Beliefnet
In 2002, when most dotcoms crashed, Beliefnet survived by the sheer perseverance of its employees and the loyalty of its users. The company went from 69 employees to eight, (today it's grown again to a hearty 29). With salaries cut back and no time to spare for thinking about decorating the newly condensed office space, the staff was slaving away in an unappealing, poorly lit, impersonal office suite -- without complaint. So odd was the office's configuration that when visitors came to Beliefnet's front door, they often believed they'd gotten off on the wrong floor.

BEFORE: Beliefnet's lobby entrance seemed little more than a humble mail room.

AFTER: Our new lobby is not yet a showplace, but it's the talk of our building!

When I arrived to help edit the website in mid-2003 -- coming in as a veteran magazine writer and wife of co-founder/CEO Steven Waldman -- the office still bore visible scars of the company's near-demise. Meetings were held in a conference room with dirty white walls, stained orange chairs, and a frayed green and black rug. Mismatched desks and chairs, abandoned computer monitors, and a broken Xerox machine occupied one corridor like hulking buffalo on a ravaged plain. You could almost hear the cruel wind howling.

I found myself drifting into worried thoughts. Could we truly succeed in this place? I forced the mantra: "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter." I brought in a little Indian lamp from home, placed it on my desk and tried to carry on.

But it did matter. I knew that the look, feel, organization, and yes, "energy" of an office can radically affect mood, health, and success. As the newest editor in the office, I didn't have a lot of say but since I'd been hired for my knowledge of the 'spirituality' beat, it seemed to me that Beliefnet, back on its feet, needed an energy-boosting office redesign. I turned to Nancy SantoPietro, an internationally known Tibetan Black Hat Feng Shui expert. After some negotiation (she waived her $1800 day rate with the understanding that we'd publish an article -- this one -- about the experience), she agreed to help us out.

Feng Shui (which literally translates to "wind" and "water,") is the hot interior design method derived from ancient Chinese spiritual principles that govern the flow of energy, prosperity, and happiness. In recent years the ancient art has caught on like wild fire, fueling hundreds of small design firms, and becoming the subject of workshops the world over.

I have to admit that I feared my fascination with this kind of thing would get me labeled by my coworkers as the sort of flaky lady who blows in wearing big sunglasses, or walking a poodle on a rhinestone leash (actually, we have a cockapoo and he doesn't sport rhinestones). "Hello, people. I'm your new spirituality editor. Meet my Feng Shui designer."

So I was relieved when Nancy and her assistant Diane Hoffmann showed up, both nice-looking women wearing vibrantly colored clothes and discreet necklaces of crystal beads. Nancy herself sported a streetwise swagger and a slight Brooklyn accent.

But that's where Nancy's common touch ended. In my lifetime, I have met people I felt had direct pipelines to the divine. But whoa, Nancy! It was like she had a beautiful crystal chandelier rotating inside her. Raised a Roman Catholic, she had been a student of Buddhism for many years when in 1989 she became one of the first few female Westerners trained by H.H. Professor Thomas Lin Yun Rinpoche, GrandMaster and Spiritual Leader of the Tibetan Tantric School of Buddhist Black Hat Sect Feng Shui. While honoring the Rinpoche's traditional teachings, she blends in skills gained from her earlier 10-year career as a psychotherapist. Every summer, students flock to Brooklyn to train in her "Accelerated Path" method of Feng Shui and Chakra Energy systems. She is also the author of two popular Feng Shui books.

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