock it (make sure that things work and there is flow);
2) if something is constricted, release it (if space is cramped or tight – open up space, add some space or an illusion of space with a mirror or poster with landscape);
3) and if something is weak, strengthen it (when space is dark or there is low energy – add some light, life force, colour, plants, etc).
And love your home and workplace.
And whenever you’re doing any housework or workplace work – do it mindfully with an intention and purpose. Feng shui = intention + energy + ritual.
Q: Nice. Jan Cisek, the feng shui expert, thank you very much.