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To welcome the Year of the Water Tiger, Tatler sits down with the world-renowned expert to chat about his journey to mastery and all things Chinese Metaphysics

They say that when Dato' Joey Yap speaks, people listen. It's true. Not many people can command the attention of thousands or say they are the bestselling author of 182 books (and counting) published in seven different languages worldwide–except Yap. It’s a superpower on a whole new level.

Founder of the Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics and Chief Consultant of the Joey Yap Consulting Group, the 45-year-old is a household name for all things feng shui (which means wind water in Chinese), an ancient Chinese traditional practice which uses energy forces to harmonise individuals with their surrounding environment.

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Aside from the occasional anime-watching, travelling the world, and snowboarding, the respected consultant and teacher spends most of his time imparting the principles of feng shui in large-scale seminars and intimate workshops, as well as playing a one-on-one advisory role to his clientele. He also seeks to debunk the myths surrounding the man behind his name and educating others about his field of study.

What first attracted you to the idea of studying Chinese Metaphysics?

I think it’s a form of self-improvement. That’s why I went into this art in the first place. Back in the early '90s, it wasn’t called metaphysics and it was a mysterious subject that not many people talked about it. Over time, I coined the word metaphysics because it includes things like Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), positive thinking, positive mindset­—that’s what they use in the West—and psychology. This big subject also includes things like tarot and astrology, so I coined the term Chinese metaphysics because there are so many subjects involved such as feng shui, BaZi, and Yi Jing. It became a metaverse even before the word became popular!

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Tell us about your journey to becoming a master of Chinese Metaphysics, from school to Joey Yap Consulting Group.

I think the word master or mastery is neverending. It’s a deep dive into any subject and anyone who deep dives into a subject, even if it’s watchmaking or any form of artistry, it’s a form of mastery. I’ve been interested in the subject since I was in school. People have problems and this is a solutions provider system, and people come to you because you may be able to offer insights that they otherwise don’t see.

Of course, there are psychologists who can do that and there are NLP practitioners who do that but in metaphysics, you’d look at the subject matter from a different perspective. You look at energy, the date of birth, where they live, and the space that they work in.

As a young teenager, I studied it on my own because there was a limited number of books. During university, I made a bit of money doing readings for people in Australia, so I saved up some money, went to Hong Kong, and did further study and research. I practised it on myself and my clients, and over time, the clientele built on its own. It has been 27 years since I practised this as an amateur.

Can you break down Chinese Metaphysics and its field of study to help our readers better understand its components?

In a nutshell, it’s a system for life transformation. Which part of life you'd like to transform. Generally, it’s broken down into three things.

First is relationship. This could be a relationship not with other people but with yourself. Usually, if you have a relationship problem, it always begins with you. It’s your level of tolerance, understanding, and ability to send and receive love­. If you can’t love yourself, you can’t love other people. That’s one aspect.

The other major aspect would be wealth-related. People have the impression that if you do feng shui or astrology, it’ll make you rich. The system doesn’t make you rich, it makes you a better human being, a better entrepreneur, a more innovative person, a better artist and because of that, you attain better achievements. Then, as a by-product of that, it makes you richer.

The last component is health. Health is a form of energy. If you have low energy and you’re constantly under stress and in an unhappy environment, over time you’ll become ill. It takes on a form of illness­–you get pains, or your body will start to react in a certain way. By improving energetically (yourself, your wellbeing, your energy, or your environment), you’ll feel better.

In essence, metaphysics is a tool to manage the energy for relationships, wealth, and health.

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How can we utilise Chinese Metaphysics to overcome challenges and improve our lives, business, and overall wellbeing?

You’d use it like, say, if you see a medical practitioner. A medical practitioner would do a diagnosis and try to understand the main cause of your problem energetically. Everything is energy. Your thoughts are energy, your emotions are energy. It takes as much energy to hate someone as it does to love someone. Your anger, your frustration, your happiness, they are all energy. But what causes them? When we find the trigger, it could be from something that you’re doing right now or where you’re staying, and that’s feng shui.

Once we diagnose the problem, we make recommendations. It could be a change of environment or activities, or a change of who you meet and what you do, or maybe a change of the subject matter that you’re working on. Wherever focus goes, energy flows. If we could help the person change focus, we change the way energy flows for that person and ultimately, change his or her feng shui.

What would you say are some of the biggest misconceptions about what you do?

They think this is a religion­–it’s not. There’s no central deity or god in feng shui. Feng shui is energy and every human being has an internal energy. It’s just the energy of the environment and astrology is your personal energy.

Decorating your house with items like wind chimes and whatnot has nothing to do with feng shui. Items and objects have zero influence in feng shui. Feng shui is nothing more than energy flow so it all has to do with four things:

  1. Thought flow: A person’s thoughts must have good feng shui. The thought itself must be healthy. If you have healthy thoughts, you’re pleasant and you’re a good person because you’re a happy person.
  2. Emotions: If you feel pleasant and joyful, everything is beautiful. If you don’t feel pleasant, wherever you are and wherever you go, you’re going to feel miserable.
  3. Physical: Your body has to feel pleasant. Your body has energy and if it has weak energy, you'll feel it. If your physical energy does not cooperate with you, you’ll fall sick.
  4. Universe: Or pure intelligence. It’s the same intelligence that created the plants and trees, and something people like to call Mother Nature. That’s pure intelligence. There needs to be some form of intelligence to turn a caterpillar into a butterfly and no programming has done wrong before. That’s the sort of energy that we want to connect to.

Read more: Tatler’s Feng Shui Guide to the Year of the Tiger

One of the things you mentioned in a 2020 interview was that there might be a worry of a recession. Was that a sign of what’s to come i.e. the Covid-19 pandemic?

It was a sign but not like an omen. Energetically, we knew that it’s a downward cycle. So what should we do when we see information like this? We can act on it by saving some money, having some cash and reserves. People think we’re doing predictions or fortune-telling. No. It’s like an economical or financial forecast. We forecast something based on data that we have so what we had was data on energy patterns. In 2020, we saw a downward trend and based on past records, it looked like a contraction in terms of the economy.

The pandemic also pushed a lot of people out of their comfort zones and to pivot wherever necessary and possible. Personally, how did you use your field of study to overcome challenges?

My preparation started in 2019. We saw the trend coming, things are changing. We didn’t know exactly what but a change was necessary. I always think that if things happen to you, you’re forced to change. If you make the change and you’re proactive, at least you’re comfortable with the change.

In 2019, I built a home studio for recording video courses and broadcasting my content. At the time, live streams weren’t popular yet and everyone only wanted live events and meetings. I was already filming my content and I had company meetings to organise these in case of a lockdown. How do we operate remotely? What do we do? We had simulations of that in 2019. By end-March at the start of the lockdown, I had my first broadcast. We hit the ground running so you could say we were lucky in a way. The hardest part was to get the audience to be okay with live streaming.

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Closer to home, what should Malaysians be paying special attention to in the coming year?

Self-education is the most important thing. People tend to just rely on public education but those who succeed are those who educate themselves. Pick up a skillset that’s important in this new era. If you have that, you’ll be able to pivot and be able to succeed.

I’ll give you an example: being able to speak on camera. A lot of people can’t look at a camera and talk to an audience, but this will be the new norm. In the past, CEOs led town hall meetings in person. These days, CEOs will need to lead through Zoom. If you don’t have that skillset, you’ll not be able to lead. If you have a specific skillset to be able to increase your charisma and your ability to influence and lead, you’ll be able to dominate this new century.

Tatler Asia's Asia’s Most Influential is the definitive list of people shaping Asia. Asia’s Most Influential brings together the region’s most innovative changemakers, industry titans and powerful individuals who are shaping the region through positive impact. View the full list here.

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