How the Universe Moved My Sofa and Changed My Life

This essay is 10 years old. In 2009, it was a finalist in the WOW! Women on Writing Fall Essay Contest sponsored by skirt! Books. All very cool then, all bears repeating again now because life is flow and change and lessons and this…


“The Universe is poking sticks at you,” my friend DeLinda consoled during a distraught phone call last May.

In the previous four weeks I’d been sick with the flu, diagnosed with osteoporosis, and discarded by my boyfriend. My computer crashed, leaving my business on hold with technical support for a week. A close friend moved away and my cat died — all while I was braving a twelve-month hormone treatment that induced menopause.

Poking sticks? This was a shock-and-awe assault.

The Universe can be pushy when she wants you to change. I just wasn’t getting the message — though she’d left plenty of Post-it notes.

In March, a friend lent me The Secret, but ten pages into the positive-thinking bestseller, I’d put it down with an audible “Hogwash!” At a motivational seminar in April, the presenter asked, “What is your vision for your life?” while I’d impatiently watched the clock. Then I’d read Jill Butler’s book Create the Space You Deserve. “The clearer the picture of what you want,” she says, “the more likely you will find it.”

I was beginning to wonder: What is my vision for my life? What do I want? But after weeks of asking the same questions, even I was poking sticks at myself! It was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work on the mess I fondly referred to as my mid-life crisis.

I called my friend Sharon, a feng shui consultant. I knew the practice of feng shui is based on an age-old understanding of energy as it relates to the physical spaces (baguas) in one’s environment. If I couldn’t grasp the internal changes I needed to make, perhaps external ones would appease the Universe.

“Every bagua of my life is fucked up!” I surrendered to Sharon. “I need help!”

“Write down your intentions,” she calmly suggested. “What changes do you want to make?”

“In the house?”

“In your life.”

“I need more money,” I said. “I want more friends.”

I was begging.

“Start with the phrase ‘I choose,'” Sharon recommended.

With a feng shui chart in front of me, I considered my life as it applied to the baguas: Wealth, Fame, Relationships, Family, Health, Creativity, Knowledge, Career.
I thought for days. I meditated and contemplated and paced. I sat quietly with “I choose,” and then I began to write.

“I choose to be able to financially support myself.”
“I choose to have positive, loving relationships.”
“I choose to be healthy and strong.”
“I choose to make time for my writing.”
“I choose to welcome change without fear.”

“This is good work,” Sharon said, smiling with approval.

I shook my head. “I’m still not convinced that moving my sofa will create these changes.”

“It’s not about moving the sofa,” she laughed. “It’s like Winston Churchill said, ‘We create our dwelling and afterwards our dwellings create us.’ Making the change in your personal space is just the beginning.”

“Declutter” was the first assignment — getting rid of the extraneous stuff littering my house…and my life. That weekend, we delivered five fully loaded 30-gallon storage containers to Goodwill and deposited twelve trash bags at the curb.

In the following weeks, we made more changes. We swept the front porch and washed windows. We hung crystals in the bedroom for positive energy and mirrors in the bathroom to reflect the negative. We replaced the photo display of deceased relatives with pictures of living people and tossed the dead houseplants onto the compost pile.

We moved the sofa, yes — and the bookcase, the television, the dining room table. We transformed the spare room into a writing studio and the kitchen into a place for meals and conversation.

There was no grand crescendo to this process — no “mission accomplished” proclamation from the Universe — but as the summer months blended into fall, the transformation was palpable.

New clients and good work afforded a balance-free credit card and a fresh coat of paint on the house. A reconnection with college friends and a women’s networking group brought regular houseguests and dinners around the kitchen table. I was walking every day and practicing yoga. My creative endeavors were featured in the local newspaper, and I was working on my first novel.

“Change doesn’t happen to us,” DeLinda had insisted in May, “we create it.” I wrote that on my own Post-it note and taped it above my desk. It’s still there today, and I smile every time I read it. I like to think the Universe does, too.

Essay ©2008, Jen Payne.

About the Intending


Several years ago, I had the pleasure of working with my friend and feng shui consultant, Sharon McNamara. Together, we worked on setting intentions—not only for the rooms in my home, but for the rooms in my life.

Sharon introduced me to the “bagua,” a chart that relates to nine distinct areas of your life and your living space:

Wealth & Prosperity
Fame & Reputation
Love & Relationships
Family, Health & Well-Being
Children & Creativity
Knowledge and Wisdom
Travel & Helpful Friends

Based on ancient Chinese philosophies about the environment and energy paths, the art of feng shui uses these bagua to promote well-being.

My initial work with Sharon resulted in amazing transformations in my living space, but even more profoundly, in my living. Inspired by that experience, I take time at the beginning of each year to reflect on my intentions again.

This year, I decided to incorporate those intentions into a new art journal called “Magic & Meditations.” It is designed to help me focus on my goals in creative and visual ways, and to make note of the magical confluences that often go unnoticed or unappreciated.

The piece above, simply called Intentions, is a mixed-media collage piece that illustrates the nine bagua and my goals for the year ahead.

• • •

Intentions, ©2011 Jen Payne.

• For more information about Sharon’s work, or to schedule an appointment, please visit her website.

• For more on my work with Sharon, please read “How the Universe Moved My Sofa and Changed My Life.”