January 25, 2020
Sure enough, we’re moving from the deep, quiet of winter toward the time of impulsive Spring. Soon, here in Berkeley, we’ll see spring onions poke out of the earth– an excellent medicine for lingering winter colds that ripple through homes and schools through February and March.
The ancient Chinese calendar accounted for this shift by starting the new year later than the Gregorian calendar: the year starts not in the depths of the dark days of winter, but as the days are getting longer and the earth is warming up again, getting ready to allow plants to explore the surface of the world with their bright, waxy spring leaves.
Acupuncturist and Chinese Astrologist Narrye Caldwell explains, “There’s the usual mistake westerners make of assuming that January (which is always the last month of the old year and not the new year at all) is a great time to start new projects and get going on those new year’s resolutions. It’s not. The qi is still too yin to support such activity and your efforts are bound to fail. The next tripping point this year is the [Chinese] Lunar New Year on January 25. Since that is the first day of the Tiger month, you may feel a surge of power. Don’t mistake this as an invitation to pounce. Not yet. This qi is too young and has no root. It will surely fizzle out without accomplishing much. A better use of the qi here is to use this new optimism and muscularity to plan your next moves. But you should still conserve your energy. Store at least 70% of this fresh new qi. Now, when the solar year begins on Feb. 6, all of the yang qi comes into alignment and you can move forward. The qi is still young and fresh, so don’t spend it recklessly. Give things time to warm up and mature. That way you can enter the new year in full command of your resources.”
The solar new year, February 6th, is the start of a time called “Spring Begins”. By that time, your acupuncturist wants to have your spring allergy prevention treatments well under way. The Huang Di Nei Jing, our guiding poetic medical text from millennia ago, teaches us that our actions in one season affect the health of the next. In this last bit of wintertime, rest and recovery from holiday madness are necessary to take on the abundant yang qi and changes of springtime. We can feel those changes literally in the air: spring comes with wind and an abundance of pollen for our respiratory systems to integrate into each breath.
2020: Year of the Metal Rat
What does all this mean in the context of this being the Year of the Metal Rat? Narrye Caldwell tells us, “the Chinese name for the qi influence we call ‘Rat’ is ‘Zi.’ ‘Zi’ means seed, and it provides the spark of yang qi necessary to initiate a new cycle. Meaningful change is now possible. The upcoming year is about gathering data and developing detailed and scrupulously designed strategies to bring about the change we seek.”
Folklore has it that the Rat is the first animal of the Chinese Zodiac because of its cleverness in the Jade Emperor’s race to determine the zodiac order. The rat recognized it couldn’t beat the swiftness of a horse or tiger by itself, so it hitched a ride atop the oblivious Ox and came to win the race.
If the rat is known and revered for its clever plans, the element of metal is known for meticulousness, perfection, and connection to utmost (or utterly mundane) beauty. To get in touch with this element’s appreciation of the mundane, we can sit and notice the simple intricacies of each and every breath we take, the changes temperature, texture, rhythm, and rate. With this powerful combination of the Metal element and the clever Rat on the horizon, we hope this year will see the swift and graceful completion of many goals for our patients and our students.
Read more of Narrye Caldwell’s thoughts on the year of the Metal Rat on her blog.