Everything in its place

Much fuss has been made of Feng Shui - but can the oriental study of energy flow really improve your PC environment? We sought some expert advice...

It's not over till the fat man sings

[Disclaimer: This article is written with the incredible gullibility of someone who most likely has suffered an accidental pre-frontal lobotomy.Feng-Shui is ignorance at it's apex.There is no such thing as "chi energy" and your emotions cannot get mixed up with Electromagnetic radiation. Stones and pebbles do not realign "energies".Computers do not respond to emotional states of mind and redecoration is only likely to have a psychological effect.The idea that a major electronic goods sales chain should take this rubbish seriously is totally gobsmacking. The author asks "What have you to lose?". Well I'll tell you.The rational basis for how things are proven to have a basis is what is lost,and that is the basis for the society that created the computer in the first place.Feng Shui is finding fertile ground amongst yuppie types who never took to science,probably because they are the children of other of the "Two Cultures". The lack of scepticism and complete gullibility makes it obvious why they are taken in by the lottery and gambling.There are much better ways to soak up radiation than to use plants.The urge to emphasise emotions seems to be a product of the post radical feminist era,and thus to chide men's logical and rationality.Note the author is female.The same question was put in "Soul of Britain" :"Is mysticism on the increase because of radical feminism and equality?".No one has ever shown "Chi energy" up as an actual energy in the physical sense,much less measured it or said which direction it is flowing in.Those who say they can are charlatans and con men praying on the gullible using the ploy of the emperors new clothes.These people here are no more than interior designers making a fast buck off the stupid,and they don't have to look far to find their hosts.The UK populace wishes to have imperial measure brought back because it finds metric "confusing".I ask this: "How many fingers have you on your hands,is it 12,14,16 or 10?". Metric is the simplest system there is,and yet the UK is too thick or too proud to come to terms even when it  has been around for decades.This indicates a highly innumerate population too lazy to think,and it's no wonder they are taken in by silly excuses for novel ideas.If they are so hot to take on weird ideas with the word "energy" plastered everywhere I suggest they try science which actually PROVES what it is saying is true and doesn't ask you to take on trust or faith that it is.I also note here that Uri Geller writes for Computer Active,a known charlatan and liar,and pontificates about what computers can and can't do though he's never been trained in computer science.Why such a fruitloop as he is writing about computers in such an ignorant way I'll never understand,but then maybe he has shares in VNU -LB]

 Forget MDF and stencilling, Feng Shui is the buzzword for modern interior design. But can it help you up the feelgood factor of your PC environment? Or will you end up sitting at a twinkling desk smothered in crystals, jade frogs and ferns after being advised by some New Age 'master' to enhance your monitor's aura?

To find out, we went on a Feng Shui quest with leading expert Simon Brown. Simon's not quite what we expected. Silk-suited and mild mannered, he looks as if he's trained to rearrange your finances rather than your furniture. And in his classical version of Feng Shui, crystals are usually out, plants and the way you face when working are in. It's a Feng Shui suited to businesses and busy people, allowing you to tweak your workspace without looking a twerp.[The suggestion being that you would look a twerp normally -LB]

A different view on life
Feng Shui means 'wind and water' and is all about getting nature to work for you rather than swimming against the tide, says Simon. Surprising claims have been made for what it can do help you find a new lob, or relationship. Or even increase business turnover simply by putting a fish tank in the south-east of your home. But Simon, 41, a former design engineer, says: "Feng Shui is just one piece of the jigsaw of life, not a magic pill to solve all problems. Some people do have dramatic turnarounds in their lives, but usually they were on the verge of success and just a small change has made all the difference."


Our own Feng Shui mission took us to two very different homes to see how the PC workspaces of a designer and a budding author could be enhanced. We also ventured to Dixons' HQ at Hemel Hempstead. Corporate Feng Shui is becoming increasingly popular as companies look for new ways to get the competitive edge. Lexmark has even launched a curvy Feng Shui-friendly printer

Simon sticks to the Japanese Compass School of Feng Shui, one of four main schools. Each base their theories on the principles of how 'chi', or energy, moves; yin and yang; the Five Elements and Eight Trigrams. The Compass Method assumes that the eight directions of the compass each have a different kind of energy. Where to place things is worked out by finding which directional sector they will be in from the centre of your house. The Compass School also uses a system called Nine Ki astrology to work our when people should move home or which direction they should face while sleeping or working.

Instant Feng Shui for your home

  • Face your solid wood computer desk in a beneficial direction, preferably looking into the room with your back to a wall or corner.
  • Drape plants over the sharp corners of filing cabinets to avoid harmful 'cutting chi'.
  • Get a PC screensaver that makes you feel good - waves and fishes are best. And take breaks to stretch.
  • Cut out clutter by keeping papers and files in closed cupboards.
  • Use natural lighting and place a peace lily or cactus near your computer to counter radiation.

Feng Shui points the way
Creativity can be greatly enhanced by getting it right, Simon believes. For example, when one of his main clients, Boy George, felt stuck while writing his autobiography, Take it Like a Man, Simon advised him to face his desk south-east - and the words began to flow again.
The home office or PC area itself is best sited in the east, south-east, or south of the centre of your home, says Simon. Many people put their PC in a bedroom. But Feng Shui frowns on combining sleep and work, so Simon suggests using a spare room or part of the living room. Feng Shui also usually decrees that you shouldn't work with your back to the door - but in a home office it's direction that matters more, says Simon.

Yin-Yang To avoid 'stagnating chi', keep clutter - out of sight in closed cupboards - better than bookshelves which can cause 'cutting chi'. Sharp-cornered filing cabinets are the worse culprit of this baddie which is said to make energy spin and swirl, leading to loss of direction and possible ill-health. But, says Simon, it can be averted by trailing a bushy, round-leaved plant over a sharp corner, or by covering it with a cloth.
A solid wood desk with curved edges is recommended and curvy lamps are preferable to angular ones - but using natural light is best of all. Electro-magnetic field (EMF) radiation can be a bugbear at the PC.

Get some direction

Feng-Shui BS for the gullible
So, if you want to put Feng Shui to the test, which direction should you face while working at your own PC? According to enthusiasts, facing east can help you become busy, enthusiastic and focused, all set to build up a new business.
South-east has an imaginative energy which helps you with creative solutions and communication. The fiery south where the sun reaches its mid-point, is excellent if you want to get noticed - great for those in PR or marketing.
South-west is good for consolidating work already achieved. And the west, where the sun sets, is linked with finishing projects and getting rewards. But it can make you frivolous, playing games rather than getting on! The north-west is a more serious direction, bringing respect and integrity and helping you get a job done, suiting any leader. But the north, which lacks the sun, could slow your career down a touch. However, it can help with artistic work and relax you. North-east is a bullish motivator that can make you work hard to the point of obsession, fine for stockbrokers. However, a child facing this way could get hooked on computer games.


Ignoramus: Blind leading the blind

"It will feel more expansive, increasing creativity which can be stifled by facing a wall. Rolf will also be able to see who's coming up the stairs." As for the night-time gloom, uplighters could solve this. A red sponge-painted wall already aids creativity, as do the mirrors sewn into the Rajasthani hangings, making energy spin faster and giving a busy feeling. "But more plants are needed - and palms in front of the round 'gap' could stop that falling feeling," says Simon. "Placing stones along the bottom of the opening would also calm the unsettling energy flow from the facing roof garden." Roll's Apple Mac G3 laptop, with its slightly curved lines, is much-admired by Simon, who favours anything LCD. His verdict: "This is a very good workspace. But being high up can sometimes mean too many ideas going through your head, making it hard to focus or be practical." Rolf's reaction: "That sounds familiar! I'm definitely going to try moving the desk and will get uplighters. One hitch is that the desk could block a door to a loft, but we will try to get round that. And I am a little concerned that placing palms in the opening will block the light. However, we'll give it a go!"
A Feng Shui consultant Simon Brown offers advice on energy flow in Rolf Lorenz's home office

Designer Rolf Lorenz, 39, and his 36-year- old wife Jean, live in an airy apartment at the top of a large north London house. Rolf works on his mail-order catalogue, Haveli, mainly from a mezzanine office overlooking the living room. He's tried Feng Shui before - but it turned out to be a confusing "nightmare" where a black- robed Chinese 'master' told him to pile huge sums of money in corners, put up baffling Chinese banners and take a giant jade frog to trade shows with him. A designer of roomy Irish linen clothes, Rolf likes his home office, but has a few gripes. A round opening to the living room makes him feel things are going to fall through. Recessed spotlights make it gloomy at night. And he's too aware of his two children 'creeping' up the stairs. Using Rolf's birthdate, Simon Brown uses Nine Ki astrology to calculate that the desk should face diagonally south-east across the room.


We took Simon Brown to a modern home in a village near Tring, Herts, where Elly Archer, 41, has been beavering away on her first novel. Her desk faces south-east which Simon says is good for stimulating creativity and fresh ideas - and for developing her characters too. But Elly has got to the stage where she needs an agent to help strike a book deal for her rollicking read, The Beauty Contest, set in 1970's Coalville. Simon has some directional suggestions.
When phoning agents she should face south, linked with gaining recognition. "She could also put something purple in a clean, well-lit spot in the south corner of her house, to help build this 'getting noticed' energy," says Simon. Writer's block has never been a problem for Elly - but neck ache has. After five hours on the computer my neck muscles feel plaited and I'm like a zombie!" She confesses.

Another one bites the dust

"You'll be after that 'million-seller chi' then? Face this way and buy some plants"

Simon wants to see her draw back from the screen by opening the second leaf of the dining table it stands on, putting 75cms to a metre between her and the PC. Elly would then be sitting with her back to fitted wardrobes, giving a more secure feeling, says Simon - albeit reducing access. The screen could be placed on a block of wood or bricks - more natural than telephone directories. And she could try a backless osteopathic stool, instead of Grandma's old dining chair.
"Bring plants into the room and put a peace lily by the screen as this dispels EMF," says Simon. "Or get a laptop you can use anywhere. Writing in the park could bring fresh ideas," Simon's verdict: "Generally, when a space like this works well, there's no need to change it. However, minor adjustments can help quite a lot." Elly's reaction: "I need my wardrobes so I'm not so sure about sitting against them. But I will phone agents while facing south - and get purple irises or African violets for our south corner. I'll move the PC back too, if the wires stretch. Failing that I'll get extensions on my arms!"


We went on a Feng Shui mission to Dixons' Hemel Hempstead HQ - spookily coinciding with the owners' decision to revamp their reception.
The building is entered through a pointed glass and metal atrium. Compass in hand, Simon Brown established that it faces south-west, the direction of the setting sun. This favours metal and red, he says - so Dixons has got it right with its big red corporate sign above the metal atrium. "That Visitor's Reception sign looks like something from a hospital. A red Welcome to Dixons sign on silver or gold would give a more opulent, prestigious feel." says Simon. The effect of walking into a point - not such good Feng Shui - could be balanced, he adds, by trailing plants up a central column and placing shrubs in natural clay containers. Inside, Simon envisages soothing the fast-spinning energy of the 'yang' metal stairs and the polished stone floor with more 'yin' soft red Dixons banners, hung from the stairways. "Tall plants sunk into the textured pebble gardens already here, would also make the space more people- friendly and impressive," he says. Corners of a mezzanine floor jutting but into the atrium could cause destabilising 'cutting chi' - so Simon suggests trailing plants over these too. Simon wants to see the bank of monitors at reception replaced by the latest flat screens, set lower so that visitors can make eye contact.

Dixons: I should have known better

Dixons plans to use our Feng Shui ideas for its new reception area
[Inset] Beware of that 'cutting chi' and 'fast spinning yang'! Simon Brown negotiates the stairs at Dixons' HQ

And while uplighting round the reception desk is good as it mimics nature's bright sky, the more gloomy waiting areas need uplighting too and softening with more plants. Simon's verdict: "The energy is very free-flowing. The challenge is to maintain an impressive atmosphere, while giving a human touch, so people can interact." Dixons' reaction? "The timing of the Feng Shui analysis was just right," said Mike Pye, group facilities manager. "The ideas were interesting. We'll definitely try them when we start work on the group reception."

Simon says: "Our own chi energy carries our thoughts and emotions, and should not get mixed up with that of the PC. It can drain you." Sit well back, choose a low radiation screen, or get new flat-panel monitor or laptop, he advises - remembering to place the transformer well away from you. Plants can help soak up EMF and pollutants linked with plastics, say Simon. So place a peace lily by your PC, or try a spider plant or South American cactus.

Also recommended by NASA, which did a study on toxin-absorbing plants, are bamboo palms, chrysanthemums, draecana, ivy and mother-in-law's tongue. Quite what the stereotypical mother-in-law would have to say about your new-found interest in Feng Shui is debatable. But what have you got to lose? A few pounds spent at th garden centre and a bit of furniture moving? A small price to pay for some positive PC power!

Kate Andrew

"We haven't got time for Feng Shui,just put the mattresses on!" - Laurence Llewelyn - Bowen Changing Rooms


Feng Shui Solutions :
Feng Shui Society :
First stop for finding a practitioner.
Feng Shui For Modern Living :
Magazine guide to health, wealth and how to redecorate.
The International Feng Shui Research Centre
Space Clearing :
Worth a visit if you need to clear your clutter!
The Feng Shui Academy :
Tips, articles, UK courses and practitioners.

Feng Shui consultant Simon Brown, author of The Principles of Feng Shui and Practical Feng Shui for Business (£14.99) can be contacted on 0171 431 9897 or ; Harmony Draw, a CD-ROM from Feng Shui Solutions is available tor £9.95 plus £1.65 postage and packing from P0 Box 10453, London NW3 4WD.

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