Yang Earth Dog? Why?

This February 2018, we will witness mentionings and celebrations of the Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year is based around the moon cycle, and is a celebration of the Lunar New Year. Each year, we pass through to a new zodiac sign that has a lot of symbolic language attached to it. Through exploration of the symbols, we can begin to understand themes we may encounter in our lives throughout the year. This calendrical science gathers information from the cycles and interactions of the 10 Heavenly stems and the 12 Earthly branches. Hang in there with me.

The 10 Heavenly stems – Jia, Yi, Bing, Ding, Wu, Ji, Geng, Xin, Ren, and Gui – each represent a yang or yin quality of one of the five elements- wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Yang precedes, and alternates with yin as we move through the cycle. The elements are arranged in a generating cycle, meaning each element feeds the next- wood generates fire, fire generates earth (ash), and so on. When either yang or yin combine with an element, we arrive at the individual Heavenly stem that describes the energy of a period of time. These stems are said to embody the way of the Heavens.

The 12 Earthly branches- Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao, Chen, Si, Wu, Wei, Shen, You, Xu, and Hai- correspond to the zodiac when used to measure years, and represent the embodiment of an element on Earth. Each Earthly branch can also be categorized by a yin or yang nature of one of the five elements, and is also describing a period of time. From a bigger picture perspective, we can notice that there will be 60-year cycles weaving together the 10 Heavenly stems and 12 Earthly branches. By understanding the symbolic and directional nature of yin/yang and each element, we can deduce information about the interactions of the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches that will inform our understanding of a particular cycle.

In February 2018, we are entering the year of Wu Xu- year of the Yang Earth Dog.

Wu is the Heavenly stem representing Yang Earth. Generally speaking, yang is the energy that precedes the material form, or yin. Yang describes the energy of expansion and creation, allowing for Wu- Yang Earth- to hold much potential for change in areas of our lives governed by the element of Earth. The Earth element, from the Chinese Medicine perspective, is all about home, the mother, transitions, containment, grounding, intention, receiving nourishment, movement of the limbs, and digestive processes. From an organ network perspective, we are looking at the Stomach- though Spleen and Pancreas are loosely associated, as the yin counterparts of the Earthen trio. The changeable nature of yang can put these areas of our lives in a potentially flourishing or potentially vulnerable place, depending on our own individual constellational makeup. In Wu, there is a heightened energy around the moveable, changeable aspects of Earth in Lunar 2018. We may witness more instances of changing places of residence, need more focus to stay centered and grounded, increase chance of earthquakes and landslides, digestive and metabolic disturbances, and cells potentially changing in a cancerous direction. This is also a time where the home environment may flourish and our gardens be abundant. Through understanding the nature of Wu, we can make choices in our lives that support our own relationship to the element of Earth. Our choices can assist in our graceful movement through this next lunar year, and help us to find and harness our individual places of strength.

The Earthly branch Xu also represents Yang Earth and is described by the celestial animal of Dog. That makes this Lunar year doubly about Yang Earth, and has the additional archetype of Dog that we can explore. Take a moment to bring an image of a dog to your mind. It might be that happy dog nose waiting to give you an energetic welcome kiss, or perhaps a fierce protector or predator. Human’s loyal companion in a cozy home, or a pack of wolves running through the forest. Either way, the dog is all about loyalty. Dogs are wise and careful, with a warm heart for those in their pack and home. The dog is associated with the Pericardium organ system from a Chinese medicine cosmological perspective. Pericardium being the heart protector, or the heart opener, is associated with the element of fire. May we all remain loyal to our hearts this lunar new year. Remember, fire generates earth- which gives hope that the energy of this year can sustainably feed itself. Xu’s position in the calendrical cycle (in the position of 7-9pm on a 24-hour clock) illustrates its energetic movement as the sun moves below the horizon during Xu’s governing hours. This inward movement of retreating from the visible is the motion of the element of metal. Metal energy descends. In the generating cycle, earth generates metal- as illustrated by earth compressing to make metals/minerals. To break it down a bit further- within this singular Xu year, we have fire generating earth generating metal. The stars following the directional flow of the earthly elements.

If we are able to remain steadfast in our integrity and keep our hearts open, perhaps there will be a smoothness to the movement, changeability, and transitions throughout the course of Lunar year Wu Xu.

Learning about the energetic nature of time can be an interesting endeavor, but one must remember to take into account their own constellational makeup determined by their own birthplace and time. Exploring that information a bit deeper from the Eastern Heavenly Stem and Earthly Branch method can help someone to understand their areas of strength and/or areas for growth that may call for some extra focus this year of Wu Xu. Supporting your body with foods, herbal medicine, acupuncture, bodywork, movement, and sleep can help you find your way through the new lunar year with a bit more grace and ease.

Ryan McLaughlin, L.Ac.

ryan@flourishoflifemedicine.com

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