One day back in 1996 I hired a Feng Shui expert to help me with decorating my new home. Feng Shui, for those of you who have been hiding under a rock (or who have never heard of Sedona), is the ancient Chinese art of placement. Its aim is to create balance, harmony and prosperity in one’s environment.

As this woman strolled through, she spoke into her phone, recording tips and suggestions on how to make my one-bedroom cottage most conducive to chi. Chi is a word used to describe the universal life force that flows through everything.

At one point in our consultation she advised me to keep the lid of my toilet down when I am not using it, as well as to keep the drain in the sink closed when I am not using the sink. This, she explained, would keep the chi in the bathroom from escaping.

I decided to follow her counsel, excited to be arranging my house through time-honored Chinese principals, and of course, thrilled to be safeguarding my chi.

The next day I noticed some rigidity in the way I was following her guidelines. I observed my thoughts and actions seemed to be springing up from a belief in a limited supply of chi, the fear that I would be losing something of great value if I didn’t do this ‘right’.

I proceeded to ask myself a series of questions that led me away from walking on eggshells and back to personal freedom.

When does ritual become superstition, I inquired? Had I crossed the line? Had I given my power away by adhering to a belief system out of fear, even though parts of it didn’t fit for me?

If chi is divine energy, then do I really want to act as if there is less God in my home when the toilet cover is up? Did I really want to entertain the notion that how I kept that lid could seriously affect my power to live life happy, healthy, and in love?

My past black and white thinking would have been to embrace her suggestions completely, ignoring my intuition in favor of the safety of having rules. Or, on the other extreme, I might reject the entire system in defiance.

This time I decided to neither conform nor rebel, but to take the best and leave the rest, letting my own creativity and internal guidance lead me. That felt both scary and liberating, to be taking my power back from ‘experts’ that I had perceived as knowing more than I did about how to decorate my home and protect my chi.

That night I created a little ritual of my own, raising my glass to toast the gifts I had received from Feng Shui, as well as raising my toilet lid and opening the sink drain to honor my trust in an infinite supply of chi.

More dogma down the drain is always something to celebrate.

I have quite a history with what I call chi tricks, temporary external solutions to inner existential problems.

Take low self-esteem, for example. In my early twenties I felt very much like Clark Kent in search of the Superman inside me.

Somebody introduced me to an expensive nutritional system of Chinese herbs and tonics from a company called Sunrider that promised to dramatically increase the flow of chi in my body. I started ingesting the capsules and drinking the teas on a daily basis.

Holy Superpowers, Batman!

Within days my energy level had taken off like a rocket. I went out into the world feeling like Superman, and somehow experienced a dramatic reduction of the fears that had plagued me. I approached people with a clarity in my eyes and a confidence in my voice that I had been dreaming about for years. I received a steady stream of acknowledgment from friends who were convinced that I had achieved a breakthrough and wanted to appreciate me for it.

But inside my heart of hearts I couldn’t receive their accolades. I knew the herbs were somehow overriding my issues, and sooner or later I was going to have to pull the plug on the high-voltage self-esteem party and start building my confidence one step at a time, by finding the courage to take risks with my Clark Kent authenticity, right smack in the middle of my fears.

Gradually I weaned myself away from quick fixes and committed to the adventure of learning to love and express myself, warts and all.

Accepting and welcoming the Clark Kent in me, a new kind of confidence emerged, a power that came from not needing to be invulnerable to feel safe, or to be special to feel loved and accepted by others or myself.

Dabbling occasionally in the latest nutritional supplement and chi-enhancing product, I have developed the ability to discern between when I am taking them to enhance my health and well being, or when I am trying to put yet another superman cape on my human vulnerability.

There are many supplements and herbs out there that can help strengthen the immune system, cleanse the body of toxins, and support balance in an out-of-balance world. I don’t want to shun these gifts because they seem to come from outside myself.

They are here for support, not salvation.

They can not take the place of a healthy diet, just as Feng Shui can’t cover up for a lack of self-love in your inner environment.

I have placed myself at the feet of experts and gurus, from Tony Robbins to Swami Fill-In-the-Blank-Ananda, hoping through energy transmission they would download their chi into my aura and activate mine.

I have entered into romantic relationships and unwittingly placed my power at her feet, hoping that this one special person would make me feel special, whole, and happy, connected to love at last.

I have done far too many expensive workshops promising life-changing results. They have all been helpful and interesting, but the I’m on the top of the world post-workshop high always ends, leaving me back on the ground to chop wood and carry water, or, in today’s lingo, check my emails and answer texts.

I am not sure if I am getting jaded or enlightened, but there’s not much out there that raises my eyebrows anymore.

What does raise my eyebrows is staying at home inside myself, and arranging that home with the utmost love and respect for my inner environment and divine presence.

We are not here to become whole, but to realize that we’re already whole.

With that truth intact, I am free to experience supplements, herbs, workshops, gurus, soulmates, and the art of Feng Shui without assigning these things magical properties.

I have found that any path, teaching, or tool supports us the most two times… when we commit to it and when we let it go.

Support, not salvation.

Chi is an inside job.

‘My Salvation Comes from Me’

-A Course in Miracles

PS. The Sunrider products are incredible for those who have the money and want help bringing the body into balance and healing. You can check them out by Googling Sunrider.

[popupwfancybox id="2"]