Year of the Fire Monkey—February 8, 2016
I have to confess that I’m somewhat addicted to visiting the Plum Publications website – a treasure trove of a martial arts information/resources run by California based teacher and practitioner Ted Mancuso and his partner Debbie Shayne. Their Kaimen blog-page is where you can tune in and read a review and, if you so wish, buy the latest offerings – on film or in book form – from a host of accomplished martial artists around the world. It’s also the focus for discussion and thoughts on various styles and practices. It’s the place where you can find Jack Yan’s excellent translations of Chen Zheng Lei’s writings on Chen taijiquan or Adan Hsu’s in depth DVD series’ on Ba Ji Thunder, The 5 Elements of Xing Yi Quan or the legendary San Cai Sword. The site naturally offers their own Plum Exclusives where Ted commits his own learning and teaching experiences in the arts of Bagua Zhang, 10 Road Tan Tui, Spear, Staff, Shaolin Cane, Qi Gong et al to DVD.
As the Chinese New Year beckons Plum enlisted Narrye Caldwell- a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, classical feng shui consultant, martial artist, and practitioner of Chinese Pole Star astrology – to give us a fascinating and enlightening lowdown on the year to come.
I’ve re-blogged it below with the hope of spreading the word. So, over to over to Ted Mancuso to make the introduction: “Our resident astrologer, Narrye Caldwell, makes no predictions for this unpredictable Monkey Year. Remember though, this is Chinese Astrology – a completely different animal, so to speak.”
“Back in November several friends told me they were sure they already felt the effects of the coming Monkey year. I insisted that this was impossible, that Chinese astrology doesn’t work that way, it was too soon, and there is no such thing as “creeping Monkey,” or “shades of the Monkey to come.” But the stories of strange and confounding challenges kept coming in—nothing that could be called a crisis, just frustrating annoyances that bordered on the humerous. Things like finding half way through the day that you’re in an important meeting with high level executives at work and you notice you’re wearing one red sock and one green sock. Or you picked up your room mate’s keys on your way out and find yourself scrambling around on your lunch hour trying to rectify the mistake and set things right for your very irritated friend.
So around about December, I revised my position and admitted that this departure from the expected course of things was exactly like Monkey qi. How like the Monkey to sneak into the party incognito, peer into windows, and play some unexpected tricks on the guests just to get things going and create some fun.
Welcome to the Year of the Fire Monkey, which technically begins on February 8, 2016. (The Chinese Lunar New Year always begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice, in case you were wondering why it’s on a different date every year.)
There are two significant energetic shifts that will effect everyone this year. The first is that we’re moving into a Fire year after two Wood years. Wood is growth, enthusiasm, the innocence of youth and the pursuit of a vision. Wood qi is fresh and unformed. It has the drive to break through barriers, but it lacks wisdom and refinement, so can sometimes be unstable and reckless. Fire qi is the full expression of Wood’s vision. Fire brings forth the rose, lays the paint on the canvas, and gives voice to the song that’s been forming in the depths of your heart. Fire is intense, passionate, and calls forth our need to connect with one another. In a Fire year, no longer satisfied with the pursuit of our dreams, we now can bring things into actuality. And as we see things manifest, we want to gather with our tribe, raise a glass and celebrate.
But it’s important to remember that nothing is solid yet and there’s much to be done. In fact, the danger now is getting so excited by the brilliance of the flame you’ve created, that you forget to tend it properly and it quickly burns out for lack of enduring and consistent fuel. Fire is erratic and difficult to control. It can flicker precariously, burst into a dangerous conflagration, or settle into a nice steady hearth fire depending on how it’s managed. So that’s your first task this year—whatever you’ve created during the last two years, treat it now like precious tinder; protect it and blow on it very gently to nudge it into a nice steady flame; feed it with long burning fuel that will last. Don’t throw fast burning paper onto it just for the dazzling but short lived burst of heat and flame. Slow and steady now, will get you a more enduring result.
Now, what about that second energetic shift? Enter the Monkey
The key to grasping the qi we’re all going to be surfing can be found in the Chinese classic novel of the 16th century “Journey to the West.” One of the famous characters in this legendary tale is the Monkey King who demonstrates a combination of pluck, bravery, scandalous irreverence, ingenuity, ruthlessness, and magic to assure his status as one of China’s epic folk heroes. The Monkey King was born from a stone, learns the ways of immortality, commits a series of crimes against the gods, steals the peach of immortality from the Empress’s garden, and catalyzes a terrible war between Heaven and the Monkey Army. In the end, he is sent to accompany a famous monk and his disciples to the western kingdom to fetch back a Buddhist sacred text. All sorts of magical adventures ensue over the course of four volumes.
The point here is this is the qi flavor of the coming year. Key words are: erratic, irrepressible, ingenious, clever, unpredictable, resourceful, adventurous, selfish, magical, quixotic, amoral. In other words, keep your wits about you because anything, absolutely anything, can happen. All manner of apple carts could be turned over in the most surprising ways. This will be a test of your ability to stay calm and unruffled in the face of relentless and unexpected challenges. But remember—on the other side of chaos is magic and transformation. Be brave and keep your sense of humor; never forget that there’s spiritual gold at the end of the tale.
How you handle the coming year is largely a matter of harmonizing your own nature with this Monkey qi. The Monkey King was famous for his secret powers and magical weapons, one of which was a staff that he could shrink to the size of needle and hide in his ear. My advice is to conjure your own secret powers, (yes you each have at least one,) and think of yourself as the hero of your own myth. What part do you play in this year’s adventure? What’s your strategy? How resourceful can you be? Learn to see magic everywhere.
Here are some tips for each of the animals.
Rat: You are in the Monkey’s inner circle, a favorite accomplice who knows how to play the game. Your super power is analysis and planning. The Sheep year was a bit strained because people didn’t appreciate your fine eye for detail and your need to check everything for accuracy. But this year, your careful attention to strategy will be seen as the essential wisdom behind the Monkey’s irrepressible inventiveness. Without you, none of these daring schemes could possibly work. This is your year to be the hero of the story.
Ox: Your super power is endurance. Last year was a trial, one of the few periods in the twelve year cycle that really can get to an Ox. All that team work and the feeling of being managed was truly a test for you. Monkey year qi isn’t really your style; it’s too erratic and irresponsible. But you’ll do fine if you frame the time as preparation for 2017, the Rooster year, when you’ll really be in your element. Then we’ll be talking discipline, achievement, hard work, delayed gratification—all the stuff you love. So for now, stick to your plan, and let the ups and downs of the coming year roll off your very thick skin.
Tiger: OK Tiger, listen up. This is important. Do NOT, under any circumstances, be baited into leaving your cave this year. Yes I know you have to go to work, take care of committments, and you can’t literally retreat into a cave like Milarepa. (Well if you can, then by all means do so.) But you’re going to have to symbolically take yourself out of the game and sit on the bench. Only do what’s absolutely necessary. The problem is the Monkey doesn’t fight fair. And you can’t engage with life in any other way but with complete integrity. The Monkey’s opportunistic tactics will get you every time, and in spite of your prodigious courage and strength, you could die of nervous exhaustion. Oh, I forgot to say that your special power is integrity. So stay true to yourself by taking your own adventure this year but make sure it’s an internal one. Practice martial arts by yourself in a quiet hidden place. Store up your strength; don’t let the Monkey drain your qi. You’re waiting for the Dog year (2018), when you can display your true colors in an unprecedented display of power.
Rabbit: Your super power is sensitivity and your intuition borders on the psychic. In the Sheep year these gifts were appreciated, and you were able to enjoy the companionship of friends who share your elegant taste and peaceful approach to life. However you may have grown tired of hosting the party with Sheep, (it did take a lot of energy,) and perhaps feel ready for some quiet time with the shades drawn. That approach could prove difficult this year. The Monkey craves attention and thrills, and tends towards hyperactivity. It could be difficult to remain aloof in the face of so much chaos. So keep that famous Chinese proverb pinned to your bathroom mirror: “A swift hare has three holes.” In other words, always have several options available for retreat. When one bolt hole is blocked, simply change direction and disappear down door number 2, or 3. In this way, you’ll come out at the end of the year with enough qi to face the very challenging Rooster year in 2017.
Dragon: I know, you’ve been waiting for this, your favorite of all years. Here’s how it works: you, of course, are the leader (and of a very grand sort like a royal emperor,) Rat is the campaign manager, and Monkey is the spin doctor. Have I got that right? You three are going to have the best time this year. Adventures await, complete with magic weapons, demons, heroic deeds, and all the stuff of legends. This is your time. Just remember—Dragons can either be egotistical and over confident, or they can truly be the wise and benificent king. The world needs you to be the latter. Oh yes—you have many super powers but perhaps the most important this year is the power of transformation.
Snake: Monkey and Snake have a long history of entanglement. They share an attraction to intrigue, and can’t resist one another’s charms. However Snake is basically introverted and likes to keep its agenda hidden; Monkey, the classic extrovert, inevitably blows Snake’s cover just for the attention. A falling out always ensues. So, your task this year is to avoid getting too sucked in, even though you see magic in every opportunity. Practice holding back. This is a year to wait for the more reliable energy of the Rooster year, a time when your quiet wisdom can be applied with precision and the expectation of a successful outcome.
Horse: Well, you and Monkey both like to play but your version of play is sports, while the Monkey revels in slight of hand, stage magic, and practical jokes. Things could get confusing. Also, you’re a hard worker when it comes to practical matters; and Monkeys only want to find a way out of doing chores so they can go dream up some new trouble to get into. What starts out looking like fun, could turn into the kind of chaos that can get you hurt. Your super power is your noble heart. When in doubt, take some time to get quiet, return to true self, and allow your heart to lead you. In this way you can avoid the worst of the Monkey’s hyperactivity and rash behavior, and save yourself considerable embarrassment or injury.
Sheep: I imagine you’re pretty tired by now. You’ve had a lot of responsibility this past Wood Sheep year, what with managing everything both at work and at home. You actually don’t like being a leader, at least not a visible one, preferring to work behind the scenes creating a harmonious team in which each person’s strengths are perfectly utilized. Well done. Now go rest. Oh, except it’s impossible to rest in a Monkey year. And it’s so difficult to hand over the reins of your well organized team. The best approach is to allow what you’ve created to have a life of its own now. Just give it a little nudge now and then to keep things moving along if they drift too much. But resist the temptation to micro manage everything. The Monkey will pull the rug out from under you for sure. Your super power? Propriety. (Everyone but you will have to look that up.)
Monkey: Every year I have to caution the people whose year it is, to be careful. When it’s your year it’s like having to sit in the front row in the classroom. You have to be prepared every day—no hiding or playing safe in the back of the room. However, if you’re a Monkey in a Monkey year, none of this applies. In fact the more the merrier. Monkeys love an excess of Monkey energy. Think of yourself scampering through the treetops with a whole gang of Monkey friends, getting into all sorts of lovely trouble and better yet, getting out of it together. Now if you really want to get stuff done, team up with Dragon and Rat. Then instead of just making trouble for everyone else, you can produce the magic elixir of immortality and save the planet. Just think of it. Your super power—oh you have so many wondrous powers—but I have to pick one, so let’s just go with that magic glow in the dark ring you carry in your pocket (or wait, what about the invisibility cape……)
Rooster: You have a fairly neutral relationship with Monkey, mainly because you never lose focus, even in the face of Monkey’s ceaseless manuevering. It’s actually not a bad thing to let yourself get a little swept up in the adventure, even though fun, for its own sake, isn’t really your thing. But your super power is your laser focus and you find the Monkey’s short attention span a ridiculous waste of energy. When you bring the matter up, even in an attempt to be helpful, you’re seen as a critic who’s attempting to undermine everyone’s fun. Don’t worry, you are a master of delayed gratification. Stick to your plan and everyone will admire you for your accomplishments and wish they’d listened to you in the Rooster year.
Dog: Your super power is loyalty. This bone deep aspect of your character drives you to work hard and can even mean you’re on the job 24/7. After all, who else will take care of the family and guard the home if not you? But even the most faithful watch dog deserves some time to play. So consider this Monkey year to be your time to romp on the beach, go to the dog park, and enjoy some well earned time off. Just be aware that the Monkey’s flexible morality and trickster ways may clash with your high ethical standards and honesty; so have all the fun you want, but watch out for anything that may compromise your personal integrity. Remember, the Monkey actually stole the peach of immortality; he didn’t earn it. You basically have two completely different sets of values.
Pig: Last year was the perfect party, with Sheep managing the guest list, Rabbit decorating the table, and you cooking the meal and picking the wine. Now, it’s time for the after dinner party and games. Monkey now arrives with a suitcase full of party gags and magic tricks; a whole evening of fun is in the works. One word of caution: the Pig’s super power is tolerance that comes from a comprehensive view of life. Your generous nature makes it easy for you to include every possible viewpoint and type of behavior. But you can also be gullible. You could easily be targeted this year by tricksters, swindlers, and con artists. Run any interesting new schemes and business ventures by a Sheep friend, who has much better radar for deception than you do.
Narrye Caldwell is available for astrology consultations at her office in Santa Cruz, Ca., or by Skype or phone. She can be reached through her website at http://www.narryecaldwell.com.
You can browse the Plum Publications site here: http://www.plumpub.com/