How does feng shui work? The secret of feng shui is the power of intention, belief, self-fulfilling prophecy or placebo.
One way of explaining how feng shui works is through the power of your intention, belief (watch Dr Bruce Lipton explanation below), self-fulfilling prophecy or placebo. The placebo effect has been researched more than any other healing and medical modalities and meta-studies suggest that placebo outperformance many forms of medicine. Many doctors admit to regularly prescribing placebos (a 2013 survey showed that 97% of doctors in the UK have prescribed placebos at least once, in Germany 40-80% of doctors prescribe placebos on regular bases). A placebo is defined as anything that appears to be medicinal but actually is not and could take any form, be it injections, surgical procedures, pills, topical creams, etc. The way that a doctor interacts with a patient taking a placebo can have a significant impact whether or not placebo is perceived to be working. It works even when people know that they’ve taken a placebo. For example, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Basel found out that those who knew that they were taking a placebo (called open-label placebo) believed in its healing powers as much as those who thought it was medicinal (the study was published in the Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain). This adds to a huge body of research proving the placebo’s healing powers. The opposite of placebo is nocebo which is basically a negative suggestion, belief or a false problem. So in the same way, as positive expectations can lead to positive outcomes, negative expectations or limiting beliefs can lead to undesirable outcomes.
Feng shui = intention + energy + ritual
This short story below illustrates the concept of placebo in feng shui as well as the priming effect.
The wicked feng shui master and a trusting woman
Many centuries ago there was a feng shui master who was known for his skill but who was also easily moved to anger. One hot summer he was commissioned to assess a burial site in the mountain far from his home. It had taken him three days to walk to the site and a day to carry out his work. After sleeping in a small mountain shelter, he had packed his compass and papers and set off for the long journey home. On the second day, he had run out of water in the overbearing heat, but as he surveyed the fields of rice ready for harvest that lay across the plain before him, there was no sign of a well.
In the distance, he saw a woman and three of children working in the fields and so he headed in their direction. The woman stopped winnowing the long stacks of rice and her three sons lay down their scythes and baskets to stare at the strange.
‘Can I ask you for a bowl of water. I am exhausted and thirsty’, said the feng shul master, ‘I cannot walk any longer unless I have some water’.
The woman crossed to a nearby tree and bent down to uncork the pitcher of water that stood there. She poured clean, cold water into a wooden bowl but before she handed it to the feng shui master she threw a small handful of chaff onto the surface of the water.
The feng shui master immediately felt anger welling up inside him and grabbed the bowl from the woman without a word of thanks. As he sipped the water, be continually had to blow the chaff to one side. He was convinced that the woman had insulted him, and as he quietly emptied the bowl of water he thought of his revenge.
‘Do you live here?’ ask the feng shul master.
‘Yes, I live with my three sons in the hut at the far end of this field. My husband died two years ago and I have three sons to care for and feed. As you can see we are poor people.’
The feng shui master slowly gazed towards the hut and at the surrounding land. ‘No wonder you have such bad fortune’, he replied. ‘I can tell you now that the feng shui of your house is unlucky. As long as you stay here you will only know misfortune, but I think I can help you. Beyond the other side of that mountain there is a plot of land and a dilapidated house and although the land needs clearing and the house repairing, the feng shui is excellent. I suggest that you move there as soon as possible.’
The woman and her sons bowed down to the feng shui master in gratitude, and without reply, he raised his bags over his shoulder and left them. In revenge for the chaff thrown on his bowl of water, he had directed them to ‘Five Ghosts Dead Place’ a site so inauspicious that the sons would be lucky to reach the age of twenty.
Five years passed before the feng shui master returned to the area to see how the family had fared. As he approached the house the mother came out to greet him and bowed before him.
‘Do you remember me?’ he asked. ‘Of course, I do. How could I forget your kindness? We followed your wise advice and you can see how my land is fruitful. Two of my sons are studying for government jobs, my third son will soon be leaving to study with a wise teacher. Please come into my house and accept I meal,’
As the feng shui master sat eating the rice and vegetables offered by the woman he looked around in amazement at the newly plastered wall and the new furniture.
‘How can this be?’ he thought to himself, ‘the site hasn’t changed, there is still bad fang shul and she has no charms to protect herself. ‘I don’t understand what has happened here’, he admitted to the woman, ‘I sent you to a site that had such bad feng shui you couldn’t possibly have survived here and yet your family is flourishing. What have you done that Heaven can bless you in this way?’
‘Why did you decide to punish me when I am innocent? What have I ever done to hurt you?’ asked the woman in surprise.
‘When I needed water, you gave me water but instead of clean water you threw a handful of chaff on the surface to spite me.’
‘Didn’t you realise?’ laughed the woman, ‘It was a hot day, you had travelled a long way, and I knew you were exhausted.” You were too thirsty that you would have swallowed the water in one go and the shock of the cold water would have been too much for you. You had to blow on the water to clear the chaff each time you look a mouthful and so you drank it more slowly. I was trying to protect you.’ The feng shui master nodded his head in recognition.
‘Now I understand. I sent you to an evil place but your action has been rewarded. Everyday Heaven and the Buddha will bless you.’
From The Elements of Feng Shui by J O’Brien with Kwok Man Ho (Element Books ISBN t -85230-220-8)