In Too Minds

The Sun,
September 25th 2002
By Bissme S.

The omens were not good from the moment I arrived at Lillian Too's house in Bukit Pantai, her two dogs barked non-stop, so much so that even the feng shui master herself had difficulty keeping them in line.

It is said that dogs are good at sensing a person's (evil) intentions. What if Too believes in this? What if it's bad feng shui ? Will she send me away without an interview?

Luckily, Too is not as irrational as all that. Whatever set the dogs barking did not seem to bother her. She invited me in and we soon settled on sofa, and she started talking easily about all things feng shui, and her new book, Feng Shui For Interiors.

"Feng shui is about energy," she explains. "Everything in the atmosphere has energy," she adds.

In her (numerous) books, Too provides tips for the readers on how to manipulate energy for their own benefit.

Feng Shui For Interiors marks the 53th book on feng shui that Too has written. In it, she shows readers 168 ways to protect, cleanse, energise and empower the chi of your home.

Her previous books have been very successful, making her a house-hold name, not just locally, but also overseas.

Some of her books has been translated into 26 languages, and have made regular appearance on The New York Times and the British Times bestsellers' lists.

Madonna is reputedly a fan, as is Gwyneth Paltrow.

Asked why she thinks her books are successful, Too explains without hesitation: "A typical feng shui master presents the subject in a mysterious manner, whereas I demystify the subject."

This is the key to Too's success. She has made feng shui, a science that is thousands of years old, accessible to the masses. She has lifted the veil of "secrecy" on the art which, for the most part, was considered an exclusive preserve of men.

Too claims she now gets about 300 emails a day from readers world-wide who say that her writing style is easy to understand and who also compliment her on her sense of humour.

"My books don't sound as if I am teaching you about feng shui," she says. "I am simply sharing my experiences with you."

But it's by no means a simple thing to demystify feng shui; there is a huge volume of research involved.

Too is deeply religious and has written a bestseller on Buddhism called Mantras and Mundras. She has now completed her second book on the religion, called The Buddha Book, which features the 12 different Buddhas. The book is likely to hit the market early next year.

But Too is also branching out from feng shui; her next book is going to be a fictional novel. Why the change in direction? "Writing fiction is something I've always wanted to do for a long time," she says.

Why didn't she write a fictional work earlier? "I believe when you are too young, you can't write a good fiction novel," she says. "When you are older, you've already experienced life. You have gone through a gamut of emotions - the ups and down, the highs and the lows, the disappointments and tragedies. These experiences will build a good writer in you," says Too, who is in her 50s.

Surprisingly enough, for a lady who has literally seen it all, and done it all, she explains that she has no desire to write an autobiography.

"Many people say I have lead a colourful life and that I should write a book on my life. I feel writing one's life is an exercise in egoism. Besides, the subject is very close to me. I cannot be objective in writing about myself."

Too is now devoting most of her time to writing, and is even interested in starting a lifestyle magazine "if the right resources come along".

"I am a writer first. I started my career as a journalist. Later I got sidetracked and found myself in the corporate world."

You could say Too is now embracing her first love, abandoned all those years ago. And writing has proven very good to her. Looking back at her success, Too says: "I have luck on my side (perhaps alluding to her practising of feng shui).

People must not be so egoistic to think ability alone is enough to succeed. "Sometimes, you need luck. I'd rather be lucky than clever. The world is full of frustrated geniuses."

A superstitious society

Another allegation levelled at Lillian Too is that, by popularising feng shui, she has indirectly helped to promote a society that believes in superstitions.

"I am not that clever enough to create a society of superstitious people," she says in all seriousness.

"Give me one good reason why superstitions are bad. For example, it is believed to be a bad omen to walk under ladders. If you still ignore this superstition and continue walking, you are putting your life unnecessarily in danger.

"You lose nothing believing a little in 'superstitious'."

Commercialising feng shui

One of the many allegations made against Lillian Too is that she has commercialised feng shui for financial gain.

"What is wrong with commercialism? she asks, her hackles rising. "Everyone of us has to make a living. At least I don't go around stealing other people things. I make a nice and honest living."

She considers it her good fortune to have a profession which enables her to help so many people.

"I am a very practical person. I am a capitalist, not a communist."

She also points out that what she does with the money she makes is a different story entirely.

"Just like everyone else, I use the money to make my loved ones comfortable. I also make some people who are not so fortunate comfortable," she says, alluding to charitable activities.

When asked to elaborate, she says: "I don't usually like to talk about charity because I never think of it as charity. I think of me as having a great good fortune to help somebody else. I really get a high doing that."

Getting involved in feng shui

Lillian Too says it was her daughter who sparked off her interest in feng shui.

Too and her husband had been trying, unsuccessfully, for nine years to have a child when a friend advised her to try out feng shui.

It worked like a charm and Too was hooked. Her daughter, Jennifer, is now 26 and runs her mother's company, World of Feng Shui.
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