“Dad, can you and mom take me to the high mountains to look for antlers that the deer have shed?” One chilly Autumn morning our young son Anthony asked us this question. Together the three of us were about to perform a ceremony and blessing on our recently acquired property in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas in California and the question prompted us to reflect on the fact that children are often much more in touch with the natural world than us big people and have a longing to be part of that world. We also began a discussion about the cyclical changes of the Earth and the importance of being in harmony with the environment and its ever-changing energies and how ritual enables us to honor the sacredness of our surroundings. The three of us decided to take a trip to the high country later that month to look for treasures.
Helen and I moved to the Sierra Nevada mountains of California in 1991 to live away from the gritty and hectic life of the city and create a peaceful oasis for our family and visiting students. We subsequently began teaching feng shui from our home and traveling throughout the region to do consulting. Our focus was to help people get in touch with the natural energies in their environments and bring to their homes a sense of peace, balance and harmony.
When we sat down to write this piece we thought, “What would help people most from our experience and what simple techniques could readers use to enhance their living space?” In pondering these questions and mulling over the hundreds of consultations we’ve done, we realized that our most successful and inspiring assignments were when we performed transcendental ritual clearing methods for adjusting the chi of the location.
Rituals have long been employed in ancient cultures for celebration, spiritual connection, renewal, blessing and building starts. Placing coins beneath a foundation stone in England insured a prosperous future life in that dwelling. In Brazil a witch doctor was called upon to sacrifice a chicken for the same reason. The ancient Chinese felt that the world was filled with spirits–that they surrounded us, our homes and work places and that ritual insured our alignment and hence brought protection to us from this spiritual realm. In feng shui, the use of ritual is an integral part of the adjustment of space.
These beliefs, whether credible to us or not, have the awesome power to maintain universal harmony with the spiritual realm. It’s no wonder modern human society is on the verge of an enormous breakdown as we lose touch with this ancient honoring of all that surrounds us.
Early humans, like their animal brethren, were an integral part of their environment. As they lived their nomadic lives, spirits were asked for protection and bounty. Before going to sea, the spirit of the Sea was asked for protection and a fruitful catch. Before hunting, the spirit of the animal kingdom was asked for forgiveness and later thanked for the take. Their lives were lived with intention and ritual in a way that allowed them to be part of the universal consciousness of the planet and indeed the cosmos. Intuition was their “Guiding Light” and they were conscious of their dependence on Mother Earth. They respectfully saw her as their supreme deity.
Each part of the Earth; her rocks, streams, plants, mountains, air and oceans were therefore considered sacred–as part of her flesh. Any alteration or destruction of any part of her was an act of sacrilege. They lived respectfully on the land and left it as they found it. The life they lived in itself was a ritual as they had the keen ability to directly experience the energies of the Earth.
As these early people moved from the nomadic existence to one of settlement, they became the herdsmen and farmers of a dramatic new age. In doing so, they created a radical change in lifestyle. The plowing of fields, building of living spaces and encasement of space slowed and sometimes redirected the free flow of chi in the Earth. This was the beginning of “human-altered” landscapes. Mother Earth, their protector and giver of life, was now being altered and needed appeasement. At this time in human history, rituals were born to honor the spirit of the Earth and special places were designated to represent Spirit. Hence the beginnings of the concept of “Sacred Space.”
In this Nature-centered outlook many rituals were developed depending on the sacred space selected. Each space had its own unique properties such as fertility inducing, healing, divination, birth and death. Since water was fundamental to survival, wells, springs, streams, rivers and lakes became common places of ritual. Mountain tops, valleys, woods and other locations were also deemed special and were revered with ritual.
We now live in well -defined boundaries, within the walls of our homes and are for the most part out of sync with the natural surroundings. In fact, in large cities, one can go for days on end without the slightest connection to the natural world. The need for ritual and ceremony in our lives is greater now than ever before. How often have you taken a walk in a park, drove in the country or lain down under a tree and felt an overwhelming sense of peace and connection? It’s this feeling or sense of connectedness that is at the heart of ritual and is indeed our birthright!
So how do we go about bringing ritual into our lives? Here are a few simple yet powerful rituals that can be performed by anyone. We’ve employed each one of them at one time or another in our feng shui work. Here, also are tips on creating your own ritual to let go of old attachments and bring new energies into your life.
The Elements of Ritual
All rituals should contain some form of offering. Candles and incense are commonly lit to offer light and fragrance to the Spiritual realm. You may even choose to offer other items such as food or drink, flowers and evergreens and personal items.
Sound is universally used in ritual to call forth Spirit. Drumming and singing are traditional parts of most ceremonies. Chanting a mantra or prayer is an offering of the highest form. The mantra sends the message of the Divine into the environment and calls on celestial help. In Sanskrit the word mantra is derived from the root man (to think) and the suffix tra (tool). So mantra literally means “a tool for thinking”. Mantras have been employed since antiquity as a means of clarifying and focusing the mind, offering praise, thanks and gratitude and to call for help from the spiritual realm. Mantras can consist of pure, sacred sounds or bijas like the sound “OM”, or they may consist of words with a particular meaning.
Two of the most commonly used mantras utilized in our Feng Shui practice are the Heart Calming Mantra from the Heart Sutra (Gatay, Gatay, Para Gatay, Para Sum Gatay, Bodhi Swaha) and the Six True Words ( Om Mani Pad Me Hum).
The Heart Sutra is considered by many to be one of the most important teachings of the Buddha.
O Shariputra, listen carefully to this syllabic sounds which contain the entire Perfection of Wisdom, as a vast tree is miraculously contained within a small seed. This is the mantra which awakens every conscious stream into pure presence. This is the mantra of all mantras, the mantra which transmits the principles of incomparability and inconceivability, the mantra which instantly dissipates the apparent darkness of egocentric misery, the mantra which invokes only truth and does not acknowledge the separate self-existence of any falsehood: gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha (gone, gone, gone beyond, gone beyond even the beyond into full enlightenment, so be it!
On the Six True Words, L. Austine Waddle in his classic study of Tibetan Buddhism said, “And no wonder this formula is so popular and constantly repeated by both Lamas and laity, for its mere utterance is believed to stop the cycle of re-births and to convey the reciter directly to paradise.” And Further:
There is no mantra that can be considered superior to the mani, which includes not only all the functions but also all the power and blessings of all other mantras. The learned sages of the past, like the great Karma Chagme, for example, were unable to find anywhere in the scriptures a mantra more beneficial, quintessential, or easier to practice than the mani; so it was this mantra that they took as their main practice. Even just hearing the mani can be enough to free beings from samsara.
Bring movement into your ceremony. Dancing or ritual actions put the body in motion and hence involve you directly with the energies of the ritual. Hands held in a mudra or prayerful fashion crystallizes the intention of the participant. Mudra means “seal” or “sign” in Sanskrit. They are hand gestures that can be seen in images of the Buddha. A mudra helps to evoke a calm and centered state of mind. Mudras form “signs” of intenion. Two commonly used mudras in Feng Shui rituals are the Heart Mudra (left hand resting on right with thumbs lightly touching while placed in the lap 2-3″ below the navel) and the Angali Mudra (palms held together at chest level similar to Judeo-Christian hands in prayer). Other common mudras are the Blessing Mudra (a portable mandala formed by the hands) and the Ousting Mudra (first and little fingers pointing out while the thumb holds the middle two fingers) used for breaking up negative energies.
Intention and visualization are the unseen ingredients that give the ritual its power of transformation. Visualization also helps to focus the mind and unleash its power to manifest reality. This brings to life the creative potency of one’s thoughts and dreams.
Sound, movement and visualization form the pillars of the “Three Secrets Reinforcement”. They represent the speech, body and mind of the enlightened being. It is said that when one is mindfull, every action is a focused movement of being in the here and now. The unification of the speech, body and mind enables one to focus completely on the ritual and give it the mystical potency that only full attention can bring. The “Three Secrets Reinforcement” is an integral part of Feng Shui. When performing any ritual or placing a cure, one should recite a mantra or prayer, hold one’s hands in a gesture of blessing and focus the mind on a visualization or prayer.
Lastly, timing should be taken into consideration. Ritual is most powerful when performed at an auspicious time. Full moons, new moons, solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, astronomical or astrological events were traditional times for ritual ceremonies. Also New Years day (Chinese or Western), birthdays, specific hours during the day (between 11:am and 1:pm or 11:pm and 1:am is especially auspicious) or any time of trouble or bad luck are appropriate times.
Walking the Nine Star Path
This is a powerful ritual from the tradition Black Sect Tantric Buddhism as taught by feng shui Master, Professor Thomas Lin Yun. We perform this ceremony in practically every home we visit. Its simple yet amazing in the results it brings. It often helps break down barriers of resistance a person may be feeling toward change in their lives or clear out any unwanted energies left over from years of struggle or bad luck. We perform it in the following manner:
1. Chant the Heart Mantra nine times (Gatay, Gatay, Para Gatay, Para Sum Gatay, Bodhi Swaha).
2. Light a stick of incense and hold it in a prayerful manner–hands together.
3. Begin in the Chen trigram of the Ba-Gua (Family). Chant the 6 true words (Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum) nine times while visualizing the resident family growing healthy, harmonious, lucky and prosperous (in a business, visualize all the employees as family members).
4. Repeat step 3 in each area of the Ba-Gua going from Chen (family) to Sun (Wealth) to the Center (Health) across to Chien (Benefactors) up to Tui (Children), across to Ken (Knowledge), up to Li (Fame), down to Kan (Career) and finally to Kun (Marriage/Partnership).
In each area visualize that particular part of yours or your clients life being enhanced, cleansed and empowered. This pattern follows the ancient sequence of the Lo Shu Magic Square a mystical arrangement of the nine cardinal numbers and trigrams of the Ba-Gua used since antiquity in the Orient.
5. At the Kun (Marriage/Partnership) location visualize that a white ball of energy has passed through all areas of the Ba-Gua and is now exiting out the Kun corner on into the infinite Universe and that the chi of the location is new and energetic and all negativity has been sent on.
This ritual can be performed in a single room, an entire building or a piece of property. We have even performed it long distance through visualization with equally powerful results.
Joss Paper Burning Ritual
Burning is an ancient method of transforming energy. As a substance burns it releases heat, smoke and flame and this energy travels skyward. A burning ceremony is a symbolic way of letting go of mistakes and failures of the past and bringing a new start into one’s life. For thousands of years the use of Joss Papers has been an integral part of folk Taoist and feng shui Rituals. These rituals were used to send messages and help to the spirit world and in return receive blessings from that realm. Joss papers are ornate printed papers of various sizes. They are brightly colored and have special spiritual symbols printed on them. They can be found in areas with high concentrations of Chinese people or through mail order (see bio at end of article).
Different papers have different uses. Some are printed with images that insure longevity. Some look like money and are burned for prosperity. Others insure good health and/or fertility. Some are shaped like boats to carry our prayers to the spirit world.
One package is known as the “Wish fulfilling” package. It is a bundle of brightly colored papers wrapped with a depiction of the 3 immortals of Taoism.
The three figures represent the three principle desires of ordinary people -Fu (wealth), Lu (rank) and Shou (longevity). Lu is dressed in the winged hat and belted robe of a high official and caries a jade scepter indicating ministerial rank. Fu, standing on the right bears a kind of cornucopia, but wears a simpler gown as befits a merchant. Shou, on the left, is identifiable by several symbols of longevity – an extraordinarily high, bald cranium, a staff of peachwood, a peach, a crane, and a spotted deer nuzzling up beside him.
These special joss papers are burned to grant us all our sincere earthly wishes. The Joss Paper rituals are ancient in origin and are performed whenever you move to a new location, on designated ceremonial days (like New Year’s Day) or in times of bad luck or trouble.
Here is a simple Joss Paper ritual that can be performed for any problems especially financial or relationship: It is in the Taoist/Buddhist tradition of Raymond Lee–feng shui master and Buddhist priest in San Francisco, California.
1. Go to your back yard, porch or balcony. If not available use fireplace or wood stove. Be aware of fire safety. Use a fire proof bowl or receptacle–have a cover handy in case flames get out of hand.
2. Light candles and then incense. If you do not have an incense burner, use an apple or orange to hold incense.
3. Ask that spirits come to the light of your candles and accept the offering of incense.
4. For money problems, mention the name of you business or job and ask for help from the spiritual realm to increase your wealth. For relationship problems, ask for spiritual help to clear up any misunderstandings and create healthy partnerships. Repeat a prayer of your choice nine times while holding hands together in prayer. Visualize money flowing into your life and relationships being healthy, loving and strong.
5. Burn all papers from package either one at a time or in small groups.
6. Perform this ritual during the day. Between 11:a.m. and 1:p.m. is especially auspicious, but can be performed any time during the day.
1. Women should not perform if pregnant or menstruating.
2. Do not eat beef on day of ceremony.
Creating you own ritual
Utilizing the elements mentioned before, you may choose to create a personal ritual. Remember that your sincere intention is the most important ingredient so don’t be afraid to experiment. It is not uncommon to feel a bit apprehensive or nervous at the start of a ritual. Relax, this is normal. In fact it serves to open you up to new possibilities and puts you in a slightly altered state and hence more receptive to the realm of Spirit.
For example, we are in the process of building a new deck at the Feng Shui Designs Learning Center as we write this article. When the deck is finished we intend to plant a grove of trees to replace the ones used in our construction–thereby thanking the trees for their strength and beauty and returning something to the earth so the Chi of the trees will be given a new place to dwell.
“But what happened to Anthony’s deer antlers?”, you may ask. Well, on that same frosty November day we conducted our blessing ceremony part of the ceremony we chose called for walking the perimeter of our property line. We traveled up and down the hillsides through thickets of manzanita, oak and pine to ceremoniously walk the boundaries of our land. Coming around a small bend in the trail, Anthony suddenly yelled out, “Look Mom, look Dad!” We all stopped in our tracks as we saw the full set of deer antlers laying across our path. Indeed, it felt as though our ritual had been acknowledged by the spiritual realm and the deer, no longer needing his antlers, left them as a gift and a blessing to our new beginning.
Helen and James Jay are feng shui practitioners and teachers. They own the Feng Shui Designs Learning Center in Nevada City, California and offer training in this ancient tradition. They are featured in the critically acclaimed video production, Feng Shui: The Chinese Art of Design and Placement, produced by Mirror Images. They are currently working on their next video release scheduled for Fall 1997 For information on their programs or to order any joss paper or other supplies, call 1-800-551-2482 or visit their web site at: http://www.fengshuidesigns.com. Email: email@example.com.
1. Hixon, Lex, Mother of the Buddhas, (Quest Books, Wheaton, IL: 1993)
2. Patrul Rinpoche, with commentary by Dilgo Khyentse, The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones (Shambhala Publications, Boston:1993). 3. Blofeld, John, Taoism The Road To Immortality, (Shambhala Publications, Boston: 1985)