by Christi De Larco, L.Ac.
Chinese Lunar New Year, one of the largest holiday celebrations in the world, occurs two lunar months after the winter solstice. Festivities begin on the darkest night of the month on the new moon and last until the 15th day of the lunar month when the moon is the brightest, serving as both a reminder and a celebration of the return of spring.
The New Year celebrations often include parades, fireworks (the louder the luckier), red lanterns and other red decorations because the color red represents happiness and life. Red isn’t a color often seen in winter so its use in this holiday is a nod to the spring and the year ahead.
Legend has it that in ancient times Buddha asked all the animals of the earth to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each and pronounced that people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality traits.
February 8th, 2016 marked the beginning of the year of the monkey. People born in a monkey year are said to be inquisitive, energetic, gregarious and mischievous. And much like an actual monkey, the monkey year should be fast paced and marked by flux, as if the year itself has a short attention span. For those who prefer a steady pace with slow transitions, this year may challenge you to roll with change and may frustrate you if you find that you cannot.
The year of the monkey is considered a time that favors innovation, creativity and breakthroughs; monkey years are said to produce unconventional solutions to long-standing problems. This is a time to embrace the inventive and run with new ideas or even an idea you’ve been mulling a while that has seemed a little out of reach; dare to be different!
And this year will be the ideal year to start a meditation, prayer or relaxation practice. The energy of the monkey year is said to jump quickly from project to project, from topic to topic with frenetic energy and can create an unsettled or scattered mind in any of us.
A simple tool we can use even when we’re feeling the most unsettled is a walking meditation. Choose a flat path (ideally outdoors in nature but it can be indoors if you have enough room) on which you can slowly walk back and forth. Before you begin, take a few minutes to mentally scan your body, how do you feel, where do you feel tension, is your breath shallow or deep? And as you walk, concentrate on your feet, placing each step with care, what sensation are your feet feeling, do you feel a pebble underfoot, is there a pull on your ankle, when does your arch touch the ground, when does your toe? As your mind wanders just steer it back toward the sensations in your feet.
Bringing awareness to our bodies and the sensations we experience for a few minutes a day helps keep us grounded and present in the current moment. The benefits of this simple meditative practice can include alleviating pain; reducing anxiety and depression; lowering blood pressure and increasing focus.
Good Luck in the New Year!