Years ago, a young UBC journalism student named Gena Ellet wrote an article about me. She wrote it after I met her for a personal Character Profile and Destiny Reading (BaZi) at her Vancouver home on a typical West Coast day in the fall of 2010.
So much has changed for me in my work and personal life since this article was written yet much of how she describes me still holds true. I continue to further my studies, develop my Feng Shui consultation business, and expand the Feng Shui/ BaZi courses that I teach.
It is a very personal article and yet I think I think you’ll see how my passion for Chinese Metaphysics and Feng Shui relates to you too. ~ Marlyna
Aligning with Destiny: An Interview with Feng Shui Master Marlyna Los
by Gena Ellett, January 2010
The October rain outside is an intermittent fan that paints the small-scattered windows wet against the khaki sky. I am in the midst of a maniacal cleaning spree in the low ceiling-ed belly of my basement suite, creating heat where the furnace fails with my high-speed sweeping and demon-fast dishwashing. I re-arrange the candles and incense that take up each available surface; I press down corners of unstuck posters and coat the kitchen table with tea tree oil cleaner. I light some candles and straighten the couch cover. This is as far as my knowledge of what might appear to be “Feng Shui” stretches. I begin to wonder if scheduling a meeting with a local Feng Shui master in my own humble abode—complete with its yellowing linoleum and the landlady‟s constant streams of loud Cantonese wafting through the vents—wasn’t a questionable move on my part.
As a product of the West Coast, I have always been vaguely familiar with the notion of Feng Shui. Sure, I thought, it was placing your bed to face the door, or burning many white candles. It was Chinese charts something like horoscopes perhaps. It was traditional. As Douglas Coupland observes, in City of Glass1, a blurred down version of Feng Shui is very much embedded in Vancouverites‟ daily vocabulary but only a select few Chinese masters have access to the many rules and teachings of Feng Shui.
Three months ago, Feng Shui master, Marlyna Los, did a reading of my sister Talia’s chart. Talia was nervous beforehand. She, like the majority of us, feared the unveiling of a fruitless life spelled out in the elements and time that are used to map the phases and achievements one can expect in life, according to the Four Pillars approach that Marlyna Los is extensively studied in. Instead, Talia was met with an encouraging description of what she should, perhaps, expect and look forward to. The consultation flowed like a conversation but I was left wondering if having access to everyone’s charts—not to mention one‟s own—couldn’t be somewhat of a burden.
“Your place looks nice,” Marlyna Los says on arriving for the interview and I smile proudly. My confidence boosted, I prepare to delve into the world of metaphysics from a folded up futon in my Kits basement suite.
Marlyna Los is six feet tall with shoulder-length, light-brown hair. She is clad in black yoga pants, a black shirt, and cardigan; a long silver chain slides languidly around her neck as she leans forward to accept a cup of coffee from my hands. Long-limbed, with a gentle voice and soft but practiced eyes that meet my gaze directly and unabashedly from behind frameless glasses, she hardly fits what I would have considered a “Chinese master” to look like.
I am instantly impressed by Marlyna’s seemingly effortless self-motivation and independence—something that is evident from the beginning of our interview, and something that puts me, her nervous interviewer, at ease. After being adopted into a Dutch family in Vancouver who had recently immigrated to Canada, she was given the name Marilyn. “I hated the name Marilyn. My relatives…couldn’t pronounce Marilyn, so at fifteen I started calling myself Marlyna.”
This sense of individuality in her teens also drove her on secret trips to Banyan Books, to the space above the store where there were pillows and quiet places to read. At an age where most people are quite lost, Marlyna changed her name and hopped a bus to the Vancouver bookstore—one that still serves as a local metaphysics mecca—where she took in hundreds of books on astrology, reincarnation, anything esoteric she could get her hands on. “It was all sort of secret though, like a lot of stuff in my life at that point. Even other people…they—except hippies—they would just think, you know, you’re weird. I must have purchased two-hundred astrology books before I was 20.”
When I ask Marlyna to explain to me what exactly being a Feng Shui practitioner entails, her answer, like the art itself, is intricate. “For consultations, who comes to me…my favourite clients are the businessmen because they get it…with fewer questions and they make the changes quicker.” These consultations occur in both corporate spaces and private homes and involve mathematical calculations based on the year a space was built and the direction it faces. The building is then split up into nine quadrants, which are split up into elements. From a number of small, squared-off charts she is then able to see how time affects the space. Similarly, she does this with the person in question—birth year and exact birth time allow her to peer inside any life-scape.
“Feng Shui is a culmination of understanding time, space, and the human, and how they all interact,” Marlyna explains. “Feng Shui consultants were historically human resource managers…a king would be notified „this is where you should sleep, these are the days you should do business‟. The art of war is full of Feng Shui advice, like where should the troops be placed, and when and who you should attack.”
This knowledge of when to proceed and when to retreat seems to be one of the lessons of Feng Shui that has resonated most in Marlyna’s ever expanding view of life.
The intersection and influence of energies, both animate and otherwise, speak beautifully to the sense of destiny that is embedded in the metaphysical study, a sense that seems to endlessly tug at the periphery of Marlyna’s studies and life. Having been raised in a family dedicated to the church, even from an early age Marlyna’s true dedication to self-prevailed, as she remoulded this idea of spirituality in her mind. “As a child, I went to church a lot…there was inside me a sense about hell and damnation that, um…how can they really think that? Because I think that God is about love, [so] a part of me always inside felt that that was the wrong approach. But after, you know, when you’re a kid you have nothing to base that on so…that gets squashed pretty quickly. So I became rebellious. But sneaky rebellious…get straight A’s at school but go to the bar afterwards and don‟t let anybody know…how can I satisfy my curiosity and not hurt anybody?”
At twenty, the age I am now, Marlyna gave birth to her first son. Another son and finally a daughter followed. Her husband was an atheist and so when marriage and family moved in, her explorations with metaphysics were dimmed. “I mean, I was always aware of where my sun sign was and my moon sign…and [I was] looking for insight as to why your life is the way it is, or my life is the way it is, and what are the tools that could change or that could…that could help.” Marlyna herself has long been involved in various forms of employment that focus on helping others—she operated a daycare out of her home for years, and bought into and operated buildings that housed the mentally ill and drug addicted in Victoria. She speaks of always feeling a draw to work whose purpose is to help improve others’ lives.
Her marriage ended in 1995, after three children and time spent trying to fold or fit her beliefs into a new life. What followed were relationships that seemed to end with a distinct feeling that she was far from her destined location—a feeling that was cemented after a brief almost-marriage in Australia, one that lead her back to Canada, back to a career and life perspective that were growing rapidly.
The interest and understanding of psychology that emerged from these experiences—five years of marriage counselling and an ultimate divorce, followed with complex familial distance and exploration of new relationships, as well as years of public service—has meshed well with her life career. A large part of Marlyna‟s job is entering peoples’ most private spaces, both spatially and emotionally. “Well, what if I see in somebody‟s chart that marriage is a problem, and they want me to Feng Shui their house so that they’ll meet the man of their dreams…well, sometimes I’ll talk to people as much as they’re open to hearing. The Chinese have a saying that suffering occurs when you‟re not in alignment with your destiny.” Eloquently put, I think, and I begin to understand the idea that Feng Shui practitioners are, indeed, human resource managers, counsellors, someone we expect to know more than we know. Someone to assure us that our suffering is not in vain, that there are ways to surround ourselves with positive energy. That perhaps each of us has a specific destination.
Marlyna’s own suffering stemmed early on from a desire to understand just exactly who she was. This exploration has been continuous and seems to reach from her childhood, through her marriage and the birth of her children, to her current challenges in focusing on her business and finding a balance in the city.
“I always felt like an alien,” she says, shaking her head and laughing softly. “I‟m six feet tall, my mom is 5’2”, Dad is 5’8”, my sisters are around 5’3”. Well…you’re not attached to your name, you don‟t feel like you belong in your family, and all that lead into me always questioning…why am I here?” And so went the threads, whose intersection and meshing ultimately lead Marlyna through marriage, children, the painful deterioration of relationship, and eventually on her path as a Feng Shui master. She has followed this path all over the world–from China where she was declared a master after years of study, to San Diego where she regularly teaches, and to her home in Vancouver, where clients fly in from everywhere and where a loyal student base of one hundred continues to grow.
Our coffee cups are long empty and the world outside my basement suite has grown dark. Marlyna’s daughter is calling; it’s time to go. Our talk of destiny and life paths fades to clattering of cups in the sink and the click, click, click of the tape recorder.
“Is there anything else I should ask you?” We sit quietly for a minute as she thinks.
“…Maybe just a little bit about what my chart says about my life.”
And so she reveals what most of us don’t have the distress, or comfort, of knowing—the cycles and paths of our lives according to the Four Pillars chart that Marlyna has mastered through years of desire and dedication. Her chart shows that she will have three children, two boys and a girl (she does). It shows that her children will not live close to her (her sons are in Saskatoon and Montreal, although her daughter is close at hand in Vancouver). It shows that she will be self-employed for her entire life.
Her relationship house is afflicted in all the charts she’s read, supporting her unease within past relationships and her search for fulfilment outside of them. It also shows someone who is strong and has a lot of courage, as well as someone who might have sinus problems. Someone who will travel a great deal in her later life, something that holds strong as Marlyna is out of the province at least once a month on teaching and speaking engagements. All of these findings, fuelled by Marlyna’s curiosity, culminate in her own understanding of destiny and purpose. “So well then, what is [my] destiny? Well, perhaps my destiny is…to find wholeness within myself and not within a relationship.”
She is calm and steady describing her life cycles to me. She is sure that she will not be married again, that she will not have a mother’s comfort of her children being close to her. The confidence and clarity that emanate from Marlyna Los as she shares her expected life history with me seems more like a comfort than a burden. She understands her direction; she appears comfortable, fluid in her movements through this world, and whether or not you believe in Feng Shui and its principles, the understanding that Marlyna has gained through her career is something that most strive for over lifetimes.
1 Douglas Coupland, City of Glass (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2009), p. 38.