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Happy new Chinese year. This year we are moving from the sure footed goat and sheep, anchored in the land to the monkey who spends a lot of time leaping from branch to branch. Quite a contrast! Especially as we are also moving in the sequence of elemental energy from Yin Wood to Yang Fire. This is a movement from an inner, Yin to a more outer (Yang) expression of our energy. Fire is the expression of the energy of summer: the most Yang time: so Fire Yang is the most Yang elemental expression.

The monkey’s natural element is Yang metal. As metal is the element of the season of autumn, after the earth element of Indian summer, it is controlled by Fire (two elements back in the sequence). Fire melts metal: so this tempers metal, but also links it to the more airy aspect of metal.

I think metal is the element in the five elements which is the least understood. Often people simply talk about one expression of metal energy: ie the crystals, rocks and structure of the earth: the golden nuggets. However this is only the most Yin or condensing aspect of metal. All elements express a whole movement of energy not just something fixed. This is part of the richness of them. Metal is the movement from Earth to water. Given that metal element is also connected to the Lungs, as well as the Large Intestine, and therefore air, we should not forget this more yang quality of it.
The Chinese character for metal illustrates this complexity

metal character
This represents a house: we can see the roof of the house containing the air within it. This air can then become condensed and so take on a form (Yin). We see the form within the house and the two lines on each side at the bottom on the floor are the golden nuggets. This expresses the fuller picture of metal energy: it is about bringing down the Yang airy energy and enabling it to take form.

In understanding the characters we realise how much we have lost in the richness of language moving from a system like the Chinese logographic which includes phonetics but is also able to express a much more complex meaning. Within the character we can experience a sense of movement and are allowed space to interpret. This is more representative of the world in which we live. I feel it is no coincidence that with the fixing of our modern alphabet, we have also tried to fix the world more and tend to be less able to accept the changes and surprises of the natural world. Language really does change how we view the world!

So what does a monkey make you think of, especially compared to the sheep or the goat? We didn’t naturally have monkeys in the UK till probably in the 17th century (eg Catherine Medici kept a pet monkey) but they weren’t more widely known about till 19th century, so they always have a more exotic feel to us than in countries where they naturally live.

In China, the monkey was worshipped as the “Great Sage equal to Heaven “. Some people think that the rough Western equivalent for Monkey is the sign of Leo. In Chinese mythology, the monkey god was Sun-Wukong: a trickster. The Monkey God Festival is still celebrated in China and Hong Kong. Monkey is also one of sacred five animals in a form of Qi Chong which was developed by Hua Tuo, the most famous doctor of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.). These exercises imitate the actions of animals based on the habits of the tiger, deer, bear, monkey and bird. They combine Tu Na (the art of expiration and inspiration) and Dao Yin (the movement of the limbs )

five animal qi gong
In Japan the monkey is linked to Shinto-Buddhism and was either a messenger to the gods or a physical manifestation of a god. The origin of the three wise monkeys, “Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil, See No Evil,” is thought to have originated at the Hiei Shrine at Mt. Hiei.

three-monkeys-nikko-photo-by-emil-Schuttenhelm (1)
Monkey was thought to protect against demons as well as disease and is a patron of fertility, safe childbirth, and harmonious marriages.

We are familiar with the Hindu god Hanuman , in some tales said to be an incarnation of Shiva. He is revered for his bravery, strength, loyalty, devotion, and dedication to justice. His tale and heroic exploits are told in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
And of course there are lots of monkey myths in Africa!!

So what does the monkey energy mean to you?

Monkeys swinging in the trees in the airy space of metal. Metal is about communication. Consider how fast communication has become since we started using metals to transmit. We have electricity and phone poles and cables and the spaces in between. The monkey is good at leaping and jumping: making quick connections, exploring.
Monkeys can also land on the earth. They are capable of being in lots of different environments, even adapting to city life, I always remember the monkeys in India scavenging in the bins. They express curiosity, vitality, creativity. They can be playful, quick, clever, crafty and unconventional. Monkey can be quite free and like to try out different and new things. For monkey energy anything is possible! Even the impossible. They always make the best of the situation.

Just be aware of the shadow side. Solving the impossible means that sometimes monkey energy can be a little opportunistic and not always so trustworthy. Independence may lead to a selfishness.

So why not reach for the sky this year. Have a fiery creative 2016. Do what you have always dreamed of doing, knowing that you are supported by the energy of the monkey.
Then next year will see the Yin consolidation and the arrival of the golden nuggets! The Yin Fire earth rooster.. who gets the golden eggs!


Some famous monkeys;
Descartes, Christopher Wren, Lord Byron, Charles Dickins, Paul Gaugin, Ian Fleming. Peter O’Toole, Sebastian Coe who was also born in a fire year.

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