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Desktop feng shui

How to get that positive energy flow in your work

Ask any corporate cubicle dweller whether he feels the drain of negative energy and you won't need a feng shui expert to interpret the answer.

After all, the gray-maze world of Dilbert's human clones is rife with dark forces. From overtime to office politics, deadlines to downsizing, career stress can challenge even masters of the ancient Chinese art of object placement.

But Sharon Baldoni, a Rogue Valley feng shui consultant, insists that ordinary office slaves can do plenty to counter negative energy on the job.

Through mindful placement of carefully chosen desk accessories, workers can boost their creativity, productivity and profitability, at least according to tenets of the 5,000-year-old philosophy.

Feng shui (pronounced fung shway) contends that the world is bound by an invisible web of energy that believers can tap -- and alter -- to their best advantage.

As these things are laid out in our environment, the `chi' or life force has to circulate, to manifest itself as positive energy, explains Baldoni, 51, of Jacksonville. Everything in our life has energy.

Adherents believe that feng shui works by influencing unconscious responses to environmental cues. They rely on the bag'ua, an eight-sided symbol derived from from the Chinese text the I Ching.

The bag'ua maps nine areas associated with aspects of life: career, knowledge and wisdom, family, wealth, fame and reputation, relationships, creativity, helpful people and health.

Followers use beautiful objects -- plants, fountains, bells, crystals -- to promote the flow of positive energy to specific sites on the map.

The bag'ua can be superimposed over areas as large as a country, a city or a house. Or it can apply to areas as small as a room, a cubicle -- or a desk.

It really does work from the outside in, says Baldoni. Feng shui is like acupuncture for your environment.

On the job, the goal is to maximize the benefits and minimize the detriments of the energy flowing through the work space. That starts with the basic arrangement of furniture.

Oh, that's bad, says Baldoni, entering a typical office cubicle.

In this case, the computer is facing away from the entrance, toward the wall, with the user's back to approaching people.

You always want to look at the entrance, she says. That is the command position. You will never be talked about behind your back.

Like all feng shui no-nos, however, this dilemma has a remedy. Baldoni recommends hanging a mirror in front of the computer, the better to reflect approaching visitors.

When considering the desk itself, workers need to be aware of their career goals, says Joyce Ward, an Ashland architect and fellow feng shui consultant.

For instance, if you want to make more money, you have to stimulate the chi in the far left corner of the desk, the bag'ua area that corresponds to wealth.

Put something there that will lift the energy, advises Ward. Flowing water symbolizes the flow of money.

The same goes for other aspects of life. Want to stimulate romantic relationships? Place a picture of you and your loved one in the far right corner of the desk. Don't have a partner? Choose an object that symbolizes union: a sculpture of two birds, a vase with two flowers.

Wherever you want to energize, put a plant, a mirror or a live bouquet, even if it's one tulip, Baldoni says.

No object is too mundane to invest with feng shui power, so long as it is placed with care, both Baldoni and Ward agree.

A salesman might want to place the telephone intentionally in the realm of helpful people, for instance. A beautiful pencil holder in the creativity sector might inspire a writer.

The most important thing is your intention and how you feel, Baldoni says. The best way is to make changes and then subtly feel for effect.

Those who've tried applying the principles of feng shui agree that the results are subtle at first. Dave Fisse, a Medford building designer, has just begun to implement Baldoni's suggestions.

Before, I was sitting with my back to the door, he says. I changed my desk around. Now I'm facing the door. It just feels a lot better.

After consulting with Baldoni, Janice Nelson of Medford made several changes in her house. She added more plants, better lighting, a new mirror -- and she cleaned up the relationship corner of the bag'ua.

Our relationship corner is outside where the barbecue is! she said. But I had all these old nails and saws there. Sharon said `You have to get rid of that!'

Since then, Nelson has noticed a distinctly positive change in the atmosphere of her home.

I don't know if it has altered in a major way our life or anything, but there is a difference in the way the house feels, says Nelson, who plans to use feng shui principles when she remodels her husband's home office.

That shift in feeling can occur at work, too, although there are practical limits to feng shui alterations, Ward notes. Fortunately, changes can be as simple as introducing a color associated with a particular part of the bag'ua.

You can't build a big altar to something on your desk, so color is a very good way to affect the chi, she says. Black is the color for the career area, so use a black desk pad and think `This is going to make my career really something.'

The important thing, the consultants agree, is to create a work space that's comfortable, usable and inspiring.

People tend to want to personalize their space, so make sure it's beautiful, Ward says. Use the space since you have to be there anyway.