Of Human Bondage

Of Human Bondage.

“Your children are not your children, they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.” Kahlil Gibran

In ba zi practice there’s a Special Star that tells us when a family is unbonded: yum san. Often the signs are issues of ingratitude and resentment.

The term “bonding” means something like being able to be who we are. It means not hiding behind roles. Few of us grow up feeling entirely free to behave this way. And as parents we don’t get dummies to practice on; our mistakes are made in real time and often make for distancing from our children; innocent distancing but distancing just the same. As long we know that family is a team game, that’s alright. But it’s not always easy.

In July I completed my first live-from-scratch feng shui survey for more than a year. Which when you consider that I had routinely completed two or three a week for the previous twenty years, is quite a thing. Normality seems a long time ago and still a long way hence.

Funny how the pandemic has let some of us review the ways we live; I’m not sure I ever want to be quite that busy again. Pretty much all my work – including workshops on various topics including Interpreting the Book of Changes – is via Zoom now. So more time with my kids – when they can fit me in – and grandchildren. I’m only travelling to long term clients if my arm is really twisted.

Which happens.

Sometimes you get a house sorted first time, sometimes it takes several visits over time. Similarly sometimes you survey, shake everything up – hopefully for the better – and never re-visit; sometimes a client will keep calling you back, update every year and ask you to vet several moves. Like Kim and Alan; this is the 3rd house of theirs that I have overseen from viewing to overhaul.

So here I am on a train for the first time in close to two years. I’m in First Class, second thing in the morning in order to get both a cheaper ticket and a quieter carriage but it’s surprisingly busy. Most are wearing masks but some are not; a youngish guy in a Grateful Dead teeshirt and no mask gives me a “What you looking at?” glance. I stare out at rural Hampshire, the Meon Valley and then across Dorset, some of the most beautiful terrain on Earth. In the bright sunshine everything is a shimmering green. Hard to believe we are on a dying planet. I even get a free cup of tea.

“A Little Bit of Everything” by Dawes is in my headphones.
Love is so much easier than you realise.
If you can give yourself to someone, then you should.”

It’s been on repeat off and on for weeks. The members of the band are young from where I’m sitting, but my own kids who are my main source of new music, would never have discovered this for me. Great lap steel solo three verses in.

I’m always keen to work with Kim and Alan because they are unusual. They and their two daughters are family. They are bonded. That’s not a matter of blood, it’s a matter of choice. Few understand this, let alone achieve it. Most of us suffer from its lack; yum san appears at least once in every ba zi. The great Lily Chung calls it the Anxiety Star, it’s worse if there are Rats and Rabbits in the chart. At its worst it is “the drunk in the dole queue.”

I arrive; we talk. The girls both now teenagers, are at school. It’s not been easy containing them during lockdown. And the burden of home educating has fallen largely to Alan. His Day Stem, the defining characteristic of a ba zi (that is Chinese Horoscope*) is yin. He is a deeply sensitive man, more perhaps like a Mother than Father.

“We’ve fallen out once or twice,” he tells me. Few teenagers want to be away from their peers for months on end. There have been confrontations. He’s a sweet man and he’s not used to this. The pain shows on his face. I make a note to return to this. But it’s a long day and there is much to consider.
“You’ve set the bar pretty high,” I suggest. Sheila and I home-educated for more than a decade and it’s not, as many have found this last couple of years, everyone’s cup of tea: not every child’s nor indeed every parent’s.

This is, as I say, the 3rd house I’ve worked on for Kim and Alan. And each time we have taken enormous care over the girls’ bedrooms, where they work and play and so on. And it’s not just the kids who have grown. Alan is a Neuro-Linguistic Programmer who now defines his work as “evolution” rather than change. Kim has become a mover and shaker. And the girls have started to win arguments.

* Hardened readers of my ramblings will know that this does no justice to the ba zi, a snapshot of the prevailing Elements at birth. As the Elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water – are cyclical, this snapshot can be run forwards or backwards to indicate likely pasts and futures but also to re-make poor choices.

Alan feels unmanned. Sometimes during the long lay off from school their eldest wouldn’t get up, didn’t see the point of the online learning. I suggest that it’s a mark of her confidence that she feels safe to speak her truth. My daughters are 34 now and our relationship has been more about me learning from them than the other way round since they were about twelve.

And many kids would kill for a gentle ingenious father like Alan. As anyone who has done both could attest, there’s no interview, no meeting, no sales appointment anything like as demanding as looking after kids. And the rewards are sometimes not immediate or obvious.

It turns out that the eldest is actually more interested in horses than homework. We take special care with her bedroom. We put her in a room with its fair share of Horse energy and I recommend them to my niece who heals with horses. Seems like the weird gene passes down.

We orient the beds appropriately and add some boosts including a powerfully-placed mirror, and a splash or two of colour. Then we close up a doorway between the utility room and the room designated for office and homework. The utility has awful Flying Stars – the pockets of energy built in at construction – and the office can now feed on the better qi which enters from the open hallway – perhaps the most important aspect of an interior.

I discover Kim is running a major NHS practice. That’s amazing; last time she was working part-time jobs. Now she’s a veritable mogul. Let’s be clear: this is a very talented woman but what’s also true is that she is, as we discovered long ago when they were living on the Sussex Coast, empowered by Water.

Water years like 2019-2021, as you might expect are followed by Wood years and over the next few years she’s going to need Water in every form we can find it: discussion, emotional disclosure, cool, the colour blue, the North and – guess what? – actual Water.

Which takes us to the nearby river. This is where much of the energy of the house comes from. It’s glossy in the sunlight, its banks clear and wide all the way to where it spills golden over a glittering weir.
As it turns out there’s scope to place a decent sized fountain, that is Water Dragon, in the garden. These opportunities don’t arise every day. A perfectly placed and timed fountain can transform a property from liability to magic palace.

It may have to do just that: one room is dark; all the worst portents seem to have fallen in one place. It’s telling me I need to go deeper with Alan, I think. I’ll attend to that separately. But the day wears on
Before I leave, Kim tells me she wants to paint the entire exterior bullet grey. Sounds daring. I look at swatches. The colour she fancies has a blue overtone. Metal producing Water. Just about perfect for the purpose.

It’s still bright sunshine when I get to the station. I’m still listening to Dawes.

 “All these psychics and these doctors they’re alright and they’re all wrong;
It’s like trying to make out every word when they should simply hum along.
It’s not some message written in the dark
Or some truth that no one sees
It’s a little bit of everything.”

Chuck Spezzano used to say that bonding is effortless success; not entails, implies, signifies or leads to, is. It’s about a family being safe. The yum san Star is the drunk in the dole queue.

As I congratulate myself for travelling by public transport I’m wondering what marvels these girls are going to achieve with their lives. Lord knows we need a few. And I’m still concerned about Alan.
Richard Ashworth© 2022

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© Richard Ashworth 2022