There is a method of telling fortunes in Taiwan. Actually, there are many methods of telling fortunes in Taiwan.

Fortune tellers in Taiwan are as numerous as psychotherapists in any trendy west coast American city, and for the most part serve the same function. Which is to help us ask the questions that get us to the right answer.

Shortly after arriving in Taipei in 2001 I found myself at one of the thousands of temples that polka-dot the island. I was drawn by the riot of color, clouds of incense, the feeling of something foreign and far off my map of the world. There, a man who spoke English asked “would you like to read your fortune?”

“Sure, why not.” After all, when in the midst of a jet lag and culture shock cocktail, any kind of sign from the divine could be of service.

I had no idea I was about to be introduced to the Taiwanese version of a Rube Goldberg Ouija board.

The first step is to hold in the mind a question. A clear question. The question that will facilitate an answer that opens the next fork in the road, the question whose answer will invite a fuller and deeper experience of life. First you need the right question. Then, from a brass canister, a stick with numbers is chosen. This is will direct you to the answer.

The question here is not “is this the right answer”, the question is “have you chosen the right question for this particular stick?”

Did you get the question right?


To find out- grab a pair of wooden smile shaped blocks, hold them along with your question and drop then to the floor. Should they land one up and one down, that stick you pulled is right for your question. But, should they land both face down, or both face up, then it is your question that is not right.

Put away the stick. But, more importantly, put away that question. You are barking up the wrong tree. Pop the frame, narrow the focus, ask about something else, rethink the situation. Ask the question before or the one you thought would come later. More important than the answer is the question. It is like building a house with the wrong set of plans.

Get the question right, and a whole new set of possibilities opens up.