Feng Shui specialist Richard Ashworth’s work has been highlighted many times in the media but he is probably best known for introducing authentic Chinese Imperial Feng Shui to BBC’s Housebusters and for his book The Feng Shui Diaries.
What is Feng Shui?
As a Westerner, I’m a little nervous laying down the law on this.
Feng shui is a method of divination that can change lives rapidly, positively and permanently. That’s probably the clearest answer. I’m a diviner who specialises in houses.
Feng shui grew out of Taoist thought and Taoist observation. It’s a very Chinese thing. Every time I visit South East Asia to study with another Grand Master, the first thing I recognise is my own ignorance.
How long have you been working as a Feng Shui man?
I’ve been feeding my children this way since 1998. They’ve been hungry once or twice though.
An Englishman practicing classical feng shui is relatively unusual. How did you discover it?
I had been aware of feng shui for a long time and unsure of what was authentic and what Western embroidery, so I was very fortunate in being invited to observe Master (now GrandMaster) Chan Kun Wah perform some of his first surveys in the West in 1998. He could tell the whole history of a house before entering, from the placing of a tree outside. I determined that I would learn how.
And did you?
Pretty much. And I’m learning all the time.
Can you give an example of how Feng Shui has helped your clients?
A client in the Midlands runs a small manufacturing business. When we met in 2007, he did not own his home, had not been in relationship for several years and his business was poorly staffed. We staffed up the business with the best people he’d ever had, found him a beautiful home which is in the course of being adapted to him and a partner who is a ten on every scale that matters. He did not experience any downturn in his business during those years by the way.
Any other examples?
One of my clients had a daughter suffering from a mystery illness. At one point it looked like it could be life-threatening. She was obviously frantic and the doctors were not able to give her any sort of reassurance. As it turned out I was able to tell her correctly some weeks in advance (from the ba zi) precisely when the little girl would start to recover.
Have you worked with anyone we might know?
I’m sure Kelly Hoppen, Britain’s (& South East Asia’s) favourite interior designer from Dragons’ Den won’t mind me telling you a story about her. Kelly’s preference has always been for simple darker colours, she’s famous for it of course. So when at the beginning of 2012, I advised her to paint her office wall red, it was with some trepidation. To her great credit, she did it without a murmur. And in the years that followed her star – as you will know – has risen and risen. But more to the point, she has been happier than I’ve ever known her. And let’s not forget, she’s a very hardworking and creative woman. Her success might have something to do with that!
So what’s a day in the life of a Feng shui man typically like?
Early rising. Prayer, meditation. Light breakfast with my wife Sheila. Travel to wherever I’m working. Debrief of the ba zi (personal feng shui based on date of birth, sometimes misleadingly called a Chinese horoscope) which I will have prepared beforehand) which will tell me a lot about the person I’m working with before we meet. Often these preliminary conversations can be deep and emotional. My book “The Feng Shui Diaries” comes with a government health warning: “Caution: this man may make you cry”.
Next I’ll usually get a guided tour of the premises – house, office, factory, whatever – during which I’ll make off-the-cuff observations – intuitive impressions, if you like – followed by measuring, orientation and calculation which will help me identify what’s right and what’s wrong about a building. My initial impressions may lead me to close examination of the fei sin or flying stars – that is the temporary pockets of energy present inside the premises – or to what is called yang gong which is what usually dictates my positioning of external Water. At the end of the day, I’ll generally summarise my findings in writing and record any discussion as an audio-file for the client. From that we’ll conclude what can be done rapidly and inexpensively and what’s more complex. Some things can often be done then and there onsite.
Once I’ve completed, it’s home, light dinner, possibly a movie or tv. Read, pray, sleep.
If I’m surveying abroad, especially in South East Asia, I may catch up with the many friends I’ve made doing this all over the world. I may even have a Singa or two. I’m not a monk!
If I’m teaching, I’ll wait for the class to assemble – around 10am – and usually start with exercises for becoming more intimate with the Tao before we proceed to formal teaching. Being present while being rational is the key skill to feng shui. I teach both starter feng shui and starter ba zi in groups of three to twelve over four weekends, feng shui in the autumn, ba zi in the spring. Four weekends a year are also devoted to my senior students or “padowans”.
Otherwise weekends are family time. I have a life! A wife, six kids and four grandsons and more on the way and a hundred books I haven’t finished.
What are you working on today?
I’ve just come back from Southern Europe where I’m advising on turning an old Water Mill into a rather splendid home. So I’m doing calculations involving formulae that go back to the late Tang dynasty. There’s an opportunity to place a Water Dragon that will encourage the place to be extraordinarily prosperous. The nearby river is very well-positioned. We’ll see.
Tell us a bit more about ba zi.
Ba zi to me is a key to the soul; the Elements – the wu xing, that us Earth, Metal, Eater, Wood and Fire – rise and fall cyclically, so it is possible to see from the moment of someone’s birth, potentials, strengths, weaknesses and above all moments of choice. Through the prism of the tao, everything is a choice. We make good ones, we make poor ones but if something has been chosen, broadly it can be un-chosen or re- chosen. Ba zi can be tremendously helpful in healing blocks, upsets and heartbreak.
If we’ve chosen poorly, we can re-choose. Sounds extraordinary. Do you teach?
Of course. As I said, I generally teach two courses; starter feng shui in the Autumn and starter ba zi at the beginning of each year. I also coach one-to-one as well as the ongoing mentoring programme for my advanced students. Recently I’ve been teaching by Skype as well, which means I can tailor tuition and work to the pace of a student in Ohio or Singapore. This is a real growth area – webinars, online tuition and so on.
What is your buzz line for 2015? The Year of the Wood Sheep?
It’s the year of teams and the year of the assistant. Greater co-operation. Families – of whatever shape – in particular focus. I’ll be talking publicly about this at greater length in December.
Are you speaking anywhere else soon?
I’m talking to the London School of Astrology on Saturday the 18th October. It’s an all day thing and I’m introducing Authentic Feng Shui – the sam he and sam yuen schools – mid-afternoon for about 90 minutes.
I’m also helping moderate the Source-tv Global Peace event live and online on 23rd September. There’s never been a time when it was more important to know how to live in harmony.
And in summary?
I’m a feng shui man. My day job is going in and out of people’s homes and businesses to maximise health, wealth and wisdom. I do a great deal of soul work – healing if you will – with the ba zi and of course, I teach. I also provide the usual services of the diviner such as date selection, readings from the Book of a Changes and compatibility analysis.