Each Friday Simplifying Fabulous! presents Fab Fridays, an up-close-and-personal look at how one of our community members simplifies fabulous in their own life. Is there someone you’d like to see featured? Email your submission to email@example.com.
Simplifying Fabulous! with Feng Shui Expert
ABOUT ALEX STARK is an internationally recognized consultant, advisor, and teacher on issues of creativity, efficiency, and design. A graduate of the Yale University School of Architecture, he is a practitioner of feng shui and European Geomancy. Alex is married and has one daughter. He currently resides in Berkeley, California. I’ve worked with Alex many times for clients and in my personal life. He really changes lives! See his full bio, here. He gave us such incredible answers that we just had to break it down into two posts! See part one here!
Robin Baron: How have you designed your own home so that it’s in line with your practices?
Alex Stark: My homes always reflect feng shui principles. I do this by reviewing the feng shui of our home at least once a year. However, because feng shui is very much about human psychology, I also ask a colleague to analyze our home as well. Every person has “blind spots” about who they are or what they want in life, so I always ask for a second opinion because there are issues that I may be unaware of that require correction. For example, my wife and I are constantly on the move so it is important that our home provide calm and relaxation in order to balance this. We are often reminded by colleagues that our home tends to be too active, and that we need to reduce the amount of energy entering and leaving the space to that our lives can slow down and we can rest and recuperate.
Another way in which this manifests is in the differing needs of each occupant in a home. My wife, for example, had outstayed our last home, and was beginning to feel claustrophobic in what I felt was still a wonderful space. I was very comfortable and could not understand why she was so eager to move. Bringing in another feng shui consultant was very helpful, as this consultant was able to diplomatically point out that my wife’s needs could no longer be met in that particular home. As a consequence, we moved, and now we are both much happier.
RB: Do you have any stories about how your practices have significantly changed people’s lives?
AS: One example that comes to mind is the story of a very humble Mexican immigrant who came to me at a point in his life when everything seemed to be against him. Although educated as an engineer in Mexico, he was working as a gravedigger in New Jersey, living in a flop house with seven other illegal immigrants without any prospects for improvement or even marriage. I am not even sure how he managed to gather enough money to pay my fee.
After working with him for about seven months, during which time I often felt that his situation would never improve, his employer at the graveyard noticed his dedication to his job, and during a very short conversation discovered about his university training. As a result, he offered him a job as a foreman on another company he owned, launching my client into a successful career (and legal status) as a construction manager.
At the same time, an old friend of his died, and his friend’s widow decided to move to the U.S. In the process of trying to help her, they fell in love and now have two healthy children.
All of this could have happened on its own, but my client credits feng shui with providing him with enough opportunity and “good luck” to position him in the right place at the right time. Feng shui did not provide him with intelligence or a university education, nor did it provide the discipline or dedication that he obviously already has, but it did help to compensate for circumstances that could have broken another man.
RB: Design is clearly a source of inspiration for you. Where else do you draw inspiration for your daily life?
AS: In addition to worlds of beauty and aesthetics, I also draw inspiration from the world of spirit, be it my own spiritual practice, or a reverence for nature and ecology. I feel strongly that humans are in a reciprocal relationship with everything in nature, and that our prosperity, good fortune, health and happiness depends on how well we get along with these. Being respectful of all that is represents to me a foundation for sustainability as well as a moral imperative.
I also draw strong inspiration from my ancestors. Born in Peru to a Peruvian mother and a Swiss father, I feel that I have inherited two very strong traditions, and labor constantly to thank and repay for these gifts. Also, because my ancestors on both sides were mountain people, I am drawn to mountains and sacred high places, and travel periodically to reaffirm my bonds with that kind of energy. I believe that this connection has allowed me to succeed as a consultant, and has provided inspiration and strength to continually improve what I do and how I do it.
RB: What is your own personal mantra?
AS: Because I am a bit proud and tend to overlook other peoples’ opinions (as my wife likes to remind me!), I like to follow this precept from the I Ching: “One loses by pride and gains by modesty.”
RB: What do you love most about your home and why?
AS: After many years in NYC, my wife and I currently live in a home in Berkeley, CA that overlooks San Francisco Bay. From our living room and from my office window I can see the beautiful Berkeley hills and San Francisco across the bay. Since these views face toward the South, Southwest, and Southeast, they also bring in abundant light and very bright energy.
Being a feng shui consultant, I am also aware that this orientation provides strong potential for financial success, a good reputation, and a happy marriage. In addition, the horoscope of the home is excellent, with very strong portents for success, happiness, and creativity. (A building’s horoscope is like that of a person, but in this case it is calculated as a function of its year of construction as well as its orientation.) My wife and I are very lucky to have found a home with this particular orientation.
One other factor that I love about where I live is that we can walk everywhere; We are only a couple of blocks from all major shopping, the post office, gym, farmer’s market, and some excellent dining. Since we are trying to keep our carbon footprint as small as possible (this is also good feng shui), we seldom use our car, which we reserve for outings into the hills.
RB:What is your most prized possession and why? Is there a unique story behind it?
AS: My most prized possession is actually not mine any more. I gave it to my daughter when she graduated from high school, but I am taking care of it until she decides where she wants to settle (she currently lives in London, having just finished her Master’s degree). It is a 1,000-year-old doll, rescued from a gravesite in Northern Peru, and which probably belonged to an aristocratic or noble child. My father gave it to me when I left Peru at the age of 17. It is carved in a rare wood, and includes a tiny crib and swaddling cloths. By archaeological standards, it is a very unique piece.
Although feng shui frowns on objects associated with graveyards, I consider this item to be a symbol of my ancestors, and therefore sacred. Like Native Americans, I strongly feel that being reverent to our forefathers, and respectful of their burials, is a vital way to ensure that their legacy continues into the future. This object, although small in size, feels huge in power and will continue to energize and inspire my daughter and her children for many generations to come. Of course, it has to be kept in a very sacred and secure place in our home, and cannot be part of any bedroom or living room. That would be terrible feng shui!