Shortly after that, while in a shop in Ellicott City, Md., she picked up a card from the counter to jot down some information about crystals she purchased as a gift for her son, simply because he liked them. The front of the card contained a list of feng shui classes.
Nickels attended one of the classes in Westchester, Pa. When she returned home, she rearranged the furniture in Matthew's bedroom according to feng shui guidelines. He felt better; his stomach problems stopped.
Nickels and her older son Mark, now 21, later attended at a four-day program taught by feng shui master Lin Yun at Harvard University in Boston. Nickels also went to a five-day class in Virginia Beach, Va., and has read every book and watched every video she could get her hands on. An avid hobbyist, she has applied feng shui principles in her home, the homes of friends and acquaintances, even a health-food store.
Feeling the energy
Practitioners of feng shui, the Chinese art of placement, determine the energy characteristics of a building or room and the effects on its occupants. They feel the flow of ch'i - the essential energy of the earth, the atmosphere, of people - and come up with appropriate solutions, according to an instructional video by Seann Xenja, a California certified interior designer and licensed contractor.
Nickels calls feng shui, "acupuncture for the home." She believes it can free energy so it can flow naturally.
How do practitioners feel the energy? Some use a compass called a lo-pan. Although Nickels purchased a meter which measures magnetic and electrical fields - it clicked wildly when placed near the television - she uses her instincts, her senses. She also uses the Ba-Gua, a chart that shows how different areas of a room or house correspond to areas of your life. The doorway of the chart is matched with the doorway of the room to show where the different areas lie.
Nickels says her bedroom - the most important room because it's the place to rest and revive - has perfect feng shui. Her husband, Walter "Nick" Nickels, removed the bedroom door from its frame and hung it on the opposite side so it didn't open between the entrance and the bed, blocking the flow of energy.
Nickels explained the arrangement of her bedroom with the aid of the Ba-Gua. The command position, at the farthest left corner from the doorway, corresponds to money, wealth and fortunate blessings. Going clockwise around the room are seven other areas - fame or rank, marriage, children, helpful people, career, knowledge or wisdom and health.
Can appropriate placement of plants, crystals and mirrors promote good fortune in a house?
Feng shui works whether or not you believe it, Nickels says. She has placed several water sources - quietly flowing table-top fountains in her home. In feng shui, water means wealth, and Nickels says the sound is said to activate the brain, make you think. One in the living room is a family favorite. Nickels bought it a few days after purchasing a stock for about $3,000. A short time later, the broker called and told Nick Nickels it had increased in value to $27,000. His response was, "Sell!"
The Nickels do not consider it coincidence.