Let’s fire up our Imagination for Monkey Year
We are entering the Chinese Year of the Yang Fire Monkey, classically known as the Mountain Monkey. The year commences with the New Moon of February 8th, 2016 (the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice), although the undertow of the year’s available energy has already been making itself felt.
As the heavens turn and we travel through the dimensions of time and space, the patterns created in the cosmos envelop us and our experiences. We embody and become those patterns. We are the expression of those patterns. These cosmic arrangements, with their currents and undertows, tug at our cosmic tails and gently nudge us in novel directions while inviting different parts of our being into action and engagement with the world.
In that flow, every year’s Qi has a particular signature – it has certain characteristics, a particular capacity and intelligence, along with an accompanying shadow side. Taoist teacher Liu Ming calls it the banquet available at the year’s round table of Qi flavors. For some, this year’s fares will be tasty digestible morsels of curiously playful Monkey Qi, yet for others it might feel like a struggle to keep up with this year’s unconventional and fiery tempo.
Let’s join the Fire Monkey Year dance by focusing our curiosity on some of the qualities potentiated by this upcoming year.
What form of natural intelligence is available and supported this year?
Monkey Qi is vigilant, adaptable, resourceful, ingenious, inventive, innovative and playful. Monkeys do not need experience to be capable in a situation. Yes – take a moment to read that again. Monkey Qi is about going into situations very fresh, and finding our way out from within. Ming says this acumen is the duck tape version, the jerry-rigged “I’m not quite sure … but let’s go ahead and try this!” kind of intelligence. Adventurous, unboundedly creative and artistic. Expressive and impressive. And, in the modern sense of problem-solving capacity, very smart. This year supports a spur-of-the-moment situational know-how. It encourages coming up with fresh solutions that don’t require months and years of strategy and thought-out planning. Stay present, and trust solutions will reveal themselves in the flow of unfolding. There is a liberating quality to that.
Remember that whatever the Monkey Year may chuck at us, adaptability and improvisation are going to be our way out. Monkey thrives when having to climb its way out from complex scenarios. Getting in and out of trouble will be in vogue this year – what matters is how we juggle the presenting circumstances. Because Monkey Qi likes to play – what the rules of the game actually are is less important. The key is the challenge, and jumping from one thing to another is the way this fast acting intelligence moves. At this point, a little nervousness and vigilance is recommended – it keeps the potential unbridled chaos under control. High strung is not paranoid, it’s just high-strung.
Prophetic or Deluded?
The breakdown of Monkey Qi occurs when resourcefulness and situational smarts become self-serving. When we are fueled by selfish fantasy instead of visionary wisdom. This same capable attribute quickly vitiates into the Monkey’s manipulative and deceptive character potential. Many will be duped this year. This cycle’s Fire element adds to that, making it hard for the Monkey Qi to stay within boundaries – energized and stimulated, passionate Monkey Qi can quickly turn into nervousness, compulsiveness and anxiousness. As the Qi momentum gets self-absorbed and egoistic, let’s remember our interconnectedness, and that our conduct has the capacity to be exorcistic to ourselves as well as to those around us. Healthy expression of freedom includes the benefit of all beings.
The flaw in the Monkey character is its frivolousness – when taking nothing seriously manifests as puerile shallowness. Curiosity is monkey’s nature and impels the Qi to jump from one thing to the next. This inquisitiveness looks for something new just for the sake of keeping moving. Curiosity without a purpose, not the curiosity of coming to a conclusion. This curiosity is uninterested in being fixed, and curiosity for the sake of itself can readily remain superficial.
Unless applied to something heavy, Monkey inquisitiveness can range from mischievousness, to turning in on itself and being self-destructive. How to ground it? By delving deeply into things that are complicated and hard to understand. By taking on many different projects, or tackling the same project in many different ways. It might seem overwhelming, but there is a ground in being engaged, so chose wisely. Where are we going to direct our energy and fire of attention this year? What do we wish to transform and invigorate? What trouble do we want to get in and out of? Go for the new but beware of danger. Throughout all this, and especially during the Spring, we should be ruthlessly honest about our capacity – overestimating we trip and fall.
One, Two, Three… Engage!
The quality of engagement can go very very far this year. Let’s pick our battles and, even better, pick our swinging journey through the tree tops. Learn something new or dig deeper into that which we profess to know. This is not a year to escape into our own experience. We also won’t get away with being a martyr – we have to authentically feel it. To reintroduce ourselves into the cosmic equation after Goat Year and express what we really are. Don’t worry – everybody else will be doing it too. Flying our freak flag gives others permission to do the same. Finding what feels good and remembering that the unique power of vigilance, making quick assessments, and playing everybody is in style. Some call it cleverness, some call it manipulation. Keep in mind that the word manipulation has only recently acquired such a distasteful connotation. Simply intended, manipulation means the skillful handling of people and objects. To what purpose? Powered by what? At heart, can we hold the well-being of all beings? Can there really be fruit to our actions when guided purely by self-interest? Beware manipulating just to ensure our own safety, and beware others doing the same.
Power-play is the realm of Monkey Qi. Causing trouble for conventionality is the name of the game. Having force and power over people is antithetical to this year, and challenging dominance, dismantling power structures, and inviting egalitarianism are in. It’s what makes the Monkey character the diametric (energetic contrast) of the Tiger. Both Monkey and Tiger Qi are charged by facing adventure and potential trouble, yet the Monkey expects that trouble and therefore is vigilant and that is part of its intelligence, while the Tiger is fearless. Fearless pride and power is definitely eligible to get shot down this year. Think progressive reform.
The most famous of all monkeys in China is the Monkey King, who traveled to India with a Buddhist monk to bring back the Buddhist canon to China. His adventures and misadventures are chronicled in the 15th Century novel Journey to the West. What is most astounding about the Monkey King character in this epic novel (which is a great read) is the alternating within the same figure between mystical visionary wisdom and selfish manipulation. The Monkey King is simultaneously a deeply spiritually powerful figure, and a self-serving arrogant super-brat.
This see-sawing reflects the spiritual capacity of this year: we can go in deep and break bonds of our inner conventionality, or vitiate true spiritual insight with selfish ends. Pure motive will be challenged this year and spiritual materialism will be in fashion. Beware show-offs and false teachers. Remember that the best demonstration of our human integrity is kindness and generosity. That counts for others as well as for ourselves.
Best results can be had by taking the unsettled and nervous quality of the year and turning it towards creativity – that is wisdom for Monkey Qi. In fact, wild creativity is the flavor of this year – untraditional, unconventional, improvisational and eclectic. Magical. It is said the Buddhist Master Padmasambhava was born in a Monkey Year, the perfect demonstration of how eclectic can be shaped into something that is followable. He actually made it into a system to be eclectic.
There is rich wisdom and potential in Monkey Qi’s imaginative capacity. We can direct the year’s deeply ingenious and creative energy towards what moves us, what we deeply want to feel in response to others – and let how others respond instruct our visionary process. Creation this year is permeable, interactive, imitative, responsive, relational and raw. Deep inspiration is possible.
Integration practice this year is about how we digest change. As the fire of Monkey Qi transformation whips things into a frenzy about us, do we react with despondency or do we surrender? Do we cling to the tried and true, or let the breeze of new opportunities refresh us? There is great capacity for revelation once we embrace our humanity and yield.
Not Taking Love for Granted
This year invites shifts in dynamics regarding our connections with others. Goat Year openness is narrowed and concentrated into committment that is fueled by interest. Monkey Qi has a particular flavor in the way it finds value in relationships that is fundamentally uninterested in stability – think emotionally skittish, aloof, and casual. Committed partnerships may feel a bit tight – unless they have established value and interest is piqued. This year, we would do best by focusing on discovering shared enthusiasms in relationships and on keeping things fresh and moving. Give and take space. It is not a good year to expect the Qi to want to settle down into any standard definition of committment – enjoy passion for its own sake and remember that passion does not equate long-term intimacy. Casual sex and affairs will abound. Polyamory becomes a true possibility. Solo time a refreshing elixir. This year’s quality also invites us to jettison outdated and unsupportive relationships – if we’ve been hesitant about making changes, this is the time for re-invention.
After the past few years of seriousness and somberness, Monkey Qi is here to play, and asks us to celebrate being alive, being ourselves, and being in community.