No one will ever label 2017 as a walk in the park – the Fire Rooster made sure of that. In fact, I might say this past year has, “gone to the dogs.” Are you as “dog tired” of the constant stream of politics, of professional shifts and personal change as I am? What, then, does the year of the Yang Earth Dog have in store for us?
First let’s get familiar with the steady, rooted quality of Earth. The next two years will have Earthy lessons for us. This year, we welcome Yang Earth. Next year (2019) will evoke the Yin Earth (Pig).
In Chinese thought, Earth is related to the digestive system which extracts the essence out of what we ingest. It holds the function of taking that essence and infusing our body with nourishing Qi and Blood. At the fundamental levels, it is synonymous with a Mother, caring for us, nursing us, attending to us, and holding us up. A healthy Earth is one that can metabolize whatever is thrown at it. And we throw a lot at our Earth. Be it an Ultimate Bacon Brisket Bomb (thank you, Iowa State Fair), or sticky drama from an unhealthy relationship, or even the 14 chapters you have to cram for the impending final for which you may have left to the last minute; Earth can metabolize burden and transform it into nourishment. The Earth, if balanced, takes it all in and extracts the essence — the truth — and composts the waste. It can do this by its integrity and commitment to principles. I think of integrity as the quality of our intention and the degree to which our words conform to the truth in our heart.
Earth resides in the center — not only in the body (digestion) but also in the cosmos (after all, aren’t we the center of the universe). Have you ever eaten an enriching, grounding meal and felt centered? Or have you ever walked barefoot in nature, connecting your skin to the Earth and felt more aligned?
Earth establishes appropriate boundaries – one’s that nourish both You and Me. Earth is sympathetic to others, yet a balanced Earth does not worry, obsess, or spend its energy on excessively taking care of others over self. “Ingratiation” — Look this word up. Get to know it. Ask this question often this year: Am I taking care of others despite my own needs?
Every aspect of our experience is made up of two expressions – Yin and Yang. Yin speaks to the receptive, coalescing, storing, holding, accumulating inward force. Yang addresses the active, directing, intentional, tip of the spear, expanding outward force. 2018, being a Yang year, our themes will be about Momentum versus Inertia; Movement versus Staying Stuck. Have you ever walked in a muddy field while wearing gumboots? It’s as if the mud (Earth), out of damp, sticky, boggy greed sucks your boot off and then you are forced to step – with your socked foot – into the humbling slop. This year is about Intention, Forward Movement, Direction. Pay attention to when you are stuck, getting in your own way, or bogged down. How can you transform this burden into nourishment? How can you get back your lost momentum? Are you biting off more than you can chew or knawing on the same lesson, over and over again without learning from it? Are you digesting all that is available to you and then greedily holding on to it, or are you taking it in and then letting it go? Are you seeking nourishment that moves you forward, or are you stuffing yourself with junk that is ultimately unfulfilling and keeps you stuck (Think of food, thoughts, relationships, ways of being, etc.)? Are you devouring anything and everything, even if it has no value, just so that you can be full?
That brings us to the qualities of the Dog. Think of a Dog that is ever watchful, sniffing out the truth. An imbalanced Dog is obsessively looking out the window at squirrels and barking at every single movement. A balanced Dog is at attention, disciplined, and in control. A balanced dog is loyal, honest and anchored in integrity. Dogs are steadfast and are animals most comfortable around its pack. If it felt like the facades of our inner selves were burnt down to the ground last year, exposing all for the world to see (2017 Fire Rooster), this year, we will take an intentional, just, and fair look at what was exposed and bring it into our community.
Dogs are eager to learn, eager to eat, eager to run, eager to please. Dogs are eager. Pay attention to how eager you are and to what end you are willing to sacrifice your center for people or causes in which you believe. Dogs are kind, big-hearted, tolerant, generous, patient and forgiving. Dogs can also be eccentric, stubborn, concerned, overprotective and nagging. To be in balance, Dogs need a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. You can take that literally – this year, especially, we need a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.
2018 is already in full swing. We have the potential to bring a lot of needed movement into that which is stuck (can I get an AMEN!). We can transform our burdens into nourishment. We can anchor our character in integrity, attention, and kindness. We absolutely can teach an old dog new tricks. With discipline, honesty, patience, forgiveness, boundaries, intention, plenty of exercise and a healthy diet, we can move mountains.